Michael Prior (theologian)

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Michael Prior (March 15, 1942 – July 21, 2004) was a priest of the Vincentian Congregation, professor of biblical theology at Saint Mary's College, University of Surrey, and a liberation theologian. He was one of the more colourful and controversial figures in the Catholic Church in Great Britain, and an outspoken critic of Israel and of Zionism.

Prior was born in Cork in 1942. Prior joined the Congregation of the Mission on leaving school and took a degree in Physics at University College Dublin, completing his theological studies in 1969. After ordination he studied Semitic Languages, gaining his Licentiate in Sacred Scripture in Rome in 1972. The majority of Prior's career was as a professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St Mary's College.[1]

Prior was an anti-Zionist and believed that biblical scholarship encouraged collusion in the oppression of the Palestinian people. In his book The Bible and Colonialism: a moral critique, Prior examined the way in which the biblical narrative of the Exodus from Egypt and the Conquest of Canaan had been deployed to justify colonialism in Palestine, the Americas, and South Africa.[2]

In his book Zionism and the State of Israel: a moral inquiry, Prior developed a moral critique of Zionism, emphasizing its secular roots and the relatively recent character of support for Zionism by religious Jewry. Prior also claimed that the expulsion of the Palestinians, far from being a consequence of the Nazi Holocaust or of the fortunes of war in 1948, had been planned by the founding fathers of Zionism from the beginning. Prior believed that Zionism was morally flawed from 1948, when the first war was fought.[3]

Published works[edit]

  • Prior, Michael, Western scholarship and the history of Palestine, Melisende, 1998
  • Prior, Michael, The Bible and colonialism: a moral critique, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1997
  • Prior, Michael, Zionism and the state of Israel: a moral inquiry, Psychology Press, 1999
  • Prior, Michael, Aruri, Naseer (Editors), Speaking the truth: Zionism, Israel, and occupation, Olive Branch Press, 2005. A collection of essays by other authors.
  • Ateek, Naim, and Prior, Michael, Holy land, hollow jubilee: God, justice, and the Palestinians, Melisende, 1999


  • Macpherson, Duncan, "Professor Michael Prior - Controversial priest and theologian who was an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights" (Obituary), in The Independent, August 23, 2004. online
  • Oestreicher, Paul, "Father Michael Prior - Liberation theologian passionately committed to the Palestinian cause", (Obituary), in The Guardian, 6 August 2004, online


  1. ^ Macpherson
  2. ^ Macpherson
  3. ^ Macpherson