The Medieval Popular Bible: Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages

By Brian Murdoch | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CONCLUSION

DECEIT MAKES FOR GOOD NARRATIVE, and this explains some of the interest in the Jacob and Joseph stories. But it remains difficult to reconcile that deceit with the presentation of the characters in the context of a medieval popular Bible, especially in the case of Jacob. In consequence, the stories of Jacob and Joseph in the medieval vernacular Bible can appear to be distorted, even in straightforward literal terms. Yes, Joseph is an exemplar of chastity and of faith in God; he is also considerably less interesting than Potiphar's wife, and thus the Genesis narrative and any possible moralising intent may easily become skewed. So too with Jacob, the trickster and deceiver, who is not, however, criticised, even if sensitive issues have to be avoided by selective omission, radical rearrangement of the order of events, or the addition of motifs, not all of which are necessary for explanatory purposes. For the Irish Saltair na Rann to have Rachel in labour when hiding Laban's property might be a necessary explanatory adaptation; for the same text to have Potiphar's wife lure Joseph into the jewel-room is not, though it does make the story far more vivid. Neither point is in the Bible.

Can we say, then, and not only of the Joseph story, whether it really is all there in Chapter 39/ of Genesis? Of course it is not. But the sensus litteralis, the literal gloss, has enormous potential, and we have moved with these stories at the end of Genesis often very clearly from the literal to the literary gloss. The impressive and still standard second volume of the Cambridge History of the Bible, which covers the Middle Ages, whilst containing chapters on medieval iconography (as 'The People's Bible') and on vernacular translations of the Bible, looks only tangentially at vernacular presentations of the Scriptures, and the concept of a 'medieval popular Bible' is one that is not too frequently found in any case. Thus the Cambridge History notes that the Middle English Genesis is 'remote from the biblical text', and that the Middle English Jacob and Joseph replaces doctrinal exposition with human and romantic interest. 1 Of course this is true, but these points are also extremely important in terms of biblical reception. As we examine these medieval texts and others like them more closely, we become aware of the

____________________
1
Lampe, Cambridge History, II, 383. Although there is a chapter on medieval French vernacular Bibles, for example, neither Herman de Valenciennes nor Evrat are even mentioned. There is of course a difference between secular profane literature and religious literature which has aesthetic implications: see the interesting comments by Joerg O. Fichte, 'Der Einfluss der Kirche aus die mittelalterliche Literaturästhetik', Studia Neophilologica xlviii (1976), pp. 3―20; see especially pp. 12f. On Bible illustrations as the popular Bible, see most recently John Williams, ed. Imaging the Early Medieval Bible (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State UP, 2001). Morey, 'Comestor', is one of the few critics to use the term 'medieval popular Bible'.

-175-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Medieval Popular Bible: Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 209

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.