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

Synopsis

What was meant by the medieval popular Bible - what was presented as biblical narrative to an audience largely unable to read the original biblical texts? Presentations in the vernacular languages of Europe of supposedly biblical episodes were more often than not expanded and interpreted, sometimes very considerably. This book looks at the presentation, the use, and the possible lay reception of the book of Genesis, using as wide a range of medieval genres and vernaculars as possible on a comparative basis down to the Reformation. Literatures taken into consideration include Irish, Cornish, English, French, High and Low German, Spanish, Italian and others. Genesis was an important book, and the focus is on those narrative high points which lend themselves most particularly (it is never exclusive) to literal expansion, even though allegory can also work backwards into the literal narrative. Starting with the devil in paradise (who is not biblical), the book examines what Adam and Eve did afterwards, who killed Cain, what happened in the flood or at the tower of Babel, and ends with a consideration of the careers of Jacob and Joseph. The book is based on the Speaker's Lectures, given in 2002 in the University of Oxford. BRIAN MURDOCH is Professor of German at the University of Stirling.

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