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

By Brian Murdoch | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION: THE POPULAR BIBLE

THESE STUDIES ARE CONCERNED with the medieval Bible, and one might, as a starting point, consider a concrete example of a medieval Bible as such ― a glossed Bible manuscript, or perhaps better still, and from the very end of the Middle Ages, something like the folio Bible printed at Basle in 1501―2, which has a tiny scriptural text in the centre of the folio page, already provided with interlinear glosses, and practically swamped by commentaries all round the outside. The copy in Cambridge University Library even has contemporary handwritten additions on top of all that. However, this would be a false starting point. Although one well- known aspect of the Speaker's bequest ― which gave rise to the series of lectures upon which these studies are based ― was to produce a commentary on the Bible, the intent here is to work from the opposite direction and to ask the question: what did medieval vernacular writers understand by and present as the Bible? The answer is not as simple as naming, say, the Old Latin or the Vulgate, or the Paris Bible, or the Turin Bible, or a Vulgate with the Glossa Ordinaria attached. 1 That would be working from Bible to literature. The interest here is in what writers perceived and presented as the Bible to their audiences, so that the answer is, in fact, a purely hypothetical book. Vernacular writers themselves often worked, moreover, from memory rather than from direct reference to the text, so that their Bible was sometimes a mental construct. Furthermore, liturgical works with biblical excerpts are equally likely as a substantive source. 2

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1
The Basel Bible was printed in six folio volumes: Biblia . . . cu(m) glosa ordinaria:et litterali moraliq(ue) expositione Nicolai de Lyra: necno(n) additio(n)ibus Burge(n)sis: ac replicis Thoringi ... (Basle: Froben, 1501―2). Later examples include the Biblia Sacra cum Glossa Ordinaria printed in Lyons in 1589. A (fortuitous) example of a glossed Genesis is provided by the Bodleian MS Laud Lat. 88 from Eberbach in the Rheingau: see Nigel F. Palmer, Zisterzienser und ihre Bücher (Regensburg: Schnell und Steiner, 1998), pp. 261 and 284. See Bernhard Bischoff, Lateinische Bibelhandschiften des frühen Mittelalters (Freiburg i. Br.: Herder, 1985) and Robert E. McNally, The Bible in the Early Middle Ages (Westminster, Maryland: Newman, 1959). McNally's survey, though short, is extremely full. On the 'Irish Reference Bible' see Bernhard Bischoff”s interesting 'Turning-Points in the History of Latin Exegesis in the Early Irish Church', Biblical Studies: the Medieval Irish Contribution, ed. Martin McNamara (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1976), pp. 72―160.
2
Other standard texts are Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), Jean Leclerq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, trans. Catherine Misrahi ([1960] New York: Mentor, 1962) and G. W. H. Lampe, The Cambridge History of the Bible II. The West from the Fathers to the Reformation (Cambridge: CUP, 1969). Smalley and Leclerq are concerned in the main with the study of the Bible in the monasteries and (later) in the schools. See also Katherine Wood and Diana Wood, The Bible in the Medieval World. Essays in Memory of Beryl Smalley (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985). A further different approach is that by Northrop Frye in The Great Code (London: RKP, 1982). I have used the Vulgate as the source-text unless otherwise stated for biblical reference; on the Vulgate see such

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

Table of contents

  • The Medieval Popular Bible - Expansions of Genesis in the Middle Ages *
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction: the Popular Bible 1
  • One - Bedevilling Paradise 19
  • Two - What Adam and Eve Did Next 42
  • Three - Lamech and the Other Lamech 70
  • Four - Noah: Navigator and Vintner 96
  • Five - The Tower of Babel and the Courteous Vengeance 127
  • Six - Patriarchal Trickery: Jacob and Joseph 149
  • Conclusion 175
  • Bibliography 177
  • Biblical Index 203
  • General Index 205
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