Approaching the Bible in medieval England

Author: Eyal Poleg

The introduction of a vernacular Bible changed biblical discourse in late medieval England. This book seeks to explore the mundane uses of the Bible and the daily contact with the divine in four instances: liturgical spectacles, talismanic uses, the layout of biblical manuscripts, and sermons. These instances weave a single narrative, which moves between antiquity and change, performance and material culture. Liturgical rites are explored for their texts, as for their use of sacred books, and innovative biblical manuscripts were tied with medieval sermons, the obverse of liturgical rites. The book begins with Palm Sunday, an important liturgical celebration, which provided an opportunity for many to integrate joy and participation into the biblical narrative. Then, it examines the Bible in liturgical spectacles, but in another manifestation. Not only text and narrative, Bibles were also sacred objects, employed in Masses and oath rituals. Innovative forms of biblical manuscripts, however, emerged at the beginning of the thirteenth century. These mass-produced Bibles are examined for their carefully structured array of ink and scripts, rubrics and addenda, for their specific means of engaging with the biblical text. They were utilitarian objects, employed by trained professionals. The book finds a prime audience of these manuscripts among late medieval preachers. Three Advent Sunday sermons demonstrate how the format of biblical manuscripts corresponded to the rise of the new form of preaching. It demonstrates how a new facet of the Bible unfolded in these elaborate sermons to engage with biblical words and texts.

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