Bible for Medievalists

Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
13 Sep 2010 - 6 Dec 2010
Stream/Track/Specialization/Core Area: 
III—History of Medieval Religion, Philosophy, and Science
György László Geréby

MS 5831: Bible for Medievalists


 (xxx, Seminar, 2 credits)


Instructor: György Geréby (Room xxx) Tel: xxx or 3412 634




Office Hours:

xxx or by appointment


Description: The Bible played a fundamental role in a varied way in the formation of the intellectual (and also material) culture of the Middle Ages. The “language and the logic of the Bible” shaped (in different degrees) the form of the church as an institution, her legal system, the liturgy, the sermons, iconography, theology, and ultimately profane literature, too. The biblical and the Bible-related texts provided ideas and frameworks not only for theology (often termed as sacra pagina), but also for iconographic and building programs, and offered role-models for social behaviour, or even for imperial or royal ideologies. In short, the characteristic facets of the historic shape of the church (reflected in its changes) and many aspects of medieval social life or material culture can not be understood without a substantial knowledge of the texts providing the matrix for these aspects, including the methods by which the Bible was interpreted (and the ways the Bible  was present). The introductory course will help students to familiarize themselves through the close reading of choice texts (in commentaries) with some basic ideas, concepts and vocabulary of the institutionalized understanding and interpretation of the Bible from its Hellenistic shape to the final phase of the Mediaeval Bible (early 16th c.).

The exegetical techniques discussed will be those of the Medieval period (the modern Bibelwissenschaft [Bible studies] will not be touched upon, except some assumptions of it as contrastive examples). The classes will begin with short lectures on aspects of premodern biblical scholarship (glossae, lectio divina, catenae, liturgical readings, etc.), or some of the important ideas (God, creation, sacred history (salvation history), sacrifice, sacred time (linear history), salvation, angels, devil and Satan, last judgement, etc.), while in the second part we will read and comment on Biblical passages in English, being the langue axiale, or lingua franca of the course. Students will be asked to contribute to the commentaries on the various languages they happen to be competent in (Greek, Latin, OCS).


Learning objectives: to understand the role of Bible as normative conceptual framework during the Latin Middle Ages. To become familiar with the books, the stories which were popular frames of reference. To understand the development of the text and the canon.


Learning outcomes: Familiarity with the role of the Bible in the Middle Ages; with the types of the books of the Bible, and their function, the development of the canon(s), the history of the LXX and the Vulgate, the logics of its medieval reading and the main principles of its interpretation. Fundamental positions, and the types of explanation (litteral, anagogical, moral, figurative), main schools and principal authorities in exegesis.


Requirements: Elective for 1YMA and 2YMA students. For the participtants it is required to attend the course and participate in the discussions during classes, based on the weekly readings. These items will be the subject of the two in-class tests. Required additional readings are listed separately

The Bible texts will be primarily read in English. Other linguistic skills (Greek, Latin, etc.) are not required, but can be of help.


Grading: Grading is based on participation (25%), a class journal, about 1 page every week to be submitted to the above email address by Monday noon each week about the class(es) of the previous week (25%), and 2 in-class tests (25% +  25%).


Course details:


1. (xxx) Introduction. What is “the” Bible? The Hellenistic Jewish Bibles.

Is Judaism a ‘religion of the book’? The specificity of the Jewish TaNaCh, and Christian bibles. The Law. The different coexistent canons of the books. Epochs of scholarship and schools (names). How to use the Bible in mediaeval studies related scholarship?

Reading: Trebolle Barrera, J., The Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible, (Leiden – New York – Köln :Brill, 1998)  ch. III. 259-365. (CEU MED) 

Recommended readings:

The Cambridge History of the Bible I-II., Cambridge : CUP, 1963-70.

Grant, R. M., A short history of the Interpretation of the Bible, New York – London : Macmillan, 1966.

Kling, David W., The Bible in History: How the Texts Have Shaped the Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004)


2. (xxx) The Greek Bibles.

The Septuagint (LXX). Hebraica veritas or Graeca veritas? How does the text come about? Ps-Aristeas. Alternatives: Theodotion, Aquila, Symmachus. The Hexapla of Origen. The majority text (Byzantine text). The principal early mss.: Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus. Translations: Codex Bezae. Spirit and letter. Constantine’s bible. The seventy languages. Transmission of the text. Liturgical readings. Florilegia. Commentaries and catenae.

Reading: Letter of Aristeas tr. R.H.Charles

Recommended readings:

Blowers, Paul M., The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity, Notre Dame IN : University of Notre Dame Press,


3. (xxx) Development of the canon.

The idea of the canon. Is Christianity a ‘religion of the book?’ The Muratori fragment. The 4th c.: Athanasius’ Festal letter. The Council of Trent. Short history of the vernacular translations: Latin and Syriac translations, Wulfila, OCS translation. Translations into Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Rumanian, Hungarian, German, English.

Reading: Athanasius, Festal letter of 367

Muratori fragment:, also with Latin :


4. (xxx) The Latin Bibles.

The history of the Latin text. Vetus Latina and Itala. Codices: Vercellensis, Bobbiensis, Veronensis. Jerome and the Vulgate. Great Latin commentators ( Ambrose,  Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Cassiodorus, Bede, Alcuin, Rabanus Maurus.)  History of the glossa : Walafridus Strabo, Anselm of Laon, the school of St Victor, Hugh of St Cher OP, Nicolaus de Lyra OFM.

Reading: Tkacz, C. B., “Labor tam utilis”: The creation of the Vulgate. Vigiliae Christianae 50 (1996), 42-72. JSTOR

Swanson, J., “The Glossa ordinaria. in: Evans, G.R., ed., The Medieval Theologians. Malden – Oxford – Carlton: Blackwell, 2001. 156-167.

Recommended reading: Mattei, P., La Bible dans la littérature latine chrétienne (IIIe-Ve s.),

Metzger, Bs. M., Ehrman, B. D., The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, (New York – Oxford : OUP, 2005) ch.1. The making of ancient books, … 4-51



5. (xxx) The New Testament and the Old.

The OT and the NT, and their unity, as assumed in Christianity. The problem of Marcion. OT elements in the NT. Type and antitype. Structure and history of the medieval textual exegesis.

ReadingsTyconius, Regulae, 4-7.

Biblia pauperum

Jerome, Letter to Pope Damasus

Jerome, Letter to Hebidia on biblical problems (excerpt from Ep. 120, PL 22:980A-1006A)



6. (xxx) Pseudepigrapha and apocrypha

OT and NT apocrypha. Their role and influence.

ReadingsProtevangelium of James :

Koester, H., Apocryphal and canonical gospels, HTR 73(1980), 105-130 (JSTOR)



7. (xxx) Bible and theology.

The need for the allegory. The  levels of interpretation. Topoi of the Jewish-Christian debates on Biblical interpretation.

Reading: Tyconius, Regulae / The book of rules, tr. W.S. Babcock, Atlanta : Scholars Press, 1989.  (CEU Med Lib)

Recommended readings:

Augustine, De doctrina christiana / On Christian doctrine R.P.H. Green, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1995, lib 1-3  (CEU Med Lib)

Gorday, Peter, Principles of patristic exegesis : Romans 9-11 in Origen, John Chrysostom, and Augustine, New York : Edwin Mellen Press, 1983.

Lubac, H. de, Medieval exegesis, Edinburgh : T. & T. Clark, 1998 (= only the first vol. of the English tr. of: Exegese medievale : les quatre sens de l'ecriture, Clamecy : Desclee de Brouwer, 1993)


8. (xxx) Salvation and history.

Basic theological concepts. The idea of world history. Praeparatio evangelica

No reading.


9. (xxx) Bible and liturgy

The liturgy as recapitulation of salvation history. The heavenly and the earthly liturgy. Analysis of selected passages.

Reading: Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom  (and many other sites)


10. (xxx) Bible in art

Visual materials: the friese of the Chapterhouse of the cathedral of Salisbury.

Selected Biblical Stories.

Walter Cahn, "Architecture and Exegesis: Richard of St.-victor's Ezekiel Commentary and Its Illustrations," The Art Bulletin 76, no. 1 (1994), JSTOR

Recommended readings: Smalley, B., The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978.


11. (xxx) Example of exegesis 2: The Prologue of John

 Gen 1, Jn 1. – Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea, ad loc.

Reading: Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea,


12. (xxx) Example of exegesis 1: The Nativity.

Mt 2, 9, Lk 2, 7 – Thomas Aquinas, Catena aurea, ad loc.

Reading: Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea,



Required additional readings:

Biblical books: Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Jonah, Psalms, Gospel of Luke, Gospel of John, Epistle to the Romans, Ep. To the Hebrews

Evans, G. M., The language and the logic of the Bible, Cambridge : CUP, 1991. (CEU Med Lib)


Suggested readings :

The Cambridge History of the Bible I-II., Cambridge : CUP, 1963-70.

Blowers, Paul M. The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity. Notre Dame IN : University of Notre Dame Press,

Smalley, Beryl. The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978.

Gorday, Peter. Principles of patristic exegesis: Romans 9-11 in Origen, John Chrysostom, and Augustine. New York : Edwin Mellen Press, 1983.

Grant, R. M. A short history fot he Interpretation of the Bible, New York – London : Macmillan, 1966.


Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea,