“Pleasure, Story, Word: Vernacular Verse Bibles Before the English Reformation”
November 13, 2012
A Boston University Program for Scripture and the Arts Lecture with Harvard University's Nicholas Watson, with reception to follow. It is often claimed that medieval Christian Europe had no vernacular Bibles, which were a triumphant invention of sixteenth-century Protestantism, aided by the rise of print. One way this is wrong is in its narrow view of what counts as a Bible. Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in particular, European vernacular Bibles were as often as not in verse, presenting a view of the Scriptures not primarily as divine law but as a record of sacred history – of events and their layered meanings – offering readers and hearers not only the word of God but testimony to his actions as a creator, guide, and above all his incarnate presence. Heroic, performative, aesthetic – its rhythms staking a claim not only on the minds but on the bodily experience of its auditors – poetry was a fit medium for such testimony, elevating spoken Word over written Text.