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  • L'Europe de l'exégèse au XVIe siècle: Interpretations de La Parabolen Des Ouvriers a la Vigne (Matthieu 20,116)
  • Max Engammare
Jean-Pierre Delville . L'Europe de l'exégèse au XVIe siècle: Interpretations de La Parabolen Des Ouvriers a la Vigne (Matthieu 20,116). Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 174. Leuven: Peeters Publishers and Booksellers, 2004. xli + 774 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. €70. ISBN: 90-5867-439-8.

Commentators of the Bible come and go, and suffer to remain unknown until the Last Judgment and the hour after, as they are too numerous. They were a [End Page 916] myriad in Europe during the sixteenth century, and Jean-Pierre Delville attempts here to give us a picture of those who commented on and translated the parable of "the Labourers in the Vineyard," better known as the parable of "the Labourers of the eleventh hour," the hour before. The title of his study is ambitious, but fortunately the subtitle is more realistic. Delville's dissertation (French Faculty of Theology in Louvain-la-Neuve) focuses on commentaries of the Gospel of Matthew, forty-six exactly (fifty are quoted), and 145 different versions of the parable. In his introduction Delville uses Todorov and Ricœur to develop a typology of thirty "opérations d'interprétation" (the first one, modes of statement, already includes six parameters), explanation of immediate meaning, and elucidation of indirect meaning. Immediate meaning is literal ("sens propre"); indirect meaning refers to the "fonction référentielle indirecte" (Ricœur, xvi), what is suggested without being explicitly said. Providing hermeneutic tools is praiseworthy, but the result is unnecessarily complex, and the advantage tiny. Moreover, all quotations of Latin editions of the Bible are given in French, without the original text in footnotes. As a result, it is difficult to compare the Vulgate to Erasmus's New Instrument. Opportunely, in the second section commentary quotations are translated in the text, and the Latin given in footnotes.

In his first section ("L'énonciation démultipliée ou les textes de la parabole") Delville focuses on editions of the text of Matthew, first in classical languages (Greek, Syriac, and Latin), then in modern languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Low-German, Italian, Spanish, and even the Latin and Hebrew used to write new translations of the Gospel), from Erasmus (1516, Novum Instrumentum) to Beza (1598, last edition of his Annotationes majores), which is the classical periodization for the New Testament in the sixteenth century, already used by Kenneth Hagen (on Hebrews in 1981) and others. Delville enumerates editions and gives variants, as well as underlines the well-known "enormous influence" of Erasmus. Summarizing his study, Delville points out that old translations used more lexical symbolism than new ones.

A long second section focuses on commentaries — both Protestant and Catholic — on the parable, along with discussion on commentators' lives and methods. To use his study of Musculus's commentary as an example, while it is true that Musculus explained the statement of the debate when he explained the Gospel according to Matthew, he did so for every commentary he wrote (on Genesis, Isaiah, and others), which recent studies on Musculus do not ignore (Bodenmann, Dellsperger et alii). Geographic origins of commentators, along with types of commentaries, are first classified, before four long chapters that partition the production of the century: new commentaries (1516–25) with Erasmus, Luther, Lefevre of Etaples (Faber Stapulensis), even John Major; followers of Luther from Martin Bucer to Heinrich Bullinger (1527–42); commentaries in dialog from Wolfgang Musculus to Claude Guilliaud, an interesting, but hardly known, canon of Autun (1544–63); and commentaries and hierarchy of meanings from Palacios to Nadal (1564–98). Delville points out, in the last third of the [End Page 917] century the originality of each commentator, who traces his own way and Protestants and Catholics reading and using commentaries of the other camp. For each commentary, Delville uses his "opérations d'interprétation," giving direct and indirect meaning, metalanguage, and more. Although repetitive, this long section illustrates the diversity of interpretation of the Bible in the sixteenth century. This is conceptualized in the conclusion...


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