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THE GOSPELS IN THE PARIS SCHOOLS IN THE LATE 12TH AND EARLY 13TH CENTURIES PETER THE CHANTER, HUGH OF ST. CHER, ALEXANDER OF HALES, JOHN OF LA ROCHELLE Concepts of the vita evangélica vel apostólica form a central theme in medieval studies today. We now know more about the background to the rise of the Mendicant Orders; we can watch the development of various aspirations to live according to the Gospels among both orthodox and heretical groups in Christendom. We have a better, though by no means complete understanding of the friars' efforts to carry out the plans of their founders, St. Dominic and St. Francis. Here I want to quarry in an area of information which is still largely unexplored: lectures on the Gospels given in the Paris schools c. 11731245 . The conflict between secular masters and Mendicants from the 1250s onward has high-lighted polemical exegesis of biblical texts. The commentaries of the great schoolmen are available in print. But there is a gap in our knowledge of Bible teaching in the schools in precisely the period when Mendicants took over from seculars. Earlier neglect of this subject need cause no surprise: of the four scholars named in my title only Hugh of St. Cher on the whole Bible can be read in print, and that in early uncritical editions. The others' commentaries are still in manuscript and bristle with difficulties. They raise problems of authenticity, inter-relationships and variants, sometimes stemming from several reportationes of the same lecture course. And yet Gospel commentaries in particular suggest crucial questions: how did masters, secular or religious, interpret the Sermon on the Mount, apostolic poverty and preaching to their pupils? Disputations and commentaries on the Sentences or Summas would provide a framework for such interpretation; the Gospels focused attention on it. No lecturer could evade problems posed by the contrasts between the life and teaching of Jesus on the one hand and the practice and theory of the contemporary Church The Gospels in the Paris Schools231 on the other. A master could blame or justify, with varying shades of emphasis; he could not avoid expressing his opinions; his students would expect it of him. His teaching, moreover, would stretch out to wider circles than his immediate audience which included future prelates and preachers, members of religious Orders or potential recruits to Orders. His commentaries would be read as well as heard. How far did the friars bring a new approach to lectures on the Gospels ? How far, if at aU, did they differ from their secular predecessors ? Teased by these questions, indeed gadfly-driven, I set out on a voyage of discovery. It entailed much technical prospecting and the amount of material made it impossible to map out the territory at all thoroughly. My findings are subject to future research. This paper follows on two others, which prepare the way for it. The first dealt with early twelfth-century Gospel commentaries, originating mainly in the schools of Laon and Paris, the second with Peter Comestor on the Gospels and his sources.1 Only the second need be summarised here. Peter Comestor or Manducator, best known as 'the Master of the Histories,' the classic medieval textbook on Bible history, left lectures on the Gospels, given at Paris 1159-1178. They have come down to us as reportationes. Comestor lectured on a glossed text of the Gospels; his gloss was what became standard as the Ordinaria . His main source, apart from the Gloss with its patristic excerpts, was a commentary on St. Matthew printed under the name of Master Anselm of Laon (PL 162, 1227-1500). The true author, it is now agreed, was not Anselm but another scholar, writing c. 11401150 . Master Geoffrey Babion has some claims to authorship. They are so insubstantial, it seems to me, that we have to treat the writer as anonymous. I call him 'B' without prejudice to the attribution. To describe Comestor's attitude briefly: he was 'Establishmentminded ,' like his preferred source B. He accepted the differences between the early and the present-day Church as right and proper, given correct behaviour in all ranks of society. He upheld uses and denounced only...


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