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1 introduction ThedigitalerahasbroughtBiblestoawiderpublicthaneverbefore.Bibles are now available in hundreds of languages and appear in their entirety in cheap prints or on websites to match every taste and bandwidth. Yet, knowledge of the Bible is far from the norm in most Western societies. Secularisation and cultural vogues have left people to rely on films, television programmes or Sunday Schools for knowledge of biblical stories and ideals. Such mediated access and second-hand knowledge is far from a modern innovation. In medieval Europe it was the cost of manuscripts, degrees of literacy, or social boundaries that determined people’s access to the Christian Scripture. Devoid of close contact with the biblical text, the majority of men and women experienced the Bible through a carefully structured array of rituals and images, sermons and chants. These media are at the core of this book as it follows the ways the Bible was sung and preached, revered and studied in medieval England; as it traces how the Bible was mediated and known across the social and cultural boundaries of literacy and piety. At the heart of this book is biblical mediation, a concept both widely familiar – in practice if not in as an explicit theory – and surprisingly elusive. That images and literature, liturgy and sermons were all central in explicating the Bible to the medieval populace is beyond doubt. How such access was constituted or what was its impact, is less evident. Did all media, whether illuminated on a page, sung by a choir, or preached by a friar transmit the Bible in the same way? Were different facets of the Bible more likely to appear in oral, performative, or material forms? Were particular media aimed at specific audiences? What was the impact of mediated access on the way the Bible was retained in the memory of lay and religious, men and women? These questions allow us to explore whether biblical mediation was a carefully guided project led by the clergy and a means to reinforce social boundaries and church hierarchy,and how active lay men and women were in this endeavour. Such questions are at the heart of our understanding of the place of the Bible in the medieval world, and this book constitutes a step in their analysis. Mediation emerges from the very nature of the Bible. A complex and MUP_Poleg_BibleMedievalEngland.indd 1 10/07/2013 16:25 approaching the bible in medieval england 2 sacred text, written and edited over a long period of time in remote eras and places, it did not easily fit with the prevailing values of those societies that held it dear. Taken at face value, the dietary laws of Leviticus, the love lore of the Song of Songs, or the visions of Revelation had little to do with the values of Christian (or Jewish) medieval culture.Keeping these archaic narratives relevant and alive was thus a necessity. It led to a high degree of creativity in expounding and exploring the Bible, making biblical mediation a dynamic part of society,ever changing and bringing new texts,tunes, objects,and monuments into its ambit.The Bible was made all things to all people, in a process that was often veiled and hidden. The subtle mechanisms which made its narratives present for medieval society were masked in the Bible’s sacrality, as up-to-date theological teachings were presented as an immutable biblical truth. A thorough investigation into transmission and reception is therefore necessary if the dynamics of biblical mediation are to be revealed. Such an investigation is made difficult by the sheer multitude of objects and procedures that facilitated biblical knowledge, by the sheer number of sources of biblical bearing that testify to biblical mediation in medieval Europe. So far, the two most common means of exploring the place of the Bible within the medieval world have been collections of articles or works on specificmedia.Theformerbringtogethertheworksofexpertsacrossdisciplines and eras.1 The latter analyse specific media, as in the use of biblical imagery in medieval art and literature or the way exegesis and preaching engaged with the biblical text (and often one another).2 Such works have demonstratedthecomplexityofbiblicaltransmissionandthewaysdifferent mediafunctionedsimultaneously.Timeandagainmedievalexamplesshow oral, visual, textual, and material means of dissemination in convergence: liturgy and preaching were performed at the same time, sharing space and actors; visual imagery reflected dramatic re-enactments; exegetes were often preachers too; and literary narratives employed biblical and liturgical tags interchangeably.These juxtapositions necessitate extending the study of mediation horizontally as well as vertically. Exploring a single medium has...


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