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The Biography of the Bible

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Azrael
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« Reply #90 on: July 18, 2009, 10:05:09 pm »

 Acre was made useless by the subsequent quarrels between the leaders, Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur-de-Lion. The Fourth Crusade was diverted through the intrigues of Enrico Dandolo, the doge of Venice, to an attack on Christian Constantinople, which was sacked and burned. Then came the two pathetic Children's Crusades—"armies" of twenty and thirty thousand children, led by shepherd boys: one group dissolved after terrible losses in the frozen Alps, and the other, more luckless, persisted until the children reached Egypt where they were sold into slavery. In the Fifth Crusade, the wily politician, Frederick II, succeeded in recovering Jerusalem by treaty instead of by force of arms, but his achievement, widely condemned for its un-knightly character, was of no permanent significance as the city was soon retaken by the Moslems. In the Sixth Crusade, Saint Louis, king of France, was captured with his entire army in Egypt, and it taxed the resources of the French realm to pay the enormous ransom that was demanded. The Seventh and last Crusade, led by the same Saint Louis, ended ignominiously in Tunis when the king fell ill and died.

What had all this record of savagery and failure

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Azrael
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« Reply #91 on: July 18, 2009, 10:05:23 pm »

to do with our immediate theme of the Bible? A great deal.

The Crusaders, always in want of money and provisions, early adopted the practice of sacking the Jewish quarters of the towns through which they passed. The anti-Semitism from which Europe has suffered, to a greater or less extent, ever since, definitely began with the Crusades. Before that time the Jews had been generally tolerated; it was recognized that they at least held sacred the older half of the Bible, which was still the source of their ritual and the object of their constant study; there was hence a kind of distant relationship between them and the Christians. But after the Crusades, the Christians were reluctant to admit any kind of connection with the Jews. The unpleasant fact that all the Christian Sacred Scriptures had actually been written by the Jews could not be denied, but it could be ignored if men would but refrain from investigating origins at all. Any historical study of the Bible was therefore unwelcome and was delayed by this obscurantist attitude until well into the nineteenth century.

There was, it is true, another side to the Jewish persecutions. The book of Deuteronomy had brought

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Azrael
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« Reply #92 on: July 18, 2009, 10:05:38 pm »

about a strange situation in the medieval world. In accordance with its provisions, Christians were forbidden to take interest on loans. The Jews, on the other hand, were permitted to exact interest from foreigners. Enjoying a monopoly of money-lending, they often yielded to the temptation to raise the rates of interest to usurious heights. It is perhaps not surprising that the exasperated Christians often retaliated by seizing the wealth of those whose special privileges in the money market seemed to them so unfair.

But the spirit of persecution once aroused is rarely limited to its initial victims. The Jews were not the only victims of the revival of intolerance which accompanied the Crusades. Christians also suffered. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Papacy declared a crusade against the large Albigensian sect in southern France, accused of Manichaean tendencies because of their pacifistic ethics, and in the campaigns that ensued whole cities were exterminated. The stage was already set for the persecutions of the Protestants three centuries later.

A contemporary movement often confused with the Albigensian was that of the Waldensians, the followers of Peter Waldo. This man, a prosperous

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« Reply #93 on: July 18, 2009, 10:05:55 pm »

merchant of Lyons, suddenly decided in 1176 to take literally the injunction of Jesus, "Sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor" (Luke xviii. 22). He carried out his resolution and formed a sect, known as "the Poor Men of Lyons," who, like the Albigensians, were complete pacifists, refused to take oaths, and held aloof from civic life. If this was what came from the reading of the Bible, Pope Innocent III determined to cut off the evil at its source; he forbade laymen henceforth even to touch the Bible, much less read it. But the Waldensians managed to survive the Albigensian persecution, became Protestants during the Reformation, and continue to exist in small numbers even to this day.

Not unsimilar in aim was the movement initiated by Francis of Assisi which, being conducted more judiciously, found shelter within the bosom of the Church. His monastic order, with its triple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, was founded, like the Waldensian heresy, on strict observance of the Scriptures. To Francis the reading of the Bible was a religious ecstasy. He meditated so intently on the history of the Lord's passion that the signs of the stigmata appeared on his own body. His most difficult act of almsgiving occurred when he parted with his sole possession, the New Testament,

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Azrael
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« Reply #94 on: July 18, 2009, 10:06:12 pm »

to a poor widow. Dying, he had the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John read to him, so that the last words he heard on earth were those in which Jesus foretold his own death.

These various movements, alike in their care for the common people and in their reliance on the Bible, testified to a new spirit abroad in the land. Something was happening to the feudal system.

Emerson, in his poem "Uriel," introduces a young seraph who shocks the angels with his heretical proclamation:

In vain produced, all rays return
Evil will bless, and ice will burn.
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Azrael
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« Reply #95 on: July 18, 2009, 10:06:24 pm »

 An apparent illustration of Uriel's philosophy may be seen in the further effects of the Crusades. In the amount of needless suffering and horror produced, few greater evils have befallen Europe than the Crusades. And yet without the Crusades, the glorious thirteenth century which marked the culmination of all that was best in medievalism could never have occurred. Acquaintance with Arabic philosophy, and through it a closer acquaintance with the Greek philosophy on which it was based, fitted in with the broader outlook on the world induced by

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Azrael
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« Reply #96 on: July 18, 2009, 10:06:37 pm »

foreign travel to stimulate a zeal for learning which found expression in the establishment of universities throughout western Europe and in the development of the incipient Scholastic movement in philosophy, until this produced, in the persons of Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus, with others only a little less eminent, thinkers almost on a par with the greatest of antiquity. And this, the intellectual aspect of the new age, was superficial in comparison with the fundamental changes that were going on in the whole social order.

The Crusaders, in order to finance their expeditions, had been forced to borrow heavily from the towns and cities so that there grew up a creditor class of merchants and burghers with a whip hand over the nobility. The latter were further weakened by the death of so many turbulent barons in or on the way to Palestine. For the moment, the decrease in the strength of the first estate, the nobility, benefited the second estate, the Church, which effected an alliance with the rising power of the cities, now well on the way to form a significant third estate. The new regime meant a vast enlargement of human opportunity. And as usually happens, enlargement

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Azrael
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« Reply #97 on: July 18, 2009, 10:06:56 pm »

of opportunity brought a rebirth of literature and art. By way of literature and art, its ancient friends, the Bible began to come back into its own.

A Biblical history, the Historia Scholastica, was written by Petrus Comestor for the use of scholars. For the unlettered was circulated the Biblia Pauperum, a kind of Biblical picture book showing famous scenes from the Bible. The greatest familiarity with the Bible, however, was to come through drama.

Modern drama, like the classical drama, developed out of religious liturgy. As early as the tenth century, the Benedictine nun, Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, had vaguely sensed the possibilities of religious drama, and in order to wean the nuns from reading the profane works of Plautus and Terence had written six Latin comedies with highly moral implications. But she was on the wrong track. The future lay not in imitation of the classics but in the use of elements much nearer at hand. The elaborate ceremonies of the medieval Church already possessed a wealth of dramatic material in the processionals, the changes of persons and costumes during the service, the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, the representations of the manger at Christmas and of the tomb at Easter.

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Azrael
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« Reply #98 on: July 18, 2009, 10:07:11 pm »

 Gradually, the Christmas and Easter celebrations took on more and more of an explicitly dramatic character: additional personages were introduced, such as Roman soldiers, the Magi and the shepherds, the women at the tomb, and angels, with rhymed dialogues written for all of them; finally, laymen were allowed to participate in the role of evil characters like Herod, Judas, and the impenitent thief. Thus, during the twelfth century, well-rounded Christmas and Easter plays were presented by the clergy in the churches and churchyards all over western Europe. Essentially the same everywhere, they were known by different names: miracle plays in England, mysteries in France, ludi in Germany, autos in Spain.

The popularity of the plays brought great crowds to see them, rude and boisterous crowds whose conduct was often indecorous, yet for whose benefit the writers began to introduce numerous scenes, such as a quarrel between Noah and his wife, which shocked the sensibilities of stricter clerics. So in 1210, Pope Innocent III, the same who preached the Albigensian Crusade and forced Frederick II to go unwillingly to Jerusalem, forbade the clergy to take any further part in the development of popular drama.

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« Reply #99 on: July 18, 2009, 10:07:30 pm »

The plays, transferred to the market place and taken over by the guilds, were greatly enlarged after they fell into the hands of the laity until they came to represent the entire cycle of Biblical events from the creation to the resurrection. There they were halted by the nature of Christian dogma; unlike the Greek myths which could be handled freely by the Athenian dramatists to the extent of completely changing both plots and characters, the Christian stories could not be fundamentally altered without impiety. The creative genius of dramatic writers sought relief through the introduction of allegorical figures who gradually came to swamp the stage. From this resulted the new type of morality play, wholly allegorical in character, and this in turn, with the coming of the Reformation, was easily transformed into the satirical interlude, usually directed against the Catholic Church. Forced into the realm of the abstract in order to gain freedom, the drama came back to the concrete through satire, and in Protestant England there resulted the great period of purely secular Elizabethan drama which culminated in Shakespeare. The religious origin of the drama, however, still directly influenced the great plays of Calderon in Spain and can be seen, indeed, as late as the

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« Reply #100 on: July 18, 2009, 10:09:05 pm »

seventeenth century in the Esther and Athalie of the Catholic Racine.

If the Church early relinquished its part in the development of drama, the same thing did not happen in the realm of architecture. The noblest expression of the medieval spirit in its uttermost reach of aspiration was found in the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Gothic architecture which was fostered equally by church and town. Rising high above the market place, the houses, and all other public buildings, the cathedrals in their **** gave employment to thousands of the common people, enlisted the support of the guilds, afforded sanctuary for the tombs of the nobility, enshrined the legends of the Bible and the saints in their multicolored windows of stained glass, and presented religion in a guise of beauty which yet did not obscure its austerity. Rather, in them, austerity itself became beautiful. Each cathedral was the pride of its city. As far its lofty towers could be seen, men were comforted by its presence.

Gothic architecture was an embodiment of a final combined effort of the three estates of feudalism before they fell apart forever. Sculpture and painting, beginning as an adjunct of architecture, were, on the other hand, to reach their highest development

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« Reply #101 on: July 18, 2009, 10:09:25 pm »

during the more individualistic period that followed when the merchant princes of Italy erected their little separate courts and vied with one another in patronizing the arts and also the new learning that was brought from Greece after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Sculpture and painting reflected the general movement of culture in their choice of themes. During the medieval period these were drawn mainly from the lives of the saints, or from events in the Bible, both alike interpreted according to the medieval standards of asceticism; very gradually, the meager limbs and wrinkled faces of the anchoritic ideal were supplanted by the more well-rounded bodies and ruddier faces of the Renaissance. The painters, originally often monks, eventually became a professional class dependent upon private patrons rather than the Church; mythological themes tended to replace the Biblical; and the artists at last became entirely cynical, taking their mistresses as models for either a Venus or a Madonna, whichever happened to be called for. The deeply religious Michelangelo, to be sure, infused a prophetic spirit into his work, and in his statues of David and Moses, as well as in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, he achieved a marvelous harmony of the

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« Reply #102 on: July 18, 2009, 10:09:40 pm »

Biblical, the medieval, and the pagan; but of his two most gifted contemporaries, Raphael contentedly painted the courtesan La Fornarina as the Virgin Mother, and Leonardo used the same model for both his Bacchus and his John the Baptist. The later Venetian School still affected Scriptural subjects, but the interest was no longer in any kind of characterization, Christian or pagan, but in the sheer beauty of the flesh, the texture of garments, the overwhelming joy of deep, rich colors. Venice, whose commercial prosperity after the Crusades was the first harbinger of the decay of medievalism, was also the first to announce that medievalism was dead, through the paintings of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Giorgione, who had lost even the memory of the long medieval centuries that preceded them.

In all this art, interest in the Bible was ultimately swallowed up in broader, if less lofty, interests, but till the end the Biblical aspects of art continued to keep alive the Scriptural stories. Through the miracle plays and the religious paintings, during the centuries when the Bible itself could not be generally read, even when this was permitted, since to the great majority Latin had become an unknown tongue, the common people

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« Reply #103 on: July 18, 2009, 10:10:40 pm »

came to know, at least vaguely, the old legends that still after fifteen hundred years retained the power of religious inspiration. The popular demand for translations in the vernacular which the Protestant reformers were to meet and satisfy arose in no small part from the but half-gratified curiosity of the later Middle Ages.

http://sacred-texts.com/bib/biob/biob05.htm
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« Reply #104 on: July 18, 2009, 10:12:44 pm »

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FIVE
The Great Translations

IT IS NOW recognized that the Reformation and the great translations of the Bible which accompanied it were incidents in a social revolution. The Catholic Church was a part of the dying feudal system; its prelates were noblemen, its estates rivaled those of earls and dukes. Even in England, where the Church was weaker than on the Continent, its monasteries are estimated to have owned one-tenth of the national wealth. Of the "nyne and twenty in a companye" that gathered at the Tabard Inn in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, more than a third were connected, directly or indirectly, with the ecclesiastical hierarchy. To maintain this enormous bureaucracy, the land was burdened with tithes and taxes. The Papacy no longer even pretended to have a spiritual mission: the licentiousness and crimes of Alexander VI, the political intrigues and ruthless wars of Pope Julius II, the rivalry of the double Popes of Rome and Avignon, these were known to all. Idealists were shocked by the corruptions of the Church,

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and materialists envied it its wealth. As a new middle class arose through the extension of trade and commerce in the late Middle Ages its members begrudged both the nobility and clergy their special privileges. Of the two the clergy were the more hated because they took their orders from Rome, offending the spirit of nationalism that had begun to develop, particularly in northern Europe. Thus, moral, political, and economic reasons all lay behind the Reformation.

The reformers were drawn to the Bible by natural affinity. Theirs was the cause of the people against the rich and powerful; the Prophets had fought for the same cause. In the struggle of the Hebrews against idolatry, the reformers saw an analogue to their own struggle against the ritualism and relic worship in the Catholic Church. Their emphasis upon the individual conscience drew inspiration from the Gospels; Paul's teaching of justification by faith brought them courage and consolation. Inevitably, the Bible became the chief weapon of the reformers in their war upon the Catholic Church.

The greater the distance from Rome, the less the power of the Catholic hierarchy. So it was at the outer edge of Christendom, in England, that there

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