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The Bible in the Renaissance
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This conference will focus on the Biblical narratives and the verbalization enforced by the Protestant belief in sola scriptura both in England and on the Continent, and how these changes influenced the literature produced during the century spanning from the second half of the 16th century and first half of the 17th century.

5/22/2017 to 5/25/2017
When: Monday, May 22, 2017
Where: Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS)
The Hebrew University, the Edmond J. Safra Campus
Jerusalem, Jerusalem  91904
Israel
Contact: Yaakov Mascetti

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While the primary texts for Renaissance Humanism were the works of Greek and Roman writers, for the Reformation, however, only one text mattered: the Bible. All the major Protestant Reformers from Luther on insisted on translating the Bible into the language of the common people. The new Latin translation of the New Testament by Erasmus, for instance, printed with and based on his edition of the Greek text (the textus receptus), was foundational for later Protestant translators, while Erasmus remained Catholic. For Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers, however, the vernacular Bible was not simply a sensible convenience — the doctrine of sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone") was at the core of Protestant theology: a long list of Catholic beliefs and practices (for example, devotion to the saints; the sacraments of marriage, penance, and extreme unction; Purgatory) were rejected principally on the basis that they were non-scriptural.

If the Bible was the only true basis for Christian belief and practice, it was essential that all Christians be able to read it for themselves. Despite the claims for sola scriptura, and for the self-interpreting simplicity of the biblical text, reformers also insisted upon the right interpretation of the text. A vast library of commentaries, sermons, prefaces, annotations, catechisms, and paraphrases was generated to assist the ordinary reader.

The cultures of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries were thoroughly biblical, and few areas of life were not shaped in profound ways by the characters, stories, language, and teachings of the Bible. With its wide variety of scholars intervening, this conference will focus on the Biblical narratives and the verbalization enforced by the Protestant belief in sola scriptura both in England and on the Continent, and how these changes influenced the literature produced during the century spanning from the second half of the 16th century and first half of the 17th century. With translations, poetic re-elaborations, dramatic and musical engagements, the textual influence of the Bible was fundamental, both reflecting and sharpening the tension between the individual and the universal, fostering the formation of a literary exegesis which was often at odds with the institutional dicta for the accepted interpretation of the Scriptures. Foci of this conference will therefore be:

  • The Bible and Renaissance Literacy: the Scriptures and their role in the education of youth beside Classical texts
  • Translations of the Bible: appropriations of the Scriptural texts in vernacular languages
  • "Docta ignorantia et indocta scientia": the Biblical text as focal point of the dispute between the Humanist push for knowledge, and the religious clerical pull for simple faith
  • "Ad Fontes!" — the Erasmian humanist impetus for a return to original texts, the individualist disruption of the ecclesiastical cohesion, and the utopian envisioning of a Church made up of theologians
  • Shakespeare and the Bible: the influence of the Biblical texts on the English playwright, with emphasis on the ways in which the intertextual tension between the Scriptures and his plays contributed to the formation of the Elizabethan religious compromise
  • The King James Bible: the ways in which the most important translation and editing project of the Scriptures in early modern England fashioned contemporary religious discourses, fostering both adhesion and refusal of the Kings canonization of the text in the English language
  • Early-modern women writers in England and the Bible: the employment of the Biblical text in the fashioning of a gendered discourse (literary, theological and social) in the works of Aemilia Lanyer and others
  • John Milton and the Bible: the uses of the Biblical text in Milton's works as part of a systematic effort to enfranchise the individual exegetical perspective, and the general role this literary effort had in the English poet's social agenda
  • The Sermons of John Donne and the Bible: with more than ten volumes of highly conceited and wittily written sermons, John Donne was one of the most important homiletic authors of the 17th century, using the Bible as an eclectic treasure of ideas and stimuli, while fashioning his own very personal theological scheme, thus giving an illuminating insight into the tensions existing in the English Renaissance between individual religiosity and institutionalized theology
A final draft of the conference schedule will soon be posted on our website: http://www.as.huji.ac.il/renaissance_bible

Key-note lectures will be given by:
Prof. James Nohrnberg, University of Virginia
Prof. Debora Shuger, UCLA
Prof. John Monfasani, SUNY Albany

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