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Books, Readers, and Interpreters

Ambrose Reading (Stadtkirche, Langenzenn, ca. 1445)
Ambrose Reading (Stadtkirche, Langenzenn, ca. 1445)
Throughout Late Antiquity, written texts were central to the rabbinic academy and to the Jewish community, as they were for ecclesiastical life and for the Christian community. The study of the rabbis’ “Written Torah” as well as that of their “Oral Torah” relied on the written word as much as on its memorization, both of which shaped the rabbis’ oral discussions. Likewise, scriptural texts were read out and expounded in churches and intellectual circles, and a panoply of treatises, letters, sermons, and poems were copied and circulated among Christian teachers and preachers. The practices and material conditions of ‘book-making’ and written exposition critically informed these developments; it has even been suggested that the spread of Christianity was linked to the early uptake of new forms of written media. Later on, textual practices, now also applied to previous Christian and rabbinic texts, were instrumental in establishing Christian and Jewish thought as a field of learning and instruction, and in the organisation and transmission of knowledge. The module takes what we know about the making and reading of Jewish and Christian ‘books’ as a starting point to study Jewish and Christian exegetical practices and the formation of distinct modes of theological discourses in this period. 

 

This module will be taught for the first time in the 2019-20 academic year.