SEHEPUNKTE - Druckversion: Rezension von: «Abscondi eloquium tuum in corde meo» (2024)

Gilbert Dahan has served as one of the most expert historians of Jewish and Christian religion in medieval western Europe for more than half a century. Consequently, it is appropriate that the present collection of essays has been published in his honor. It is prefaced by a bibliography of his writings - numbering no less than 342 entries (and still counting: while the last nine entries list items that appeared in 2021, Noblesse-Rocher notes that "further enrichment" has occurred since the bibliography was compiled).

Some of France's most prominent medievalists are represented. These include Olivier Boulnois, Christian Trottman, Dominique Poirel, Olga Weijers, Nicole Bériou, and Franco Morenzoni.Unfortunately, seven out of twenty-one articles lie chronologically beyond Dahan's medieval compass (e.g., Matthieu Arnold, "John Calvin et les Juifs"; Bernard Roussel, "Jean Constans, ministre reformé à Montauban"). The editor herself contributes an article on the preaching of a Huguenot refugee in London in the sixteenth century. She excuses the chronological stretch by stating that the authors concerned (evidently including herself) wished to express their admiration and friendship for the dedicatee. But that seems too indulgent, for the authors might have expressed their "admiration and friendship" in other ways and the extraneous articles pull the book out of shape.

The tone of the volume is set by an epigraph from the letters of Saint Jerome. In English this reads: "I beg of you to live among these books [the Divine Scriptures], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else. Does not such a life seem to you a foretaste of heaven on earth?" (Epistle 53:10)

Dominique Poirel's essay, "A Quadruple Theory of Exegesis of the Twelfth Century," treats Hugh of Saint-Victor (Poirel should have revealed Hugh's name in his title). We learn that although the Victorine wrote four works that employed exegesis over the course of thirty years, their contents can be viewed as a single unit devoted to the "matter of the Scriptures," the "division of the Scriptures," and the "senses of the Scriptures." Hugh's understanding of "Scriptures" is rather peculiar, for he excludes Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Tobit, and Maccabees, but includes post-apostolic works, running to those not only of Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory the Great, but also Isidore of Seville, Origen, and Bede. Although Hugh posits three ways of reading the Bible - historical (i.e., literal), allegorical, and tropological (i.e., moral) - Poirel justly maintains that these can be reduced to two: historical and spiritual. For him, Hugh's work looks ahead to scholastic theology.

In 2011 Gilbert Dahan called attention to the relative dearth of work on the relations between medieval exegesis and preaching. [1] Nicole Bériou here takes up the implicit call. She prefaces her article, "Exégèse et prédication: lectures plurielles de la sainte Écriture," with a lively quotation from the Moralia of Gregory the Great: "The Divine Word consoles the simple by its clear lessons [and] gains the admiration of more elevated spirits by its depths. It is a river that sometimes can be easily traversed by a lamb and sometimes is deep enough for an elephant." (379) (Gregory could just as well have been writing of a unicorn, for elephants did not inhabit medieval Europe).

Bériou writes in the wake of her departed mentor, Father Louis-Jacques Bataillon, in considering the relationship between exegesis and preaching. While high medieval sermons customarily included exegesis, Father Bataillon demonstrated how mendicant sermons of the second half of the thirteenth century offered exegesis that was fully original. Bériou takes another tack in observing that a formal exegetical exposition might match another in a single sermon, but that sometimes two expositions in the same sermon might bear no relationship to each other. The use of exegesis in preaching was encouraged by Saint Thomas who crafted his biblical commentaries to supply material for preachers.

Franco Morenzoni pursues Bériou's subject by considering exegesis in the sermons of Petrus Comestor. Peter favored interpreting the Bible on the bases of the traditional four senses (he called these the four legs of a table) - "historical" (i.e., literal), allegorical, tropological, and anagogical (i.e., spiritual). Surprisingly, he maintained that the preacher could take liberties by adapting his interpretations to the specific needs of his sermons, just as the liturgy could utilize biblical verses for application to different saints.

All told, the book is deep enough for an elephant.


[1] Gilbert Dahan: Exégèse et prédication au Moyen Age, in: Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 95 (2011), 557-79.

Rezension über:

Annie Noblesse-Rocher: «Abscondi eloquium tuum in corde meo». Mélanges en l'honneur de Gilbert Dahan (= Collection des Ètudes Augustiniennes. Série Moyen Âge et Temps Modernes; 57), Paris: Institut d'Études Augustiniennes 2023, 472 S., 12 s/w-Abb., ISBN 978-2-85121-330-3, EUR 64,00

Rezension von:

Robert E. Lerner
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Empfohlene Zitierweise:

Robert E. Lerner: Rezension von: Annie Noblesse-Rocher: «Abscondi eloquium tuum in corde meo». Mélanges en l'honneur de Gilbert Dahan, Paris: Institut d'Études Augustiniennes 2023, in: sehepunkte 24 (2024), Nr. 6 [15.06.2024], URL:

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SEHEPUNKTE - Druckversion: Rezension von: «Abscondi eloquium tuum in corde meo» (2024)
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