HHIA03504U HIS, The Word of God in Early Modern Europe

Volume 2013/2014
Module I-VI [MA Programme, 2008-Curriculum]
MA-elective: [MA-elective Programme, 2008-Curriculum]
Internal BA-elective for BA students of History: [BA-elective studies, 2013-Curriculum]

The Word of God in Early Modern Europe
Early modern Europe (c. 1450-1750) witnessed major cultural transformations, each of them substantially altering the significance and function of the Bible. Christian Humanism paved the way for a Bible in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) rather than the Latin version; the printing revolution turned the Bible into a fixed text and a commodity available to many readers; the Protestant Reformation made the Scriptures the sole authority in religious affairs and turned the Scriptures into the infrastructure of a new religious culture; the turn to vernacular languages materialized in a wave of translations of the Bible to all the major European languages.

This course explores what happened to the Bible in a time of cultural and religious upheavals. It will focus on the text of the Bible, its functions and its readers. The scope of the course, however, is broader and more ambitious. During the course we will explore transformations in the perceptions of the Word of God, here understood as a verbal and authoritative revelation that could take a textual form, but also vocal or visual; that could be written, printed, read, read aloud, preached or sung; that could be authentic or corrupt, reproduced as an original or translated; indeed that could be divine or human. Thus, while we will follow the changes made to the book of the Bible during the period, we will explore how the Word of God was changing. Two trends will be followed: the textualizing of God’s Word and the humanizing of God’s Word. The first trend made Scriptures into an exact written representation of the divine; the second exposed the Bible as a book expressing human knowledge rather than God’s Word.

The course adopts a theoretical perspective that privileges textual forms and various media as shapers of meaning. Ultimately, the course will provide participants with tools for studying both the history of the Bible, and, indeed more importantly, how encounters with the Word of God in early modern Europe was changing history.

Course objectives (clarification of some of the objectives stipulated in the curriculum):
• to understand the fundamental shifts in the history of God’s Word in the period
• to get acquainted with the multiple readings in and experiences of the Bible that characterized the period
• to study textual (as well as visual) sources regarding the history of God’s Word
• to reflect upon how Scriptures was formed through the media and forms in which it was transmitted

- Elizabeth L. Eisenstein: The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2005 (2nd edition) or reprint as Canto Classics edition, 2012.
- Lee Palmer Wandel: The Reformation: Towards a New History. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Klaus Scholder: The Birth of Modern Critical Theology: Origins and Problems of Biblical Criticism in the Seventeenth Century. London: SCM Press, 1990.
- Alistair E. McGrath: The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004 2nd edition [e-book via REX].
- Allan K. Jenkins and Patrick Preston: Biblical Scholarship and the Church: A Sixteenth-century Crisis of Authority. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2007 [e-book via REX].

Group instruction / Seminar
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Total
  • 56
Type of assessment
Other under invigilation
Criteria for exam assesment