Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-58z7q Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-08T12:12:25.278Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Nature and Scripture: Demise of a Medieval Analogy*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Willemien Otten
Boston College


Throughout the history of Christian thought the theological role of scripture as source of transcendent meaning has exercised considerable influence on the art and manner of biblical interpretation. In the early church the problems revolved mostly around the canon, specifically although not exclusively the New Testament, as defining the confines of scripture. The question arose, therefore, which biblical writings were divinely inspired and which were of doubtful origin. The latter were unacceptable for the Christian communities that had broken away from their ancestral Judaic religion. Even before the canon was fixed, however, the problems shifted from the divinely inspired composition of the Bible to its intrinsic signification; interpreters saw scriptural language itself as infused with theological content. As exegetical positions led to the development of credal statements that solidified into theological dogma, the early church established a link between biblical interpretation and sound doctrine. By enforcing sanctioned interpretations through effective excommunication, an ever more powerful church sealed the dominance of orthodoxy over heresy with the nearly divine force of ecclesiastical authority. In the church-dominated culture of the Middle Ages, the adequacy of scriptural interpretation—its method, its content, the credentials of its practitioners—often depended on its conformity with an expanding theological tradition.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1995

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Throughout this article, I shall use the term scripture primarily to reflect the (medieval) view of the Bible as the sacred book of Christianity which not only contains the divine word but is ultimately authored by it. I shall show that this view of scripture does not exclude that of “scripture as a human activity” which Smith, Wilfred C. recently formulated (What is Scripture? A Comparative Approach [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993] 18)Google Scholar.

2 See Schneiders, Sandra, “Scripture and Spirituality,” in McGinn, Bernard and Meyendorff, John, eds., Christian Spirituality: Origins to the Twelfth Century (New York: Crossroad, 1988) 120Google Scholar. Schneiders describes this underlying assumption of early Christian exegesis: “It was believed not only that every word was inspired by God but also that every word was the bearer, in some way, of divine revelation” (p. 6). The first part of Schneiders's statement may allude to early Christian debates on the canon (such as the Marcionite heresy); the second may allude more specifically to the art of biblical interpretation and its recourse to such exegetical devices as allegory and typology to bring out the connection between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

3 An example of this development is the treatise Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, composed after 190 CE by Irenaeus of Lyons. Irenaeus premises the correct interpretation of scripture which integrates the two Testaments on the believer's adherence to the Rule of Faith. See Froidevaux, Leon M., ed., lrénée de Lyon. Démonstration de la prédication apostolique (SC 62; Paris: Cerf, 1959)Google Scholar.

4 William Neil recounts how in the nineteenth-century Joseph Parker of the City Temple in London, an English Nonconformist divine, resisted higher criticism: “I am jealous lest the Bible should in any sense be made a priest's book. Even Baur or Colenso may, contrary to his own wishes, be almost unconsciously elevated into a literary deity under whose approving nod alone we can read the Bible with any edification.… Have we to await a communication from Tübingen or a telegram from Oxford before we can read the Bible?” (“The Criticism and Theological Use of the Bible, 1700–1950,” in Greenslade, Stanley L., ed., Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 3: The West from the Reformation to the Present Day [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963] 286CrossRefGoogle Scholar). See also Josipovici, Gabriel, “The Bible in Focus,JSOT 48 (1990) 107Google Scholar.

5 Although frequently presented as historical introductions to the world of New Testament literature, introductions to the New Testament are often based on implicit theological claims. See, for example, Kümmel, Werner Georg, Introduction to the New Testament (trans. Kee, Howard Clark; Nashville: Abingdon, 1975) 2829Google Scholar. For a more properly historical treatment of New Testament literature, see Koester, Helmut, Introduction to the New Testament (2d ed.; New York: de Gruyter, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 The following description of historical criticism by Hans Frei illustrates the distance between the Enlightenment view and the medieval view of biblical authority: “Historicalcritical method meant that putative claims of fact in the Bible were subjected to independent investigations to test their veracity and that it was not guaranteed by the authority of the Bible itself. It meant explaining the thoughts of the biblical authors and the origin and shape of the writings on the basis of the most likely, natural, and specific conditions of history, culture, and individual life out of which they arose” (The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics [New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1974] 18).

7 For a theological reading of scripture, see Tracy, David, “On Reading the Scriptures Theologically,” in Marshall, Bruce D., ed., Theology and Dialogue: Essays in Conversation with George Lindbeck (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990) 3568Google Scholar.

8 For a solid analysis of the development of the historical-critical method and its relation to Roman Catholic theology, see Fitzmyer, Joseph A., “Historical Criticism: Its Role in Biblical Interpretation and Church Life,TS 50 (1989) 244–59Google Scholar. Fitzmyer's claim that the roots of the historical-critical method are found in the Renaissance and not in the Reformation depend on a distinction between Renaissance and Reformation which is historically artificial.

9 In comparing Christianity with Islam, Wilfred C. Smith (What is Scripture, 46) argues that the latter is more properly a religion of the book than the former and that the role of the Qur'an in Islam resembles more the role of Christ than the role of the Bible in Christianity. “For Christians, God's central revelation is in the person of Christ, with the Bible as the record of that revelation.” Scripture sets in motion a continuous process of human interpretive activity based on God's central revelation in Christ. In this sense the gospel is a message of infinite expansiveness.

10 See Origen (ca. 185–254 CE), whose De principiis inextricably links exegesis with cosmological speculation.

11 Augustine De doctrina Christiana 1.1.1–5.5 (CChr Series Latina 32; ed. I Martin; Turnhout: Brepols, 1962) 6–9.

12 See Augustine Confessions 11–13; Robert McMahon has successfully integrated Augustine's use of these different genres (the autobiographical story of his conversion and the exegesis of Genesis) with his overall literary plan in writing the Confessions (Augustine's Prayerful Ascent: An Essay on the Literary Form of the Confessions [Athens, GA/London: University of Georgia Press, 1989] esp. 22–116).

13 See Rorem, Paul, Pseudo-Dionysius: A Commentary on the Texts and an Introduction to Their Influence (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) 133–81Google Scholar. Rorem lists the two main characteristics of the Divine Names first as the dialectic between the divinity as hidden and yet revealed, and second as the insistence on the exclusive use of the Christian scriptures for this revelation (p. 134). For a comprehensive analysis of Dionysius's world view, see Roques, René, L'Univers dionysien: Structure hiérarchique du monde selon le Pseudo-Denys (Paris: Cerf, 1983) esp. 209–34Google Scholar (on the role of scripture and its relation to tradition).

14 De coelesti hierarchia 2.5 (eds. R. Roques, G. Heil, and M. de Gandillac; SC 58bis; Paris: Cerf, 1970) 84 with reference to Ps 22:7.

15 See Periphyseon (PL 122, col. 723D) where Eriugena compares creatura and scriptura as the two vestments of Christ at his Transfiguration. See Cappuyns, Maïeul, Jean Scot Engène. Sa vie, son oeuvre, sapensée (1933; reprinted Bruxelles: Culture et Civilisation, 1969) 276–80Google Scholar; and Duclow, Donald F., “Nature as Speech and Book in John Scotus Eriugena,Mediaevalia 3 (1977) 131–40Google Scholar. Through his translation of the Dionysian corpus, Eriugena played a major role in the dissemination of Dionysian thought in the early Middle Ages.

16 “The invisible things of God are perceived from the creation of the world, being understood through the things that are made.” (Invisibilia enim ipsius, a creatura mundi, per ea quae facta sunt, intellecta, conspiciuntur).

17 “For now we see as through a glass darkly, but then we will see face to face.” (nunc videmus per speculum in aenigmate: tune autem facie ad faciem).

18 Although the interpretation of the fall as plunging humanity into a kind of epistemological darkness is true to Augustine's theology, his interpretation of paradise and humanity's fall is framed as a historical one. Drawing directly upon the parallelism of nature and scripture, Eriugena poignantly allegorizes the fall in Periphyseon 4 (PL 122, col. 744B): “For ‘in the sweat of her brow is she [human reason] to get her bread’ [Gen. 3:19]—so is she commanded by the word of God, and to till the field of Holy Scripture, prolific as it is of thorns and thistles, that is to give herself to the narrow density of divine understandings,…” See Eriugena: Periphyseon (The Division of Nature) (trans. Sheldon-Williams, I. P. and O'Meara, John J.; Montreal: Bellarmin and Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 1987) 383Google Scholar. Eriugena further refers to humanity's need for grace to recapture the truth of scriptural contemplation which was lost after the fall.

19 See Ricoeur, Paul, “Biblical HermeneuticsSemeia 4 (1975) 29148Google Scholar; Kermode, Frank, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979)Google Scholar; McKnight, Edgar V., The Bible and the Reader: An Introduction to Literary Criticism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985)Google Scholar; Gabriel Josipovici, “The Bible in Focus”; Wilder, Amos N., The Bible and the Literary Critic (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991)Google Scholar; Rosenblatt, Jason P. and Sitterson, Joseph C. Jr., “Not in Heaven”: Coherence and Complexity in Biblical Narrative (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991)Google Scholar. See further part 2 of TS 50 (1989) and, in general, the journals Semeia and Biblical Interpretation.

20 Dupré, Louis, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1994)Google Scholar. Dupré analyzes this breakdown as a double one: between the transcendent constituent and its cosmic-human counterpart and between the person and the cosmos (p. 3). In his analysis, the development of late medieval nominalism seems to contribute predominantly to the first breakdown, which is the one I am most concerned with in this article.

21 See Dupré's analysis of “The Disintegration of the Medieval Synthesis,” in Passage to Modernity, 174–81. Dupreé locates this disintegration generally in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although he notes that a first theological dispute over nature and grace begins in the thirteenth century (p. 170).

22 On Bruno, see Dupré, Passage to Modernity, 182–86; on the synthesis of the Baroque period, see pp. 237–48.

23 Dupré discusses the parallelism of scripture and nature only in the context of the twelfth century (Passage to Modernity, 35, 102–3).

24 Like my own, Dupré's observations about the twelfth century are guided in part by the ground-breaking study of Chenu, Marie-Dominique, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century: Essays on New Theological Perspectives in the Latin West (trans. Taylor, Jerome and Little, Lester K.; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1968) 1145Google Scholar.

25 On the idea of the “book of nature” in the Middle Ages, see Curtius, Ernst Robert, Europäische Literatur und lateinisches Mittelalter (10th ed.; Bern/Munich: Francke Verlag, 1984) 323–29Google Scholar.

26 Dupré, Passage to Modernity, 35. See the appendix to this article for the full Latin text and a translation of this poem.

27 In fairness to the complexity and comprehensiveness of Dupre's analysis, it should be stated that he sees not just the concept of nature undergoing a rapid development in the late Middle Ages, but also that of grace; see Passage to Modernity, 174–76.

28 For the twelfth-century advances in scriptural exegesis, especially in the realm of literal exegesis, see the classic account by Smalley, Beryl, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964) 83111Google Scholar on the Victorines, and 112–95 on Andrew of St. Victor. In recent years the study of twelfth-century exegesis has progressed much beyond Smalley's attention to the Victorines. See Châtillon, Jean, “La Bible dans les écoles du Xlle sieècle,” in Riché, Pierre and Lobrichon, Guy, eds., Le Moyen Age et la Bible (Bible de tous les temps 4; Paris: Beauchesne, 1984) 163–97Google Scholar. See also Colish, Marcia, Peter Lombard (2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1994) 1. 155225 on Psalms and the Pauline corpusGoogle Scholar.

29 After Southern, Richard W. published the essay “Humanism and the School of Chartres” (Medieval Humanism and Other Studies [Oxford: Blackwell, 1970] 6185)Google Scholar, in which he claimed that a proper School of Chartres never existed, various voices came to its defense; this led to Southern's modification of his original position. See Dronke, Peter, “New Approaches to the School of Chartres,Anuario de estudios medievales 6 (1969) 117–40Google Scholar (published in 1971) and Southern, Richard W., Platonism, Scholastic Method, and the School of Chartres (The Stenton Lecture 1978; Reading: University of Reading, 1979)Google Scholar.

30 On the influence of the commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio written by the African author and encyclopedist Macrobius (ca. 400 CE), see Jeauneau, Edouard, “Macrobe, source du platonisme chartrain,Studi medievali (3a Serie) 1 (1960) 324Google Scholar. For the influence of Plato's Timaeus on twelfth-century thought, see Gregory, Tullio, “The Platonic Inheritance,” in Dronke, Peter, ed., A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) 5480CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

31 Gregory (“The Platonic Inheritance,” 58–60) acknowledges Abelard's Platonic and Macrobian influence; he qualifies Abelard's exegesis as “an extreme development of the use of the Timaeus and the philosophical tradition connected with it” (p. 60).

32 William of Conches, , Philosophia 1.4.13 (ed. Maurach, Gregor; Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 1980) 2223Google Scholar. William became the subject of a fierce attack by William of St. Thierry, friend and collaborator of Bernard of Clairvaux (Leclercq, Jean, “Les lettres de Guillaume de Saint-Thierry a Saint Bernard,Revue Benedictine 79 [1969] 375–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In his later work Dragmaticon (ed. Gratarolus, Guilhelmus; Strasbourg, 1567; reprinted Frankfurt a.M.: Minerva, 1967)Google Scholar, William of Conches omitted his earlier comparison but makes the following allusive comment: “Not the words make a heretic, but their defense” (p. 6).

33 See Parent, J. M., O.P., La doctrine de la création dans l'école de Chartres (Études et textes; Paris/Ottawa: Vrin, 1938) 5112Google Scholar; and Gregory, Tullio, Anima Mundi: La filosofia di Guglielmo di Conches e la scuola di Chartres (Florence: Sansoni, 1955)Google Scholar. Gregory (Animamundi, 176) hails Chartrian thought for endowing nature with an autonomous value.

34 Hence the importance of the interrelation of macrocosm and microcosm as a notable feature of Chartrian thought. Winthrop Wetherbee comments on the anthropological implications of the Chartrian ideas in his article “Philosophy, Cosmology and the Twelfth Century Renaissance,” in Dronke, Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy, 25.

35 I do not mean to suggest a contrast between rhetoric and the other arts of the trivium, but to point to the specific twelfth-century role of rhetoric as an important vehicle in the interplay of poetry and philosophy and/or theology. See McKeon, Richard, “Poetry and Philosophy in the Twelfth Century: The Renaissance of Rhetoric,” in Crane, Ronald S., et al. , eds., Critics and Criticism: Ancient and Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952) 297318, esp. 315Google Scholar. Grammar and rhetoric were closely related in the twelfth century, while rhetoric could also be seen as a branch of dialectic. Of the Chartrians, William of Conches's pupil John of Salisbury described him as a grammarian; Bernard of Chartres was also a grammarian, while Thierry was considered a rhetorician. See further Murphy, James J., Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of Rhetorical Theory from St. Augustine to the Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974)Google Scholar.

36 See Jeauneau, Édouard, “L'usage de la notion d'integumentum à travers les gloses de Guillaume de Conches,Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen âge 32 (1957) 3587Google Scholar; and Wetherbee, Winthrop, Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century: The Literary Influence of the School of Chartres (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972) 3648Google Scholar. For a discussion of related metaphorical terms (involucrum, translatio, imago, similitudo) in William of Conches and Abelard, see Dronke, Peter, Fabula: Explorations into the Uses of Myth in Medieval Platonism (1974; reprinted Leiden: Brill, 1985) 1367Google Scholar.

37 See Jeauneau, “L'usage de la notion d'integumentum,” 37 n. 4. Abelard (Theologia 'scholarium’ 1.165 [eds. E. M. Buytaert O.F.M., and C. J. Mews; CCCM 13; Turnhout: Brepols, 1987] 386) states how Christ spoke to his apostles de integumento parabolarum in Mark 4; 11–12, when he revealed how they could grasp the mystery about the Kingdom of God, while others needed parables because they could neither see nor comprehend. Abelard's reference to integumentum as a figure of speech used by Christ is important, since Abelard legitimizes his trinitarian theology by locating its origin in Christ's words. As indicated in Abelard's Theologia Christiana 1.1, divine wisdom itself revealed the names of the divine persons through the words of the incarnate Christ.

38 Some see integumentum as the secular rhetorical equivalent of biblical allegory. Jeauneau, however, detects a polyvalence in the Chartrian use of integumentum: the same meaning can be conveyed by the use of different integumenta while the same integumentum can also have different meanings. This plurality is rarely matched in twelfth-century allegorical exegesis. See Jeauneau, “L'usage de notion S integumentum,” 41. A notable exception is the virtuoso handling of tropological exegesis by the rhetorically gifted Bernard of Clairvaux. See Pranger, M. Burcht, Bernard of Clairvaux and the Shape of Monastic Thought: Broken Dreams (Leiden: Brill, 1994) 233–74Google Scholar (chap. 7: “The Gems of Christmas: The Sermons on the Nativity and Abstract Art”).

39 In a recent article (“Rewriting the Narrative of Scripture: Twelfth-Century Debates over Reason and Theological Form,” Medieval Philosophy and Theology 3 [1993] 1–34), Eileen Sweeney has pointed to a different but closely related centrifugal tendency in twelfth-century theology, namely the growing divergence between scripture and dialectical theology.

40 Häring dates the Tractatus before May 1140, when the identification of the World Soul as the Holy Spirit was condemned at the Council of Sens. See Haring, Nikolaus M., S.A.C., Commentaries on Boethius by Thierry of Chartres and his School (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1971) 47Google Scholar. Enzo Maccagnolo refutes the interpretation that Thierry equates the World Soul and the Holy Spirit in his treatise and opts for a later date. See his Rerum universitas: Saggio sulla filosofia di Teoderico di Chartres (Firenze: Felice le Monnier, 1976) 7. 210–12. For Thierry's position on the World Soul and the Holy Spirit, see below n. 61.

41 See Peter Dronke, “Thierry of Chartres” in idem, Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy, 358–85.

42 For the text of Thierry's Genesis commentary, see Häring, Commentaries on Thierry of Chartres and his School, 553–75. In what follows I shall quote the Häring edition according to chapter and line number. The translations of Thierry are my own.

43 Thierry Tractatus 1.3–6: “And thereafter I will come to explain the historical sense of the letter so as to leave both the allegorical and moral reading entirely behind, since they have been clearly revealed by the fathers.”

44 The first part of the treatise runs from chapters 1 to 17, where Thierry concludes: “Enough is said about the causes and the temporal order. Let us now come to the literal exposition.” The literal interpretation runs from chapters 18 to 47, where the treatise breaks off, apparently unfinished.

45 For various assessments of this treatise as a Chartrian piece, see Häring, N. M., “The Creation and Creator of the World according to Thierry of Chartres and Clarenbaldus of Arras,Archives d'histoire doctrinale et litteraire du moyen age 30 (1955) 137–82Google Scholar; and Stock, Brian, Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Bernard Silvester (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972) 240–53Google Scholar.

46 See Thierry Tractatus 3.35–40: “Moses indicates this distinction between the causes in his book most clearly. For when he says ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ [Gen 1:1] he signifies the efficient cause, namely God. He also demonstrates the material cause, namely the four elements, which he calls by the name of heaven and earth. And he confirms that they were indeed created by God when he says: In the beginning God created heaven and earth' et cetera.”

47 Ibid., 3.41–43: “But wherever Genesis says God said etc. there it denotes the formal cause which is the wisdom of God, because the speaking of the creator himself is nothing other than that he disposes the form of a future thing in the wisdom that is coeternal with himself.”

48 Ibid., 3.47–49: “For the creator's seeing that something is good is nothing other than that what he has created pleases him in the same [spirit of] benignity out of which he created.” To underscore the relation between loving and seeing Thierry uses the proverb “Where love is, there is the eye” (Ubi amor est ibi oculus). The same proverb is cited by William of Conches Dragmaticon 20.

49 Thierry Tractatus 3.54–56: “For the Father is the efficient cause, the Son the formal cause, the Holy Spirit the final cause and the four elements the material cause. And from these four causes universal corporeal substance has its existence.”

50 See ibid., 2, 3, 5 and 18. In 3.50–54, Thierry contrasts matter with the whole Trinity before he comments on the contributions of the divine persons: “In matter therefore, that is, the four elements, the whole Trinity is actively engaged, namely by creating matter insofar as it is the efficient cause; by forming and ordering created matter insofar as it is the formal cause; and by loving and governing formed and ordered matter insofar as it is the final cause.”

51 Augustine De Genesi ad litteram 1.15 (ed. I. Zycha; CSEL 28 pars 1; Vienna: Tempsky, 1894) 21: “Not because unformed matter precedes formed things in time, for everything is created together at the same time (utrumque simul concreatum, Ecclus 18:1),… did God create formed matter.” Augustine compares God's creation of formed matter with human speech; just as one simultaneously emits the sound and the specific pronouncement of a word, so God created matter and form together. For the relative positions on creation of the Chartrians, see Gross, Charlotte, “Twelfth-Century Concepts of Time: Three Reinterpretations of Augustine's Doctrine of Creation Simul,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 23 (1985) 325–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Gross sees the Chartrians's view that time is the duration of cosmic disposition as an innovation, whereas for Hugh St. Victor time is a sequence of historical events ordained by God and effected for humanity's restoration (p. 327).

52 Bernard's use of the formae nativae (“innate forms”) as mediating between absolute ideas and matter is well–known; see Bernard of Chartres, , Glosae super Platonem (ed. Dutton, Paul E. [Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1991] 7096Google Scholar. Parent (Doctrine de la création, 46–47) sees Bernard of Chartres following an Eriugenian trend in situating the Platonic ideas hierarchically below God, instead of positioning them above the demiurge as in the Timaeus. Whereas in Bernard the ideas are not co-eternal with the Trinity, Eriugena's primordial causes are located in the divine Word, with whom they are co-eternal. Adopting the notion of the ideas as responsible for endowing creation with form, Thierry appears to have reduced them to the simplicity of one divine form in God, while the determination of the forms is left to the Word as the formal exemplary cause of the universe. See Thierry's distinction between the Father as unitas (“unity”) and the son as aequalitas unitatis (“the equality of unity”) in chapters 37 to 47; and Parent, Doctrine de la creation, 54–58.

53 Thierry Tractatus 4.58–59: “A natural day is the space in which one integral heavenly revolution from sunrise to sunset is completed.”

54 Ibid., 6.73–74.

55 Ibid., 7.85–87: “But when the air had been illumined by the power of the higher element, it followed naturally that through the mediation of the air's illumination fire warmed the third element, that is, water, and that through this heating process it suspended it in condensed form above the lower air.”

56 Ibid., 8.4–6: “And at that point the air was aptly called firmament as if firmly supporting the higher water and containing the lower water, while it separated the one intransgressably from the other.”

57 Klibansky, Raymond, “The School of Chartres,” in Clagett, Marshall, Post, Gaines and Reynolds, Robert, eds., Twelfth-Century Europe and the Foundations of Modern Society (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961) 8Google Scholar.

58 Gross (“Twelfth-Century Concepts of Time,” 331) points to the ambiguity of Thierry's position, as she observes contradictions between his literal and his physical exegesis. This problem becomes less acute if one accepts the approximative character of Thierry's interpretation. See Dronke, “Thierry of Chartres,” 365.

59 Wetherbee (“Philosophy, Cosmology and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance,” 28) observes that Thierry's attempt to read Genesis secundam physicam (“according to physics”) is ultimately motivated by the concern to reconcile ancient auctores (Timaeus) with patristic (and perhaps also scriptural) tradition.

60 Tractatus 1.7–10 fits the standard pattern of the so-called accessus ad auctores (“introductions to the authors”) at the beginning of literary treatises; see Minnis, Alastair J. and Scott, A. Brian, eds., Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c. 1100–c. 1375: The Commentary Tradition (1988; rev. ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1991) 1236Google Scholar; and Minnis, Alastair J., Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages (2d. ed.; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988) 972Google Scholar.

61 Thierry Tractatus 25.29–31. Commenting on Gen 1:2, Thierry sees the spirit of the Lord which hovers above the waters as arranging the material elements: “For because matter itself is by itself without form, it can in no way receive a form other than from the operating power of the artificer (ex virtute artificis operatrice) which orders it. The philosophers have called this power by different names.” One of these philosophical names is spirit. In 27.44, Thierry draws a Platonic analogy: “But Plato calls the same spirit in the Timaeus World Soul.” In 27.52, he draws an analogy with the Holy Spirit: “But Christians call the same Holy Spirit.” According to Maccagnolo (Rerum universitas, 210–12), however, Thierry does not directly identify the World Soul as Holy Spirit here, but refers instead to the virtus artificis (“the power of the Maker”), that is, the spirit of Gen 1:2. See also n. 40.

62 Thierry Tractatus 24.12–16: “The unformedness of those elements consists in the fact that every one of them is almost identical to the next. And because a minimal difference or almost nothing stood between them, the philosophers regarded that difference as nothing and labelled the confusion of these elements one unformed matter.”

63 If Thierry's contemporaries criticized him, it apparently concerned the general tendency to transform biblical books into treatises on cosmology. See Haring, N. M., “Commentary and Hermeneutics,” in Benson, Robert L. and Constable, Giles, eds., Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991) 382Google Scholar. Stock (Myth and Science, 240) gives a modern echo to this medieval criticism: “Instead of following the traditional method of fitting natural philosophy into the historical framework of the Bible, it fits the opening chapters of Genesis into the framework of natural philosophy.”

64 For Alan's text see Haring, N. M., “Alan of Lille, De planctu naturae,Studi medievali (3a serie) 19 (1978) 797879Google Scholar. References below are given to chapter and line numbers of Häring's text. I shall cite from the translation by Sheridan, James J., Alan of Lille, The Plaint of Nature: Translation and Commentary (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980)Google Scholar.

65 See Economou, George D., The Goddess Natura in Medieval Literature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972) 53103Google Scholar.

66 Interpreting God's rest on the sabbath, Thierry stated his position clearly in Tractatus 16.93–95: “Everything that is born or created after those six days is not instituted by a new mode of creation but receives its substance in one of the aforesaid modes.”

67 Thierry explains how on the fifth day the warmth of the stars reaches the waters and creates fish and birds. See Tractatus 14.79–82 for Thierry's description of the sixth day: “That life-giving warmth, transmitted by moisture, naturally reaches down to the earthly level and thereupon the earthly animals are created. Among their number the human is made in God's image and according to his likeness. And the space of this sixth revolution is called the sixth day.”

68 In his accessus, Thierry compares Genesis (the book about the birth of creation) with Matthew (the book of the birth of Christ). Thus he appears to distinguish the work of creation (opus creationis) from that of restoration (opus restaurationis), as does Hugh of St. Victor in the prologue to his De sacramentis. Unlike Hugh, the Tractatus does not deal with humanity's fall or with its restoration.

69 Alan of Lille De planctu 2.35–39 (ET 75–76): “Great though the delight of her beauty was, tears inexplicably sought to wipe out the beauty of her smile. For tears, flowing stealthily from the well of her eyes, gave notice of the throb of internal pain. Moreover, the face itself, turned towards the ground in chaste modesty, bespoke an injury done the maiden in some form or other.” See also ibid., 7.45–48.

70 Ibid., 6.4–10 (ET 116): “When I saw this kinswoman of mine close at hand, I fell upon my face and stricken with mental stupor, I fainted; completely buried in the delirium of a trance, with the powers of my senses impeded, I was neither alive nor dead and being neither, was afflicted with a state between the two. The maiden, kindly raising me up, strengthened my reeling feet with the comforting aid of her sustaining hands. Entwining me in an embrace and sweetening my lips with chaste kisses, she cured me of my illness of stupor by the medicine of her honey-sweet discourse.”

71 Ibid., 6.21; 8.224.

72 Ibid., 8.217–23 (ET 145): “When the artisan of the universe had clothed all things in the outward aspect befitting their natures and had wed them to one another in the relationship of lawful marriage,… he decreed that by the lawful path of derivation by propagation, like things, sealed with the stamp of manifest resemblance, should be produced from like.”

73 It has remained an unsolved riddle why nature needed a delegate. Nature herself touches on this point only obliquely, see ibid., 8.235–41 (ET 146): “But because without the supporting skill of a sub-delegated artisan, I could not put the finishing touches on so many species of things and because I decided to spend my time in the delightful palace of the ethereal region,… I stationed Venus, learned in the artisan's skill, on the outskirts of the Universe to be the subdelegate in charge of my work.”

74 Ibid., 101–7 (ET 137–38): “For this reason, then, did I leave the secret abode of the kingdom in the heavens above and come down to this transitory and sinking world so that I might lodge with you, as my intimate and confidant (familiaris et secretarius), my plaintive lament for the accursed excesses of man, and might decide, in consultation with you, what kind of penalty should answer such an array of crimes so that a conformable punishment, meting out like for like, might repay in kind the biting pain inflicted by the above-mentioned misdeeds.” Alan's sexual condemnations function as a kind of code language for a much broader idea of vice that represents cultural and intellectual decline; see Jan Ziolkowski, Alan of Lille's Grammar of Sex. The Meaning of Grammar to a Twelfth-Century Intellectual (Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1985) 39–49.

75 Genius seems to act as her priest; see De planctu 16.187–213, esp. 208–213 (ET 207–8): “Since then our interests are being damaged by a common attack, sweetening you with prayers, laying injunctions on you by virtue of your obligation of obedience, mingling admonitions with orders and orders with admonitions, I urge that, laying aside every specious excuse, you make haste to come to us so that you, with the ready help of myself and my maidens, may remove the sons of abomination from participation in the sacred rites of our church and may, with due solemnity of office, strike them with the punitive rod of excommunication.”

76 Ibid., 18.164–65 (ET 221): “Accordingly, when the mirror with these images and visions was withdrawn, I awoke from my dream and ecstasy and the previous vision of the mystic apparition left me.”

77 Ibid., 8.161–72 (ET 142–43): “From what you have already sampled you can deduce what is the symbolic signification of the representation of the parenthesis-like rent-. For since, as we have said before, many men arm themselves with vices to injure their own mother and establish between her and them the chaos of ultimate dissension, in their violence lay violent hands on me, tear my clothes in shreds to have pieces for themselves and, as far as in them lies, compel me, whom they should clothe in honour and reverence, to be stripped of my clothes and to go like a harlot to a brothel. This is the hidden meaning (integumentum) symbolised by this rent—that the vesture of my modesty suffers the insults of being torn off by injuries and insults from man alone.” The tear in Nature's garment is also reminiscent of the torn dress of Lady Philosophy in Boethius's Consolatio 1.1.

78 On Augustine's commentary on the fall of humanity, see De Genesi ad litteram 11.30–42 (ed. I Zycha; CSEL 28 pars 1; Vienna: Tempsky, 1894) 362–78. For Eriugena's commentary on the same topic, see Periphyseon 4.18–5.3 (PL 122, cols. 830C–865C). For Abelard's position on the fall, see his Expositio in Hexaemeron (PL 178, cols. 776A–784A).

79 See n. 74 above. Nature successfully gets the poet on her side when the poet delicately phrases his next question about the rent in her dress as a lament rather than a direct question. See De planctu 8.158: (a te vellem quiddam conquerendo querere, non querendo).

80 Apparently, her threat lacked persuasion; at the beginning of the Anticlaudianus (ca. 1182–1183), Alan's popular sequel to the Plaint, Nature is engulfed by a sense of complete failure. Considering her creation of humanity now as a project beyond salvation, she calls upon her sisters, the liberal arts, to fashion a “new man” (novus homo).

81 Gillian R. Evans interprets the Anticlaudianus's novus homo as Alan's alter Christus (“another Christ”) albeit a strictly human one. She regards the initiative of Nature and the liberal arts to create a new man as a sign of Alan's faith in education as the road to a purely human perfection. See her Alan of Lille: The Frontiers of Theology in the Later Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 150. If one accepts my interpretation, however, in which human and universal nature need to strengthen one another before they can be redeemed by Christ, Alan's novus homo is an alter Adam (“another Adam”). The new man's perfectability relies on education only insofar as it reintegrates him with the surrounding natural universe. Moreover, whatever perfection the new man reaches represents only a first step towards Christ's redemption rather than an alternative to it.

82 The influence of Alan's poetry on vernacular poetry, such as Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose, is well-known.

83 See d'Alverny, Marie-Thérèse, Alain de Lille: Textes inedits avec une introduction sur sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris: Vrin, 1965) 40Google Scholar.

84 Vg. Ps 102:15: Homo sicut foenum eius dies; Tanquam flos agri sic efflorebit.

85 See the appendix to this article for the full text and a translation of Alan's poem. See especially the middle stanza of the poem.

86 For the full Latin text, see Ein Jahrtausend lateinischer Hymnendichtung (2 vols.; ed. Dreves, Guido Maria, rev. Clemens Blume S.J.; Leipzig: Reisland, 1909) 1. 288Google Scholar. I wish to thank Prof. Jan Ziolkowski of Harvard University for his advice in translating this poem.

87 The Latin homo should be read as gender neutral, referring broadly to all human beings.