God and the Fulness of Time in Piers Plowman
In applying St. Paul’s phrase plenitudo temporis to the Passion rather than the Incarnation (B.16.93-96/C.18.126-29), L depicts Jesus as a young knight who must await the fulness of time before he can joust with the Devil. In another passage on the earthly Jesus (B.19.102-05), L represents Christ’s ministry as a kind of healing apprenticeship, with Piers Plowman his tutor who directs him until his time has come. God, too, suffers the need to await the fulness of time in two remarkable passages (B.1.153-58; B.18.365-72). While L knows that God could have made everything good ‘in a minute while’ (B.11.381), this is also the God who emptied himself via the Incarnation: ‘Hence the suggestions of pent-up frustration, to be followed on all three occasions by a palpable sense of relief as frustration gives way to activity and movement’ (p. 304), with the final satisfaction occurring when the last soul comes into his bliss.
Medium Aevum, 79 (2010), 300-05.
Burrow, J. A.