Jesus the Jouster: The Christ-Knight and Medieval Theories of Atonement in Piers Plowman and the ‘Round Table’ Sermons
WL’s employment of the Christ-Knight motif in combination with that of the “guiler beguiled” in his account of the Passion and the Harrowing of Hell seems to fuse two conflicting theories of atonement: the older “Abuse-of-Power” theory, in which the deceit of the devil is of central importance, and the Anselmian notion that God could have redeemed humanity by other means, but because of his abundant compassion chose to suffer in human form. The mixture is neither original nor incongruous, however, since it engages a sermon tradition that allegorizes the popular “Round Table” tournaments. This tradition discards the romantic elements of the Christ-Knight motif in favor of martial detail, and blends the Anselmian theory of atonement with the deception of the devil, who is tricked into challenging Christ rather than Adam to combat. [NB: On page 133, line 3 from top, there should be a new paragraph, non-indented, at “Lucifer’s claim”]
YLS 10 (1996): 129-44.