Salvation through a Literary Education: Biblical Interpretation and the Trivium in Piers Plowman
With a focus on B, passus 7-12, this paper seeks to understand what L considers as an ideal Christian education through a study of medieval literary education and biblical interpretation. The paper starts with a discussion of how L tests the validity of different methods that are used to interpret the Bible on various occasions to teach audiences of various intellectual capacities the doctrine of salvation, with a concern for the ignorance of the laity and the heresy of Wycliffites. Will’s education in the middle passus is read against the educational schemes of Cassiodorus, Hugh of St. Victor, and Bonaventure to see what interpretive methods Will learns, and how these methods are used to help him understand the doctrine of salvation in the Bible. The paper argues that L believes that those who study the Bible for the doctrine of salvation need first to be firm believers in the rudimentary doctrine taught by the Church and humble and faithful students before God, and that L encourages the uses of different kinds of biblical interpretation according to the level of the lesson taught, neither to the occasions for the instruction nor to the intellectual capacities of the students. Lastly, it argues that L does not exclude anyone from biblical studies, as the Catholic Church did, but insists that all students of the Bible go through the traditional literary training. L argues that students of the Bible cannot expect to live a saved life if they do not follow the demanding curriculum, become qualified and loving preachers, and practice their own sermons, with an understanding of their own deficiency and a hope for salvation and rewards granted by the merciful God. (CL; adapted from the journal’s abstract)
Sino-Christian Studies, 7 (2009), 67-110.