The Premature Hermeneutics of Piers Plowman B.
The revision of B to C shows WL replacing a view of interpretation of Scripture which, by virtue of its freedom from the letter, corresponds to a modern understanding of hermeneutics, with a more limited range of “correct” interpretation. B.12.72-81 tells the story of the woman taken in adultery but omits Jesus’s words to the Pharisees, in a way that serves to contrast the Old and New Laws. C’s fuller version, on the other hand, stresses that Christ confirms the “law of love” written by God long before Jesus’s birth. The C versions omission of B’s reference to Zacchaeus (B.13.194-97), in contrast to B’s “creative misreading” is safe but sterile. Conscience’s alterations of Scripture, which consistently stress Christ’s glory and the disciples’ faith at the expense of Jesus’s suffering and the disciples’ doubt, may be linked to the poet’s own deletion in C of B’s individualistic, challenging readings.