The Bible in the Renaissance

Event date: May 22 - May 25, 2017

    Yaakov-­Akiva Mascetti (Bar-Ilan University)




    While the primary texts for Renaissance Humanism were the works of Greek and Roman writers, for the Reformation, however, only one text mattered: the Bible. All the major Protestant Reformers from Luther on insisted on translating the Bible into the language of the common people. The new Latin translation of the New Testament by Erasmus, for instance, printed with and based on his edition of the Greek text (the textus receptus), was foundational for later Protestant translators, while Erasmus remained Catholic. For Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers, however, the vernacular Bible was not simply a sensible convenience - the doctrine of sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) was at the core of Protestant theology: a long list of Catholic beliefs and practices (for example, devotion to the saints; the sacraments of marriage, penance, and extreme unction; Purgatory) were rejected principally on the basis that they were non-scriptural. If the Bible was the only true basis for Christian belief and practice, it was essential that all Christians be able to read it for themselves. Despite the claims for sola scriptura, and for the self-interpreting simplicity of the biblical text, reformers also insisted upon the right interpretation of the text. A vast library of commentaries, sermons, prefaces, annotations, catechisms, and paraphrases was generated to assist the ordinary reader. The cultures of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries were thoroughly biblical, and few areas of life were not shaped in profound ways by the characters, stories, language, and teachings of the Bible.


    With its wide variety of scholars intervening, this conference will focus on the Biblical narratives and the verbalization enforced by the Protestant belief in sola scriptura both in England and on the Continent, and how these changes influenced the literature produced during the century spanning from the second half of the 16th century and first half of the 17th century. With translations, poetic re-elaborations, dramatic and musical engagements, the textual influence of the Bible was fundamental, both reflecting and sharpening the tension between the individual and the universal, fostering the formation of a literary exegesis which was often at odds with the institutional dicta for the accepted interpretation of the Scriptures. Foci of the conference will therefore be:


    • The Bible and Renaissance Literacy: the Scriptures and their role in the education of youth beside Classical texts


    • Translations of the Bible: appropriations of the Scriptural texts in vernacular languages.


    • "Docta ignorantia et indocta scientia": the Biblical text as focal point of the dispute between the Humanist push for knowledge, and the religious clerical pull for simple faith.


    • "Ad Fontes!" – the Erasmian humanist impetus for a return to original texts, the individualist disruption of the ecclesiastical cohesion, and the utopian envisioning of a Church made up of theologians.


    • Shakespeare and the Bible: the influence of the Biblical texts on the English playwright, with emphasis on the ways in which the intertextual tension between the Scriptures and his plays contributed to the formation of the Elizabethan religious compromise.


    • The King James Bible: the ways in which the most important translation and editing project of the Scriptures in early-modern England fashioned contemporary religious discourses, fostering both adhesion and refusal of the Kings canonization of the text in the English language.


    • Early-modern women writers in England and the Bible: the employment of the Biblical text in the fashioning of a gendered discourse (literary, theological and social) in the works of Aemilia Lanyer and others.


    • John Milton and the Bible: the uses of the Biblical text in Milton's works as part of a systematic effort to enfranchise the individual exegetical perspective, and the general role this literary effort had in the English poet's social agenda.


    • The Sermons of John Donne and the Bible: with more than ten volumes of highly conceited and wittily written sermons, John Donne was one of the most important homiletic authors of the 17th century, using the Bible as an eclectic treasure of ideas and stimuli, while fashioning his own very personal theological scheme, thus giving an illuminating insight into the tensions existing in the English Renaissance between individual religiosity and institutionalized theology. 




    Tovi Bibring

    Bar-Ilan University

    Gordon Campbell

    University of Leicester

    Raz Chen-Morris

    The Hebrew University of


    Rocco Coronato

    Universita' degli Studi di Padova

    Travis DeCook

    Carleton University

    Yaacov Deutsch

    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    Serena Di Nepi

    Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza"

    Martin Elsky

    Brooklyn College – CUNY

    Noam Flinker

    Haifa University

    Thomas Fulton

    Rutgers University

    Chanita Goodblatt

    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

    Beatrice Groves

    University of Oxford

    Peter Herman

    San Diego State University

    Debra Kaplan

    Bar-Ilan University

    Alison Knight

    University of Cambridge

    William Kolbrener

    Bar-Ilan University

    Sharon Aronson-Lehavi

    Tel Aviv University

    Jenn Lewin

    Haifa University

    Yair Lipshitz

    Tel Aviv University

    Kirsten Macfarlane

    University of Oxford

    Judith Maltby

    University of Oxford

    Abigail Marcus

    University of Chicago

    David Marno

    University of California, Berkeley

    Steven Marx

    California Polytechnic State University

    Yaakov Mascetti

    (Bar-Ilan University

    Alberto Melloni

    Fondazione Giovanni XXIII

    Jeffrey Miller

    Montclair State University

    Feisal Mohamed

    City University of New York

    John Monfasani

    State University of New York - SUNY

    Anna Nizza

    The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

    James Nohrnberg

    University of Virginia

    Sara Offenberg

    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

    Kirsten Poole

    University of Delaware

    Noam Reisner

    Tel Aviv University

    Jason Rosenblatt

    Georgetown University

    Claudia Rosenzweig

    Bar-Ilan University

    Alec Ryrie

    Durham University

    Jeffrey Shoulson

    University of Connecticut

    Debora Shuger

    University of California, Los Angeles

    Jonathan Stavsky

    Tel Aviv University

    Chava Turniansky

    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    Jon Whitman

    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    Tzachi Zamir

    The Hebrew University of Jerusalem