The Biblical Dante

The Biblical Dante

V. STANLEY BENFELL
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442694781
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  • Book Info
    The Biblical Dante
    Book Description:

    The Biblical Danteprovides close readings of passages from theCommediato explore how Dante's concept of Biblical truth differs sharply from modern notions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9478-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Texts
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    In the heaven of the fixed stars, Saint Peter subjects Dante the pilgrim to a test on faith, which takes the form of rigorous questioning in the manner of a university examination, with Dante explicitly comparing himself to a degree candidate who anxiously waits for the master to ask the first questions. Peter’s interrogation begins with the proper definition of faith but goes on to probe the source and nature of Dante’s own faith. It is perhaps not surprising that these last questions centre around the Bible – its truth value, authority, and impact on Dante as a reader and a...

  7. 1 Dante’s Idea of the Bible
    (pp. 19-50)

    When Saint Augustine fi rst decided to examine the holy scriptures as a young man of eighteen, he did not like what he found, as they ‘seemed to [him] unworthy in comparison with the dignity of Cicero.’ Writing after his conversion, though, he characterized them much more positively as ‘something neither open to the proud nor laid bare to mere children; a text lowly to the beginner but, on further reading, of mountainous difficulty and veiled in mysteries.’¹ Augustine describes a text – humble in style but containing the most sublime truths – that seems foreign to most of us, distant from...

  8. 2 Biblical Truth in the Paradiso
    (pp. 51-78)

    In the first two canticles of theCommedia,Dante’s assumption of the Bible’s truth and its crucial role in informing his conceptions of history, of moral theology, and of the necessity of ecclesiastical and societal reform are implicit throughout. Having explored Dante’s conceptual understanding of the Bible in his minor works, in this chapter we will carry this investigation into theCommedia.To do so, however, we must first consider the final third of the poem; only in theParadisodoes the question ofhowthe Bible is true, and how its truth relates to the truth of Dante’s poem,...

  9. 3 The Bible in the Inferno: Misprision and Prophetic Appropriation
    (pp. 79-106)

    In the remaining three chapters, we turn back to theCommedia’s first two canticles, seeking an understanding of how Dante’s notion of biblical truth, which he addresses explicitly only in the final canticle, informs many passages in the fi rst two-thirds of the poem. While these, for the most part, lack the kind of theoretical interrogation to which Dante subjects the scriptures in the final canticle, he nevertheless draws frequently on the Bible, especially in moments in which he addresses questions related to the church, to moral theology, and to the meaning of history. One cannot escape the feeling that...

  10. 4 Una nuova legge: The Beatitudes in the Purgatorio
    (pp. 107-142)

    If, as suggested in chapter 3, the Bible exists in the Inferno largely through the misprision, misallusion, and misunderstanding that characterizes the use of the Bible by the damned, we should – following the critical commonplace – expect with the resurrection of Dante’s ‘morta poesì’ in the Purgatorio a corresponding redemption of biblical intertextuality. If the infernal shades by and large refer to scripture only obliquely, the souls on Mount Purgatory should reveal a profound grasp of the divine verbum and its relevance to their own situations. And indeed, with the first citation of the Latin Bible in the entire poem (which...

  11. 5 Dante’s Apocalypse
    (pp. 143-193)

    Dante’s poem beginsin mediis rebus,but it is oriented toward the end time. For a late medieval poem this divided attention to present and future is not unexpected. The Middle Ages were saturated with visions and versions of the end, and one could often deduce a writer’s ecclesiastical and political allegiances by how he understood the denouement of human history. In considering the events of his own time, a medieval writer would almost without thinking turn to the Bible’s final book as a guide to understanding them. As Frank Kermode has suggested, the Apocalypse exerted a tremendous appeal because...

  12. Conclusion: Poet of the Biblical World
    (pp. 194-198)

    As we have seen throughout this study, Dante often uses the Bible freely at various moments in theCommedia,much as he does his other sources, both Christian and pagan. Nevertheless, unlike his treatment of most of his other sources, he also continually insists on the truth of the Bible, even as he treats it freely. But for Dante, most important is that the truths of the Bible are lived; if they do not have an existential force, he has little interest in the text’s historical accuracy. He thus updates the Bible, brings it into his own day so that...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 199-264)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 265-284)
  15. Citations of Dante’s Works
    (pp. 285-288)
  16. Biblical and Apocryphal Citations
    (pp. 289-292)
  17. Index
    (pp. 293-299)