Hosting the Stranger

Volume 4 ~ 2011

»Table of Contents

Judges 19: A Perverse Version of Hospitality as Illustrated in the Bible Moralisée

Berger

A chapter from the biblical book of Judges presents what to the modern eye is a perverted form of hospitality (Judges 19). The story as set down in the Hebrew Bible tells how a Levite man from the edge of the mountains of Ephraim took a concubine who resided in Bethlehem. She left him and went back to her father’s house. After four months the husband pursued her and urged her to return. He stayed five days and then departed with his concubine, his servant and two donkeys. As the sun was setting, the man declined his servant’s suggestion to lodge in a heathen city and instead, went to Gibeah, a city of the tribe of Benjamin. However, no one there offered them lodging. Finally, an old man also from the mountains of Ephraim, brought them into his house where they ate and drank. As they were enjoying themselves, “the men of the city, men of wickedness, surrounded the house, (and were) beating at the door. And they spoke to the elderly master of the house, saying, ‘Bring out the man that came into your house, so that we may be [homosexually] intimate with him.’ (Judges 19: 22) The host said,

“No, my brothers, do not do so wickedly now. Since this man has come into my house, do not commit this disgraceful deed. Here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine, I will bring them out now and (you should) afflict them, and do with them as you please, but to this man do not do this disgraceful act.” But the men did not want to listen to him, and the man grabbed his concubine, and brought her forth to them outside. And they were intimate with her, and abused her the entire night until the morning, and they sent her away when the day began to dawn. And the woman came as the morning began. And she fell down at the entrance of the man's house, where her master was, until it was light. And her master arose in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way. And behold, the woman, his concubine, was lying after having fallen at the entrance of the house, with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, "Arise, and let us go," but no one answered. And he took her upon the donkey, and the man rose up and went to his place. (Judges 19: 23 – 28)

The story of the Levite, his host, and the concubine has long been illustrated in both Byzantine and Western manuscripts.1Kurt Weitzmann, "The Question of the Influence of Jewish Pictorial Sources on Old Testament Illustration," Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination, ed. Herbert L. Kessler (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 86 - 87; The Illustrations in the Manuscripts of the Septuagint, Vol. 2: Octateuch (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 296 - 7. Diane Wolfthal, "'A Hue and a Cry': Medieval Rape Imagery and Its Transformation," Art Bulletin 75 (1993): 39 - 64; Images of Rape (Cambridge: University Press 1999). Tamar Avner, "Septuagint Illustrations of the Book of Judges in Manuscripts of the Court School of Saint Louis," Byzantinische Forschungen (1988): 197 - 317. This essay treats one account of the story as pictured and told in the first Bible moralisée, an illustrated manuscript executed in Paris in the royal scriptorium of Louis IX toward the end of the first quarter of the thirteenth century. [Codex Vindobonensis 2554] (Lowden, “Making” 50-51)2A facsimile of the manuscript has been published by Gerald B. Guest: Bible Moralisée, Codex Vindobonensis 2554, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Commentary and translation by G.B.G. (London,1995). This is a chronological collection of sections from the Bible accompanied by moralizations of those selected passages.3An electronic Bibliography on the Moralized Bibles can be found at http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/people/lowden_john/1759-1959.shtml. Examples of illustrations of this story from the same period are found in other manuscripts including the Maciejowski Bible in the Morgan Library, and the Psalter of Saint Louis in the Bibliothèque nationale. Several later copies and versions of the Moralized Bible exist, but the manuscript now in Vienna is generally agreed to have been the earliest of its kind (Lowden 50). Recent research has determined that the Vienna copy was first rendered in under-drawings by one artist, a Master Painter who also executed the famous frontispiece (Lowden 33 & 37 – 40). Thus though the various biblical sequences were chosen by a theologian or theologians, and the over-painting was done by many artists, the Master Painter would have had the important role of determining how the allegorical images would be rendered. The actual biblical images, on the other hand, were probably drawn under the influence of a Byzantine manuscript or manuscripts housed in the royal scriptorium (Avner 316).

A leaf of a different Moralized Bible of the late 1220’s now in the Morgan Library provides some clues as to how the images were executed. [fig. 1] Blanche de Castille and the young Louis IX are enthroned in the upper part of the image. Below, on the left, is a tonsured theologian seated before an open book. He dictates to the artist who, with pen and pen knife in hand, rules and decorates the page for a series of vertically placed medallions. The artist is more colorfully dressed and clearly not a churchman. The layout of the page he works on is precisely that of the Moralized Bible where the biblical passages are illustrated in medallions, and below each biblical illustration is the moralized allegory of the event. [fig. 2] Vernacular texts at the sides summarize those biblical events and their allegorical interpretations. There is evidence that the text was added after the images were rendered, for in certain medallions, the text overflows the ruled page.

Leaf from the Moralized Bible

Figure 1: Leaf from the Moralized Bible - Late 1220's
Morgan Library, Library MS M. 240

Leaf from the Moralized Bible

Figure 2: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2554, fol. 64v

Though the Master Painter executed the under-drawings, there must have been a least one illustrated manuscript of Judges in the royal scriptorium that he could adapt for his biblical images.4That manuscript was probably an Octateuch recension based on the illustrations of a Septuagint manuscript (Avner 315-6). However, though the Master Painter made use of some traditional iconography, many of the contemporary moralizing images that he created are new. One of his startling “new” images was his now-famous painting of God the Creator. [fig. 3] In this image at the opening of the Vienna 2554 manuscript we find God the Father portrayed as God the Son with a chrism adorning his halo, a typical conflation in medieval art. God is creating the heaven and the earth with the use of a compass, just as the artist will create his “world” within the boundaries of the lines he makes with his compass. In a typical medieval bi-focal rendering we see the disk of the world and God’s compass in parallel planes, not perpendicular to each other as they would have been in a naturalistic representation. Likewise, the left hand of God is depicted in an impossible position, for we see simultaneously the inner forearm and the outer hand. The disk that he outlines is too big to be contained by the frame and exceeds the ruled space, as does the body of God itself. Intuitively the artist understands that the figure of God cannot fit into the boundaries of the universe. Through color the artist indicates the unknowable. Gold represents the ultimate beyond; the green, defined with a strict circle by the compass arm, is the sea. The black heavens with the red sun, the gold moon, and the stars surround the inchoate earth. This creator God is beyond the bounds of measurement, but he is using the same instrument that the artist himself uses to create the medallion containing the biblical segments and their allegories in the Bible moralisée.

Leaf from the Moralized Bible

Figure 3: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445 Frontspiece

The iconographer/theologian who dictated which segments should be illustrated and how they should be allegorized often interpreted the Bible and devised the allegories in light of contemporary events. One of the issues that concerned the iconographer/theologian was the new mode of thought introduced by the study of Aristotle’s Metaphysics at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Paris in the early years of the thirteenth century. This was a tumultuous time at the university, particularly for the Faculty of Theology. Some of the relativistic thought of Aristotle had become known, particularly the notion that “the truth is not that what appears exists, but that what appears, exists for him to whom it appears.” (Metaphysic, Book IV, 6. Emphasis mine.) This kind of thinking potentially posed a grave threat to theologians. The Aristotelian texts that were being read had come to Paris via Spain where they had been translated into Latin from the Arabic summaries of Avicenna, a tenth-century Persian who composed a paraphrase of the Greek philosopher.5Avicenna himself was working from a translation of Aristotle that had already been made (Wisnovsky, 17). Avicenna’s text quotes large sections of Aristotle and then comments upon it. From around 1200, Aristotelian thought as passed down through Avicenna led to a questioning of revealed truth: it denied divine providence, the immortality of the soul, and the creation of the world. These ideas were naturally threatening to members of the theology faculty at the University of Paris, who argued that divine faith could not be grasped by reason alone. They held that mere “reason,” manipulated by Aristotelian philosophers and dialecticians, put the whole Christian faith in jeopardy (Verbeke 178). Thus, during the first two or three decades of the thirteenth century, theologians were forbidden to bring philosophy, tainted by Aristotle, into the study of Holy Scripture (Steenberghen 74).

However, new theology recruits who had learned something about Aristotle while in the Arts Faculty were giving more and more credence to an Aristotelian perspective, and so measures were taken to protect the theology faculty from this malicious infiltration (Steenberghen 74). In 1210, by papal decree, the Metaphysics was included among the prohibited books. In 1215, a second decree specifically stated: “Neither the Metaphysics nor the Natural Philosophy of Aristotle can be read…”6"1215 mense Augusto [Paris]Non legantur libri Aristotelis de methafisica et de naturali philosophia, nec summe de eisdem, aut de doctrina magistri David de Dinant, aut Amalric heretici, aut Mauricii hyspani." From the Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Paris, 1889, Vol. I, p. 78 - 79 #20. See also Vol. I. pp. 70 - 71 for the 1210 decree. David of Dinant and Amalric of Bene were among those who subscribed to the teachings of Aristotle. More ominously, those who were deemed Aristotelian followers, such as David Dinant and Amalric Bene, were labeled heretics and condemned (Steenberghen 67- 9; Verbeke 195 - 6). However, the private study of Aristotle did continue, even on the part of such eminent figures as Guillaume d’Auvergne, Bishop of Paris (Valois 6).

The methods employed in the study of Aristotle by the “heretical” philosophers were often influenced by the exegetical readings of Jewish scholars. The use of exegesis had been taken up by Cistercians and others in the twelfth century, some of whom had learned Hebrew (Grabois 617-8). The eleventh-century Jewish scholar Rashi, who lived not far from Paris in Troyes, was influential in this regard (Hailperin). The study of the actual Hebrew words, however, was dangerous. The Cistercians, some of whom had been proponents of the Jewish exegetical methods, outlawed it at the end of the twelfth century. The movement, known as Hebraica Veritas, or the learning of the True Hebrew words, was abandoned as suspect, especially since some of the Hebrew readings contradicted the Jerome Vulgate text. Thus the Greek Aristotelian influences, their Arab commentators, and the exegetical methods of the Jews all had to be shunned.

The images of the Vienna 2554 manuscript reveal that the iconographer was under the influence of the conservative theologians in the Theology Faculty who saw great dangers in the Aristotelian thought, as well as in its Arab and Jewish connections. This hostility plays itself out in the imagery of the Bible moralisée in general, and in the miniatures of the Judges story in particular, where the “bad” philosophers are compared to “miscreants,” rapists, Sodomites, and heretics. The misguided philosophers, ecclesiastics, and students who were seen as rejecting the “truth” are often depicted as grotesque and are compared to those who would rape the “good” pagan philosophers by interpreting then through texts other than those of Augustine and Jerome. On the other hand, the artist himself would have witnessed a certain duplicity on the part of the theologian/iconographer who dictated the segments to be illustrated along with their symbolic meanings. The artist would have become aware that the theologian’s allegorical interpretations of the “historical truth” told in the Bible, sometimes warped that “history.” And he would have participated in creating images for some even more surprising aberrations: for the sake of the moralized commentary, the theologian would direct the artist to reorder the “sacred” events, over-simplify them, or change the story radically, thereby exhibiting a measure of flexibility that theologians would never have countenanced on the part of the “heretics” they condemned for distorting the truth of the Holy Scripture. These characteristics are found in the text and illustrations of Judges 19.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 64v

Figure 4: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 64v

The story as told in the Bible moralisée starts with the old man who welcomes the couple and the servant into his home. [fig. 4 ] The accompanying Old French next to the image reads: “Here a deacon comes to the city of Bethlehem and finds no one to lodge him, and he is abandoned, and a good man comes and lodges him and his wife and his servant and his ass.” [All translations of the Old French are based on Guest, 103 - 4] This starting point leaves out the significant information that the Levite is returning home with his concubine/wife who had fled from him and taken refuge with her father four months earlier. Also, the Old French calls the man deacon [dyaken], perhaps because the Old Testament Levites were attendants in the Temple, and thus were seen as having official duties close to those of church deacons. The Old French text indicates that the city is not Gibeah, as in the Hebrew Bible, but rather Bethlehem, the city where, in the original Hebrew, the father of the concubine resides. Perhaps the iconographer suggested Bethlehem as an allusion to the city of the Nativity cycle, the place where no one would lodge the Virgin Mary. What the Hebrew Bible and the Vulgate call the old man is called the good man (preud’ oume) in the Old French of the Bible moralisée, and in the context of the narrative as related here, the old man supposedly represents the moral, positive force. We also know from the more complete versions of the story in the Hebrew Bible and the Vulgate that the man who lodged him was from the same region as the Levite, so he was a kinsman.

The woman, though never given a name, is the key character in this story. In the Hebrew Bible she is a concubine and is interpreted by Rashi as having been a harlot who, when leaving her husband, “went to love others” or by Maimonides as having a very low status. In the Septuagint she is called both wife and concubine. In the Latin Vulgate she is called “uxor,” which means “wife.” However, in the story as retold and elaborated by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews, the “wife” is very beautiful and is a sympathetic character (Josephus, V, 2, 8). It is the Josephus version that was taken up by the iconographer of the Bible moralisée, where the woman is given the status of the Levite’s “wife,” in the Old French "sa fame," a designation that fits the allegorical interpretation sought by the iconographer, who wanted to have her stand for a purity that was maliciously tarnished.

The image that introduces the story shows the bearded old man/good man on the right. [fig. 4] He is Christianized with a cross shape on the clasp of his cloak; at the same time he wears a pointed cap which usually is the distinguishing headgear for a Jew, so here he is meant to stand for one of those “good Jews.” He clasps the hand of the young Levite who is followed by his servant and his modestly-coiffed wife. This headgear, as well as her belted tunic and her mantle, imply she is a “pure woman,” an interpretation that fits the allegory (Wolfthal, “Images” 45). The old man leads the party from the spires and roof representing the city, into the rounded arch of his home. The architectural background is not arbitrarily rendered: there is a continuous use of architectural symbolism in the Bible moralisée, and here the Romanesque rounded arch represents the Old, whereas Gothic architecture will represent the New, specifically the New Testament or the Church. Two asses, rather than the one signaled in the Bible moralisée text, are represented, thereby providing a hint that the pictorial source the artist was using must have ultimately relied on the Old Testament narrative, where two asses are indicated (Avner 302 – 4).

The allegory paired with this opening image is represented and labeled below it. The text reads: “That the deacon was removed from the hostel in Bethlehem and the good man lodged him signifies Philosophy who was separated from faith by the world, and Jesus Christ took her and put her in the Holy Church.” The allegorical image depicts Christ in the same position as the good man. He stands before a Gothic façade and ambulatory (the Holy Church) into which he leads a woman with disheveled clothes, and immodestly uncovered hair. This woman represents Philosophy, that Philosophy contaminated by the teachings of Aristotle interpreted through the lens of Avicenna and the Hebrew exegetical tradition. She holds up her hand to cover her face in a gesture of shame. Those behind her, influenced by the blasphemous Aristotelian teachings, hang their heads or place a hand to the cheek in a sign of woe. One formerly deceived scholar lets the heretical book slip from his hands. Jesus’s right foot purposely stomps on the foot of a repentant scholar. This little image spells out much of the conflict raging at the time in the University of Paris between the conservative theologians and those who had been “tempted” by Aristotelian thought.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

Figure 5: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

The summary of the biblical text accompanying the next pair of images tells us that “the Sodomites come from the city and ask for the deacon and want to take him to do him harm, and the good man is before them and defends him with his power.” [fig. 5] The Old French text for “to do him harm” is “fere de lui lor vilenie.” The Hebrew text is translated “that we may be intimate with him,” and Rashi glosses that as “to know him” homosexually. The Vulgate tells us that the men who came were “Sons of Belial,” implying that they are sons of demons.7 Belial is a demon mentioned in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, a text believed to be the Last Wills of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob. It is referenced below once again in this sequence of the Bible Moralisée. The Vulgate also adds that those who came were “without yoke,” presumably a reference to their unbridled, illicit passion. Neither the Old Testament nor the Vulgate makes reference to Sodom in this story. However the iconographer, by using the word "vilenie", alludes to the connection with the story of Lot and the men of Sodom, who were also intent on homosexual rape [Genesis 19:5 - 11], a connection that commentators over the centuries have likewise noted. Thus though the Old French text is not explicit about the kind of harm the Sodomites would inflict on the guest, it is clear from the context of the story, the nomenclature, and the textual tradition that they were intent on homosexual rape.

Unlike the other figures we have seen so far, the Sodomites are depicted with knee-length belted tunics, the garb of working people. They have bulbous noses and threatening features. One has an axe and points to the guests feasting inside. The good man has his foot on that of the foremost Sodomite in a gesture implying that he is trying to exercise power over him. But the advancing Sodomite extends an arm to push the good man out of the way, even though he has his hands raised in a protective manner. Meanwhile the Levite, his wife, and the servant are the recipients of the “hospitality” of the good man. They are sitting at the table: the Levite is about to drink, the servant has his hand on some food, and the wife gesticulates.

The text of the allegorical image below is as follows: “That the Sodomites came to the home of the good man to take the deacon, and the good man defended him signifies the heretics and the miscreants who want to tear apart and pull down the sacraments of the Holy Church, and God defends and guards them.” [fig. 5] In the accompanying medallion we see God directly below the good man. God is protecting the portal of his “house,” the church, guarding it from those who seek to destroy the sacraments. The deacon is seen as analogous to the sacraments, which God is defending from being torn up. The feasting table has become an altar with the chalice and wafer upon it. Two tonsured monks wearing priestly robes partake of the sacraments. The “heretics and miscreants,” an allusion to the dangerous theologians/philosophers, are depicted with the features of Jews, wearing more obviously pointed hats and having distinctly prominent noses and long beards. One holds an axe and another reaches for his sword, weapons with which they will try to tear apart the sacraments inside, just as the Sodomites want to tear and pull down the deacon. Out of the body of the foremost heretic springs a nude devil-like character with one arm raised. Implicit in this allegory is the injunction against the violation of the sacraments: just as a man must never be given over to homosexual rapists, so the “heretics” who seek to destroy the teachings of the church must be repelled. In the context of the time, the allegorical allusion is that an attack on the conservative theological position is an attack on the Eucharist, the priesthood, and Christ himself, who stands in the portal of his church protecting it.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

Figure 6: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

The next part of the story is depicted in the upper right-hand corner. [fig. 6 ] The text and image here differ significantly from the tradition, which itself is very complex. The Hebrew Bible has the host saying, “‘Here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine, I will bring them out now and (you should) afflict them, and do with them as you please, but to this man do not do this disgraceful act.’ But the men did not want to listen to him, and the man grabbed his concubine, and brought her forth to them outside.” Thus the host offers his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the rapists. When they do not accept this offer, the Levite gives them his concubine. The Septuagint and Vulgate have basically the same account. Pseudo-Philo, writing before 70 CE, has a slightly different interpretation. He sees the woman as responsible for her own victimization. First he interprets the men from the city as brethren, and the guests as strangers. And “it was never so, that strangers should give commands to the indwellers. And they [the city men] entered in with violence and took out him and his concubine and cast them forth and they let the man go, but they abused his concubine until she died; for she had transgressed against her husband at one time by sinning with the Amalekites, and therefore did the Lord God deliver her into the hands of sinners” (Pseudo-Philo: 45.3, page 204). In this Pseudo-Philo account, since the city men had entered with violence and taken the Levite and his concubine, neither host nor guest was responsible for handing over the woman. The woman, however, was responsible for their raping her, for in the Pseudo-Philo retelling, she had sinned with the inveterate enemy of the Hebrews. This idea was only slightly altered by Rashi who, in his commentary to Judges 19:2 implies that in “turning away from him…” the woman “…departed from her husband to love others.”

Josephus, (Antiquities of the Jews, V,2.8) changed the story. His account does not mention that the men from the city wanted to rape the Levite. Instead, they were attracted by the beauty of the woman. In Josephus’s text, the host produced his own virgin daughter and “told them [the city men] that it was a smaller breach of the law to satisfy their lust upon her than to abuse his guests…but they proceeded to take her [the Levite’s wife] away by force.” This version, where the woman was “taken by force” was most useful for the iconographer of the Bible moralisée. “…The Sodomites come and take by force [prenent à force] the wife of the deacon and lead her away, and the good man suffers for her and is greatly pained and angered.” [Judges 19:24] Though this is significantly different from all the major Jewish and Christian texts, it is needed here in order to fulfill appropriately the allegorical symbolism sought by the iconographer. [fig. 6] In the medallion we see the Sodomite grab the Levite’s wife by her forearm, a medieval gesture that implies sexual attack or possession (Wolfthal, “Hue” 41 – 43). The host raises his left hand, covered by his red cloak, as if he is wiping a tear. The husband, in green, lifts his arm in consternation, very different from his handing her over to the rapists, as the canonical version would have it. The servant in brown puts his hand to his head in a gesture of sorrow. The Sodomites are again depicted with bulbous or hooked noses.

The allegorical text and image below it equate the wife with Philosophy, she who is taken from the pagans, to Jerome and Augustine, but the way she was treated en route by “the heretics and the miscreants” causes those church fathers to suffer. [fig. 6] The conflict, however, is not over; Jerome and Augustine can have hope that they will “win her yet.” In the image Philosophy, like the wife, is in the center. The pagan philosophers are symbolized by little heads within her chest. The grotesque heretic in the foreground, with a pointed nose and exaggeratedly large mouth, has grabbed Philosophy’s arm, the same gesture the Sodomite used to take control of the Levite’s wife, a movement that implies violent possession. A devil comes out of this heretic’s chest and another is depicted on the shoulder of the heretic to the far left. Two of the miscreants have a hand on Philosophy’s shoulder and head. As in the image above, the Evil is on the left-hand side. On the right are Jerome and Augustine, regarded as foremost among the church fathers at this time. One supports an open book on his hand, veiled out of respect; the other puts his hand to his cheek in sorrow. They lament the fact that Philosophy was “taken” by the heretics and miscreants. It is easy to see why the iconographer had to use the Josephus story: the woman was not an unfaithful concubine, and neither the host nor the guest was responsible for handing her over since she was “taken by force.” This version works with the allegory that personifies Philosophy as a victim of the “heretics” at the University of Paris who would seek to interpret her through the lens of an Aristotelian tradition that was passed down through Arabs and was tainted by an exegetical method employed by Jews. The iconographer had the artist draw the imagery to suit his allegorical purposes, and later, the text that was written in the margins followed suit.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

Figure 7: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

The next medallion in the sequence contains one of the most graphic images of rape in medieval art. [fig. 7] The accompanying text is brief: “Here the Sodomites come and take the wife of the deacon and they rape her with such force that they kill her and she dies.” The Hebrew text differs significantly: “…The man grabbed his concubine, and brought her forth to them outside. And they were intimate with her, and abused her the entire night until the morning…” The Bible moralisée illustrator was following a tradition in the Josephus text, for indeed the woman is not “outside” but rather on a bed, and Josephus says “…they took the woman away to their house. ” The wife on the bed, who previously was depicted with a modest head covering, is now bare-headed. Her cloak is no longer present, unless it is suggested by the slight blue coloration atop the farther bedpost. Her long-sleeved white tunic is no longer belted, a sign that she has been “undone.” The figure in a yellow tunic and partially covered by a red cloth is raping her. He is in a kneeling position and his feet protrude at the foot of the bed. Her eyes are closed and her hands raised, a position that suggests that she is trying to call for help. One man grabs her arm to bite or lick it; another appears to be poking her in the eye. All eight men, in a pyramidal arrangement behind the bed, rapaciously await their turns. The lines of the arms and the pushing of the men’s bodies go from right to left in a composition exhibiting a dynamic force moving down and to the left, into the body of the woman. The folds are also on a diagonal, thus increasing the impression of the force of the penetration.

The allegorical image is intended to be equally as violent. [fig. 7] “That the Sodomites took the wife and raped her by force and killed her signifies the heretics and the miscreants who took Philosophy and killed and crushed and martyred her and took her virtue.” Philosophy, with the busts symbolizing pagan philosophers still in her chest, is falling to the ground, the open book dropping from her hand. A man with a simian devil on his chest holds up another open book; he is meant to be a false “philosopher” such as those influenced by Aristotle. A miscreant in white, whose body pushes down onto Philosophy, has a snake coming out of his mouth. The hand of the man behind him is bitten by a cat, a symbol that Lipton has discovered can refer to heresy, among other negative attributes (Lipton 88 – 90). As in the image above, the compositional lines of the attack are from right to left. The body of the central man is thrust up against Philosophy, and her cloak is open. One could very well imagine that he is “taking her virtue” as she falls; it is the crushing movement of his body that causes her martyrdom. This image conveys symbolically the level of violence directed at the “heretics and miscreants” who, at the University of Paris, have allowed Aristotle to influence their thought.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

Figure 8: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 65r

The text accompanying the next part of the story in the Bible moralisée states that the “Sodomites come and take the woman with whom they had their way and killed, and they place her outside of the house, and the deacon receives her with pain and anger.” [fig. 8] There are varying accounts of this part of the story in the tradition. The Hebrew texts says “… they sent her away when the day began to dawn. And the woman came as the morning began. And she fell down at the entrance of the house, where her master was, until it was light. And her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went his way. And behold, the woman, his concubine, was lying after having fallen at the entrance to the house, with her hands on the threshold. And he said to her, ‘Arise, and let us go,’ but no one answered.” The Hebrew Bible does not specifically say that she had expired, but Rashi glosses the fact that she did not answer with the comment: “Because she was dead.” [Judges 19: 28] The Septuagint says outright that she did not answer her husband because “she was dead.” The Vulgate reports, “…But as she made no answer, perceiving she was dead, he took her up and laid her upon his ass, and returned to his house.” Josephus changes the story significantly. After they had “satisfied their lust upon her the whole night, they let her go about daybreak… [she] was very sorrowful upon occasion of what she had suffered, and durst not look her husband in the face for shame, for she concluded that he would never forgive her for what she had done; so she fell down and gave up the ghost.” Josephus’ version of the story, specifying that the woman would be ashamed that she had been raped, is a response that would be common among women in many eras. Josephus goes on to write that the husband tried “to raise her up, resolving to speak comfortably to her, since she did not voluntarily expose herself to these men’s lust, but was forced.” Once again it is Josephus’ more compassionate version that was partially used by the iconographer of the Bible moralisée in order to best serve his allegorical interpretation. In the medallion we see the partially nude body of the woman before an arcuated space signifying the threshold of the house in which she feasted the night before. She is being pushed by the grotesque Sodomites into the arms of the deacon. His gesture, as he supports his wife, is meant to convey his “pain” alluded to in the textual summary.

In the allegory below, the Sodomites signify the heretics and miscreants “who trample under them Philosophy and the doctrine of the pagans.” [fig. 8] One of the heretics has a monkey-like devil on his shoulder, and another holds a closed book, symbolic of the lies in their texts. Once again Philosophy is also made visually analogous to the wife. The composition sets forth the allegory as well as the text does. Philosophy is directly below the corpse-like body of the woman. She has been sorely used by the heretics and miscreants. Her loose hair is one sign of her disgrace, as is her humble posture and her unbelted tunic. The pagan philosophers she had held at her bosom are falling away, as is the book, symbolic of their writings. She is received “sorrowfully” by Jerome and Augustine who have glum mouths and bent heads. They take her hand within theirs; her gesture, with the church father covering her hand with both of his, is like that of a serf pledging fealty to a lord.

Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 66v

Figure 9: Moralized Bible, Vienna 2445, fol. 66v

The next verse in the Bible moralisée story tells us that “the deacon comes and ties his wife, who is dead, onto his ass, and then he goes to his homeland and puts her down.” Part of this narrative is illustrated in the Octateuch tradition, but there the woman is clothed and placed on a kind of pallet, a depiction very different from the graphic imagery in the Bible moralisée. [fig. 9] Here the woman’s breasts, nipples, navel and pubic area are all depicted. In a rather startling manner, the man has his bare hand on his wife’s nude corpse. The accompanying allegory reads: “That the deacon tied his wife and then went to his homeland and put her down from the ass signifies Jerome and Augustine who take Philosophy and put her down from the ass, which is the hard doctrine of the pagans.” In the allegorical image, Philosophy, again in pure white, moves away from the toppling city that alludes to the crumbling of the false doctrine. She still supports her book, as Jerome and Augustine “take” her. Thus the image implies that though the heretics violate Philosophy by their illicit interpretations, she is still salvageable through the intervention of Jerome and Augustine.

In the grisly continuation of the story, the Bible moralisée summary reads, “Here the deacon comes and cuts his wife into XII parts and sends them to XII messengers in XII directions.” [fig.9] The deacon, holding an axe, has cut up his wife’s body into twelve pieces. One can distinguish a head, shoulders, breasts, pubic area, knees, forearm and hand. The deacon gives an arm to one of the twelve assembled people, the foremost of whom wears a simple peasant’s cap. The allegory tells us that the deacon “signifies Jerome and Augustine who took from the XII Patriarchs the XII volumes to carry them to the XII Apostles.” And that is precisely what the allegorical image shows: Jerome and Augustine standing behind a polygonal stand and handing out twelve books to twelve apostles. The twelve volumes referred to here comprise the text mentioned above, known as the Testament of the Patriarchs, originally written in the first century BCE or CE. This “Testament” is supposedly a compilation of the dying words of the twelve sons of Jacob. The iconographer chose it for this allegory because it relates to twelve figures from the Old Testament, thereby according with the numerological symbolism appropriate to the twelve apostles. It also alludes to written documents that can be imaged as books. The Testaments themselves contain nothing elevated or inspiring. They are, in fact, full of the confession of sins, often sexual in nature. Interest in this work revived in the thirteenth century, and a copy must have been known to the iconographer, though one might hypothesize that if he had ever read it, he would have considered it most inappropriate to pass down to the saintly Christian apostles.

With this image we come to the end of the allegorical connections between the story of the Levite’s wife and the teaching of Aristotelian-inspired Philosophy at the University of Paris. The next medallion forms the segue to the account of the Benjamite war. The iconographer omits the part of the textual tradition where the Levite gives his own account of what happened, an account that says nothing of his responsibility for handing over his wife to be raped, thus exonerating both himself and the host. In his account of the story twelve messengers hand the body parts to the twelve patriarchs who “receive them and are amazed by the deed and by the shame, and they threaten those who did it.” The allegorical text cites the same twelve patriarchs who take the twelve volumes to the apostles who receive them. The rape itself and specifically the shame it caused the husband is used to incite a Civil War between the Israelites and the Benjamites, the tribe that inhabited the city of Gibeah, where the guest and his wife/concubine first received “hospitality.” Presumably the Sodomites were likewise Benjamites, and thus were the evil doers in this story. After two bloody losses, the Israelites prevail and slaughter nearly all the Benjamites, including the women and children. This impressive victory may relate to the fact that Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, had shown deep hostility toward David, and it is likely that the Davidic line was in power at the time the Judges text was set down, so the “history” was told from the Davidic point of view.

The iconographer made choices as he set about allegorizing the Bible moralisée. He picked those segments that would allow him to point to the moral lessons he judged pertinent. As we have seen, the primary lesson of this section was to beware of philosophers influenced by the relativistic thought of Aristotle. But by choosing the particular verses that he did, the iconographer would also have to deal with the complexity of other sinful actions. In the Vulgate narrative, the sin of violating the laws of hospitality was important and therefore worth expostulating upon. However, the iconographer knew that by using this text he was confronted with actions that were, in his time, even more morally reprehensible: a father offering his virgin daughter to be gang raped and a husband handing over his wife to be violated. Yet for the purposes of his allegory, the iconographer needed the host and his guest who committed those sins to be seen in a positive light so that they could be made analogous to Christ or to Jerome and Augustine. Thus he chose to alter the words of the Bible. In order to give the story the allegorical meaning he sought, he “interpreted” it primarily through an extrinsic source, the Antiquities of Josephus, who was, ironically, a Jew. With the Josephus interpretation, he could, in his own eyes at least, exonerate the host and the husband, since in that account the wife was taken “by force.” Thus the iconographer became guilty of an offense similar to that of the “heretics” and “miscreants:” he made an interpretation that appeared appropriate to him, but was different from the actual Holy Scriptures as set down in the Vulgate. He was, in fact, guilty of the same sin as were the relativists, the “miscreants” who raped the “True Philosophy” by studying the heretical books of Aristotle who held, after all, that the actual truth is not what appears to exist, for that appearance is governed by the eyes of the one who is doing the looking. (Metaphysics, Book IV, 6)

In choosing this particular segment of Judges to launch his diatribe against Aristotelian influence in the Theology faculty, the iconographer was able to allude to another sin: homosexual rape. This is not the only place where homosexual sex is dealt with in the Bible moralisée. Another example is in the text and illustrations of I Kings 5:6 and 6:5 (Berger) The Saracens [a word used in the Bible moralisée for Philistines] are attacked by rats at their groins [entrails] because they have taken the Ark of the Covenant from the Hebrews. In the illustration rats attack the genitals of the Saracens, and in the allegory, the Saracens are analogous to the contemporary “wicked bishops” who anger God and are “struck by sodomy which eats them and their loins and their entrails,” just as the rats attack the loins of the Saracens. The churchmen struck by sodomy in the allegory are shown embracing boys and foundling their cheeks and neck. When the churchmen repent of their sodomy (and in this case it is actually pederasty), Christ delivers them from their homosexual lust and “they push the boys away.”

Sodomy is just one of the many sins which are railed against in the Bible moralisée. Gluttony, greed, and anger are amply represented as well. But sodomy was not an openly acknowledged sin before this time as the other seven sins were, although heterosexual lust, Luxuria, was widely represented, especially the lust of women. However, it has been suggested that there was a new interest in sexual immorality in the early thirteenth century, for the Lateran Council of 1215 instituted yearly confession, and presumably, in the confessional, homosexual desires or practices would be admitted. (Wolfthal, “Images” 55 – 56; Foucault 78, 82, 85; Camille 95) It is perhaps those revelations in the confessional that legitimized the use of a text that alluded to men wanting to do sexual harm to another man, though in the end, it is the woman whose violent victimization is represented.


Footnotes.

  1. Kurt Weitzmann, "The Question of the Influence of Jewish Pictorial Sources on Old Testament Illustration," Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination, ed. Herbert L. Kessler (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 86 - 87; The Illustrations in the Manuscripts of the Septuagint, Vol. 2: Octateuch (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 296 - 7. Diane Wolfthal, "'A Hue and a Cry': Medieval Rape Imagery and Its Transformation," Art Bulletin 75 (1993): 39 - 64; Images of Rape (Cambridge: University Press 1999). Tamar Avner, "Septuagint Illustrations of the Book of Judges in Manuscripts of the Court School of Saint Louis," Byzantinische Forschungen (1988): 197 - 317.
  2. A facsimile of the manuscript has been published by Gerald B. Guest: Bible Moralisée, Codex Vindobonensis 2554, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Commentary and translation by G.B.G. (London,1995).
  3. An electronic Bibliography on the Moralized Bibles can be found at http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/people/lowden_john/1759-1959.shtml. Examples of illustrations of this story from the same period are found in other manuscripts including the Maciejowski Bible in the Morgan Library, and the Psalter of Saint Louis in the Bibliothèque nationale.
  4. That manuscript was probably an Octateuch recension based on the illustrations of a Septuagint manuscript (Avner 315-6).
  5. Avicenna himself was working from a translation of Aristotle that had already been made (Wisnovsky, 17).
  6. "1215 mense Augusto [Paris]Non legantur libri Aristotelis de methafisica et de naturali philosophia, nec summe de eisdem, aut de doctrina magistri David de Dinant, aut Amalric heretici, aut Mauricii hyspani." From the Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Paris, 1889, Vol. I, p. 78 - 79 #20. See also Vol. I. pp. 70 - 71 for the 1210 decree.
  7. Belial is a demon mentioned in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, a text believed to be the Last Wills of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob. It is referenced below once again in this sequence of the Bible Moralisée.


Bibliography

Afnan, Soheil M. Avicenna. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 1958.

Aristotle. Metaphysics. Book IV, 6. Sept 10, 2009; http://www.classicallibrary.org/aristotle/metaphysics/book04.htm

Avner, Tamar. "Septuagint Illustrations of the Book of Judges in Manuscripts of the Court School of Saint Louis." Byzantinische Forschungen (1988): 197 - 317.

Berger, Pamela. "Mice, Arrows, and Tumors: Medieval Plague Iconography North of the Alps," in Piety and the Plague, Franco Mormando, editor, Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2007.

Camille, Michael. The Gothic Idol. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Paris, 1889, Denifle, Heinrich; Chatelain, Emile; and others. Vol. I, p. 78 - 79, 70 - 1.

Foucault, Michel, La volonté de savoir, Historie de la sexualité, I, Paris: Gallimard, 1976.

Grabois, Aryet. "The Hebraica Veritas and Jewish Christian Intellectual Relations in the Twelfth Century." Speculum 50, no. 4 (1975): 613 - 634.

Guest, Gerald B.: Bible Moralisée. Codex Vindobonensis 2554. Vienna: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Commentary and translation by G.B.G. London, 1995.

Gunn, David M., Judges. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

Hailperin, Herman. Rashi and the Christian Scholars. Pittsburg:University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963

Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. V, chapter 2, part 8. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-5.htm Accessed September 10, 2009

Lipton, Sara: Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisée. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999.

Lowden, John. The Making of the Bibles moralisées: The Manuscripts. Vol. 1. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.

Lowden, John: Bibles moralisées: Electronic Bibliography: http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/people/lowden_john/2000-.shtml September 10, 2009

Pseuo-Philo, The Biblical Antiquities of Philo. Translated by M. R. James. New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1971.

Rashi's Commentary to Judges 19: The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, September 10, 2009 http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15827/showrashi/true

Schroeder, Joy A. Dinah's Lament. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007.

Schroeder, Joy A. Dinah's Lament. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007.

Steenberghen, Fernand. Aristotle in the West, Louvain: E. Nauwelaerts, 1955.

Tammen, Silke. "Bilder der sodomie in der Bible moralisée<" Frauen Kunst Wissenschaft. 21 (1996) 30 - 48.

Valois, Noel. Guillaume D'Auvergne. Paris: Librairie d'Alphonse Picard, 1880.

Verbeke, Gerard "Philosophy and Heresy: Some Conflicts between Reason and Faith" in The Concept of Heresy in the Middle Ages. W. Lourdaux & D. Verhelst, editors. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1976.

Weiss, Daniel H., The Morgan Crusader Bible. Luzern: Faksimile Verlag; New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1998 - 99.

Weitzmann, Kurt. "The Question of the Influence of Jewish Pictorial Sources on Old Testament Illustration." Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971. 76 - 95.

Weitzmann, Kurt. The Illustrations in the Manuscripts of the Septuagint. Vol. 2: Octateuch. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 296 - 7.

Wisnovsky, Robert. Avicenna's Metaphysics in Context. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Wolfthal, Diane. "'A Hue and a Cry': Medieval Rape Imagery and Its Transformation." Art Bulletin 75 (1993): 39 - 64.

Wolfthal, Diane. Images of Rape. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999.