fol. 44iv-44iir, Gospel of Luke
The Postillae litteralis super totam Bibliam, a comprehensive commentary on the Old and New Testaments, was the principal theological contribution of Nicholas of Lyre (ca. 1270–1349). Born in La-Neuve-Lyre in Normandy, France, he took the Franciscan habit, became a Doctor of Theology at the Sorbonne in Paris and served his order through several important appointments. The Postillae litteralis, completed in the years 1322–31, came to be celebrated for their clarity and reliability by later scholars and earned the author the epithet "Doctor planus et utilis." Well-equipped as a scholar of the early Christian and Rabbinical traditions of exegesis, Nicholas was the key figure in the dissemination of Rabbinical scholarship among Christian interpreters, especially of the work of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, called Rashi (1040–1105). During the sixteenth century, his work played a formative role in the theology of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and was especially important for the grammatical explication of the Hebrew in Luther’s commentary on Genesis of 1543.
As an interpreter of scripture, Nicholas of Lyre’s greatest strength lay in his "natural exegesis," which revealed the literal meaning of the text. This, at least, was what inspired Luther to exclaim that "without Lyra we would understand neither the New nor the Old Testament." His influence may be judged not only by the citations and laudatory comments of his followers, but also by bibliographical evidence: about seven hundred manuscripts of his Postillae litteralis are known, and more than one hundred printed editions had appeared by the bicentennial of his death.
The first printed edition of the Postillae litteralis was printed by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz in Rome, 1471–72. The earliest edition of the Bible printed with Nicholas’ commentary surrounding it was that of Johannes de Colonia and Nicholas Jenson, published in Venice in 1481. The present edition of the Biblia cum postillis by Franz Renner of Heilbronn (fl. 1471–1516) was the second to be printed and generally followed the format of the 1481 edition. Exhibited is the third of Renner’s three folio volumes, in which is found the New Testament with Nicholas of Lyre’s "additiones" on all of the books of the Bible.
The format of this Bible with commentary follows the basic outlines of its models in medieval manuscript tradition, intended for private study and further commentary. Usually, the commentary appeared in the margins of the Bible text or in interlinear fashion, or, as here and in many later editions, it surrounds the "island" of biblical text in a clearly organized format. In the opening displayed (fol. 44iv–44ir), the Prologue to the Gospel of Luke, the Vulgate is printed at the upper center of the page in two columns of large type. The commentary envelopes it in two enframing columns of smaller type, beginning five lines above and filling the remainder of the page. Divisions of the commentary are indicated with small rubricated letters, a through z. Elsewhere, in passages where the meanings of the text require less commentary, the central columns grow to fill the whole length of the page. Contrarily, in passages requiring greater depth of exegesis (such as John 1), the biblical text can shrink to as few as two lines, but it never is allowed to disappear altogether.
The opening also reveals one of the great delights of this volume, the
illuminated initials containing author portraits. Here, the brightly colored
"L" of the word "Lucas" portrays the haloed evangelist Luke as he sharpens
his quill. Each of the other three evangelists and the apostle Paul are
featured in similar initials, and the first leaf bears an ornate floral
border with colorful bird motifs and two angels holding the gilded arms
of the original (unidentified) owner.
Literature: Bunte 1994, 11–21; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 118; Oxford
Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., 1997.
Literature: Bunte 1994, 11–21; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 118; Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., 1997.