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Converting Sacred Writings

 Rabbula gospels, fol. 9v.
Wednesday, May 31, 2023, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Early Christians did a lot of things to their scriptures – that is, their sacred, special, and authoritative writings. They read them. They copied them. They translated them. They protected them during persecutions. Artists visualized figures and scenes, scholars studied them, preachers delivered homilies on them, and poets wrote verses about them. These many activities were performed at, sometimes, considerable expense and effort. They were often highly visible. And they implicated Christians of all sorts, whether elite or ordinary. How might we see all these activities as a whole, and not as diffuse, distinct, disconnected? My talk will argue for a synthetic framework. Most, if not all, these activities participated in a common project of converting their sacred writings from a dormant state into an upgraded condition. This project was patterned – there were five distinct ways in which scriptures were converted. This project was located – it took place in, or in close proximity to, the liturgy. And this project had a point: to stage God in the world.

Image: Rabbula gospels, fol. 9v.