The Ten Commandments

Interpreting the Bible in the Medieval World


What did the ten commandments have to teach? Using the commentaries of a group of scholars from c. 1150-1350, such as Peter Lombard, Robert Grosseteste, and Bonaventure, along with confessors’ manuals, mystery plays and sermon material, this book investigates the place of the Decalogue in medieval thought. Beginning with the overarching themes of law and number, it moves to consider what sort of God is revealed in the commandments of the first stone tablet, and uncovers the structure that lay behind the precepts dealing with one’s neighbour. Interpreting the commandments allows us to look at issues of method and individuality in the medieval schools, and ask whether answers intended for the classroom could make an impression on the wider world.

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Lesley Smith, D.Phil. (Oxon.) is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford University. Her publications for Brill include The 'Glossa Ordinaria': The Making of a Medieval Bible Commentary (2009) and (with P.D.W. Krey) Nicholas of Lyra: The Senses of Scripture (2000).


Abbreviations for Commonly Cited Commandments Texts

The Commandments


1. Law

2. Number

3. God

4. Neighbour

5. The Hand and the Mind: Action and Intention in Keeping the Law

6. Word and Truth

7. Conformity and Diversity

Last Words


All interested in the history of the Bible and its interpretation; in the Ten Commandments; in medieval universities and religious life; in Jewish-Christian relations. Written to be accessible to non-specialists.
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