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The Central Franconian Rhyming Bible ("Mittelfränkische Reimbibel")

An Early-Twelfth-Century German Verse Homiliary. A Thematic and Exegetical Commentary. With the Text and a Translation into English

David A. Wells

The so-called Central Franconian Rhyming Bible (“Mittelfränkische Reimbibel”), although surviving in only a fragmentary condition, is one of the most thematically wide-ranging works of the neglected corpus of Early Middle High German religious poems of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In its original form the work may have incorporated Christian world-history from the Creation to the Last Judgement. The surviving fragments point to a substantial engagement by a poet from a northwestern dialectal region on the border of High German, Low German, and Middle Dutch with material from the early Old Testament, the Gospels, and the apocryphal and hagiographical legends relating to early Church history. The commentary is the first comprehensive treatment of the theological and literary subject-matter of the work since that of Hugo Busch in 1879/80, and complements the recent linguistic studies of Thomas Klein. The study of sources and analogues conclusively demonstrates that the text – probably of early-twelfth-century date – is a series of homilies, often closely related to German pre-mendicant sermons, and an important witness to the possible existence of a vernacular sermon tradition at an earlier date than existing manuscript evidence suggests. It also includes features of central importance for knowledge of the text tradition of seminal Christian apocrypha. The substantial introduction and conclusion include a comparison with the Old English homiletic corpus of Ælfric of Eynsham. The commentary is also accompanied by the Middle High German text from Friedrich Maurer’s standard edition, and a straightforward prose translation into English intended to make the neglected work accessible to medievalists of different disciplines.