Lesley Smith (University of Oxford)
In that period exegetes such as Hugh of Saint Victor emphasized the importance of the Decalogue as a list of moral principles. A century later the Ten Commandments permeated scholastic learning as well as catechetical teaching. They became a useful instrument for the examination of conscience in preparation for the mandatory annual confession introduced by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). By the second half of the 15th century, the Commandments were omnipresent in religious culture. Their diverse textual and visual manifestations were found in a variety of media, from manuscripts and printed books, to wall paintings and wooden panels. The prominence of the Decalogue continued amongst the Protestants, albeit with a different emphasis than in Catholic teaching.
- The relationship (or lack of it) between scholastic and vernacular writings on the Ten Commandments. Recent research has shown that some vernacular writings on the Ten Commandments contain elaborate theological content. Which themes found their way from academic to vernacular theology? Were there independent developments within the vernacular writings on the Decalogue? In which milieus were the ‘learned’ vernacular treatises written and what was their audience?
- The Ten Commandments in various textual genres. The typological diversity of writings on the Decalogue is astonishing. These Old Testament tenets were explored in scholastic summae, catechetical mirrorsand sermons, put into simple rhymes, combined with images and even interwoven into stage plays. How did different genres treat the Commandments? Was there any genre-specific emphasis on certain aspects of the exegesis of the Decalogue?
- The Ten Commandments in visual arts. The act of breaking or obeying the precepts was depicted in diverse media. Did the iconography and/or function of the Ten Commandments scenes change depending on the medium? Did the Reformation and Counter-Reformation affect the iconography of the Decalogue-scenes?
- The Decalogue in medieval and early modern popular culture. The Ten Commandments, like other tenets, penetrated popular (religious) culture. How did the abundantly preserved Decalogue rhymes, some of which could in fact be sung, and cheap prints containing a combination of text and image function? Who used them?
- The Ten Commandments in early modern theology. The Decalogue played a vital role in Protestant theology. Did the reformers postulate any major shifts in the interpretation of the Old Testament precepts? If so, did it cause any reaction by the catholic theologians?