Cur scriptor theotisce dictaverit : the educational purpose of Otfrid's Evangelienbuch
The Evangelienbuch by Otfrid von Weissenburg presents a number of problems for modern scholarship. The present study aims to draw together the results of major studies on the work, particularly from the last twenty years, and explain why there is still no consensus as to its nature, aims and literary status. This study addresses itself to these basic questions. Otfrid's theoretical statements are examined. along with the literary, religious and historical background to monastic writing in the ninth century. It is clear that religious and pedagogical motivations lie behind the work, and that the Latin commentaries influence the author much more than either Latin or vernacular literary works, even in matters of structure and presentation. The content of the Evangelienbuch is largely defined by the biblical gospels, but there are differences in the weighting and ordering of material. Thus many of the images Otfrid emphasizes are chosen to illuminate aspects of the teaching and learning process. The contrast between the numbers four and five serves to explain both literary and religious ideas involving evenness. balance and perfection and their opposites. Finally, it is noted that the fifth book of the Evangelienbuch departs from the narrative structures of the biblical gospels. Otfrid's lengthy treatment of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ leads, in Book V, to a chronologically correct depiction of his afterlife in heaven which does not correspond to the biblical arrangement of material. This gives the Evangelienbuch as a whole a nonbiblical "shape" with emphasis towards Christ's role in past. present and future time. Thus the language, style, structure and content of the Evangelienbuch aim to make the message of the gospels more accessible and relevant to the experience of ninth century readers and listeners. These are likely to have been very young, and therefore unable to tackle complex Latin commentaries, and yet also destined for the priesthood, or for a monastic career, and therefore expected to learn the basic principles of Christian theology, exegesis and moral behaviour. The possibility of subsequent use of the Evangelienbuch outside the schoolroom, in other parts of the monasteries or even in the world outside cannot be ruled out, but the work is designed for use as a school textbook.