BIBLES, HISTORICAL (STORY-BIBLES): The usual term applied to a compilation of Holy Scripture which, confining itself chiefly to the historical portions, adapts them to educational purposes. This may be done either by a faithful repetition of the Biblical narratives or by thorough- going changes in the selection of the material, by the representation of facts, and by devotional application. In this article the term is confined to certain medieval works which, written in the language of the people and in popular style, constituted in their time the chief literary media for disseminating the knowledge of Bible history.
The Earliest Story-Bibles. It is an interesting fact that the historico-devotional mode of considering the Bible received attention only when the people themselves began their spiritual and religious emancipation. As soon as the vernacular was allowed to become the language of religious instruction, among the Anglo-Saxons and in Germany at the time of Charlemagne, literary phenomena appear which at least to a certain extent fall under the conception of Story-Bibles. It is said that the poetical productions of Caedmon (q.v.) in their original form treated the whole Bible history to the day of judgment; in the Krist of Otfrid of Weissenburg (q.v.) and in the Low Saxon Heliand (q.v.) not only was sacred history given in poetical form, but in picturesqueness and minuteness of details it appealed directly to the spirit of the people. Several other Story-Bibles in poetical form were subsequently composed, especially in Germany; among them the work of Rudolf of Ems (q.v.) seems to have become most popular. In the Biblical literature of Holland may be mentioned the "Riming Bible" of Jacob of Maerlant. Much older are the poetical compilations of Biblical history in the French language, especially that of Herman of Valenciennes and the popular Roman de S. Fanuel which piquantly interweaves evangelical history with apocryphal and miraculous stories. Compilations in prose were also written; it may be said, however, that the strictly literal method of translation made slow progress and fully asserted itself only at the time of the Reformation. It is strange that the history of the Old Testament was treated more frequently than that of the New Testament; probably, being the older and more unknown record, it was better adapted for a free compilation.
Their Character and Sources. The space devoted to Genesis was large in proportion to that given to the other books of the Old Testament. At times an attempt was made to insert in chronological order the few facts known of secular history. As to the sources, many legendary elements from older times may have been incorporated from popular tradition. But most of these works presuppose a written source. The material, so far as it can not be traced immediately to the Vulgate, may easily be found in the popular collection of glosses of Walafrid Strabo or in the historical works of Vincent of Beauvais, of Gottfrid of Viterbo, and others. Moreover, later Story-Bibles used earlier works of the same nature. Thus the Historia scholastica of Peter Comestor (q.v.) was the source of several German and French works. Similarly, poetical works became the sources of works in prose. A popular Story-Bible of Germany may be traced to the poetical production of Rudolf of Ems, and French literature possesses prose compilations of older riming Bibles; even in the Quatre Livres des rois of the twelfth century there are found occasional rimes or even larger passages in verse, all of which clearly show that the original form of the Biblical story in popular literature was poetic. It was only gradually that higher theological education found its way back to the Bible text in its proper form.
In Spain originated the Historia general, under the influence of King Alfonso the Wise (1252-84). He entrusted to certain scholars the task of writing a great collective work on the basis of the Historia scholastica of Peter Comestor, in which the whole history of the world should be represented in the framework of the Biblical stories with the addition of extensive portions from secular history.
There is a distinction between the French expressions bibles historiées and bibles historiales. Histoire in Old French means "picture," because to people of no education history in the form of pictures was most easily available. Hence bible historiée means "illustrated Bible" (see BIBLES, ILLUSTRATED), while bible historiale denotes "Story- Bible." Bibles historiales are, then, the works treated above. Of this sort was the translation of the Historia scholastica of Peter Comestor into the dialect of Picard by Guyard des Moulins, canon of Aire in Artois (1295), a work which, in connection with a literal translation of the Bible dating from the thirteenth century, formed for hundreds of years one of the most popular Story-Bibles (see BIBLE VERSIONS, B, VI, § 2).
It was reserved for the Reformation to place in the hands of Christian people the whole Bible according to the original texts, without glosses and additions, and thus with the beginning of that period the Story-Bible had fulfilled its mission.
Bibliography: M. Güdemann, Haggadah und Midrasch- Haggadah, Berlin, 1884; D. H. Müller and J. v. Schlosser, Die Haggadah von Sarajevo, Vienna, 1898; T. Merzdorf, Bibliothekarische Unterhaltungen, Oldenberg, 1850; E. Reuss, Die deutsche Historienbibel, Jena, 1855; idem, Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des N. T., §§ 463-464, Brunswick, 1887; Les Quatre Livres des rois, ed. Le R. de Lincy, Paris, 1841; E. Reuss, in Revue de théologie et philosophie, xvi (1857), 1 sqq.; H. Palm, Eine mittelhochdeutsche Historienbibel, Breslau, 1867; J. Bonnard, Les Traductions de la Bible en vers français, Paris, 1884; Le Roman de S. Fanuel, ed. C. Chabaneau, ib. 1889; L. Delisle, Livres d’images destinés à l'instruction religieuse des laïques, Paris, 1890, S. Berger, Les Bibles Castillanes, in Romania, xxviii, 1899.