The Material Gospel Conference assembled leading scholars of Gospel literature and material texts to discuss the history and significance of the material Gospel in the first five centuries CE.
Early Christians materialized Gospel literature in diverse formats and technologies. As material objects, these instantiations of “the Gospel” participated in ritual, political, economic, and readerly contexts. Gospel books were powerful. Augustine of Hippo complains that his audiences put Gospel books under their pillows to cure toothache. Amulets attest that even short excerpts enabled users to access the protective power of the material Gospel. The Gospel codex sometimes represented Christian identity, as Gospel books were processed in liturgy and imposed on the shoulders of ordinands. In times of persecution, Gospel books might even be subject to public execution in place of Christ himself. Yet Gospel books might also be erased or destroyed for apparently more mundane reasons, as various kinds of recycling attest. As an anthological object, the multiple-Gospel codex contributed to the development of a fourfold canonical Gospel. Early Christian readers developed novel strategies to facilitate knowledge, navigation, and use of Gospel literature. In each of these contexts, the materiality of Gospel literature plays a decisive role.
A brief summary of the conference papers is available on the Notre Dame Medieval Institute blog.
The conference was organized by Jeremiah Coogan and David Lincicum. It was made possible by the generous support of the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Department of Theology, and the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame.