PhD Student

Philipp N. Spahn
Philipp N. Spahn
Doctoral Student
Phone: +49 (69) 789 78 - 0
Fax: +49 (69) 789 78 - 169

PhD Project | Department II

The Bible as a Source of Law

Analysis of the Controversy Literature of the Investiture Contest

The significance of the Bible for European legal culture is frequently claimed in legal historical studies, though such statements are usually point to the deficit in research on this topic. Linked to this, the object of this doctoral thesis is the reception of biblical texts in the controversy literature of the so-called "investiture contest", because the development of a European legal culture owes decisive impulses to this controversy, which is viewed in the research as belonging to the Renaissance of the twelfth century. The controversy literature – including tracts, mostly letters, (theological) discourses and debate poems – is the literary product of the dispute between secular and spiritual power. Therefore, the writings testify to the intellectual and normative capability of the occidental culture of debate in the wake of these disputes and are highly suitable as objects of research. The developments outlined comprise the timescale from the second half of the eleventh century up to the Decretum Gratiani (around 1140), which also defines the investigation period of this study.

 A special characteristic of the controversy literature is the use of authoritative texts in argumentation, where the Bible is assigned a central role due to its role as the source of divine law and its status as the most important contemporary authority. No other text in European history received such a broad reception in the Middle Ages compared to the Bible, which ranges from all literary genres and encompassed the intellectual life almost entirely. Notwithstanding, the examination of biblical authorities in the controversy literature is under-researched. In reference to the central controversial question of the investiture controversy, according to the relationship between secular and spiritual power, the project looks at the work focusing on the text of the Bible by the writers of the controversy literature of both parties. As such, my thesis is less a quantitative analysis of received biblical texts than it is an examination of the biblical topoi the contest that revolves around it. In this context, the canonicity of scripture, meaning the question of the authority of individual biblical books whose affiliation with the biblical canon is challenged, must not be disregarded. Likewise, the possibility of a hierarchical structure of different biblical books originating from the Old and New Testament cannot be left out of consideration. It is assumed that in the biblical texts utilised, competing reflections and interpretations of these texts can be reproduced, through which the readings of the ius divinum was fulfilled. Consequently, the importance of the conflict for the development of law shall be illustrated. On the other hand, it has to be questioned how competing interpretation of the bible made an impact on the increasingly professional work with texts as an early scholastic change in paradigms.

The research over the last few decades examined the profound cultural changes since the middle of the eleventh century in a number of facets. However, the relevance of controversy literature for the emergence of Canon law as a partial aspect of this development has almost gone completely unnoticed in favour of the pre-Gratian canonical collections. Against this background, this study assumes the importance of biblical ideas in the conflict between secular and spiritual power but also about the beginnings of Canon law.

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