Medieval European Literature

Gospels and Forming Christian Doctrine

The Bible laid the foundation of the spiritual and cultural life of medieval Europe. The doctrine of the Catholic Church was formed on the basis of the Gospels. The Gospels recount about the birth and life of Jesus, his death and miraculous resurrection, as well as include sermons, teachings and parables of Christ. The Gospels were written decades after the end of the earthly life of Jesus Christ and do not contain the Christian doctrine in the form to which we are accustomed. The Church doctrine was developed in the 2nd-5th centuries by Christian scholars, which were later called the Church Fathers.

In the early 3th century, out of many Gospels written by the time, the Church recognized the four canonical Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The rest Gospels were declared apocryphal. In 4th century, there was created the “Acts of Pilate” (“Acta Pilati”).

The work was composed as a supposed report of the procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate to Emperor Tiberius. It concerns the process of condemnation of Jesus Christ, an account of his crucifixion, as well as miracles after the death of Jesus. According to legend, the original Hebrew text was written by Nicodemus, a secret disciple of Christ, so the text is also called the Gospel of Nicodemus. This apocryphal story had a profound influence on the Church's teaching on Christ's death, his descent into hell and resurrection. In 13th century, these events in the version of the Gospel of Nicodemus were retold in «The Romance of the Grail» by Robert de Boron and in a collection of lives of the saints «The Golden Legend» by Jacobus de Varagine. The National Library of Russia stores a copy of the Gospel of Nicodemus, produced in France during the 14th century.

The doctrine of Western Christianity was fully formed in the works of the four Fathers of the Church – Sts. Ambrose (340-397), Augustine (354-430), Jerome (342-419/420) and Pope Gregory I the Great (540-604).

Saint Jerome. Commentary on the “Book of Numbers”
At the early 5th century, Saint Jerome completed his major work – the translation of the Bible into Latin. Jerome translated the books of the Old Testament from the Hebrew language and the New Testament from Greek. The Western Church has received the best-known Latin version of the Bible. After a millennium, in 1546, the Council of Trent declared it the official translation of the Catholic Church, with the name the Vulgate (in Latin the Biblia Vulgata is "Common Bible"). Since the 7th century, almost all the books of the Bible in Europe have reproduce Jerome's translation. St. Jerome did not confined himself to translating the Bible. Like other Church Fathers, he wrote comments on the books of the St. Scripture, which contributed to the development of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Ms. Lat.Q.v.I.187
Pseudo Pilatus, Pontius
Epistola ad Tiberium de passione et resurrectione domini.

Pseudo Pontius Pilate. Epistle to Tiberius, on the passion and the resurrection of the Lord.
14th cent. France.
Parchment. In Latin.
From the Collection of P. Dubrovsky.
Hieronymus Stridonensis. Epistula 78 seu liber exegeticus ad Fabiolam (Num. 33-49).
Saint Jerome. Commentary on the biblical “Book of Numbers”, (No. 33-49).
4th cent. Italy.
Parchment. In Latin.
From the Collection of P. Dubrovsky.