Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

In Which Inscripturation (and Interpretation) Helps the Little People (Part 2)

If you read part 1 and thought to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute–that’s sheds some light on the use of the Bible, too!”, you’re in good company. Finley thought so as well.

An archaic law code would have been rather analogous to the Latin Bible, a venerated document but a closed book. The long resistance of the Church to vernacular translations of teh Bible, in the west at least, is therefore a pointer to the realities of ancient literacy. When fundamental documents are accessible only to an elite for study and reflection, the rest of the society is heavily subject to their interpretation–of the law, of the will of the gods, of what is right and wrong, of the rules of behaviour, including political behaviour. That was the situation in antiquity, and, in my view, it strengthened acceptance of the elite and of its claim to dominate. (Politics in the Ancient World, p. 31)

And if elite interpretation can be turned into “tradition,” so much the better for someone (or some institution) with a libido dominandi:

And the more the interpretation, the rules and the values could be sanctified by nomos and mos maiorum the better. (ibid.)

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.