The Introduction offers an overview of recent scholarship on medieval prophecy and provides the book’s interpretative framework. The book differs from much previous scholarship by examining how prophecy had a multiplicity of meanings besides prediction in the Middle Ages and by showing the significance of debates over those meanings. The chapter then explains the chronological parameters of the book, beginning in the twelfth century when prophecy became a subject of controversy and ending in the early fourteenth century when humanist intellectuals and poets began challenging the authority of scholastic theologians. The chapter ends by surveying the conceptual background to the book’s subject matter: the classical idea of the vates (poet-prophet) and patristic (particularly Augustinian) theories of prophecy and inspired vision. It shows how these concepts were combined with a functional-institutional model of prophecy derived from St Paul and left a tangled legacy that twelfth-century thinkers needed to resolve.
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