Gospel as Recipe Book: Nonlinear Reading and Practical Texts in Late Antiquity
In this article, I investigate how Christians and others in late antiquity encountered “the gospel” as a material text. I begin with late ancient practical texts, including ritual formularies, medical handbooks, agricultural guides, and astronomical tables. Users employed portions of these texts in a range of situations, whether by reading aloud or by following the instructions of the text to perform a ritual, prepare a medicine, or cast a horoscope. In order to facilitate use, practical texts were constructed to invite nonlinear access. In this article, I argue that late ancient gospel codices reflect similar strategies of organization and modes of use. Through varied systems of segmentation and reference, the affordances of nonlinear access were integrated into gospel manuscripts. The materiality and textuality of late ancient gospel codices intersect with that of practical texts, providing scripts for performance and inviting nonlinear access. Attending to these varied technologies of access – and to the diverse performative contexts that they underwrite – reveals patterns of knowledge and practice that illuminate “the gospel” as a material text in late antiquity.
Gospels, Material Texts, late antiquity, practical texts, textual navigation, book history, codex, textual segmentation, finding aids, history of reading