Bynum Chapter 4: Matter and Miracles [T 11 Nov]

Bynum concludes this chapter with the following statement:

The Christianity of the later Middle ages was. . .a matter of matter. It entailed both a radical awareness of the corruption and transience of all that is not God and a radical conviction that God, immanent and immediate in the stuff of the world, might for a moment lift that stuff to exactly the eternity and transcendence it could by definition never be. (265)

Explain Bynum’s claim here (in a sentence or two) and then offer a response grounded in what you encountered in the rest of the chapter and/or in readings (literary or theoretical) we’ve encountered this semester.

2 thoughts on “Bynum Chapter 4: Matter and Miracles [T 11 Nov]

  1. Bynum is claiming that humans in the middle ages viewed all matter that was not God as morally depraved, impermanent and flawed in ways that they could not justify. They also believed that these objects are able to be transformed and re-translated as “divine” (if only for a moment) when God, an actant which exists WITHIN each object, acts on the object. Bynum states on page 231 that “medieval theorists of miracle did talk about the transformation of matter as lying as its heart.” I understand the idea that objects and matter are transformative because of the idea that an object’s relation to another object has the ability to distort the objects because that is a main principle of object oriented ontology and has been mentioned in many of the texts we have read. In this way I could see how medieval theorists could have believed that divine or spiritual objects manipulate other non-divine objects through their relation to them. I think that Bynum summarizes this theory in a more understandable way when she is explains Tignosi’s definition of change and comments that “Matter is clearly understood here not only as stuff…but also as dynamic stuff…matter is all the stuff of creation, forever in motion…” the part of this definition that does not make sense to me is the second part “forever in motion exactly because imperfect, in contrast to the perfection of God.” I do not understand how the people of the middle ages were able to justify the errors in logic that the concept of miracles and Godly transformation of objects brings up in their assumptions about matter. I agree with Bynum when she states that this type of thinking “had to limit and control the lability and corruptibility” in their discussions and understanding about matter.

  2. There is one argument in the chapter sets up the concepts of miracles. It’s explained using the changing of staffs in serpents in the confontation between Aaron and the Pharroh’s priests that what God did was a miracle in that the marvlous is only temporary, while God’s miracles are pereminent. But it the moved more to the Franciscan view in that miracles of God were not just in the things that were unchanging, but as well in the natural and ever changing as well.

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