Signs and Meanings

BookSigns and Meanings

Signs and Meanings

World and Text in Ancient Christianity


July 1st, 1996




This book is based on the author’s Forwood Lectures for 1995 in the University of Liverpool. The first two chapters incorporate the full text of these and study early Christian conceptions of signs and signification, and investigate the ways in which Christian authors, especially Augustine of Hippo and Gregory the Great, made use of theories of meaning in their ways of interpreting scriptures. Their interest in the notions of communities based on shared traditions of reading, understanding and interpretation is given special attention. Markus also considers the question of the ways in which different approaches to the Bible have had more far-reaching implications for their authors’ world-views: to what extent biblical hermeneutics helped to shape their hermeneutics of experience. Their differing ways of approaching the Bible is related to the huge change in Christian self-understanding between Augustine (c. AD 400) and Gregory the Great (c. 600): ascetic habits of reading come to shape a general response to the world as well as to the biblical text. The lecture texts are complemented by further chapters devoted specifically to the theory of signs and meaning, and to some of its applications in special contexts, such as magic and ritual.