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Psalm 52 with the Temptation of Christ, in a Psalter

Psalm 52 with the Temptation of Christ, in a Psalter

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1210

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 157

Item number: f.52r

Length: 29.1

Width: 19

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Used as a prayerbook as well as a book of hymns for church services, the psalter in the later middle ages was often produced with a calendar and additional prayers. Eventually it was combined with an abridged version of the breviary, the prayerbook used by monks, to form the special lay prayerbook, the book of hours. This psalter represents an important stage in this development as it took place in England. It is one of the earliest psalters to include the Hours of the Virgin, a special set of devotions taken from the breviary. Also it is the earliest of a line of richly decorated psalters which were probably made at Oxford, in the workshops by lay scribes and artists, an industry which grew out of book production for the university. The Book of Psalms belongs to the Old Testament and does not mention Jesus. During the middle ages, however, Christian theologians understood the psalms as prophecy of Christ and tried to demonstrate their unity with the Gospels by linking their themes and individual verses with Christian themes, especially the life of Jesus. In this psalter, Psalm 52 is given a historiated initial showing the first Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4). Sitting on a pile of stones in the desert, Jesus responds to the devil's challenge to turn stones into bread by citing Deuteronymy, indicated by the scroll he displays.

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