The Physical Canon Its Formation and Depiction in Late Roman and Medieval Christianity

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Gary Daught
David Kiger


The physical Bible as we know it is a library of books gathered together within a single cover binding. The creation of the single-volume Bible, utilizing the codex book form, dates from the first half of the fourth century, and at its inception was a powerful technological innovation. Committing a fixed form within a binding, the single-volume Bible uniquely declared the unity of the Scriptures and the books authorized for inclusion. However, enormous production costs meant that single-volume Bibles were rare. Considering this rarity, Bibles must have come together in other recognized physical forms. Given the dearth of direct physical evidence, we infer their existence by looking at Greco-Roman book containers and furnishings, descriptive and metaphorical allusions in theological writings, the parallel development of the Torah Ark/Shrine in Jewish synagogues, and pictorial depictions in church mosaics and Bible manuscript paintings.

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