Misbehaving God: The Case Of The Christ Child In Ms Laud Misc. 108 “Infancy Of Jesus Christ”

  • Julie Nelson Couch
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


For pat he in ontyme wrou3hte; Ore lawes he al to rent.

“Infancy of jesus Christ”

When the Jews accuse the child Jesus of making clay birds on the Sabbath, they complain that he “wrought” them at the wrong time and thereby broke the law. Their grievance nicely captures what the child Jesus does make and break throughout the early Middle English poem (ca. 1300) the “Infancy of jesus Christ” (hereafter “Infancy”).1 In this lively narrative, the child Jesus wreaks havoc in an “untime,” a time outside orthodox, biblical history, a time when the omnipotent power of God is given free rein to break laws of morality and nature. In this poem, that time-off-the-record is equated with the time of childhood. “Infancy” appropriates a particular literary trope of childhood—one that inscribes a marginal, undefined space not limited by a character’s social or historical identity—to experiment narratorially with the nature of God’s power


Parental Authority Parental Guidance Literary Discourse Medieval Literature Literary Trope 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Carl Horstmann, ed., Altenglische Legenden (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1875), pp. 1–61.Google Scholar
  2. James H. Morey, Book and Verse: A Guide to Middle English Biblical Literature, Illinois Medieval Studies (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000), pp. 203–205.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Oscar Cullmann, “‘Infancy’ Gospels,” in New Testament Apocrypha, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), pp. 418–419 [414–69].Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Maureen Barry McCann Boulton, ed., The Old French “Évangile de l’Enfance”, Studies and Texts 70 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1984).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Manfred Görlach, The Textual Tradition of the South English Legendary, Leeds Texts and Monographs, n.s., 6 (Ilkley, Yorkshire, UK: Scolar Press, 1974), pp. 88–90.Google Scholar
  6. Thomas R. Liszka, “MS Laud. Misc. 108 and the Early History of the South English Legendary,” Manuscripta 33 (1989): 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Francis Oakley, “The Absolute and Ordained Power of God in Sixteenth-and Seventeenth-Century Theology,” Journal of the History of Ideas 59.3 (1998): 437–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. William J. Courtenay, “The Dialectic of Divine Omnipotence in The Age of Chaucer: A Reconsideration,” in Nominalism and Literary Discourse: New Perspectives, ed. Hugo Keiper, Christoph Bode and Richard J. Utz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), pp. 111–21, especially pp. 115–119.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Kathleen M. Ashley, “Divine Power in Chester Cycle and Late Medieval Thought,” Journal of the History of Ideas 39.3 (1978): 387–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Richard J. Utz, “Negotiating the Paradigm: Literary Nominalism and the Theory of Rereading Late Medieval Texts,” in Literary Nominalism and the Theory of Rereading Late Medieval Texts: A New Research Paradigm, ed. Richard J. Utz (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Meilen Press, 1995), pp. 14–15, 24–25 [1–30].Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Barbara Hanawalt, “Narratives of a Nurturing Culture: Parents and Neighbors in Medieval England,” in “Of Good and Ill Repute”: Gender and Social Control in Medieval England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 158–77.Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Carl Horstmann, ed. “Nachtrage zu Den Legenden: Kindheit Jesu,” Archiv fuer das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Litteraturen 74 (1885): 327.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    O. S. Pickering, “The South English Legendary: Teaching or Preaching?” Poetica 45 (1996): 1–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bonnie Wheeler 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Nelson Couch

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations