Enarratio, the analysis and exposition of texts, was part of the discipline of grammar, itself one of the three major areas of study within the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic or dialectic). Medieval grammar encompassed reading practices from simple grammar as we know it today to sophisticated literary interpretation. Enarratio means literally to lift a linguistic unit – a letter, syllable, word, or a longer passage – out of the narrative of a text and to interpret it according to other received readings or one’s own ideas. Medieval England did not differ from the rest of Europe in the Middle Ages, which combined Greek and Classical with Christian ideas of literary interpretation, but the appearance of Lollardy in the late fourteenth century complicated the application of grammatical ideas in vernacular contexts (see “Lollary Trials,” p. 59, and “Censorship,” p. 242). Reginald Pecock (ca. 1390–ca. 1460), bishop of St. Asaph (1444–50) and Chichester (1450–8), authored six books on religious and literary matters. Consistently anti-Lollard, he became subject to accusations of heresy himself in 1447 and more seriously in 1457 because he suggested that reason could be a better basis for judgment on religious matters than scriptural or Church authority. Given the choice of being burned or recanting his claims, he publicly abjured his writings, which were themselves burned before a large crowd. He wrote the Repressor between 1449 and 1455, which (in typical scholastic style) presents Lollard arguments and then systematically returns to them in order to refute them with multiple arguments and examples.
The firste of these thre trowingis, holdingis,1 or opiniouns is this: That no governaunce is to be holde of Cristen men, the service or the lawe of God, save it which is groundid in Holi Scripture of the Newe Testament, as summe of the bifore seid men holden, or namelich save it which is groundid in the Newe Testament or in the Oold and is not bi the Newe Testament revokid, as summe othere of hem holden. In this trowing and holding thei ben so kete2 and so smert and so wantoun that whanne ever eny clerk affermeth to hem eny governaunce being contrarie to her witt or pleasaunce, though it ligge3 ful open and ful sureli in doom of resoun, and ther fore sureli in moral lawe of kinde, which is lawe of God forto be doon, yit thei anoon asken, “Where groundist thou it in the Newe Testament?” or “Where groundist thou it in Holi Scripture in such place which is not bi the Newe Testament revokid?” And if thei heere not where so in Holi Scripture it is witnessid, thei it dispisen and not receyven as a governaunce of Goddis service and of Goddis moral lawe . . . The secunde trowing or opinyoun is this: That what ever Cristen man or womman be meke in spirit and willi forto undirstonde treuli and dewli Holi Scripture, schal without fail and defaut fynde the trewe undirstonding of Holi Scripture in what ever place he or sche schal rede and studie though it be in the Apolcalips or oughwhere ellis, and the more meke he or sche be, the sooner he or sche schal come into the verry trewe and dew undirstonding of it, which in Holi Scripture he or sche redith and studieth . . . The third trowing or opinioun is this: Whanne evere a persoon hath founde the undirstonding of Holi Scripture into which he schal come bi the wey now bifore seid of the second opinioun, he or sche oughte bowe away her heering, her reeding, and her undirstonding fro al resonyng and fro al arguyng or provyng which eny clerk can or wole or mai make bi eny maner evydence of resoun or of Scripture, and namelich of resoun into the contrarie, though the mater be such that it passith not the boondis neither the capacite of resoun forto entermete4 therwith and forto juge and geve kunnyng ther upon . . . [Pecock says he will state thirteen “principal conclusiouns” against the first opinion.] [T]he firste is this: It longith not to Holi Scripture, neither it is his office into which God hath him ordeyned, neither it is his part forto grounde eny governaunce or deede or service of God, or eny lawe of God, or eny trouthe which mannis resoun bi nature may fynde, leerne, and knowe. [He then provides six arguments, a corollary, and proofs for this first conclusion, of which two arguments and a corollary follow.] The second principal argument into the first bifore sett and spoken conclusioun or trouthe is this: Thilk thing is the ground of a governaunce, or vertu, or trouthe, out of which al the sufficient leernyng and knowing of the same governaunce, trouthe, and vertu cometh, procedith, and growith, and may be had though al other thing pretendid to be ground ther of be awey or were not in being, but so it is that al the leernyng and knowing, which Holi Scripture geveth upon eny bifore seid governaunce, deede, or trouthe of Goddis moral lawe, mai be had bi doom of natural resoun.
Yhe, though Holi Writt had not spoke ther of or though he schulde nevere fro hens forthward speke ther of (as anoon aftir schal be proved) and over it al the forther kunnyng which Holi Writt geveth not upon eny seid governaunce or deede or treuthe of Goddis lawe and service and is necessarie to be had upon the same governaunce, trouthe, or vertu, mai be had bi labour in doom of natural resoun (as anoon aftir schal be proved). Wherfore, doom of natural resoun (which is clepid “moral lawe of kinde” in the book Of just apprising Holi Scripture)5 and not Holi Scripture is the ground of alle the seid governauncis, deedis, vertues, and trouthis . . . The third principal argument into the same firste and principal conclusioun is this: Bifore that eny positif lawe of God, that is to seie, eny voluntarie or wilful assignement of God, was goven to the Jewis fro the long tyme of Adamys comyng out of Paradis into the tyme of circumcisioun in the daies of Abraham, and into the positif lawe goven bi Moyses, the peple lyveden and serviden God, and weren bounde weelnigh bi alle tho moral vertues and moral governauncis and treuthis whiche bi doom of her natural resoun thei founden and leerneden and camen to, and so thei weren bounde weelnygh to alle moral governauncis and moral trouthis into whiche Cristen men ben bounden now in tyme of the Newe Testament. Aftirward, whanne tyme of Jewis came and the positif lawe of the cerymonyes, judicialis, and sacramentalis weren goven to the Jewis, the othere now bifore seid lawis of resoun weren not revokid, but thei contynueden into charge of the Jewis with the lawis of cerymonies, judicialis, and sacramentis so that the Jewis weren chargid with alle the lawis of resoun with whiche the peple fro Adam thidir to weren chargid and also over that with the positif lawis of God thanne goven. Forwhi, it is not rad that the lawis of resoun weren thanne revokid, and also needis alle men musten graunte that summe of hem abode charging the Jewis, and skile is ther noon whi summe of hem so abode and not alle; wherfore, it is to be holde that alle tho lawis of resoun with whiche the peple were chargid bifore the tyme of Jewis aboden, stille charging also the Jewis into the tyme of Cristis passioun . . . Of whiche first principal conclusioun thus proved folewith ferther this corelarie, that whanne evere and where evere in Holi Scripture or out of Holi Scripture be writen eny point or eny governaunce of the seide lawe of kinde, it is more verrili writen in the book of mannis soule than in the outward book of parchemyn or of velym, and if eny semyng discorde be bitwixe the wordis writen in the outward book of Holi Scripture and the doom of resoun, write in mannis soule and herte, the wordis so writen withoutforth oughten be expowned and be interpretid and brought forto accorde with the doom of resoun in thilk mater, and the doom of resoun oughte not forto be expowned, glosid, interpretid, and broughte for to accorde with the seid outward writing in Holi Scripture of the Bible or oughwhere ellis out of the Bible. Forwhi, whanne ever eny mater is tretid bi it which is his ground and bi it which is not his ground, it is more to truste to the treting which is mad ther of bi the ground than bi the treting ther of bi it which is not ther of the ground and, if thilke two tretingis oughten not discorde, it folewith that the treting doon bi it which is not the ground oughte to be mad for to accord with the treting which is maad bi the ground. And therfore this corelarie conclusioun muste nedis be trewe . . .
The secunde principal conclusioun and trouthe is this: Though it perteyne not to Holi Scripture forto grounde eny natural or moral governaunce or trouthe into whos fynding, leernyng, and knowing mannis reson may bi him silf and bi natural help come, as it is open now bifore bi proofis of the firste principal conclusioun, yit it mai perteyne weel ynough to Holi Scripture that he reherce suche now seid governauncis and treuthis, and that he witnesse hem as groundid sumwhere ellis in the lawe of kinde or doom of mannis resoun. And so he dooth (as to ech reder ther yn it mai be opene) that bi thilk rehercing and witnessyng so doon bi Holi Scripture to men, tho men schulden be bothe remembrid, stirid, provokid, and exortid forto the rather performe and fulfille tho same so rehercid and witnessid governancis and trouthis . . . The third principal conclusioun is this: The hool office and werk into which God ordeyned Holy Scripture is forto grounde articlis of feith and forto reherce and witnesse moral trouthis of lawe of kinde groundid in moral philsophie, that is to seie in doom of resoun, that the reders be remembrid, stirid, and exortid by so miche the better and the more and the sooner forto fulfille hem . . . The fourth principal conclusioun is this: It is not the office longing to moral lawe of kinde for to grounde eny article of feith groundid by Holi Scripture. For whi al that the now seid moral lawe of kinde or moral philsophie groundith is groundid bi doom of mannis resoun, and therfore is such a treuthe and a conclusioun that into his fynding, leernyng, and knowing mannis witt mai bi it silf aloone or bi natural helpis withoute revelacioun fro God rise and suffice. But so it is that noon article of feith mai be groundid in doom of resoun sufficientli, neither into his finding, leerning, and knowing mannis resoun bi it silf and bi natural help may rise and suffice withoute therto maad revelacioun or affirmyng fro God . . .
The fifth principal conclusioun is this: Though neither the seide moral lawe of kinde, neither outward bokis therof writen, mowe grounde eny trouthe or conclusioun of verry feith, yit tho outward bokis (as Cristene men hem maken) mowe weel ynow reherce and witnesse trouthis and conclusiouns of feith groundid bifore in Holi Scripture, and so thei doon. Forwhi, it is no more repugnant that bokis of moral philsophie reherce trouthis and conclusiouns propre to the grounding of Holy Scripture than that bokis of Holi Scripture reherce trouthis and conclusiouns propre to the grounding of moral philsophie, and that bokis of grammer reherce treuthis and conclusiouns propre to the grounding of Holi Scripture . . . The sixth principal conclusioun is this: The hool office and werk into which ben ordeyned the bokis of moral philsophie (writen and mad bi Cristen men in the maner now bifore spoken in the fifth conclusioun) is forto expresse outwardli bi writing of penne and ynke the treuthis and conclusiouns, whiche the inward book of lawe of kinde, biried in mannis soule and herte, groundith, and forto reherce summe treuthis and conclusiouns of feith longing to the grounding of Holi Scripture that the reders be the more and the oftir remembrid and stirid and exortid bi thilk rehercing into tho treuthis of feith so rehercid. Of whiche summe ben positif lawis, as ben oonli the treuthis aboute the newe sacramentis of Crist and aboute the usis of hem, and summe ben not lawis, as that thre persoones ben oon God, and that the second of hem was mad man, and that he died and roos fro deeth, and so forth . . .
The seventh principal conclusioun is this: The more deel and party of Goddis hool lawe to man in erthe, and that bi an huge gret quantite over the remanent parti of the same lawe, is groundid sufficiently out of Holi Scripture in the inward book of lawe of kinde and of moral philsophie, and not in the book of Holi Scripture clepid the Oold Testament and the Newe . . . The eighth principal conclusioun is this: No man mai leerne and kunne the hool lawe of God to which Cristen men ben bounde but if he can of moral philsophi, and the more that he can in moral philsophie, bi so miche the more he can of Goddis lawe and service . . . The ninth conclusioun is this: No man schal perfitli, sureli, and sufficienti undirstonde Holi Scripture in alle tho placis where yn he rehercith moral vertures not being positif lawe of feith, but being such as mannys resoun may fynde, leerne, and knowe but if he be bifore weel and perfitli, suerli, and sufficiently leerned in moral philsophie, and the more perfitli, sureli, and sufficientli he is leerned in moral philsophie the more able as bi that he schal be forto perfitli, sureli, and sufficientli undirstonde Holi Scripture in alle tho placis wheryn he spekith of eny moral lawe of God being not positif lawe of feith . . . The tenth principal conclusioun is this: The leernyng and kunnyng of the seid lawe of kinde and of the seid moral philsophie is so necessarie to Cristen men that it mai not [b]e lackid of hem if thei schulen thriftili serve to God and keepe his lawe bitake to hem in erthe . . . Out of thes bifore sett seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth conclusiouns and trouthis cometh forth ful openli and sureli this eleventh conclusioun and trouthe. Ful weel oughten alle persoones of the lay parti not miche leerned in moral philsophi and lawe of kinde forto make miche of clerkis weel leerned in moral philsophi, that tho clekis schulden helpe tho lay persoones forto aright undirstonde Holi Scripture in alle tho placis in which Holi Scripture rehercith the bifore spoken conclusiouns and treuthis of moral philsophi, that is to seie of lawe of kinde. Forwhi, withoute tho clerkis so leerned in moral philsophi and with oute her direccioun, the now seid lay persoones schulen not esili, lightli, and anoon have the dew undirstonding of Holi Scripture in the now seid placis, as is bifore proved in the ninth conclusioun. Also, out of the same bifore sett seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth conclusions and trouthis and out of the assay and experience which mai be had in the over reding and studiyng the bokis, anoon aftir to be rehercid folewith this twelfth conclusioun and trouthe. Ful weel oughten alle persoones of the lay parti not leerned oughwhere ellis bi the now seid clerkis or bi othere bokis of moral philsophie, forto make miche of bokis maad to hem in her modiris langage, whiche ben clepid thus: The donet into Cristen religioun, The folwer to the donet, The book of Cristen religioun (namelich the first parti fro the bigynnyng of the third treti forthward), The book filling the four tablis, The book of worschiping, the book clepid The just apprising of Holi Scripture, the book clepid The provoker of Cristen men, The book of Counceilis, and othere mo pertenyng to the now seid Book of Cristen religioun. Forwhi, in these now spoken bokis thei schulen leerne and kunne (in a ful notable quantite and mesure, and in a fair fourme) the now bifore seid moral philsophie, being so necessari forto be undirstonde and being in it silf the more parti of al her moral lawe and service to God, as it is open bi the seventh conclusioun, and being so necessarie forto expowne or interprete or glose dewli and treuly Holi Scripture in alle placis where he spekith of Goddis lawe and service, except thilk fewe placis where yn he spekith of the making and using of the fewe newe sacramentis of Crist, as it is open bi the ninth bifore sett conclusioun.
Wherfore, miche oughten lay persoones forto make and apprise and love the now spoken bokis. And ferthermore, over this now seid the now spoken bokis techen ful clereli and bihovefulli6 the treuthis and governauncis of Goddis lawe whiche ben groundid in Holi Scripture and also othere treuthis of feith whiche ben not lawis and ben groundid in Holi Scripture, and also thei treten ful nobili the positif lawis of Criste aboute the newe sacramentis, and therefore ful miche good (as y hope) schal come bi the reeding, leernyng, and using of the now spoken bokis . . . [13. To ask of laws and truths affirmed by “lawe of kinde and in moral philsophi” where they are grounded in scripture, is to be unreasonable. It is like asking for proofs of grammar in scripture or a truth about masonry in butchery. Having provided 13 “principal conclusiouns,” Pecock turns to other proofs, including the following.] If substanciali leerned clerkis in logik and in moral philsophie and in dyvynyte, and ripeli exercisid ther yn, weren not and schulden not be forto wiseli and dewli geve trewe undirstondingis and exposiciouns to textis of Holi Scripture, or ellis, though suche clerkis ben and the lay parti wolen not attende to the doctrine whiche tho clerkis mowe and wolen (bi proof of sufficient and open evydence) mynystre to the lay parti, but the lay parti wolen attende and truste to her owne wittis and wolen lene to textis of the Bible oonli, y dare weel seie so many dyverse opinions schulde rise in lay mennys wittis bi occasioun of textis in Holy Scripture aboute mennys moral conversacioun that al the world schulde be cumbrid therwith, and men schulden accorde to gidere in keping her service to God as doggis doon in a market whanne ech of hem terith otheris coot. For whi oon man wolde understonde a text in this maner and an other man wolde understonde it in an other dyvers maner, and the third man in the third maner; namelich, for that weelnigh in ech place where Holi Writ spekith of eny point of moral lawe of kinde, it is so spoken that it nedith forto have a redressing of it into accordaunce with lawe of kinde and with doom of reson, and than if no juge schulde be had forto deeme bitwixe hem so diversely holding, eende schulde ther nevere be of her strif into tyme that thei schulden falle into fighting and into werre and bateil, and thanne schulde al thrift and grace passe awey, and noon of her holdingis schulde in eny point be therbi strengthid or confermed . . .
[Pecock rebukes preachers who interpret for themselves rather than trusting to learned clerks, and he makes special mention of the Hussites in Bohemia and heresy in England. He exhorts England’s ruler (Henry VI) to “conquere and reforme” England rather than fight for land in France and Normandy, and he expresses his opinion that university degrees be only given to qualified people and that the people listen more to and pay more money to properly trained preachers. He acknowledges that the people are not at fault if they follow the council of a faulty preacher. He then moves on to his refutation of the second opinion.] That the second opinioun sett and spoken bifore in the firste chapiter of this present book is untrewe, y mai prove bothe bi experiencis and bi resoun. Bi experience thus: among hem that holden the seid second opinioun many ben whiche han undirstonde certein processis of Holi Scripture in oon certein maner of understonding whanne thei helden hem silf meeke and in good wil forto receyve and have the trewe and dew undirstonding therof, and yit aftirward, whanne thei were not more meke neither more willi to the same, thei han chaungid and varied fro the firste . . . undirstonding into an other maner of undirstonding the same processis, as y here of have had sufficient knowing. Wherfore, thei hem silf, whiche holden the seid second opinioun oughten, bi her owne experience takun upon her owne deedis, prove the same second opinioun to be untrewe . . . [He continues to reason that equal numbers of people can understand Holy Scripture in opposite ways and that, by both experience and reason, a bad clerk can arrive at a true meaning as much as a virtuous clerk. Finally, he argues that the second opinion is false also because, as reason and experience show, meek people may not gain a better understanding than any others. Pecock then turns to the third opinion.] The third opinioun put bifore in the first chapiter of this present book muste needis be untrewe, for he is agens Holi Scripture and also agens resoun.
[As proof, Pecock quotes and cites the Bible and his own work, The Folewer to the Donet.] Certis, withoute argument can no trouthe be knowe neither leerned in the intellect of man and that whether thilk trouthe be of lawe of kinde or of feith, except thilk treuthis in lawe of kinde which ben openest of alle othere treuthis and han noon opener treuthis than thei ben bi whiche thei mowe be proved, as y have openli scheweid in othere places of mi writingis. And therfore ful weel and ful treuli oughte arguyng and disputing be clepid light. That the third opinioun is also agens reson, y mai schewe thus: even as thilk opinioun or conclusioun of lawe of kinde is not worthi be holde trewe but if he mai be susteyned bi hise propre to him groundis and evidencis, withynne the boundis of lawe of kinde perteynyng to the grounding of suche conclusions and but if sufficient aunswere can be mad to al arguyng, which may ther agens be maad bi skilis in lawe of kinde, right so thilk feith or conclusiouns of bileeve is not worthi to be holde trewe but if he may be susteyned bi hise propre to him groundis and evidencis perteynyng to the grounding of feith and but if sufficient answere can be geve to al arguyng, which mai be mad ther agens. Goddis forbode that eny man schulde so trowe and feele that eny conclusioun of feith oughte be holde for trewe and for feith, and yit couthe be proved bi eny argument to be untrewe and fals, and that eny argument couthe be mad agens eny conclusioun of trewe feith, to which argument it couthe not cleerli at fulle be answerid. For whi ther is no treuthe knowun for a treuthe (whether it be a treuthe of lawe of kinde or of lawe of feith) but that, if he be knowe perfitli and fulli bi hise evydencis and groundis (as it mai bi good labour of arguyng be knowe), he schal be proved trewe agens alle agenseiers whiche evere thei ben, Cristen or hethen, and thei mowe bi strengthe of argument be constreyned in her reson for to consente therto, wole thei nile thei, if thei geve sufficient attendaunce to the arguyng, and also sufficient cleer at fulle answere mai be gevun to al arguyng mad agens the same conclusioun of feith . . . And, ferthermore, the more eny treuthe, whether he be of feith or of no feith, be brought in to examinacioun of arguyng, the more trewe and the more cleerli trewe he schal be seen and, if he be not trewe but seme trewe eer he come into triyng of argumentis, the lenger he abidith the examynacioun of arguyng, the more untrewe and the more cleerli untrewe he schal be seen . . . And therfore Goddis forbod that any Cristen man schulde thinke and trowe to be a trewe and a good governance forto kepe hise feithis and his othere opiniouns privey and lete hem not come into what ever examynacioun of argumentis whiche mowe be mad ther upon, namelich, whanne and where the holder of tho feithis and of hise othere opinions mai be sikir forto come and go and speke and argue and answere withoute eny bodili harme and with out eny losse of his ricches or of his fame . . .
Also that this third opinioun is agens resoun it is evydent herbi: he is lik to the lawe of Macomet and of Sarezenis in thilk point in which her lawe is moost unresonable. Forwhi, the lawe of Macomet biddith, undir greet peyne of horrible deeth suffring, that no man, aftir he hath receyved the feith of thilk lawe, dispute or argue with eny other man upon eny point, article, or conclusioun of thilk lawe and, bi this wrecchid and cursid maundement, the peple of thilk secte ben so miche lockid up undir boond that manie mo of hem myghten be convertid into trewe feith than yit ben if thilk so unresonable maundement of the same lawe ne were. And if any Cristen men wolen locke hem silf so up in her feithis and othere opiniouns of Cristis lawe fro arguyng and disputing ther upon with othere men, as y have knowe bi reporting of ful trewe persoones that thei so doon, certis ther in thei doon foul vilonie to Cristis lawe of feith and of lawe of kinde, making as though Cristis seid lawe were so feble chaffare7 and so countirfetid and so untrewe that it durst not save his worschip if he were thriftili examyned. And thei doon also ful periloseli to hem silf for to make hem so sikir in a feith eer it be sufficientli tried and proved forto be holde worthi a trewe feith or no. And therfore the thridde bifore sett opinioun in the first chapiter of this book is unresonable.