|Saint Bede the Venerable|
|Doctor of the Church|
|Born||ca. 673, near Sunderland|
|Died||26 May 735, Jarrow, Northumbria|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church|
|Canonized||1899 recognised as Doctor of the Church, Rome by Pope Leo XIII|
|Major shrine||Durham Cathedral.|
27 May (General Roman Calendar, 1899-1969)
|Patronage||English writers and historians; Jarrow|
Bede (pronounced /ˈbiːd/; Old English: Bǣda or Bēda; 672 / 673 – May 26, 735), also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede (Latin: Beda Venerabilis), was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, England, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow (see Wearmouth-Jarrow), both in the Kingdom of Northumbria.
He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The Father of English History". In 1899, Bede was made a Doctor of the Church by Leo XIII, a position of theological significance; he is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation (Anselm of Canterbury, also a Doctor of the Church, was originally from Italy).
Almost everything that is known of Bede's life is contained in the last chapter of his Historia Ecclesiastica, a history of the church in England. It was completed in about 731, and Bede implies that he was then in his fifty-ninth year, which would give a likely birth date of about 672–673. A minor source of information is the letter by his disciple Cuthbert which relates Bede's death. Cuthbert is probably the same person as the later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow, but this is not entirely certain. Bede, in the Historia, gives his birthplace as "on the lands of this monastery". He is referring to the twinned monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, near modern-day Sunderland and Newcastle, respectively; both have been claimed as his birthplace, and there is also a tradition that he was born at Monkton, parish Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, two miles from the monastery at Jarrow. Bede says nothing of his origins, but his connections with men of noble ancestry suggest that his own family was well-to-do. Bede's first abbot was Benedict Biscop, and the names "Biscop" and "Beda" both appear in a king list of the kings of Lindsey from around 800, further suggesting that Bede came from a noble family. His name is uncommon, only occurring twice in the Liber Vitae of Durham Cathedral, one of which is assumed to be the writer. There is also a Bieda who is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 501, but these are the only mentions in manuscripts of the name. The name probably derives from the Old English bēd, or prayer, and if it was the name given Bede at birth, probably meant that his family had planned on his entering the clergy from birth.
At the age of seven, he was sent to the monastery of Wearmouth by his family to be educated by Benedict Biscop and later by Ceolfrith. Bede does not say whether it was already intended at that point that he would be a monk. It was fairly common in Ireland at this time for young boys, particularly those of noble birth, to be fostered out; the practice was also likely to have been common among the Germanic peoples in England. Wearmouth's sister monastery at Jarrow was founded by Ceolfrith in 682, and Bede probably transferred to Jarrow with Ceolfrith that year. Four years later, in 686, plague broke out at Jarrow. The Life of Ceolfrith, written in about 710, records that only two surviving monks were capable of singing "with antiphons"; one was Ceolfrith, and the other a young boy of 14, thought by most historians to have been Bede.
When Bede was about 17 years old, Adomnan, the abbot of Iona Abbey, visited Wearmouth and Jarrow. Bede would probably have met the abbot during this visit, and it may be that Adomnan sparked Bede's interest in the Easter dating controversy. In about 692, in Bede's nineteenth year, Bede was ordained a deacon by his diocesan bishop, John, who was bishop of Hexham. The canonical age for the ordination of a deacon was 25; Bede's early ordination may mean that his abilities were considered exceptional, but it is also possible that the minimum age requirement was often disregarded. There might have been minor orders ranking below a deacon; but there is no record of whether Bede held any of these offices.[notes 1] In Bede's thirtieth year (about 702) Bede became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John.
In about 701 Bede wrote his first works, the De Arte Metrica and De Schematibus et Tropis; both were intended for use in the classroom. He continued to write for the rest of his life, eventually completing over 60 books, most of which have survived. Not all of his output can be easily dated, and Bede may have worked on some texts over a period of many years. His last surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734. A 6th-century manuscript of Acts that is believed to have been used by Bede is still extant. Bede may also have worked on one of the Latin bibles that were copied at Jarrow, one of which is now held by the Laurentian Library. Bede was a teacher as well as a writer; he enjoyed music, and was said to be accomplished as a singer and as a reciter of poetry in the vernacular.
In 708, a number of monks at Hexham accused Bede of heresy, because his work De Temporibus offered a different chronology of the Six Ages of the world theory from the one commonly accepted by theologians. The accusation occurred in front of the bishop of Hexham of the time, Wilfrid, who was present at a feast when some drunken monks made the accusation. Wilfrid did not respond to the accusation, but a monk present relayed the episode to Bede, who replied within a few days to the monk, writing a letter setting forth his defence and asking that the letter be read to Wilfrid also.[notes 2] Bede had another brush with Wilfrid, for the historian himself says that he met Wilfrid, sometime between 706 and 709, and discussed Æthelthryth, the abbess of Ely. Wilfrid had been present at the exhumation of her body in 695, and Bede questioned the bishop about the exact circumstances of the body and asked for more details of her life, as Wilfrid had been her advisor.
In 733, Bede travelled to York, to visit Ecgbert, who was then bishop of York. The see of York was elevated to an archbishopric in 735, and it is likely that Bede and Ecgbert discussed the proposal for the elevation during his visit. Bede also travelled to the monastery of Lindisfarne, and at some point visited the otherwise unknown monastery of a monk named Wicthed, a visit that is mentioned in a letter to that monk. Because of his widespread correspondence with others throughout the British Isles, and due to the fact that many of the letters imply that Bede had met his correspondents, it is likely that Bede travelled to some other places, although nothing further about timing or locations can be guessed. Bede hoped to visit Ecgbert again in 734, but was too ill to make the journey. He died on 26 May 735 and was buried at Jarrow. Cuthbert's letter is mainly concerned with relating the last days of Bede, and mainly has interest for two things, one that Bede was still struggling to complete works right before his death, and two, the relating of a poem that Bede composed on his deathbed. Bede's remains may have been transferred to Durham Cathedral in the 11th century; his tomb there was looted in 1541, but the contents were probably reinterred in the Galilee chapel at the cathedral.
One further oddity in his writings is that in one of his works, the Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, he writes in a manner that gives the impression he was married. The section in question is the only one in that work that is written in first-person view, where Bede says: "Prayers are hindered by the conjugal duty because as often as I perform what is due to my wife I am not able to pray." Another passage, in the Commentary on Luke, also mentions a wife in the first person, where Bede writes "Formerly I possessed a wife in the lustful passion of desire and now I possess her in honourable sanctification and true love of Christ." The historian Benedicta Ward argues that these passages are Bede employing a rhetorical device, but another historian, N. J. Higham, offers no explanation for the passages.
His works show that he commanded all the learning of his time. It is believed that his library at Wearmouth-Jarrow had between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest in England. It is clear that Biscop made strenuous efforts to collect books during his extensive travels.
Bede wrote scientific, historical and theological works, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He knew patristic literature, as well as Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers. He knew some Greek and Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear, but his Biblical commentaries are more technical.
Bede's scriptural commentaries employed the allegorical method of interpretation and his history includes accounts of miracles, which to modern historians has seemed at odds with his critical approach to the materials in his history. Modern studies have shown the important role such concepts played in the world-view of Early Medieval scholars.
He dedicated his work on the Apocalypse and the De Temporum Ratione to the successor of Ceolfrid as abbot, Hwaetbert.
Modern historians have completed many studies of Bede's works. His life and work have been celebrated by a series of annual scholarly lectures at St. Paul's Church, Jarrow from 1958 to the present. The historian Walter Goffart says of Bede that he "holds a privileged and unrivaled place among first historians of Christian Europe".
Although Bede is mainly studied as a historian now, in his time his works on grammar, chronology, and biblical studies were as important as his historical and hagiographical works. The non-historical works contributed greatly to the Carolingian renaissance.
Bede's best-known work is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, or An Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Completed in about 731,[notes 3] the first of the five books begins with some geographical background, and then sketches the history of England, beginning with Caesar's invasion in 55 B.C. A brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain, including the martyrdom of St Alban, is followed by the story of Augustine's mission to England in 597, which brought Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons. The second book begins with the death of Gregory the Great in 604, and follows the further progress of Christianity in Kent and the first attempts to evangelize Northumbria. These ended in disaster when Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, killed the newly Christian Edwin of Northumbria at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in about 632. The setback was temporary, and the third book recounts the growth of Christianity in Northumbria under kings Oswald of Northumbria and Oswy. The climax of the third book is the account of the Council of Whitby, traditionally seen as a major turning point in English history. The fourth book begins with the consecration of Theodore as Archbishop of Canterbury, and recounts Wilfrid's efforts to bring Christianity to the kingdom of Sussex. The fifth book brings the story up to Bede's day, and includes an account of missionary work in Frisia, and of the conflict with the British church over the correct dating of Easter. Bede wrote a preface for the work, in which he dedicates it to Ceolwulf, king of Northumbria. The preface mentions that Ceolwulf received an earlier draft of the book; presumably Ceolwulf knew enough Latin to understand it, and he may even have been able to read it. The preface makes it clear that Ceolwulf had requested the earlier copy, and Bede had asked for Ceolwulf's approval; this correspondence with the king indicates that Bede's monastery had excellent connections among the Northumbrian nobility.
The monastery at Jarrow had an excellent library. Both Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith had acquired books from the Continent, and in Bede's day the monastery was a renowned centre of learning.
For the period prior to Augustine's arrival in 597, Bede drew on earlier writers, including Orosius, Eutropius, Pliny, and Solinus. He used Constantius's Life of Germanus as a source for Germanus's visits to Britain. Bede's account of the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons is drawn largely from Gildas's De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Bede would also have been familiar with more recent accounts such as Eddius Stephanus's Life of Wilfrid, and anonymous Lives of Gregory the Great and Cuthbert. He also drew on Josephus's Antiquities, and the works of Cassiodorus, and there was a copy of the Liber Pontificalis in Bede's monastery.
Bede also had correspondents who supplied him with material. Albinus, the abbot of the monastery in Canterbury, provided much information about the church in Kent, and with the assistance of Nothhelm, at that time a priest in London, obtained copies of Gregory the Great's correspondence from Rome relating to Augustine's mission. Almost all of Bede's information regarding Augustine is taken from these letters. Bede acknowledged his correspondents in the preface to the Historia Ecclesiastica; he was in contact with Daniel, the Bishop of Winchester, for information about the history of the church in Wessex, and also wrote to the monastery at Lastingham for information about Cedd and Chad. Bede also mentions an Abbot Esi as a source for the affairs of the East Anglian church, and Bishop Cynibert for information about Lindsey.
The historian Walter Goffart argues that Bede based the structure of the Historia on three works, using them as the framework around which the three main sections of the work were structured. For the early part of the work, up until the Gregorian mission, Goffart feels that Bede used Gildas's De excidio. The second section, detailing the Gregorian mission of Augustine of Canterbury was framed on the anonymous Life of Gregory the Great written at Whitby. The last section, detailing events after the Gregorian mission, Goffart feels were modelled on Stephen of Ripon's Life of Wilfrid. Most of Bede's informants for information after Augustine's mission came from the eastern part of Britain, leaving significant gaps in the knowledge of the western areas, which were those areas likely to have a native Briton presence.
Bede's stylistic models included some of the same authors from whom he drew the material for the earlier parts of his history. His introduction imitates the work of Orosius, and his title is an echo of Eusebius's Historia Ecclesiastica. Bede also followed Eusebius in taking the Acts of the Apostles as the model for the overall work: where Eusebius used the Acts as the theme for his description of the development of the church, Bede made it the model for his history of the Anglo-Saxon church. Bede quoted his sources at length in his narrative, as Eusebius had done. Bede also appears to have taken quotes directly from his correspondents at times. For example, he almost always uses the terms "Australes" and "Occidentales" for the South and West Saxons respectively, but in a passage in the first book he uses "Meridiani" and "Occidui" instead, as perhaps his informant had done. At the end of the work, Bede added a brief autobiographical note; this was an idea taken from Gregory of Tours' earlier History of the Franks.
Bede's work as a hagiographer, and his detailed attention to dating, were both useful preparations for the task of writing the Historia Ecclesiastica. His interest in computus, the science of calculating the date of Easter, was also useful in the account he gives of the controversy between the British and Anglo-Saxon church over the correct method of obtaining the Easter date.
The Historia Ecclesiastica was copied often in the Middle Ages, and about 160 manuscripts containing it survive. About half of those are located on the European continent, rather than on the British Isles. Most of the 8th- and 9th-century texts of Bede's Historia come from the northern parts of the Carolingian Empire. This total does not include manuscripts with only a part of the work, of which another 100 or so survive. It was printed for the first time between 1474 and 1482, probably at Strasbourg, France. Modern historians have studied the Historia extensively, and a number of editions have been produced. For many years, early Anglo-Saxon history was essentially a retelling of the Historia, but recent scholarship has focused as much on what Bede did not write as what he did. The belief that the Historia was the culmination of Bede's works, the aim of all his scholarship, a belief common among historians in the past, is no longer accepted by most scholars.
The Historia Ecclesiastica has given Bede a high reputation, but his concerns were different from those of a modern writer of history. His focus on the history of the organization of the English church, and on heresies and the efforts made to root them out, led him to exclude the secular history of kings and kingdoms except where a moral lesson could be drawn or where they illuminated events in the church. Besides the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the medieval writers William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and Geoffrey of Monmouth used his works as sources and inspirations. Early modern writers, such as Polydore Virgil and Matthew Parker, the Elizabethan Archbishop of Canterbury, also utilized the Historia, and his works were used by both Protestant and Catholic sides in the Wars of Religion.
Some historians have questioned the reliability of some of Bede's accounts. One historian, Charlotte Behr, feels that the Historia's account of the arrival of the Germanic invaders in Kent should not be considered to relate what actually happened, but rather relates myths that were current in Kent during Bede's time.
As Chapter 66 of his On the Reckoning of Time, in 725 Bede wrote the Greater Chronicle (chronica maiora), which sometimes circulated as a separate work. For recent events the Chronicle, like his Ecclesiastical History, relied upon Gildas, upon a version of the Liber pontificalis current at least to the papacy of Pope Sergius I (687-701), and other sources. For earlier events he drew on Eusebius's Chronikoi Kanones. The dating of events in the Chronicle is inconsistent with his other works, using the era of creation, the anno mundi.
His other historical works included lives of the abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, as well as verse and prose lives of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, an adaptation of Paulinus of Nola's Life of St Felix, and a translation of the Greek Passion of St Anastasius. He also created a listing of saints, the Martyrology.
In his own time, Bede was as well known for his biblical commentaries and exegetical, as well as other theological works. The majority of his writings were of this type, and covered the Old Testament and the New Testament. Most survived the Middle Ages, but a few were lost. It was for his theological writings that he earned the title of Doctor Anglorum, and why he was made a saint.
Bede was not an innovative religious thinker. He made no original writings or thoughts on the beliefs of the church, instead working to synthesize and transmit the learning from his predecessors. In order to do this, he learned Greek, and attempted to learn Hebrew. He spent time reading and rereading both the Old and the New Testaments. He mentions that he studied from a text of Jerome's Vulgate, which itself was from the Hebrew text. He also studied both the Latin and the Greek Fathers of the Church. In the monastic library at Jarrow were a number of books by theologians, including works by Basil, Cassian, John Chrysostom, Isidore of Seville, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome, Pope Gregory I and Ambrose of Milan. He used these, in conjunction with the Biblical texts themselves, to write his commentaries and other theological works. He also used lesser known writers, such as Fulgentius, Julian of Eclanum, Tyconius, and Prosperius. Bede was the first to refer to Jerome, Augustine, Pope Gregory and Ambrose as the four Latin Fathers of the Church. It is clear from Bede's own comments that he felt his job was to explain to his students and readers the theology and thoughts of the Church Fathers.
Bede also wrote homilies, works written to explain theology used in worship services. Bede wrote homilies not only on the major Christian festivals such as Advent, Lent or Easter, but on other subjects such as anniversaries of significant events.
Both types of Bede's theological works circulated widely in the Middle Ages. A number of his biblical commentaries were incorporated into the Glossa Ordinaria, an 11th-century collection of biblical commentaries. Some of Bede's homilies were collected by Paul the Deacon, and they were used in that form in the Monastic Office. Saint Boniface used Bede's homilies in his missionary efforts on the continent.
The works dealing with the Old Testament included Commentary on Samuel, Commentary on Genesis, Commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah, On the Temple, On the Tabernacle, Commentaries on Tobit, Commentaries on Proverbs, Commentaries on the Song of Songs, Commentaries on the Canticle of Habakkuk, The works on Ezra, the Tabernacle and the Temple were especially influenced by Gregory the Great's writings. He was also the one responsible for replacing the name 'Adonai' or 'Lord' in the Hebrew texts to read 'Lord of Hosts.'
Bede's works included Commentary on Revelation, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles, Commentary on Acts, Reconsideration on the Books of Acts, On the Gospel of Mark, On the Gospel of Luke, and Homilies on the Gospels.
De temporibus, or On Time, written in about 703, provides an introduction to the principles of Easter computus. This was based on parts of Isidore of Seville's Etymologies, and Bede also include a chronology of the world which was derived from Eusebius, with some revisions based on Jerome's translation of the bible. In about 723, Bede wrote a longer work on the same subject, On the Reckoning of Time, which was influential throughout the Middle Ages. He also wrote several shorter letters and essays discussing specific aspects of computus.
On the Reckoning of Time (De temporum ratione) included an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the New Moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the Tides at a given place and the daily motion of the moon. Since the focus of his book was calculation, Bede gave instructions for computing the date of Easter and the related time of the Easter Full Moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar. He gives some information about the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar in chapter XV. Any codex of Bede's Easter cycle is normally found together with a codex of his "De Temporum Ratione".
For calendric purposes, Bede made a new calculation of the age of the world since the creation, which he dated as 3952 BC. Due to his innovations in computing the age of the world, he was accused of heresy at the table of Bishop Wilfrid, his chronology being contrary to accepted calculations. Once informed of the accusations of these "lewd rustics," Bede refuted them in his Letter to Plegwin.
In addition to these works on astronomical timekeeping, he also wrote De natura rerum, or On the Nature of Things, modeled in part after the work of the same title by Isidore of Seville. His works were so influential that late in the 9th century Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland, wrote that "God, the orderer of natures, who raised the Sun from the East on the fourth day of Creation, in the sixth day of the world has made Bede rise from the West as a new Sun to illuminate the whole Earth".
Bede wrote some works designed to help teach grammar in the abbey school. One of these was his De arte metrica, a discussion of the composition of Latin verse, drawing on previous grammarians work. It was based on Donatus' De pedibus and Servius' De finalibus, and used examples from Christian poets as well as Virgil. It became a standard text for the teaching of Latin verse during the next few centuries. Bede dedicated this work to Cuthbert, apparently a student, for he is named "beloved son" in the dedication, and Bede says "I have labored to educate you in divine letters and ecclesiastical statutes" Another textbook of Bede's is the De orthographia, a work on orthography, designed to help a medieval reader of Latin with unfamiliar abbreviations and words from classical Latin works. Although it could serve as a textbook, it appears to have been mainly intended as a reference work. The exact date of composition for both of these works is unknown.
Another educational work is De schematibus et tropis sacrae scripturae, which discusses the Bible's use of rhetoric. Bede was familiar with pagan authors such as Virgil, but it was not considered appropriate to teach grammar from such texts, and in De schematibus ... Bede argues for the superiority of Christian texts. Similarly, his text on poetic metre uses only Christian poetry for examples.
According to his disciple Cuthbert, Bede was also doctus in nostris carminibus ("learned in our songs"). Cuthbert's letter on Bede's death, the Epistola Cuthberti de obitu Bedae, moreover, commonly is understood to indicate that Bede also composed a five line vernacular poem known to modern scholars as Bede’s Death Song
|Facing that enforced journey, no man can be
More prudent than he has good call to be,
|Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðe
ðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæ
As Opland notes, however, it is not entirely clear that Cuthbert is attributing this text to Bede: most manuscripts of the letter do not use a finite verb to describe Bede's presentation of the song, and the theme was relatively common in Old English and Anglo-Latin literature. The fact that Cuthbert's description places the performance of the Old English poem in the context of a series of quoted passages from Sacred Scripture, indeed, might be taken as evidence simply that Bede also cited analogous vernacular texts. On the other hand, the inclusion of the Old English text of the poem in Cuthbert’s Latin letter, the observation that Bede "was learned in our song," and the fact that Bede composed a Latin poem on the same subject all point to the possibility of his having written it. By citing the poem directly, Cuthbert seems to imply that its particular wording was somehow important, either since it was a vernacular poem endorsed by a scholar who evidently frowned upon secular entertainment or because it is a direct quotation of Bede’s last original composition.
There is no evidence for cult being paid to Bede in England in the 8th century. One reason for this may be that he died on the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury. Later, when he was venerated in England, he was either commemorated after Augustine on 26 May, or his feast was moved to 27 May. However, he was venerated outside England, mainly through the efforts of Saint Boniface and Alcuin, both of whom promoted the cult on the Continent. Boniface wrote repeatedly back to England during his missionary efforts, requesting copies of Bede's theological works. Alcuin, who was taught at the school set up in York by Bede's pupil Egbert, praised Bede as an example for monks to follow and was instrumental in disseminating Bede's works to all of Alcuin's friends. Bede's cult became prominent in England during the 10th-century revival of monasticism, and by the 14th century had spread to many of the cathedrals of England. Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester (c. 1008-1095) was a particular devotee of Bede's, dedicating a church to him in 1062, which was Wulfstan's first undertaking after his consecration as bishop.
His body was stolen from Jarrow and transferred to Durham Cathedral around 1020, where it was placed in the same tomb with Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Later they were moved to a shrine in Galilee Chapel at Durham Cathedral in 1370. The shrine was destroyed during the English Reformation, but the bones were reburied in the chapel. In 1831 the bones were dug up and then reburied in a new tomb, which is still there. Other relics were claimed by York, Glastonbury and Fulda.
His scholarship and importance to Catholicism were recognised in 1899 when he was declared a Doctor of the Church, and was declared a sanctus in 1935. He is the only Englishman named a Doctor of the Church. He is also the only Englishman in Dante's Paradise (Paradiso X.130), mentioned among theologians and doctors of the church in the same canto as Isidore of Seville and the Scot Richard of St. Victor.
His feast day was included in the General Roman Calendar in 1899, for celebration on May 27 rather than on his date of death, May 26, which was then the feast day of Pope Saint Gregory VII; however, the 1969 calendar reforms allowed Bede's feast day to move to its proper day. He is venerated in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church, with a feast day of 25 May.
Bede became known as Venerable Bede (Lat.: Beda Venerabilis) by the 9th century, but this was not linked to consideration for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. According to a legend the epithet was miraculously supplied by angels, thus completing his unfinished epitaph. It is first utilized in connection with Bede in the 9th century, where Bede was grouped with others who were called "venerable" at two ecclesiastical councils held at Aix in 816 and 836. Paul the Deacon then referred to him as venerable consistently. By the 11th and 12th century, it had become commonplace. However, there are no descriptions of Bede by that term right after his death.
Bede (c. 672 – 27 May 735) was an Anglo-Saxon historian, theologian and scientific writer; often called "the Venerable Bede". His best-known work, the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum was completed in 731.
BEDE, Beda, or Beeda (672 or 6 73-735), English historian and theologian. Of B2eda, commonly called "the Venerable Bede," almost all that we know is contained in the short autobiographical notice which he has appended to his Ecclesiastical History: - " Thus much concerning the ecclesiastical history of Britain, and especially of the race of the English, I, Ba da, a servant of Christ and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles St Peter and St Paul, which is at Wearmouth and at Jarrow, have with the Lord's help composed, so far as I could gather it, either from ancient documents, or from the tradition of the elders, or from my own knowledge. I was born in the territory of the said monastery, and at the age of seven I was, by the care of my relations, given to the reverend Abbot Benedict (Biscop), and afterwards to Ceolfrid, to 'be educated. From that time I have spent the whole of my life within that monastery devoting all my pains to the study of the scriptures; and amid the observance of monastic discipline, and the daily charge of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write. In my nineteenth year I was admitted to the diaconate, in my thirtieth to the priesthood, both by the hands of the most reverend Bishop John (of Hexham), and at the bidding of Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time of my admission to the priesthood to my (present) fifty-ninth year, I have endeavoured, for my own use and that of my brethren, to make brief notes upon the Holy Scripture, either out of the works of the venerable fathers, or in conformity with their meaning and interpretation." Then follows a list of his works, so far as, at that date, they had been composed. As the Ecclesiastical History was written in 731, we obtain the following dates for the principal events in Bede's uneventful life: - birth, 672-673 entrance into the monastery, 679-680; ordination as deacon, 691-692; as priest, 702-703.
The monastery of Wearmouth was founded by Benedict Biscop in 674, and that of Jarrow in 681-682. Though some 5 or 6 m. apart, they were intended to form a single monastery under a single abbot, and so Bede speaks of them in the passage given above. It is with Jarrow that Bede is chiefly associated, though no doubt from the close connexion of the two localities he would often be at Wearmouth. The preface to the prose life of Cuthbert proves that he had stayed at Lindisfarne prior to 721, while the Epistle to Egbert shows that he had visited him at York in 733. The tradition that he went to Rome in obedience to a summons from Pope Sergius is contradicted by his own words above, and by his total silence as to any such visit. In the passage cited above, "monastic discipline, the daily charge of singing in the church, learning, teaching, writing," in other words devotion and study make up the even tenor of Bede's tranquil life. Anecdotes have been preserved which illustrate his piety both in early and in later years; of his studies the best monument is to be found in his writings. As a little boy he would take his place among the pupils of the monastic school, though he would soon pass to the ranks of the teachers, and the fact that he was ordained deacon at nineteen, below the canonical age, shows that he was regarded as remarkable both for learning and goodness.
For the rest, it is in his works that we must chiefly seek to know him. They fall into three main classes: (1) scientific; (2) historical; (3) theological. The first class comprises works on grammar, one on natural phenomena, and two on chronology and the calendar. These last were inspired largely by the Paschal Question, which was the subject of such bitter controversy between the Roman and Celtic Churches in the 7th century. They form a natural transition to the second class. In this the chief place is held by the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. By this Bede has justly earned the title of the Father of English History. By this almost exclusively he is known to others than professed students. It is indeed one of the most valuable and one of the most beautiful of historical works. Bede has the artist's instinct of proportion, the artist's sense for the picturesque and the pathetic. His style too, modelled largely, in the present writer's opinion, on that of Gregory in the Dialogues, is limpid and unaffected. And though it would be wrong to call Bede a critical historian in the modern sense of the words, he shows a very unusual conscientiousness in collecting his information from the best available sources, and in distinguishing between what he believed to be fact, and what he regarded only as rumour or tradition. Other historical works of Bede are the History of the Abbots (of Wearmouth and Jarrow), and the lives of Cuthbert in verse and prose. The History of the Abbots and the prose life of Cuthbert were based on earlier works which still survive. In the case of the latter it cannot honestly be said that Bede has improved on his original. In the History of the Abbots he was much nearer to the facts, and could make additions out of his own personal knowledge. The Epistle to Egbert, though not historical in form, may be mentioned here, because of the valuable information which it contains as to the state of the Northumbrian Church, on which the disorders and revolutions of the Northumbrian kingdom had told with disastrous effect. It is probably the latest of Bede's extant works, as it was written in November 73 4, only six months before his death. The third or theological class of writings consists mainly of commentaries, or of works which, if not commentaries in name, are so in fact. They are based largely on the works of the four great Latin Fathers, SS. Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and Gregory; though Bede's reading is very far from being limited to these. His method is largely allegorical. For the text of scripture he uses both the Latin versions, the Itala and the Vulgate, often comparing them together. But he certainly knew Greek, and possibly some Hebrew. Indeed it may be said that his works, scientific, historical and theological, practically sum up all the learning of western Europe in his time, which he thus made available for his countrymen. And not for them only; for in the school of York, founded by his pupil Archbishop Ecgberht, was trained Alcuin (Ealhwine) the initiator under Charles the Great of the Frankish schools, which did so much for learning on the continent. And though Bede makes no pretensions to originality, least of all in his theological works, freely taking what he needed, and (what is very rare in medieval writers) acknowledging what he took, "out of the works of the venerable Fathers," still everything he wrote is informed and impressed with his own special character and temper. His earnest yet sober piety, his humility, his gentleness, appear in almost every line. "In history and in science, as well as in theology, he is before all things the Christian thinker and student." (Plummer's Bede, i. 2.) Yet' it should not be forgotten that Bede could hardly have done what he did without the noble library of books collected by Benedict Biscop.
Several quaint and beautiful legends have been handed down as to the origin of the epithet of "venerable" generally attached to his name. Probably it is a mere survival of a title commonly given to priests in his day. It has given rise to a false idea that he lived to a great age; some medieval authorities making him ninety when he died. But he was not born before 672 (see above); and though the date of his death has been disputed, the traditional year, 735, is most probably correct. This would make him at most sixty-three. Of his death a most touching and beautiful account has been preserved in a contemporary letter. His last hours were spent, like the rest of his life, in devotion and teaching, his latest work being to dictate, amid ever-increasing bodily weakness, a translation into the vernacular of the Gospel of St John, a work which unhappily has not survived. It was a fitting close to such a life as his.
. - The above sketch is largely based on the present writer's essay on Bede's Life and Works,prefixed to his edition of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica, &c. (2 vols., Clarendon Press, 1896). Beda der Ehrwierdige and seine Zeit, by Dr Karl Werner (Vienna, 1875), is excellent. Gehle, Disputatio. .. de Bedae vita et Scriptis (Leiden, 1838), is still useful. Dr William Bright's Chapters of Early English Church History (3rd ed., Clarendon Press, 1897) is indispensable. See also Ker, Dark Ages, pp. 141 ff. Of the collected works of Bede the most convenient edition is that by Dr Giles in twelve volumes (8vo., 1843-1844), which includes translations of the Historical Works. The Continental folio editions (Basel, 1563; Cologne, 1612 and 1688) contain many works which cannot by any possibility be Bede's. The edition of Migne, Patrologia Latina (1862 ff.) is based on a comparison of the Cologne edition with Giles and Smith (see below), and is open to the same criticism. On the chronology and genuineness of the works commonly ascribed to Bede, see Plummer's ed., i., cxlv-clix.
On the MSS. early editions and translations of the Historia Ecclesiastica, see Plummer, u.s., i., lxxx-cxxxii. The edition of Whelock (Cambridge, fol. 1643-1644) is noteworthy as the first English edition of the Latin text, and as the editio princeps of the Anglo-Saxon version ascribed to King Alfred (see Alfred The Great). Smith's edition (Cambridge, fol. 1722) contained not only these, but also the other historical works of Bede, with notes and appendices. It is a monument of learning and scholarship. The most recent edition is that with notes and introduction by the present writer, u.s. It includes also the History of the Abbots, and the Epistle to Egbert. Of books iii. and iv. only, there is a learned edition by Professors Mayor and Lumby of Cambridge (3rd ed., 1881).
A cheap and handy edition of the text alone is that by A. Holder (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1882, &c.). The best-known modern English translation is that by the Rev. L. Gidley (1870). Of the minor historical works a good edition was edited by Rev. J. Stevenson for the Eng. Hist. Soc. in 1841; and a translation by the same hand was included in Church Historians of England, vol. i., part ii. (1853). See also Plummer's edition, pp. cxxxii-cxlii. (C. PL.)
Bede (also Saint Bede, the Venerable Bede, or (from Latin) Beda), (ca. 672 or 673 – May 27, 735), was a monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Wearmouth, today part of Sunderland, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow (see Wearmouth-Jarrow), both in the English county of Durham (now Tyne and Wear). He is well known as an author and scholar, whose best-known work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The father of English history".
Almost all that is known of Bede's life is contained in a notice added by himself when he was 59 to his Historia (v.24), which states that he was placed in the monastery at Wearmouth at the age of seven, that he became deacon in his nineteenth year, and priest in his thirtieth, remaining a priest for the rest of his life.
His works show that he had at his command all the learning of his time. It was thought that the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow was between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest and most extensive in England.
The most important and best known of his works is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, giving in five books and 400 pages the history of England, ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Caesar to the date of its completion (731).