Saint Bede — English Monk (672-735) that wrote Early History of England

Saint Bede — English Monk (672-735) that wrote Early History of England

Bede (672-735), a famous English monk author, known as Saint Bede, he wrote and worked at the monastery of St. Peter & St. Paul in Northumbria (today’s Tyne & Wear, England). His most famous work, Ecclesiastical History of the English People gained him the title “The Father of English History”.

Saint Bede = One of the few written histories of the early Dark Age

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Bede, a skilled linguist and translator, finishing his translation of the Gospel of John on his deathbed & was respected and referenced by Catholics and Lutherans during the bloody Wars of Religions. He undoubtedly contributed to English Christianity. Bede’s was fortunate that his monastery had access to an impressive library of 200 books (a lot for the time) which included works by Eusebius, Orosius, and many others.

1899 Bede’s scholarship was recognized when he was declared a Doctor of the Church, as the only Englishman to receive that honor from the Catholic Church.

731 Bede’s life is contained in the last chapter of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a history of the church in England was completed when he was 59. Bede was connected to men of noble ancestry which suggest that his childhood family was well-to-do and came from a noble family with Anglo-Saxon heritage. He was well-educated at the same monasteries he worked throughout his life. The monastery had an excellent library of 200 books (big for the time) and was a renowned centre of learning.

597 Bede drew on earlier writers and had access to two works of Eusebius: the Historia Ecclesiastica, and also the Chronicon in a Latin translation. He also knew Orosius’s Adversus Paganus, and Gregory of Tours’ Historia Francorum, both Christian histories, & the work of Eutropius, a pagan historian. 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 quotes from several classical authors, including Cicero, Plautus, Terenceclear, Virgil, Pliny the Elder, and the works of Dionysius Exiguus. Some of Bede’s material came from oral traditions, including a description of the physical appearance of Paulinus of York, who had died nearly 90 years before Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica was written.

686 Plague broke out and Bede in “The Life of Ceolfrith”, written in about 710, records that only two surviving monks were left to deliver the liturgy service — Ceolfrith and the other a young boy, taught by Ceolfrith. The young boy was almost certainly Bede, who would have been about 14.

692 Bede, at 19, was ordained a deacon.

702 Bede, at 30, became a priest and finished his first works, the De Arte Metrica and De Schematibus et Tropis; both were intended for use in the classroom. He eventually wrote 60 books, most of which have survived. His last-surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734. Bede may also have worked on one of the Latin bibles now in a Library in Florence.

708 Some monks at Hexham accused Bede of having committed heresy in his work De Temporibus, violating the standard view of world history in his Six Ages of the World by calculated the age of the world for himself, rather than accepting authority. He concluded that Christ had been born 3,952 years after the creation of the world, rather than the figure of over 5,000 years that was commonly accepted by theologians.

Except for a few visits to other monasteries, his life was spent in a round of prayer, observance of the monastic discipline and study of the Sacred Scriptures. He was considered the most learned man of his time, and wrote excellent biblical and historical books.

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.”

Bede wrote scientific, historical and theological works, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He learned from writers like Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers. His history includes accounts of miracles, which to modern historians has seemed at odds with his critical approach to the materials in his history, but such concepts played a major world-view for Early Medieval scholars.

Although Bede is mainly studied as a historian now, in his time his works on grammar, chronology, and biblical studies were as important.

731 Bede sketches the history of England, beginning with Caesar’s invasion in 55 BCE and a brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain to the martyrdom of St Alban to 597 story of Augustine’s mission to England that brought Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons.

604 The second book begins with the death of Gregory the Great follows the further progress of Christianity in Kent and the first attempts to evangelise Northumbria. 623 These ended in disaster when Penda, the pagan king of Mercia, killed the newly Christian Edwin of Northumbria at the Battle of Hatfield Chase. The setback was temporary, and the third book recounts the growth of Christianity in Northumbria under kings Oswald of Northumbria and Oswy.

His third Book – Climax is the account of the Council of Whitby, traditionally seen as a major turning point in English history.

His 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.

Bede’s Fifth Book – During his time, his story includes an account of missionary work in Frisia, and of the conflict with the British church over the correct dating of Easter. Bede’s preface mentions that King Ceolwulf received an earlier draft of the book. This correspondence with the king indicates that Bede’s monastery had excellent connections among the Northumbrian nobility.

Bede’s primary intention in Historia Ecclesiastica was to show the growth of the united church throughout England after the departure of the Romans.

Bede’s extensive use of miracles proves difficult for readers who consider him more or less a reliable historian. He was accurate and truthful about the historical events and traditions of Christian faith that continues to the present day believing faith is brought about by miracles.

Bede’s account of the early migrations of the Angles and Saxons to England omits any mention of peoples crossing the channel from Brittany. The omission was “a scholar’s dislike of the indefinite” and could not be dated.

Bede in the story of Augustine’s mission from Rome tells how the British clergy refused to assist Augustine in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.

Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica was copied often in the Middle Ages, and about 160 manuscripts containing it survive with 50% located on the European continent, rather than England.

Bede’s focus on the history of the organization of the English church, 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. His works were used by both Protestant and Catholic sides in the BLOODY Wars of Religion.

Bede’s accounts of 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.

It is likely that Bede’s work, because it was so widely copied among elitists, discouraged others from writing histories and may even have led to the disappearance of manuscripts containing older historical works. Bede’s theological works circulated widely in the Middle Ages among the elitists.

Bed’e Old Testament works included Commentary on Samuel, Genesis, Ezra and Nehemiah, On the Temple, On the Tabernacle, Tobit, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Canticle of Habakkuk.

Bede’s works on New Testament included Commentary on Revelation, Epistles, Acts, Mark, Luke, and John.

703 On Time, written provides an introduction to the principles of calculating date of Easter. 723 Bede wrote a longer work on the same subject. Bede’s did work on astronomical timekeeping in On the Nature of Things and calculated his date for Easter. In Switzerland a monk 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 was familiar with pagan authors such as Virgil, but it was not considered appropriate to teach about the Bible from such texts.

900s Bede’s cult became prominent in England during the revival of monasticism, and by the 14th century had spread to many of the cathedrals of England.


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