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In This Article The Venerable Bede

Medieval Studies The Venerable Bede
by
Rosalind C. Love

Introduction

Of all the writers from the Anglo-Saxon period, Bede must rate as the best known and perhaps the most prolific. Given into the monastery of Wearmouth at the age of seven, he was later moved to Jarrow, where he benefited from the uniquely well-stocked library the founding abbots of his community, Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid, had built up. He dedicated himself to teaching and writing, and his principal focus was on expounding the scriptures, as the large number of surviving biblical commentaries from his hand bear witness, and then on providing ancillary tools for interpretation of the scriptures. His didactic concerns are also reflected in his works on orthography, meter, time reckoning, and natural history. He also made a significant contribution to the first beginnings of hagiography in England with his twinned Lives of St. Cuthbert, his reworkings of earlier lives of two Continental saints (Felix and Anastasius), and his remarkable historical martyrology, which laid the groundwork for all later martyrologies. Although it would not necessarily have been the way Bede himself would wish to be remembered, later generations, including the present one, connect him most particularly with his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, composed in imitation of the earlier Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius to record the establishment and spread of Christianity in England and at least in part to bring the core values that ensured the Church’s sure foundation to the attention of his contemporaries. As inheritor of the rich diet of Christian and classical learning he found in the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow, Bede, in seeking to make that learning accessible in his own day, stands at a kind of boundary between the world of late Antiquity and the church fathers, on the one hand, and the medieval world, on the other. His acute mind and his diligence ensured him a place among the fathers and a lasting reputation.

General Overviews

There is something here for most requirements, whether it is for a straightforward biographical account, as in Campbell 2004 (or Ward 1990, a book-length study, but in fact only just over 140 pages), or a complete list of works, now best taken from Lapidge 2005, or the still important list of manuscripts of those works in Laistner and King 1943. Brown 1987 and Brown 2009 offer a survey that integrates some discussion, even if brief at times, of virtually everything Bede wrote. Hunter Blair 1970 is focused more strongly on context.

  • Brown, George Hardin. Bede the Venerable. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

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    A well-structured short survey of Bede and his writings, with a fairly full bibliography.

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  • Brown, George Hardin. A Companion to Bede. Anglo-Saxon Studies 12. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2009.

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    An up-to-date guide to Bede and his writings, which are discussed under general headings and then individually. Some portions substantially repeat Brown 1987.

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  • Campbell, James. “Bede.” In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 4. Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, 758–765. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    A good, simple account of Bede and his career, with sections on the various branches of scholarship to which his works belong, on his intellectual milieu, and on his legacy and reputation.

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  • Hunter Blair, Peter. The World of Bede. London: Secker and Warburg, 1970.

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    An accessible but learned study of Bede and his context through his writings, organized thematically and detailing Bede’s view of Britain, the conversion, his monastic setting, and his learning and teaching. The 1990 reissue (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press) corrects earlier misprints and updates the bibliography.

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  • Laistner, Max L. W., and H. H. King. A Hand-List of Bede Manuscripts. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1943.

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    Still an important point of reference for surviving manuscripts of Bede’s works. A revised version is being prepared by George H. Brown and Joshua Westgard.

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  • Lapidge, Michael. “Beda Venerabilis.” In Compendium auctorum Latinorum Medii Aevi (CALMA), Vol. 2.2. Edited by Michael Lapidge and Gian Carlo Garfagnini, 173–179. Florence: SISMEL, Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2005.

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    A record of general treatments of Bede and encyclopedia entries, followed by a complete list of his works, each furnished with details about editions and secondary scholarship. Also includes attributed works.

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  • Lapidge, Michael. “Beda Venerabilis.” In La trasmissione dei testi latini del medioevo, Vol. 3. Edited by Paolo Chiesa and Lucio Castaldi, 45–137. Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2008.

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    Medieval Latin texts and their transmission. A detailed study of the manuscript transmission of all of Bede’s writings, with the exception of his exegetical writings.

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  • Ward, Benedicta. The Venerable Bede. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1990.

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    Intended for a general readership.

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Bibliographies

Three bibliographies with a more general scope provide continuing updates to scholarship on Bede. The annual bibliography in the journal Anglo-Saxon England provides coverage under separate headings on history and Anglo-Latin literature. The quarterly Old English Newsletter Bibliography Database (OEN) produces an annual bibliography in the summer issue and reviews that bibliography in the subsequent winter issue in Year’s Work in Old English Studies. Old English Newsletter also records “Research in Progress” as part of its bibliography. The annual bibliographical bulletin Medioevo Latino (Leonardi and Pinelli 1980–) places its bibliography on Bede within a slightly different context, that of a year’s work on medieval Latin from 500 to 1500. Two summarizing guides to earlier bibliographies are Bolton 1962 and Eckenrode 1985.

Collections of Essays

Two anniversary volumes, Thompson 1935 and Bonner 1976, are still cited in the early 21st century, though the former is now fairly outdated. The Jarrow Lectures (Lapidge 1994), which continue to be delivered in Jarrow Church every year, have covered every possible angle of Bede, his context, and his works and have been conveniently gathered in bound volumes (up to 1993). Houwen and MacDonald 1996 offers a limited perspective on Bede’s impact, whereas both Lebecq, et al. 2005 and DeGregorio 2006 offer a good range of up-to-date essays on Bede, the latter with a stronger emphasis on his writings, the former on context.

  • Bonner, Gerald, ed. Famulus Christi: Essays in Commemoration of the Thirteenth Centenary of the Birth of the Venerable Bede. London: SPCK, 1976.

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    Papers from a conference held at Durham in 1973 covering a good range of Bede’s interests and aspects of his context.

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  • DeGregorio, Scott, ed. Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    The thought-provoking papers in this collection are discursive and analytical rather than necessarily offering an introductory survey to Bede’s writings. They focus on his biblical commentaries, his science, his later reputation, and his own understanding of his position in relation to the church fathers.

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  • Houwen, L. A. J. R., and A. A. MacDonald, eds. Beda Venerabilis: Historian, Monk, and Northumbrian. Groningen, The Netherlands: Egbert Forsten, 1996.

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    Papers that arose from a conference in 1990 aimed at exploring Bede’s impact on the culture of his day and thereafter, within and beyond England.

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  • Lapidge, Michael, ed. Bede and His World: The Jarrow Lectures. 2 vols. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1994.

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    A collection of the annual Jarrow Lectures from the first, given in 1958, up to the lecture for 1993.

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  • Lebecq, Stéphane, Michel Perrin, and Olivier Szerwiniack, eds. Bède le Vénérable: Entre tradition et postérité. Villeneuve d’Ascq, France: CEGES, Université Charles-de-Gaulle, 2005.

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    These essays are divided into five subsections: Bede and his sources, Bede the exegete, the historian and his context, Bede’s influence and reputation, and translations of Bede. English title: The Venerable Bede: Tradition and Posterity.

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  • Meyvaert, Paul. The Art of Words: Bede and Theodulf. Variorum Collected Studies Series 913. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Includes all of Meyvaert’s earlier articles on Bede, which remain key discussions of various aspects of his writings, his context at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and the Wearmouth-Jarrow library.

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  • Thompson, A. Hamilton, ed. Bede: His Life, Times, and Writings; Essays in Commemoration of the Twelfth Centenary of His Death. Oxford: Clarendon, 1935.

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    An important collection of introductory essays on many aspects of Bede’s writings and context written by some eminent scholars, including Montague Rhodes James on manuscripts of Bede, Max Laistner on Bede’s library, and Wilhelm Levison on Bede as historian.

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Bede and the Library at Wearmouth-Jarrow

An important key to understanding Bede’s own writings is a view of the books he had to hand. Conversely, his writings offer precious testimony regarding the books at Wearmouth-Jarrow. Lapidge 2006 places his library in the wider context of the books known to the Anglo-Saxons, whereas Laistner 1935 is more focused on Bede’s intellectual makeup.

  • Laistner, Max L. W. “The Library of the Venerable Bede.” In Bede: His Life Times and Writings; Essays in Commemoration of the Twelfth Centenary of his Death. Edited by A. Hamilton Thompson, 237–266. Oxford: Clarendon, 1935.

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    Surveys Bede’s reading under various headings, such as classical texts, patristics, and historiography, concluding with a list of works thought to have been known to Bede. Now somewhat superseded by Lapidge 2006. Reprinted in Intellectual Heritage of the Early Middle Ages, edited by Chester G. Starr, 93–116 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1957).

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  • Lapidge, Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Library. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    A masterly discussion of what can be reconstructed of the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow of Bede’s day, concluding that it was remarkable but not by the standards of some Continental monastic houses. An appendix lists all the works that Bede can be identified as quoting or mentioning by name.

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Bede’s Biblical Exegesis and Preaching

There is a very real sense that the treasures within Bede’s biblical exegesis only began to be opened up for readers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, largely through the ever-growing collection of translations into English, which, with their useful annotations, are bringing these works to a wider audience. Although Bede has often been held up as a model of good, clear Latin prose, in reality some of these commentaries are anything but straightforward reading. It is therefore noticeable that published scholarship tends to be by the hands of the same people who are or have been at work translating the material, to whom obviously the very great interest of those texts quickly becomes apparent. Ray 1982 and DeGregorio 2002 offer general reflections on this, the heart of Bede’s work.

  • DeGregorio, Scott. “Nostrorum socordiam temporum: The Reforming Impulse of Bede’s Later Exegesis.” Early Medieval Europe 11.2 (2002): 107–122.

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    Places Bede’s mature works of exegesis alongside his Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Letter to Ecgbert to show their emphasis upon reform and penitence.

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  • Ray, Roger. “What Do We Know about Bede’s Commentaries?” In Recherches de Théologie Ancienne et Médiévale 49 (1982): 5–20.

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    Highlights the extent to which Bede’s biblical commentaries had (at least up to 1982) been relatively neglected by scholars, even though they were central to his concerns. Goes on to discuss what kind of works Bede’s commentaries are, emphasizing the strong element of rhetorical analysis in them.

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Commentary on Genesis (In principium Genesis)

Bede originally commented only on Books 1 and then 2, a work that he dedicated to Acca, bishop of Hexham. He then added Books 3 and 4 in the 720s. Bede drew heavily upon the commentaries on the Hexaemeron by Basil (in the Latin translation by Eustathius), those by Ambrose, and several relevant works by Augustine, to whom he owed the heaviest debt.

Texts and Translations

This commentary is now very well served by both an editor, Charles W. Jones (Bede 1967), and a translator, Calvin B. Kendall (Bede 2008), which will, it is to be hoped, open up an interesting work to further study.

  • Bede. “In principium Genesis.” In Opera exegetica. Vol. 1, Libri quatuor in principium Genesis usque ad nativitatem Isaac et eiectionem Ismahelis adnotationum. Edited by Charles W. Jones. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 118A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1967.

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    Can be counted among the more reliable of the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina texts of Bede’s exegesis.

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  • Bede. On Genesis. Translated by Calvin B. Kendall. Translated Texts for Historians 48. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2008.

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    Provides a full commentary, including identification of Bede’s sources. Reviews the evidence for the dates of the various stages by which Bede composed this commentary.

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Scholarship

Scholars have tended to focus on the sources that Bede used for his commentary, where Augustine looms large, as shown by Siniscalco 1985 and Di Pilla 1992. But another question of some interest and importance is the intended audience for the work, explored early on in Jones 1969–1970 and later in McClure 1985. Jones 1969–1970 is an important and detailed exploration of the work and its methodology, picked up again by Kendall 2006.

  • Di Pilla, Alessandra. “La presenza del De Genesi contra Manichaeos di Agostino nell’ In principium Genesis di Beda.” In De Genesi contra Manichaeos, De Genesi ad litteram liber imperfectus’ di Agostino d’Ippone. Edited by Gilles Pelland, 99–113. Palermo, Italy: Edizioni Augustinus, 1992.

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    Augustine’s commentary On Genesis against the Manichees was clearly in Bede’s library, and he used it extensively in his own commentary.

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  • Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. “Bilingual Philology in Bede’s Exegesis.” In Medieval Cultures in Contact. Edited by Richard F. Gyug, 3–17. New York: Fordham University Press, 2002.

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    Demonstrates that Bede drew upon both Vulgate and Old Latin (Vetus Latina) versions of the biblical text.

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  • Jones, Charles W. “Some Introductory Remarks on Bede’s Commentary on Genesis.” Sacris Erudiri 19 (1969–1970): 115–198.

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    Intended to accompany Jones’s 1967 edition; discusses the work’s purpose and tone, methodology (thereby presenting a helpful analysis of Bede’s exegetical theory and practice), his technical vocabulary for textual and literary criticism, his approach to number symbolism, and key themes in the commentary.

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  • Kendall, Calvin B. “The Responsibility of Auctoritas: Method and Meaning in Bede’s Commentary on Genesis.” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 101–119. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    Examines Bede’s methods and his understanding of the text of Genesis.

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  • Love, Rosalind C. ”The Sources for Bede’s Commentarius in Genesim (Libri I et II)”. Fontes Anglo-Saxonici: A Register of Written Sources Used by Anglo-Saxon Authors. 1999.

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    Fontes Anglo-Saxonici is a freely accessible online database. This section contains a list of all identifiable sources for Books 1 and 2 of Commentary on Genesis. Includes several more passages for which Bede is indebted to earlier materials than were identified by Charles W. Jones in Bede 1967 (see Texts and Translations).

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  • McClure, Judith. “Bede’s Notes on Genesis and the Training of the Anglo-Saxon Clergy.” In The Bible in the Medieval World: Essays in Memory of Beryl Smalley. Edited by Katherine Walsh and Diana Wood, 17–30. Studies in Church History, Subsidia 4. Oxford: Blackwell, 1985.

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    Examines Bede’s stated aim of providing an accessible commentary.

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  • Siniscalco, Paolo. “Due opere a confronto sulla creazione dell’uomo: Il ‘De Genesi ad litteram libri XII’ di Agostino e i ‘Libri IV in principium Genesis’ di Beda.” Augustinianum 25 (1985): 435–452.

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    Two works on the creation of man compared: Augustine’s Literal Commentary on Genesis in 12 Books and Bede’s Commentary on the Beginning of Genesis in 4 Books. Augustine was a key source for Bede’s commentary, even more so than is evident from Bede, Opera exegetica, Vol. 1, Libri quatuor “In principium Genesis” usque ad nativitatem Isaac et eiectionem Ismahelis adnotationum, edited by Charles W. Jones, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 118A (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1967); here the focus is on Bede’s debt to Augustine’s literal commentary on Genesis.

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On the Tabernacle (De Tabernaculo)

This work focuses on the detailed arrangements that Exodus records as having been made by Moses, upon God’s instruction, for the shrine—effectively a tent, but denoting the presence or dwelling of God—which consisted of a Holy of Holies, surrounding the ark of the covenant. Bede offers a historical explanation of the Tabernacle, drawing upon sources such as Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, Jerome’s handbook on Hebrew names, and Isidore’s Etymologies as well as a diagram that he discovered in the large Bible belonging to Cassiodorus (the so-called Codex grandior), bought for Wearmouth-Jarrow by Abbot Ceolfrid. He also offers an allegorical, tropological, and anagogical interpretation of the Exodus text.

Texts and Translations

Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1994) provides a good, all-around treatment of this commentary and its sources, building on David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1969).

Scholarship

Arthur G. Holder’s translation (Bede 1994) has a good general introduction; for more detailed focus on dating and sources, see Holder 1989.

Commentary on the First Part of Samuel (In primam partem Samuhelis libri IIII)

This commentary takes a strongly allegorical view of 1 Samuel, following the sources that were available to Bede, namely a homily by the Greek theologian Origen, translated into Latin by Rufinus, and the seventeenth book of Augustine’s City of God.

Texts and Translations

David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1962) provides few helps to the reader on the transmission of this text; it is to be hoped that the planned translation by George Brown will open up access.

  • Bede. “In primam partem Samuhelis libri IIII.” In Opera exegetica. Vol. 2, In primam partem Samuhelis libri IIII, In Regum librum XXX quaestiones. Edited by David Hurst, 5–272. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 119. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1962.

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    Based on just two manuscripts. The edition has almost no prefatory explanation about textual transmission or editorial decisions.

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Scholarship

Apart from a little flurry of attention in the mid-1980s on Bede’s methodology (Simonetti 1984–1985) and his principal source (Black 1984), the closest attention paid to this commentary has come from the scholar at work on translating it, namely George H. Brown (see Brown 2005, Brown 2006, Brown 2007).

  • Black, J. “De Civitate Dei and the Commentaries of Gregory the Great, Isidore, Bede, and Hrabanus Maurus on the Book of Samuel.” Augustinian Studies 15 (1984): 114–127.

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    Demonstrates Bede’s heavy dependence on Augustine’s City of God for his commentary.

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  • Brown, George H. “Bede’s Commentary on 1 Samuel.” Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Studies in the Early Middle Ages, Gargnano on Lake Garda, 24–27 June 2001. Edited by Claudio Leonardi and Giovanni Orlandi, 77–90. Florence: SISMEL, 2005.

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    Notes the inadequacies of Bede 1962 (see Texts and Translations) and ponders the relatively limited circulation of the work as reflected by the small number of surviving manuscripts.

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  • Brown, George H. “Bede’s Neglected Commentary on Samuel.” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 121–142. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press: 2006.

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    This is one of Bede’s longest commentaries, with a more limited circulation than some of his others, yet Brown contends that its erudite Latin prose is a “high mark” in Bede’s exegesis. He suggests that Wearmouth-Jarrow, overburdened by requests to produce copies of Bede’s writings, simply failed to ensure this work’s prompt circulation.

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  • Brown, George H. “Bede’s Style in His Commentary on I Samuel.” In Text, Image, Interpretation: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Its Insular Context in Honour of Éamonn Ó Carragáin. Edited by Alastair Minnis and Jane Roberts, 233–251. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007.

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    Examines Bede’s hypotactic style in this work and the influence of classical rhetoric. Includes in an appendix translation of some sections of the commentary. Brown has a complete translation in hand.

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  • McClure, Judith. “Bede’s Old Testament Kings.” In Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies Presented to J. M. Wallace-Hadrill. Edited by Patrick Wormald, Roger Collins, and Donald A. Bullough, 76–98. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.

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    Shows that Bede’s presentation of the kings of the Old Testament, and of their realms and royal power, reflected the language of the Latin Bible upon which he was commenting.

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  • Simonetti, Manlio. “La tecnica esegetica di Bede nel Commento a I Samuele.” Romanobarbarica 8 (1984–1985): 75–110.

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    Bede’s exegetical technique in his Commentary on I Samuel. Examines Bede’s exegetical methodology in this commentary.

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On the Temple (De Templo)

A companion to Bede’s On the Tabernacle, this is a reading of the narrative about the construction of the Temple (in 3 Kings 5–7) in the light of New Testament texts, which refer to the Temple of all believers, of which Christ is the cornerstone.

Texts and Translations

Séan Connolly’s translation (Bede 1995) opens up access to this work, otherwise to be read in David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1969).

Scholarship

There is a substantial introduction by Jennifer O’Reilly in Bede 1995. Holder 1989 usefully places the work within Bede’s wider exegetical scheme; Italiani 1994 puts the work alongside the commentary by Claudius of Turin.

  • Bede. Bede: On the Temple. Translated by Séan Connolly. Translated Texts for Historians 21. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1995.

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    Accompanied by annotations that identify Bede’s sources. With an introduction by Jennifer O’Reilly.

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  • Holder, Arthur G. “New Treasures and Old in Bede’s De Tabernaculo and De Templo.” Revue Bénédictine 99 (1989): 237–249.

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    Dates the completion of this work to about 731.

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  • Italiani, Giuliana. “Il De Templo Salomonis di Beda e il commento ai re di Claudio di Torino.” In Immagini del medioevo: Saggi di cultura mediolatina. Edited by Sandra Bruni, 179–190. Biblioteca del Centro per il Collegamente degli Studi Medievali e Umanistici in Umbria 13. Spoleto, Italy: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’alto Medioevo, 1994.

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    The author reads this commentary alongside the one composed by Claudius of Turin.

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Thirty Questions on the Book of Kings (In Regum librum XXX quaestiones)

This commentary was written in response to queries from Nothelm (archbishop of Canterbury, 735–739) about hard passages in the four books of Kings (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings).

Texts and Translations

David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1962) is helpfully complemented by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder’s translation (Bede 1999), in which introductory information fills out the context.

Scholarship

A first approach can be gained from the introduction by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999), which includes identification of Bede’s sources. Meyvaert 1997 places the work within Bede’s career.

  • Bede. A Biblical Miscellany. Translated by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder. Translated Texts for Historians 28. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    Provides an up-to-date introduction to the work (pp. 81–87).

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  • Meyvaert, Paul. “‘In the Footsteps of the Fathers’: The Date of Bede’s Thirty Questions on the Books of Kings to Nothelm.” In The Limits of Ancient Christianity: Essays in Late Antique Thought and Culture in Honor of R. A. Markus. Edited by Mark Vessey and William E. Klingshirn, 267–286. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1997.

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    Examines the relationship of this work to Bede’s Commentary on 1 Samuel, and since the latter can be dated quite closely, proposes for Thirty Questions on the Books of Kings a date of around 715.

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Commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah (In Ezram et Neemiam libri III)

Since the narratives treated in this commentary relate to the building of the second Temple following the exile in Babylon and the reestablishment of a Jewish nation, they can be seen as having considerable thematic significance for Bede’s own contemporary context and his concern for ecclesiastical and spiritual reform.

Texts and Translations

Scott DeGregorio (Bede 2006) propels this commentary into the spotlight, providing the contextualization and annotation to bring the text edited by David Hurst (Bede 1969) to life.

Scholarship

DeGregorio 2004 and DeGregorio 2005 explore this work from a number of angles. Meyvaert 2005 places it within the setting of Bede’s contemporary Wearmouth-Jarrow and its intellectual activities. Paul Meyvaert and Scott DeGregorio are at variance about the point in Bede’s career at which this work should be placed.

Commentary on Proverbs (In Prouerbia Salomonis)

This is a relatively little-studied commentary, one that is difficult to place within the chronology of Bede’s works. The concluding chapter, which comments on Proverbs 31:10–31, an ode to the capable wife, is sometimes found in manuscript as a separate text, Libellus de muliere forti.

Texts and Translations

Still accessible only in David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1983), in which it is presented with little in the way of introductory materials, whether concerning the manuscripts and the transmission of the text or the work’s content.

  • Bede. “In prouerbia Salomonis.” In Opera exegetica. Vol. 2B, In Tobiam, In Proverbia, In Cantica Canticorum, In Habacuc. Edited by David Hurst and J. E. Hudson, 23–163. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 119B. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1983.

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    Seeks to identify the sources but provides little information about the text’s transmission.

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Scholarship

This commentary has been relatively neglected by scholarship. Hablitzel 1938–1939 provides a brief study of Bede’s sources, while Weiss 1970 focuses on where the work should be placed in his career.

Commentary on the Song of Songs (In Cantica Canticorum)

This commentary has an unusual texture insofar as Bede in his prologue invests considerable energy in refuting a work by the 5th-century author Julian of Eclanum, whose traditional branding as a Pelagian (Julian was explicitly criticized by Augustine) means that his interpretations cannot be accepted uncritically. Since Julian’s work is otherwise lost, Bede’s quotations from it are precious testimony. He dedicates the last book of six to a supplementary compendium, with little intervening commentary, of fifty-three extracts from the writings of Gregory the Great that refer to the Song of Songs, offered in lieu of access to Gregory’s own commentary on the work. Bede’s own exposition of the Song of Songs is firmly in an earlier tradition of allegorical interpretation of a love song between the Church and the beloved Christ.

Texts and Translations

The text must still be accessed in the Latin edition by David Hurst (Bede 1983), which has some inadequacies and few aids to the reader in the way of introductory material.

  • Bede. “In Cantica Canticorum.” In Opera exegetica. Vol. 2B, In Tobiam, In Proverbia, In Cantica Canticorum, In Habacuc. Edited by David Hurst and J. E. Hudson, 165–375. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 119B. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1983.

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    Hurst’s edition divides the work into six books and a preface, although Bede himself referred to the work (in his bio-bibliography in Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Volume 24) as a seven-book work.

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Scholarship

The work is placed within the tradition of exegesis of the Song of Songs by Ohly 1958 and to a lesser extent by Didone 1986. Arthur G. Holder’s essays (Holder 2001, Holder 2005, Holder 2006) are all groundwork for his forthcoming translation of the work. Holder 2001 explores Bede’s relationship to his sources, and Holder 2005 and Holder 2006 sort out earlier scholarly misconceptions about the work and begin to explore thematic questions.

  • Didone, Marisa. “L’explanatio di Apponio in relazione all’Expositio di Beda ed alle Enarrationes in Cantica di Angelomus.” Civiltà Classica et Cristiana 7 (1986): 77–119.

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    Examines one of Bede’s key sources for his commentary, the Explanation by the obscure 5th-century author Apponius.

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  • Holder, Arthur G. “The Patristic Sources of Bede’s Commentary on the Song of Songs.” Studia Patristica 34 (2001): 370–375.

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    Suggests that Bede did not have access to the earlier commentaries on the Song of Songs by Origen and Gregory the Great. He did, however, use a treatise by Julian of Eclanum, otherwise lost, and a commentary by Apponius (who had used Origen’s commentary and thus serves as an indirect conduit for Bede).

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  • Holder, Arthur G. “The Anti-Pelagian Character of Bede’s Commentary on the Song of Songs.” In Biblical Studies in the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Claudio Leonardi and Giovanni Orlandi, 91–103. Florence: SISMEL, 2005.

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    Focuses on Bede’s response to the work of Julian of Eclanum. Holder carefully and intelligently refutes earlier notions that Bede first composed his commentary using Julian, then subsequently realized its seemingly heretical nature and wrote a prologue to emphasize that point. He dates the work to between 709 and 716.

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  • Holder, Arthur G. “Christ as Incarnate Wisdom in Bede’s Commentary on the Song of Songs.” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 169–188. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    Examines Bede’s use of his sources in this commentary in such a way as to illuminate his “theology of history.”

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  • Ohly, Friedrich. Hohelied-Studien: Grundzüge einer Geschichte der Hohelied-auslegung des Abendlandes bis um 1200. Wiesbaden, Germany: Steiner, 1958.

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    An entire chapter (pp. 64–91) is dedicated to Bede’s commentary in this vast and influential survey of exegesis on the Song of Songs in the West up to 1200.

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Abbreviated Psalter (Collectio psalterii)

Bede did not include this work in his own bio-bibliography at the end of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Volume 24), but it is generally thought to be his. It consists of a few verses from each psalm that Bede believed captured the essence of that psalm. Since psalmody was central to the monastic daily round, it must thus be an important insight into his perspective on that.

Texts and Translations

Gerald M. Browne’s edition (Bede 2001) offers more in the way of annotation than Johannes Fraipont’s (Bede 1955), and there is also a translation by Browne (Bede 2002) that is furnished with an informative introduction to the work.

Scholarship

Ward 2002 examines the role of psalms within the liturgy as Bede knew it.

Commentary on the Canticle of Habakkuk (In Habacuc)

Composed in response to the request of an unnamed woman. The Canticle of Habakkuk was used in the Divine Office on Fridays and was thus a very familiar text.

Texts and Translations

There is an adequate edition by J. E. Hudson (Bede 1983). Séan Connolly (Bede 1997) presents the text in translation, with an identification of sources and some explanatory annotation.

Scholarship

An introduction accompanies Séan Connolly’s translation (Bede 1997). Ward 1993 and Ward 1995 examine Bede’s source and his audience, respectively.

  • Bede. On Tobit and on the Canticle of Habakkuk. Translated by Séan Connolly. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 1997.

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    Includes an introductory essay by Diarmuid Scully.

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  • Ward, Benedicta. “In medium duorum animalium: Bede and Jerome on the Canticle of Habakkuk.” Studia Patristica 25 (1993): 189–193.

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    Addresses the relationship between Bede and Jerome, Bede’s immediate predecessor in commenting on Habakkuk.

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  • Ward, Benedicta. “To My Dearest Sister: Bede and the Educated Woman.” Women, the Book, and the Godly: Selected Proceedings of the St. Hilda’s Conference. Vol. 1. Edited by Lesley Smith and J. H. M. Taylor, 105–111. Cambridge, UK: Brewer, 1995.

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    Bede’s commentary on Habakkuk was the only one of his works dedicated to a woman, an unnamed nun who seems to have requested the commentary. Ward investigates the implications of this for an understanding of women’s literacy, suggests identities for the dedicatee, and explores Bede’s attitude to the female reader.

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Commentary on Tobit (In librum beati patris Tobiae)

Here Bede provides an allegorical treatment of selected highlights from the Book of Tobit, where Tobit stands for the children of Israel faithfully serving God.

Texts and Translations

This commentary is unusual among Bede’s exegetical works for having, alongside David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1983), two translations published within years of each other, by Séan Connolly (Bede 1997) and W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999), in each case coupled with other works and furnished with introductory material (slightly fuller in the latter case).

Scholarship

A good up-to-date introduction is provided by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999).

  • Bede. A Biblical Miscellany. Translated by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder. Translated Texts for Historians 28. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    Includes a helpful explanation of the different versions of the Tobias/Tobit story and a discussion of which was available to Bede. See pp. 53–56.

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Commentary on Mark (In Marci euangelium expositio)

Bede makes clear in his prologue that this commentary followed that on Luke, and in fact he reused substantial portions of that work.

Texts and Translations

Those who wish to access Bede’s exegesis on the Gospels are obliged to struggle with David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1960), which is far from user-friendly, not least because the editor makes little effort to aid reading by the use of punctuation. Corrections to this edition are suggested in Löfstedt 1987.

  • Bede. “In Marci evangelium expositio.” In Opera exegetica. Vol. 3, In Lucae evangelium expositio, In Marci evangelium expositio. Edited by David Hurst, 431–648. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 120. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1960.

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    Possibly the weakest of Hurst’s Corpus Christianorum Series Latina editions, furnishing a bare two and a half pages of prefatory explanation, yet both works are very long and thus a monumental effort to have collated and annotated.

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  • Löfstedt, Bengt. “Zu Bedas Evangelienkommentaren.” Arctos 21 (1987): 61–72.

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    Principally a list of errors in the Latin text of David Hurst’s Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition (Bede 1960) along with some corrections and additions to the sources identified by Hurst.

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Scholarship

This commentary has been subjected to far less scrutiny than that on Luke, though Foley 2005 stands out as a fine example of close reading. Kaczynski 2001 focuses on a particular well-known aspect of Bede’s methodology with regard to his sources.

  • Foley, W. Trent. “Bede’s Exegesis of Passages Unique to the Gospel of Mark.” In Biblical Studies in the Early Middle Ages. Edited by Claudio Leonardi and Giovanni Orlandi, 105–124. Florence: SISMEL, 2005.

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    Detailed analysis of some twenty-two passages not paralleled in the Gospel of Luke and not commented on by earlier authors.

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  • Kaczynski, Bernice M. “Bede’s Commentaries on Luke and Mark and the Formation of a Patristic Canon.” In Anglo-Latin and Its Heritage: Essays in Honour of A. G. Rigg on His 64th Birthday. Edited by Siân Echard and Gernot R. Wieland, 17–26. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2001.

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    Focuses on the key sources that Bede specified by his marginal markings.

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Commentary on Luke (In Lucae euangelium expositio)

This commentary travels with a preface consisting of the letter by which Bishop Acca exhorted Bede to undertake the task, to which Bede then responds, noting that he has had to be his own scribe. Bede also sets out his system of marginal notation to signify the four main patristic authorities he used, often extensively: Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, and Jerome.

Texts and Translations

Those wishing to study this commentary have only David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1960) available to them (on its inadequacies, see Lödstedt 1987).

  • Bede. In Lucae evangelium expositio. In Opera exegetica. Vol. 3, In Lucae evangelium expositio, In Marci evangelium expositio. Edited by David Hurst, 5–425. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 120. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1960.

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    Possibly the weakest of Hurst’s Corpus Christianorum Series Latina editions, furnishing a bare two and a half pages of prefatory explanation, yet both works are very long and thus a monumental effort to have collated and annotated.

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  • Löfstedt, Bengt. “Zu Bedas Evangelienkommentaren.” Arctos 21 (1987): 61–72.

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    Principally a list of errors in the Latin text of David Hurst’s Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition (Bede 1960) as well as some corrections and additions to the sources identified by Hurst.

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Scholarship

The system of source marks to which Bede himself drew attention is the focus of Stansbury 1999 and Gorman 2002. The authorities to which Bede alluded with those marks come together as the four “greats,” as noted by Kaczynski 2001. How Bede interwove those materials is the subject of a detailed analysis of just one Gospel narrative, Hart-Hasler 1993.

  • Gorman, Michael M. “Source Marks and Chapter Division in Bede’s Commentary on Luke.” Revue Bénédictine 112 (2002): 246–290.

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    As well as discussing the two matters referred to in the title of the article, Gorman highlights the problems with the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition of this work.

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  • Hart-Hasler, Joan N. “Bede’s Use of Patristic Sources: The Transfiguration.” Studia Patristica 28 (1993): 197–204.

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    A meticulous investigation into the sources Bede used in the commentary and into the way he interwove them.

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  • Kaczynski, Bernice M. “Bede’s Commentaries on Luke and Mark and the Formation of a Patristic Canon.” In Anglo-Latin and Its Heritage: Essays in Honour of A. G. Rigg on His 64th Birthday. Edited by Siân Echard and Gernot R. Wieland, 17–26. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2001.

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    Focuses on the key sources that Bede specified by his marginal markings.

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  • Kelly, Joseph. “Bede’s Exegesis of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.” Mediaevalia 125 (1980): 59–70.

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    Focuses on one particular section of this commentary and the range of sources to hand.

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  • Margerie, Bertrand de. “Bède le Vénérable, Commentateur original du Nouveau Testament.” In Introduction à l’histoire de l’exégèse, Vol. 4. Edited by Bertrand de Margerie, 187–228. Paris: Cerf, 1980–1990.

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    Sifts out the original contributions in Bede’s commentaries on the books of the New Testament, so often—particularly with regard to his Gospel commentaries—seen as a tissue of quotations from his principal patristic authorities.

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  • Stansbury, Mark. “Source-Marks in Bede’s Biblical Commentaries.” In Northumbria’s Golden Age. Edited by Jane Hawkes and Susan Mills, 383–389. Stroud, UK: Alan Sutton, 1999.

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    Places Bede’s practice of signaling his four principal sources by marginal marks in the context of manuscript evidence for the practice before Bede and thus suggests possible sources for the idea.

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Exposition on Acts (Expositio Actuum apostolorum) and Retraction on Acts (Retractatio in Actus apostolorum)

The Exposition on Acts, dedicated to Acca, bishop of Hexham, has been dated to between 709 and 716, and it survives in many manuscripts. Bede had no direct predecessor for it in the form of a continuous commentary on Acts, though he knew the hexameter version by Arator, and he drew in his customary way on a variety of sources for information on individual passages in the text. He went back to the text of Acts later on in life, to write his Retraction on Acts, which corrects, defends, and expands on his earlier commentary in the light of further material, some of which seems only to have come to hand after he wrote his Exposition on Acts.

Texts and Translations

Max L. W. Laistner’s edition (Bede 1939, reprinted as Bede 1983), stands out from the editions of Bede’s exegetical works as both scholarly and accessible, and the Expositio Actuum apostolorum also has the benefit of a translation by Lawrence T. Martin (Bede 1989).

  • Bede. Expositio Actuum apostolorum et Retractatio. Edited by Max L. W. Laistner. Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1939.

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    Includes a full introduction to the work.

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  • Bede. “Expositio Actuum apostolorum and Retractatio in Actus apostolorum.” In Opera exegetica: Expositio Actuum apostolorum, Retractatio in Actus apostolorum, Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus apostolorum, In epistulas VII catholicas. Edited by Max L. W. Laistner and David Hurst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1983.

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    Reprints Laistner’s earlier edition (Bede 1939) but without the long introduction.

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  • Bede. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Translated by Lawrence T. Martin. Cistercian Studies Series 117. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Studies, 1989.

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    Translates the Exposition on Acts, while excerpts from the Retraction on Acts are provided in the annotation, on the grounds that they sometimes show Bede rethinking the text, generally in response to further reading. Still, Martin’s policy of providing only selections might be said to have robbed readers of access to Bede’s text-critical commentary on Acts.

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Scholarship

Scholars have tended to focus on the light shed upon Bede’s methodology and mind-set because his “second thoughts” are seen in this work. Thus Laistner 1937 reviews Bede’s text of Acts, while Lynch 1983 uses that information to ask how much Greek Bede could have taught himself. Bonney 2002 considers the historiographical aspects of the two commentaries.

  • Bonney, Gillian. “La storiografia del Venerabile Beda vista attraverso l’Expositio Actuum apostolorum e la Retractatio.” In Historiam perscrutari: Miscellanea di studi offerti al Prof. Ottorino Pasquato. Edited by Mario Maritano, 363–377. Rome: LAS, 2002.

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    The Venerable Bede’s historiography as seen in the Exposition on Acts and the Retraction on Acts. Reads the two commentaries on Acts from a historiographical perspective.

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  • Laistner, Max L. W. “The Latin Versions of Acts Known to the Venerable Bede.” Harvard Theological Review 30 (1937): 37–50.

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    Bede had access to several versions of Acts, including both the Vulgate and the Old Latin (Vetus Latina) Bibles. Indeed, he seems to have also acquired a Greek copy (thought to survive as Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laudianus Graecus 35, a 6th-century bilingual copy), perhaps after he wrote his first Exposition on Acts.

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  • Lynch, Kevin M. “The Venerable Bede’s Knowledge of Greek.” Traditio 39 (1983): 432–439.

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    Shows that Bede’s knowledge of Greek at the time he composed the Expositio Actuum Apostolorum was passive but that when he wrote the Retractatio in Actuum Apostolorum he had reached a point where he had not only gained access to the Greek original but had learned to read it.

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Excerpts from Augustine on the Pauline Epistles (Collectio ex opusculis sancti Augustini in epistulas Pauli apostoli)

For this work, Bede depended very heavily upon an earlier collection of excerpts by the 6th-century writer Eugippius, a debt evidenced by Bede’s reproduction of errors in Eugippius’s assigning of quotations to particular works by Augustine and by the fact that for some works of Augustine he could only cite the same passage as that provided by Eugippius. The work, consisting of some 457 passages, has not yet been edited; David Hurst had an edition in hand, never completed.

Texts and Translations

The last of Bede’s commentaries to remain unprinted. David Hurst’s translation (Bede 1999) thus remains important for a first approach to the text, which can be followed up with the very full treatments of its contents in the Scholarship section.

  • Bede. Excerpts from the Works of St. Augustine on the Letters of the Blessed Apostle Paul. Translated by David Hurst. Cistercian Studies Series 183. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1999.

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    Valuable insofar as there is no full edition of the work.

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Scholarship

Scholarship has hardly begun to do much more than explore the dimensions of this still unprinted work (see Wilmart 1926 and Fransen 1961) or to establish its direct dependence on an earlier compilation by Eugippius (see Fransen 1987; Fransen was working on an edition of the text).

Commentary on the Catholic Epistles (In epistolas VII catholicas)

A commentary for which Bede went out on a limb in the sense that he did not have any real precedent to draw upon in the form of an earlier commentary on those epistles in the New Testament by writers other than Paul (Peter, John, Timothy, James). Perhaps this unique character also explains the very large number of surviving manuscripts of this commentary.

Texts and Translations

David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1983) has some infuriating aspects, but it is nonetheless an edition, which he followed up with a translation into English (Bede 1985). Matthias Karsten provides a translation into German (Bede 2000) of just one section of the work with annotations.

  • Bede. In epistolas VII catholicas. In Opera exegetica: Expositio Actuum apostolorum, Retractatio in Actus apostolorum, Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus apostolorum, In epistulas VII catholicas. Edited by Max L. W. Laistner and David Hurst, 179–342. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1983.

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    A major irritant for users of this edition is the fact that the running heads do not distinguish the individual letters within the commentary (for example, whether John or Peter and so on).

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  • Bede. Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles. Translated by David Hurst. Cistercian Studies Series 82. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1985.

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    Based on the text in Bede 1983.

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  • Bede. In epistulam Iacobi expositio: Kommentar zum Jakobusbrief. Translated by Matthias Karsten. Fontes Christiani 40. Freiburg in Briesgau, Germany: Herder, 2000.

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    A translation and commentary on just one section of this work, on the Epistle of James.

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Scholarship

There is surprisingly little scholarship on this commentary. Brown 2009 provides a brief introduction.

Commentary on the Apocalypse (Expositio Apocalypseos)

This work is addressed to Hwætberht (abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow from 716), alias Eusebius, and thought to be Bede’s earliest biblical commentary, dated to between 703 and 709. It survives in over a hundred manuscripts.

Texts and Translations

Arguably the best edition of this commentary by the early 21st century is that of Roger Gryson (Bede 2001), whose introduction treats all the intricacies of the text’s transmission through the many surviving manuscripts. As there is not yet a modern translation, readers must content themselves with the one by Edward Marshall (Bede 1878).

  • Bede. The Explanation of the Apocalypse. Translated by Edward Marshall. Oxford: James Parker, 1878.

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    Available online.

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  • Bede. Opera exegetica: Expositio Apocalypseos. Edited by Roger Gryson. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2001.

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    A monumental, exemplary edition with a very full introduction (in French), covering textual transmission (including a wonderful sequence of foldout stemmata codicum), Bede’s sources, and his text of the Apocalypse. The volume is unusual among the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina editions for providing an exhaustive record of Bede’s sources on pages facing the main text.

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Scholarship

Scholarship on the work has focused principally on Bede’s relationship to earlier treatments of Revelation (Bonner 1994, Gryson 1997, and Mackay 1997). For a full catalogue of the sources, see Love 1999 as well as Roger Gryson’s edition (Bede 2001). Mackay 1979 and Mackay 1999 look in closer detail at particular sources.

  • Bede. Opera exegetica: Expositio Apocalypseos. Edited by Roger Gryson. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2001.

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    The introduction includes a very full treatment of the work’s textual transmission and sources.

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  • Bonner, Gerald. “Saint Bede in the Tradition of Western Apocalyptic Commentary.” In Bede and His World: The Jarrow Lectures, Vol. 1. Edited by Michael Lapidge, 153–173. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1994.

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    Places Bede’s commentary in its relation to earlier commentators on Revelation.

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  • Gryson, Roger. “Les commentaires patristiques latins de l’Apocalypse.” Revue Théologique de Louvain 28 (1997): 305–337, 484–502.

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    Reviews very fully the earliest commentaries on Revelation.

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  • Love, Rosalind. “The Sources for Bede’s Explanatio Apocalypseos”. Fontes Anglo-Saxonici: A Register of Written Sources Used by Anglo-Saxon Authors.1999.

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    Fontes Anglo-Saxonici is a freely accessible online database that includes a list of all identifiable sources for Bede’s commentary. It was compiled, ironically, before the publication of Roger Gryson’s edition (Bede 2001), which sets them all out beautifully on pages facing the main text.

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  • Mackay, Thomas W. “Bede’s Biblical Criticism: The Venerable Bede’s Summary of Tyconius’ Liber regularum.” In Saints, Scholars, and Heroes: Studies in Medieval Culture in Honour of Charles W. Jones, Vol. 1. Edited by Margot H. King and Wesley M. Stevens, 209–331. Collegeville, MN: Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, Saint John’s Abbey and University, 1979.

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    Bede’s Commentary on the Apocalypse begins, in the prefatory letter to Hwætberht, with an extensive quotation from the Liber regularum by Tyconius (on the seven rules for exegesis). Mackay suggests that Bede knew the work only at secondhand, through Augustine’s summary of it in De doctrina christiana.

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  • Mackay, Thomas W. “Sources and Style in Bede’s Commentary on the Apocalypse.” Studia Patristica 30 (1997): 54–60.

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    Examines Bede’s approach to the sources he used for this commentary.

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  • Mackay, Thomas W. “Augustine and Gregory the Great in Bede’s Commentary on the Apocalypse.” In Northumbria’s Golden Age. Edited by Jane Hawkes and Susan Mills, 396–405. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

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    Bede’s preparatory reading for his Apocalypse commentary had many layers, with direct and indirect access, via another author, to the sources he quoted.

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Bede’s Shorter Exegetical Treatises, Aids to Bible Study, and Preaching

Alongside his full commentaries on various books of the Bible, Bede produced several shorter treatises that handle specific passages or questions, sometimes written in response to a query. Following in the footsteps of scholars such as Jerome, he also compiled handbooks to help with studying the Bible, on place-names, and on the topography of the Holy Land. Another extension of his life’s work unfolding the scriptures is his collection of homilies, which provide an insight into the way Bede ministered directly to his fellow monks at Wearmouth-Jarrow.

Eight Questions (De octo quaestionibus)

These are brief treatments of specific texts, three from the Old Testament and five from the New. Bede did not specifically mention this work in the list of his writings appended to the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but scholars have proved conclusively that it is his. The Patrologia Latina edition (Bede 1850), though perhaps more widely accessible, should be regarded as superseded by Gorman 1999, which appeared simultaneously with a good modern translation by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999), which also provides a brief summary of the work and much helpful annotation. Gorman 1999 lays out the earlier scholarship that established Bede’s authorship.

  • Bede. De octo quaestionibus. Printed by J.-P. Migne. Patrologia Latina 93 (1850): cols. 455–462.

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    Migne reprinted this text from an earlier edition by J. A. Giles, published in 1843. Includes seven additional questions (numbers 9–15) not now thought to be Bede’s work.

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  • Bede. A Biblical Miscellany. Translated by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder. Translated Texts for Historians 18. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    A translation made with the benefit of last-minute access to Gorman 1999, which improved significantly on the earlier edition. Provides full annotations with source identifications. See pp. 149–165.

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  • Gorman, Michael. “Bede’s VIII quaestiones and Carolingian Biblical Scholarship.” Revue Bénédictine 109 (1999): 63–77.

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    Gorman offers an edition as an appendix to his article, which identifies nine surviving manuscripts of this work and shows how widely used Bede’s questions were. Corrects many of the readings of the Patrologia Latina edition (Bede 1850).

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On the Resting Places of the Children of Israel (De mansionibus filiorum Israel)

A brief treatise discussing the places at which the people of Israel stopped on their desert wanderings, as described in Numbers 33, composed as a letter in response to a query from Bishop Acca of Hexham. Available only in a fairly outdated text (Bede 1850), but there is a well-annotated modern translation by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999) that also includes a short introduction to the work.

On What Isaiah Says (De eo quod ait Isaias)

A treatment of Isaiah 24:22, written at the request of Bishop Acca of Hexham, in the form of a letter. The significance of Isaiah’s words (“And they will be shut up there in prison and will be visited after many days” [Isaiah 24:22]), immediately preceded by a reference to the day on which the Lord will punish heaven and earth, is what exactly is prophesied there. The fact that the text must still be read in Patrologia Latina (Bede 1850) is somewhat made up for by the existence of a good modern translation by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999), which also provides a brief introduction to the work.

On the Names of Regions and Places in Acts (Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus apostolorum)

This is an alphabetical list of unfamiliar place-names referred to in Acts drawn from Bede’s usual sources for such information, Pliny’s Natural History, and Isidore and Jerome’s treatises on names. The edition by Max L. W. Laistner (Bede 1983) has an introduction that lays out the arguments for the work’s authenticity. There is no translation in print.

  • Bede. “Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus apostolorum.” In Opera exegetica: Expositio Actuum apostolorum, Retractatio in Actus apostolorum, Nomina regionum atque locorum de Actibus apostolorum, In epistulas VII catholicas. Edited by Max L. W. Laistner and David Hurst. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 121. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1983.

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    Identifies the sources for the information Bede provides. See pp. 167–178 on this work.

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On the Holy Places (De locis sanctis)

A treatise of this name was composed by Adomnán, the ninth abbot of Iona (d. 704), and presented to King Aldfrith of Northumbria. The work was valuable for incorporating the eyewitness account of the Holy Land gleaned from Arculf, an otherwise unknown (and possibly invented) bishop of Gaul, who visited Iona on his way home from his Eastern pilgrimage. Bede reports this gift in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People and notes that the work was of great use to many, citing passages from it within the history itself. He had much earlier (in 702 or 703) rewritten Adomnán’s work in order to smooth out what he saw as stylistic infelicities, and his version saw a much wider circulation than Adomnán’s original. Johannes Fraipont edits the text (Bede 1965) alongside other accounts of pilgrimage destinations; the translation by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder (Bede 1999) places it among Bede’s other shorter helps to Bible study and provides a straightforward guide to the text.

  • Bede. De locis sanctis. In Itineraria et alia geographica. Edited by P. Geyer, O. Cuntz, A. Francheschini, R. Weber, L. Bieler, Johannes Fraipont, and F. Glorie, 245–280. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 175. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1965.

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    Based on seven manuscripts.

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  • Bede. A Biblical Miscellany. Translated by W. Trent Foley and Arthur G. Holder. Translated Texts for Historians 18. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    A translation accompanied by a useful annotation recording Bede’s sources. The brief introduction accounts for the work’s genesis. See pp. 1–25.

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Homilies (Homiliarum euangelii libri II)

Bede’s fifty homilies were used again and again in later collections of homilies. They cover principal feast days observed at Wearmouth-Jarrow as well as Sundays. While his approach to the scriptures in these homilies is the same as that of his works of exegesis, the texture is tighter, while the debt to earlier sources is far less obvious. The style of the Latin is also quite dense and challenging.

Texts and Translations

David Hurst’s edition (Bede 1965) should be read alongside the corrections noted in Löfstedt 1988. The translation by Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst (Bede 1991) opens up access to Bede’s preaching.

Scholarship

Martin 1990 and Martin 2006 examine two different types of influence on Bede’s preaching, while Martin 1989 focuses more on preaching technique. Sharpe 2005 is entirely centered on the dense Latin prose style of the homilies.

  • Martin, Lawrence T. “The Two Worlds in Bede’s Homilies: The Biblical Event and the Listeners’ Experience.” In De Ore Domini: Preacher and the Word in the Middle Ages. Edited by Thomas L. Amos, Eugene A. Green, and Beverly Mayne Kienzle, 27–40. Medieval Institute Publications 27. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 1989.

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    Examines Bede’s homiletic technique of applying his preaching text to real experience.

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  • Martin, Lawrence T. “Augustine’s Influence on Bede’s Homeliae euangelii.” In Augustine, Second Founder of the Faith. Edited by Joseph C. Schnaubelt and Frederick van Fleteren, 357–369. Collectanea Augustiniana 1. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

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    Analyzes an important source for Bede.

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  • Martin, Lawrence T. “Bede’s Originality in His Use of the Book of Wisdom in His Homilies on the Gospels.” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 189–202. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    Defends Bede against the frequent accusation that he lacked originality and merely synthesized the materials to hand in the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow. Examines the creativity with which the homilist approaches texts drawn from the Book of Wisdom to offer rich allusive intertextualities aimed at the better-informed reader or listener.

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  • Sharpe, Richard. “The Varieties of Bede’s Prose.” In Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose. Edited by Tobias Reinhardt, Michael Lapidge, and James N. Adams, 339–355. Proceedings of the British Academy 129. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Discusses the relative difficulty of the prose Bede used in his homilies and the implications for the kind of audience for which they were likely intended.

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  • Van der Walt, A. G. P. “Reflections of the Benedictine Rule in Bede’s Homiliary.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 37 (1986): 367–376.

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    Picks out scattered allusions to the Rule of Benedict.

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Bede’s Didactic and Scientific Works

As well as working to open up the scriptures for his readership, Bede showed himself to be a teacher in the more general sense by providing a suite of basic instructional handbooks for use in the classroom or the scriptorium, covering matters of spelling, grammar, Latin meter, and rhetorical figures. Each is illustrated with examples from a great variety of both classical and religious literature. He also wrote a simple guide to “the nature of things” that covers cosmology and natural phenomena. Bede is perhaps more famous as a teacher of the complex matter of time reckoning, though, as witnessed by two treatises he composed to introduce it as well as three letters that cover particular issues within the topic.

On Orthography (De orthographia)

Intended as a handbook for use in the scriptorium and the library (rather than the classroom), this work is arranged alphabetically, covering standard abbreviations, correct usage, nuance of meaning, the spelling of words, and Latin words easily confused with one another. The work draws on a variety of earlier grammatical treatises, with examples selected from many other works as well.

Texts and Translations

Charles W. Jones’s edition (Bede 1975) improves significantly on earlier editions of this text, widening the range of manuscripts used. The work has not yet been translated, perhaps not surprisingly given its terse and often pedestrian style.

  • Bede. “De orthographia.” In Opera didascalica, Vol. 1. Edited by Charles W. Jones, Calvin B. Kendall, Margot H. King, and F. Lipp, 1–57. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1975.

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    The identification of Bede’s sources in this edition offers an often bewildering array of possibilities for just one phrase.

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Scholarship

Dionisotti 1982, brilliant and sophisticated, is important for moving the work from its traditional position among Bede’s juvenilia. Law 1982, Irvine 1986, and Holtz 2005 place the work among the grammar books despite its title, since a good number of the entries handle points of grammar, such as irregular formations of the perfect tense of verbs. Zaffagno 1976 examines Bede’s teaching on orthography.

  • Dionisotti, Carlotta. “On Bede, Grammars, and Greek.” Revue Bénédictine 92 (1982): 11–41.

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    Examines Bede’s sources for On Orthography. There is much overlap between works that also often copied one another, and it is clear that Charles W. Jones’s claims in Bede 1975 (see Texts and Translations) for the extent of Bede’s reading were overstated. Shows that On Orthography was probably produced toward the end of Bede’s career.

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  • Holtz, Louis. “Bède et la tradition grammaticale Latine.” In Bède le Vénérable entre tradition et postérité. Edited by Stéphane Lebecq, Michel Perrin, and Olivier Szerwiniack, 9–18. Villeneuve d’Ascq, France: CEGES, Université Charles-de-Gaulle, 2005.

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    Places Bede in the context of the wider tradition of grammatical study.

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  • Irvine, Martin. “Bede the Grammarian and the Scope of Grammatical Studies in Eighth-Century Northumbria.” Anglo-Saxon England 15 (1986): 15–44.

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    Discusses the subject matter Bede regarded as coming under the remit of grammar.

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  • Law, Vivien. The Insular Latin Grammarians. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1982.

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    Places Bede in context among Irish and Anglo-Saxon writers on grammar.

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  • Love, Rosalind C. “Bede and John Chrysostom.” Journal of Medieval Latin 17 (2007): 72–86.

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    Identifies the sources for the two occasions when Bede cites “John of Constantinople” as an authority; both can be traced to the so-called thirty-eight-homily collection, a widely circulated compilation of Latin sermons translated from John of Chrysostom’s Greek, or erroneously attributed to Chrysostom.

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  • Zaffagno, Elena. “La dottrina ortografica di Beda.” Romanobarbarica 1 (1976): 325–339.

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    Bede’s teaching on orthography. Looks at Bede’s approach to orthography.

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On the Art of Meter (De arte metrica)

Here Bede attempts to explain Latin versification on the basis of selections from earlier treatises together with examples drawn from Virgil and the Christian Latin poets. Dedicated to Cuthbert, Bede’s fellow deacon (conleuita), but written after 709.

Texts and Translations

A perfectly usable edition is provided by Calvin B. Kendall and Margot H. King in Bede 1975 and then again by Kendall in Bede 1991 with a translation.

  • Bede. De arte metrica. In Opera didascalica, Vol. 1. Edited by Charles Williams Jones, Calvin B. Kendall, Margot H. King, and F. Lipp, 81–141. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1975.

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    Very fully annotated with regard to the possible sources for Bede’s metrical lore and the verses he quoted by way of examples.

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  • Bede. Libri II: De arte metrica et De schematibus et tropis/The Art of Poetry and Rhetoric: The Latin Text with an English Translation, Introduction, and Notes. Edited and translated by Calvin B. Kendall. Bibliotheca Germanica Series Nova 2. Saarbrücken, Germany: AQ Verlag, 1991.

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    Kendall and King’s earlier edition (Bede 1975) provided with an accompanying translation.

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Scholarship

Crucial for a proper positioning of this work in Bede’s career is Holder 1999, which contradicts older assumptions that this is an early work. Franklin 2000 supports Holder 1999 on this. Palmer 1959, Coronati 1981, and Ruff 2005 highlight Bede’s working methods and his relationship to his sources.

  • Coronati, Lia. “La dottrina del tetrametro trocaico in Beda.” Romanobarbarica 6 (1981): 53–62.

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    Bede’s teaching on the trochaic tetrameter. Examines the unusual interpretation Bede offered for one particular meter, the trochaic tetrameter, apparently not to be found in his source but seemingly based on an analysis of actual metrical practice as found in the hymn he cited to exemplify the meter.

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  • Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. “The Date of Composition of Bede’s De schematibus et tropis and De arte metrica.” Revue Bénédictine 110 (2000): 199–203.

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    Brings internal evidence to support the view of Holder 1999 that De arte metrica was written after 709, meaning that it is not an early work by Bede, as scholars once thought.

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  • Heikkinen, Seppo. “Bede’s De arte metrica and the Origins of Early Medieval Metre.” Latin vulgaire—Latin tardif VI: Actes du VIe Colloque international sur le latin vulgaire et tardif, Helsinki, 29 août–2 septembre 2000. Edited by Heikki Solin, Martti Leiwo, and Hilla Halla-aho, 173–182. Hildesheim, Germany: Olms-Weidmann, 2003.

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    Looks onward from Bede’s teaching on metrics.

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  • Holder, Arthur G. “(Un)Dating Bede’s De arte metrica.” In Northumbria’s Golden Age. Edited by Jane Hawkes and Susan Mills, 390–395. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

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    Suggests that Bede’s dedication of the work to Cuthbert, his conleuita (fellow deacon), need not mean that Bede himself was still only a deacon and not already a priest when he composed the work.

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  • Luiselli, Bruno. “Il De arte metrica di Beda di fronte alla tradizione metricologica tardo-latina.” In I grammatici latini d’etá imperiale: Miscellanea filologica. By Luiselli, Bruno, 169–180. Genoa, Italy: Istituto di Filologia Classica e Medievale dell’Università di Genova, 1976.

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    Places Bede’s treatise against the background of late antique handbooks on metrics, some of which he must have found in the library at Jarrow.

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  • Palmer, Robert B. “Bede as a Textbook Writer: A Study of his De arte metrica.” Speculum 34.4 (1959): 573–584.

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    Rescues Bede’s work from the contempt of earlier commentators, who saw it as derivative and uncritical; at this point the treatise was still thought to be among his earliest works.

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  • Ruff, Carin. “The Place of Metrics in Anglo-Saxon Latin Education: Aldhelm and Bede.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 104.2 (2005): 149–170.

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    An insightful comparison of the quite distinct approaches of Bede and his predecessor, Aldhelm, to the problem of teaching Latin versification to non-Romance speakers.

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On Schemes and Tropes (De schematibus et tropis)

This is a brief sequel to De arte metrica and also dedicated to Cuthbert. Building on the relevant sections from Donatus’s Ars grammatica, Bede treats the rhetorical figures and tropes as part of grammar rather than rhetoric, and for good measure the examples offered are drawn exclusively from scripture or Christian Latin verse.

Texts and Translations

This text is well served by its editors, Calvin B. Kendall and Margot H. King (Bede 1975). Kendall has also published a translation (Bede 1991), which is founded on a better Latin text than the earlier offering of Tanenhaus 1962.

  • Bede. De schematibus et tropis. Edited by Calvin B. Kendall with Margot H. King. In Opera didascalica, Vol. 1. Edited by Charles Williams Jones, Calvin B. Kendall, Margot H. King, and F. Lipp, 142–171. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1975.

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    Supersedes the earlier Teubner edition of the work by Karl Halm (1863), who only used three manuscripts. Includes a discussion of the manuscripts by Margot H. King.

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  • Bede. Libri II: De arte metrica et De schematibus et tropis/The Art of Poetry and Rhetoric: The Latin Text with an English Translation, Introduction, and Notes. Edited and translated by Calvin B. Kendall. Bibliotheca Germanica Series Nova 2. Saarbrücken, Germany: AQ Verlag, 1991.

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    Kendall and King’s earlier edition (Bede 1975) with an accompanying translation.

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  • Tanenhaus, Gussie Hecht. “Bede’s De schematibus et tropis: A Translation.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 48 (1962): 237–253.

    DOI: 10.1080/00335636209382544Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally a 1950 MA thesis. The translation, based on the 1863 Teubner edition of Bede’s work by Karl Halm, is preceded by a brief discussion of Bede’s sources. Reprinted in Readings in Medieval Rhetoric, edited by Joseph H. Miller, Michael H. Prosser, and Thomas W. Benson, 76–80 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973).

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Scholarship

Schindel 1968 and Isola 1976 focus on Bede’s sources. Franklin 2000 and Franklin 2002 place the work within Bede’s career in relation to his biblical commentaries.

  • Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. “The Date of Composition of Bede’s De schematibus et tropis and De arte metrica.” Revue Bénédictine 110 (2000): 199–203.

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    Brings internal evidence to support the view of Arthur G. Holder (see Holder 1999 cited under Scholarship in On the Art of Meter (De arte metrica)) that On Schemes and Tropes was written after 709, meaning that it is not an early work by Bede, as scholars once thought.

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  • Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. “Grammar and Exegesis: Bede’s Liber de schematibus et tropis.” In Latin Grammar and Rhetoric: From Classical Theory to Medieval Practice. Edited by Carol D. Lanham, 63–91. London: Continuum, 2002.

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    Sets out to demonstrate the relationship between Bede’s didactic works and his exegesis, suggesting that the assumption that the former were earlier productions is not necessarily sustainable.

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  • Isola, Antonio. “Il De schematibus et tropis di Beda in rapporto al De doctrina christiana di Agostino.” Romanobarbarica 1 (1976): 71–82.

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    Suggests that, in drawing his examples from scripture and Christian Latin verse, Bede was putting into practice what Augustine had proposed in his work De doctrina christiana on the proper educational framework for Christians.

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  • Schindel, Ulrich. “Die Quellen von Bedas Figurenlehre.” Classica et Mediaevalia 29 (1968): 169–186.

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    Analyzes the antique sources for Bede’s work, examining his relation to Donatus, Julian of Toledo, Isidore, and Cassiodorus and concluding that Bede had an otherwise lost Christianizing ars grammatica of 5th-century origin.

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On the Nature of Things (De natura rerum liber)

This handbook offers an introduction to cosmology and natural phenomena, drawing on Isidore of Seville’s De natura rerum (also known as the Liber rotarum) as well as a work misattributed to Isidore and probably composed in 7th-century Ireland, De ordine creaturarum, and also Pliny’s Natural History. Possibly a relatively early work.

Texts and Translations

Charles W. Jones offers an adequate edition (Bede 1975), but the work has not been translated. A translation by Calvin B. Kendall is planned for 2010 or 2011 (Translated Texts for Historians, Liverpool).

  • Bede. De natura rerum liber. In Opera didascalica, Vol. 1. Edited by Charles W. Jones, Calvin B. Kendall, Margot H. King, and F. Lipp, 189–234. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123A. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1975.

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    Very full annotations identify Bede’s extensive use of his key sources, works by Isidore of Seville and Pliny’s Natural History.

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Scholarship

Eckenrode 1971 and Eckenrode 1976 assess Bede’s scientific knowledge as displayed by this work, and Eckenrode 1974 focuses on one particular section within it. Di Pilla 1991 and McCready 1995 focus on Bede’s relationship to his sources, in particular Isidore of Seville.

On Times (De Temporibus) and On the Reckoning of Time (De Temporum Ratione Liber)

Bede’s two treatises on time reckoning frame his career. The first, On Times, is thought to have been written around 703. It was too dense a treatment of a complex subject, however, and it was daring in its attempt to recalculate the age of the world from creation to Christ’s birth, ending up with a much smaller figure than had commonly been accepted. Bede was consequently accused of heresy, which provoked a furious response, in the form of his Letter to Plegwin. Eventually, in about 725, Bede produced his much fuller reworking of the material, On the Reckoning of Time.

Texts and Translations

Bede’s important works on time reckoning, which have an extraordinarily complex and widespread manuscript diffusion, have been relatively well served by the sustained attention of Charles W. Jones (Bede 1977, Bede 1980). Faith Wallis’s translation (Bede 1999) makes the material accessible and comprehensible.

  • Bede. Opera didascalica. Vol. 2, De temporum ratione. Edited by Charles W. Jones. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123B. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1977.

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    Incorporating the Chronica Maiora (c. 66–71 on De temporum ratione), which had already been published by Theodor Mommsen in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 13 (Berlin: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 1898). The rest of the text is a reprint from Charles W. Jones’s earlier edition Bedae Opera de temporibus, 173–291, 327–391 (Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1943).

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  • Bede. Opera didascalica. Vol. 3. Edited by Charles W. Jones. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 123C. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1980.

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    Incorporates the Chronica minora (c. 17–22 of De temporibus), already published by Theodor Mommsen in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 13 (Berlin: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 1898). The rest of the text is a reprint from Charles W. Jones’s earlier edition, Bedae Opera de temporibus, 295–303 (Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1943).

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  • Bede. The Reckoning of Time. Translated by Faith Wallis. Translated Texts for Historians 29. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    This translation is furnished with a very full commentary as well as an extensive and helpful introduction on the sources for Bede’s thought on time reckoning along with clear explanations of some of the complexities of computus.

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Scholarship

Faith Wallis (Bede 1999) provides a comprehensive introduction to these two works, while Wallis 2006 returns to the subject within the wider picture of Bede’s teaching on scientific topics. Ó Croínín 1983 examines one particular source for Bede’s work on time reckoning from Ireland.

  • Bede. The Reckoning of Time. Translated by Faith Wallis. Translated Texts for Historians 29. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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    The extensive and helpful introduction to this translation describes the sources for Bede’s thought on time reckoning and explains some of the complexities of computus.

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  • Ó Croínín, Dáibhí. “The Irish Provenance of Bede’s Computus.” Peritia 2 (1983): 229–247.

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    “Computus” is the term used to describe a tract or collection of tracts and rules connected with the calculation of the date of Easter. Ó Croínín here shows, by examination of manuscripts containing computistical material, that the computus Bede used had come to him from Ireland.

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  • Wallis, Faith. “Si naturam quæras: Reframing Bede’s ‘Science.’” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 65–99. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    Examines Bede’s scientific teaching.

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The Letter to Plegwin (Epistola ad Pleguinam: De sex aetatibus mundi)

With this indignant letter, addressed in 708 to Plegwin, Bede sought to defend statements he had made in his On Times, which had made him a laughingstock to those less well informed than he was. Charles W. Jones provides an adequate edition (Bede 1980), now complemented by a good English translation by Faith Wallis (Bede 1999).

The Letter to Helmwald (Epistola ad Helmwaldum: De ratione bissexti una)

A treatment of the bissextile intercalation that Bede subsequently incorporated into his On the Reckoning of Time, chapters 38–39. Charles W. Jones’s edition (Bede 1980) is now complemented by Faith Wallis’s translation (Bede 1999).

The Letter to Wicthed (Epistola ad Wichthedum: De aequinoctio iuxta Anatolium)

This work is frequently transmitted in manuscripts alongside On the Reckoning of Time and focuses on one particular issue, the so-called Anatolian canon on the dating of Easter, which was much later on discovered to be a forgery, though it had been treated as authoritative by Irish supporters of a dating for Easter different from the Roman one. Charles W. Jones’s edition (Bede 1980) is complemented by the translation by Faith Wallis (Bede 1999).

Bede’s Hagiographical Works

A branch of Christian literature that Bede would have found in the library or partaken of within the daily worship at Wearmouth-Jarrow was hagiography, or the lives of the saints. We have ample evidence of the great variety of earlier hagiographical texts to which he had access thanks to the remarkable historical martyrology he compiled, with brief notices of very many saints. He also rewrote earlier lives, either recasting verse as prose (Saint Felix) or improving on poor prose (Anastasius). This is also how his engagement with Saint Cuthbert may have begun, for he first wrote a versification of an earlier anonymous prose life of the saint, which he followed up with his own prose version.

The Prose Life of Cuthbert (Vita S. Cuthberti)

Bede was commissioned to rewrite the first anonymous account of Cuthbert, written at Lindisfarne not long after the saint’s translation in 698. He first wrote a versification of the material, and subsequently he composed the prose version. The prose life seems focused in particular upon lifting Cuthbert from the local concerns of Lindisfarne to place him among the better-known saints of the Continent by means of explicit comparisons. The earlier life had also betrayed its extensive debt to other hagiographers (such as Sulpicius Severus and Athanasius) only too clearly, and Bede’s is inevitably a more polished, if more distanced, account of a saint with a fast-growing cult.

Texts and Translations

Colgrave 1940 remains the standard edition and translation, to be preferred before Farmer 1983.

  • Colgrave, Bertram, ed. and trans. Two Lives of Saint Cuthbert: A Life by an Anonymous Monk of Lindisfarne and Bede’s Prose Life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1940.

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    Helpfully places Bede’s life immediately alongside its source, the work it was composed to replace. Light annotation. Reprinted in 1969 and 1985.

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  • Farmer, D. H., ed. The Age of Bede. Translated by J. F. Webb. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1983.

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    A translation with almost no explanatory annotation but an introduction for basic orientation. Includes Bede’s Life of Cuthbert (pp. 41–102) and Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow; Eddius Stephanus’s Life of Wilfrid; The Voyage of St. Brendan; and the Anonymous History of Abbot Ceolfrith.

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Scholarship

This important work has been examined from a variety of angles. Thacker 1983 places it in the context of Bede’s “ecclesio-political” views. Berschin 1989 seeks to account for why the work was necessary in the first place (when there was already a prose life), and Kirby 1995 views the text within the development of Cuthbert’s cult. Coates 1996 and Foley 1999 meanwhile focus on the type of sanctity presented in the work, and Knibbs 2004 connects the work with Bede’s exegetical writings.

  • Berschin, Walter. “Opus deliberatum ac perfectum: Why Did the Venerable Bede Write a Second Prose Life of Cuthbert?” In St. Cuthbert: His Cult and Community to A.D. 1200. Edited by Gerald Bonner, David Rollason, and Clare Stancliffe, 95–102. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1989.

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    Provides a justification for why it was necessary for Bede to replace the existing anonymous prose Life of Cuthbert.

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  • Coates, Simon J. “The Bishop as Pastor and Solitary: Bede and the Spiritual Authority of the Monk-Bishop.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 47 (1996): 601–619.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022046900014639Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads across the different presentations of the saint that Bede offered in his prose and verse lives and then also his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

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  • Foley, W. Trent. “Suffering and Sanctity in Bede’s Prose Life of St. Cuthbert.” Journal of Theological Studies 50 (1999): 102–116.

    DOI: 10.1093/jts/50.1.102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the type of sanctity Cuthbert is presented as exhibiting.

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  • Kirby, David P. “The Genesis of a Cult: Cuthbert of Farne and Ecclesiastical Politics in Northumbria in the Late Seventh and Early Eighth Centuries.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 46 (1995): 383–397.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022046900017723Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Places the hagiography within the framework of power struggles between Lindisfarne and Ripon.

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  • Knibbs, Erik. “Exegetical Hagiography: Bede’s Prose Vita sancti Cuthberti.” Revue Bénédictine 114 (2004): 233–252.

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    Examines the way Bede the exegete went about writing hagiography, showing the carryover of themes and techniques from biblical commentary into the Life of Cuthbert.

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  • Thacker, Alan. “Bede’s Ideal of Reform.” In Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies Presented to J. M. Wallace-Hadrill. Edited by Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough, and Roger Collins, 130–153. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.

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    Notes the extent to which Bede upheld Cuthbert, the monk-bishop, as an ideal for his own day, so much in need of spiritual and ecclesiastical reform.

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The Poetic Life of Cuthbert

Bede transformed the anonymous prose Life of Cuthbert into a more spiritual and reflective account of the saint in elegant hexameters with a strongly Virgilian flavor.

Texts and Translations

Werner Jaager’s volume (Bede 1935) is the only available edition of this work, and there is no translation.

  • Bede. Vita Cuthberti. Edited by Werner Jaager. Leipzig: Mayer and Müller, 1935.

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    A full critical edition with identification of some of Bede’s sources (the list has greatly been extended by Michael Lapidge). Does not provide a translation.

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Scholarship

Study of this work in print has been dominated by Michael Lapidge. Wright 1981 anticipates Lapidge 2005 in highlighting the Virgilian quality of Bede’s verses.

  • Lapidge, Michael. “Bede’s Metrical Vita S. Cuthberti.” In St. Cuthbert: His Cult, and Community to A.D. 1200. Edited by Gerald Bonner, David Rollasson, and Clare Stancliffe, 77–93. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1989.

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    Introduces the work, which up to that point had been relatively neglected, compared with the various prose accounts of Cuthbert. Reprinted in Anglo-Latin Literature 600–899, edited by Michael Lapidge, 339–355 (London: Hambledon, 1996).

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  • Lapidge, Michael. “Prolegomena to an Edition of Bede’s Metrical Vita sancti Cuthberti.” Filologia Mediolatina 2 (1995): 127–163.

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    Preparatory to his forthcoming edition of this text, Lapidge discusses various editorial difficulties, including the existence of an apparent earlier draft of the poem in just one manuscript now in Besançon (Bibliothèque Municipale MS 186, copied in mid-9th-century Germany), the readings of which were consigned to Werner Jaager’s apparatus as valueless variants.

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  • Lapidge, Michael. “Bede and the Poetic Diction of Vergil.” In Poesía Latina Medieval (Siglos V–XV). Edited by Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz and José M. Díaz de Bustamante, 739–748. Florence: SISMEL, 2005.

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    Emphasizes the extent to which Bede’s poem demonstrates his profound familiarity with Virgilian diction.

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  • Orchard, Andy. The Poetic Art of Aldhelm. Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England 8. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    In the context of a skillful analysis of Aldhelm’s metrical usage and debt to earlier poetry, Orchard examines that of Bede by way of comparison.

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  • Wright, Neil. “Bede and Vergil.” Romanobarbarica 6 (1981): 367–371.

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    Shows that Bede knew the works of Virgil at firsthand, not simply via grammatical and metrical treatises. The metrical Vita S. Cuthberti is shown to be particularly rich in Virgilian reminiscences.

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The Life of Felix (Vita S. Felicis)

This is a prose version of the sequence of poems composed for Felix’s feast day by Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) intended for “simple readers”—or, rather more likely, listeners.

Texts and Translations

Vita S. Felicis is one of the few of Bede’s works for which one is still obliged to refer to the Patrologia Latina edition (Bede 1850), since Thomas W. Mackay’s edition (Bede 1972) has not been published in print.

Scholarship

The text is fully explored by Mackay 1976 in the light of having made an edition of the text.

  • Mackay, Thomas W. “Bede’s Hagiographical Method: His Knowledge and Use of Paulinus of Nola.” In Famulus Christi: Essays in Commemoration of the Thirteenth Centenary of the Birth of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Gerald Bonner, 77–92. London: SPCK, 1976.

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    Analyzes the way Bede converted Paulinus’s poems on Felix into a prose narrative and accounts for the presence of the cult of a southern Italian saint at Wearmouth-Jarrow in the first place.

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The Life of Anastasius the Persian (Passio S. Anastasii Persae)

Here Bede rewrote an earlier account of the passion of Saint Anastasius, a Persian monk martyred in 628, itself “badly translated from the Greek.” The cult is thought to have been brought to England by the Greek monk Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury.

Texts and Translations

The Bollandist edition (Bede 1643) tentatively identifies this text as the work Bede had regarded as “badly translated.” Franklin 2004 presents it as Bede’s.

  • Bede. Passio S. Anastasii. Edited by the Bollandists. Acta Sanctorum, Ianuarius II (1643): 426–431.

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    The early Bollandist editor was uncertain about identifying the author of this work; the edition is accompanied by a neo-Latin annotation and introduction.

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  • Franklin, Carmela Vircillo, ed. The Latin Dossier of Anastasius the Persian: Hagiographic Translations and Transformations. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004.

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    Presents Bede’s work, which was formerly thought to have been lost, within the wider context of Latin texts relating to Saint Anastasius, pp. 363–416.

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Scholarship

Franklin and Meyvaert 1982 rescues this work from obscurity; it is put fully in context by Franklin 2004.

Bede’s Martyrology

In a remarkable undertaking, Bede built upon the existing so-called Jeromian martyrology to provide a more generously annotated martyrology—”not only on what day, but also by what sort of combat and under what judge they overcame the world” (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Volume 24)—for which he drew upon a large number of individual passions and lives of saints, possibly some of them in a manuscript compilation or passional. His martyrology was the foundation for all those that followed.

Texts and Translations

Given the complex transmission of Bede’s martyrology, quickly subjected to reworkings and expansions, it is not surprising that there is no fully critical edition of the text. Dubois and Renaud 1976 does exactly what its title says in providing a “practical,” or unadorned, version, arranged in what must have been the original calendrical order, unlike Quentin 1908, which focuses on Bede’s relationship to the earlier martyrology that was his starting point and on the narrative sources from which he amplified it. Lifshitz 2000 provides an accessible way into the work.

  • DuBois, Jacques, and Genevieve Renaud, eds. Édition practique des martyrologes de Bède, de l’anonyme lyonnais et de Florus. Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique, 1976.

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    Convenient edition that clearly distinguishes entries certainly by Bede from the later accretions and sets them out in calendrical order.

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  • Lifshitz, Felice, trans. “Bede’s Martyrology.” In Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. Edited by Thomas Head, 169–197. New York: Routledge, 2000.

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    Translated from the martyrology as it occurs in Quentin 1908; the entries in Quentin were checked against the earliest manuscripts.

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  • Quentin, Henri. “Le martyrologe de Bède.” In Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Age. Edited by Henri Quentin, 17–119. Paris: Gabalda, 1908.

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    Identifies the sources Bede drew upon for his martyrology and thereby produces what is effectively an edition of the entries, organized alphabetically according to source.

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Scholarship

There has been hitherto very little scholarship on this work. Love 1999 is simply a database of the sources Bede used. Günter Kotzor (Kotzor 1985), best known for his edition of the Old English martyrology, discusses the development of the genre in England.

  • Kotzor, Günter. “Anglo-Saxon Martyrologists at Work: Narrative Pattern and Prose Style in Bede and the Old English Martyrology.” Leeds Studies in English 16 (1985): 152–173.

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    Reads Bede’s martyrology alongside the vernacular version, which was compiled in the 9th century, probably from a Latin exemplar. Suggests that Bede’s decision to produce a martyrology that departed from the earlier strictly enumerative tradition, by providing very brief narratives for each saint, may have arisen from the way the martyrology was being used in his monastic context.

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  • Love, Rosalind. “The Sources for Bede’s Martyrology.” Fontes Anglo-Saxonici: A Register of Written Sources Used by Anglo-Saxon Authors. 1999.

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    Fontes Anglo-Saxonici is a freely accessible online database of the individual hagiographical (and other) sources that Bede drew upon to compile his martyrology.

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Bede’s Historical Works

An early general survey of Bede’s historical works was provided by Levison 1935 and later by Campbell 1966. Goffart 1988 places Bede alongside other writers who had treated the history of “barbarian” peoples. Davidse 1982 and Davidse 1996 both review Bede’s attitude toward history and the writing of “salvation history.”

  • Campbell, James. “Bede.” In Latin Historians. Edited by T. A. Dorey, 159–190. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.

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    An essay within the wider context of a collection covering a longer-range survey.

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  • Davidse, Jan. “The Sense of History in the Works of the Venerable Bede.” Studi Medievali 23 (1982): 647–695.

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    Examines Bede’s understanding of time and of history as salvation history. Reviews scholarship on Bede as a writer of history.

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  • Davidse, Jan. “On Bede as Christian Historian.” In Beda Venerabilis: Historian, Monk, and Northumbrian. Edited by L. A. J. R. Houwen and A. A. MacDonald, 1–15. Groningen, The Netherlands: Egbert Forsten, 1996.

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    Evaluates Bede’s position as a Christian historiographer, finding originality in his contribution to the genre. Also includes a discussion of the attitudes of modern scholarship toward the Christian perspective in Bede’s history writing.

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  • Goffart, Walter. The Narrators of Barbarian History (AD 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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    Places Bede alongside three other writers, who provided the key sources for the history of the Ostrogoths, Franks, and Lombards, respectively.

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  • Levison, Wilhelm. “Bede as Historian.” In Bede: His Life, Times, and Writings; Essays in Commemoration of the Twelfth Centenary of His Death. Edited by A. H. Thompson, 111–151. Oxford: Clarendon, 1935.

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    Examines Bede’s historiography under three separate heads: chronology and chronicles, hagiography and biography, and the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, viewed as the culmination of Bede’s work in this field. Reprinted in 1969.

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Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow (Historia abbatum)

Bede gives an account of the lives of the founder and early abbots of Bede’s own community. For the present, one still turns to Charles Plummer’s edition (Bede 1896) for the Latin text. Farmer 1983 is an accessible translation.

  • Bede. Venerabilis Baedae opera historica. 2 vols. Edited by Charles Plummer. Oxford: Clarendon, 1896.

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    Still the standard edition, with full if slightly dated annotations. Bede’s work is helpfully alongside the anonymous account of Ceolfrid (to which Plummer gave the title Historia abbatum auctore anonymo). See Volume 1, pp. 364–387.

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  • Farmer, D. H., ed. The Age of Bede. Translated by J. F. Webb. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1983.

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    A translation by D. H. Farmer with basic annotation. Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow is on pp. 185–208.

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Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum)

Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People warrants a full bibliography of its own, since it is the work to which the most attention has (rightly enough) been devoted from the point of view of its status as a premier source for the conversion of the English and for its political and religious perspective as a didactic work written for a generation that, in many ways, fell short of Bede’s expectations.

Texts and Translations

Charles Plummer’s edition (Bede 1896) is still extremely valuable for the materials it brings together, putting the Ecclesiastical History of the English People alongside Bede’s account of the abbots of Wearmouth-Jarrow and his Letter to Ecgbert. The Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors edition (Bede 1969) is useful for providing a facing-page translation, but it falls down badly on accompanying commentary, which is terribly thin. Wallace-Hadrill 1988 was intended to make up for this, but one might just as well turn back to Plummer’s very full commentary or preferably to Michael Lapidge’s (in Italian), in Bede 2008–2010. This and Bede 2005 present a Latin text resulting from Lapidge’s radical rethinking of its transmissional history. As for translations, that of Colgrave and Mynors (Bede 1969), reprinted by Judith McClure and Roger Collins (Bede 1994), is to be preferred to that of Leo Sherley-Price (Bede 1968), but both are at times quite free, and the latter is at times anachronistic.

Scholarship

This section can only scrape the surface of all that has been written on this work. All the books in the General Overviews section have chapters devoted to it, some of them aimed a general readership; at least one essay in each of the items in Collections of Essays focuses on it as well. In the nature of commentaries to accompany a reading of the text are Wallace-Hadrill 1988 and Wright 2008, which of the two offers a lot less detail and is intended for a more general readership. Markus 1994 and Shanzer 2007 point to the key influence, in different ways, upon Bede of the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius, translated from the Greek by Rufinus. Kirby 1965–1966 considers where Bede got his “local” information and the problematic nature of oral tradition (meant in the generalized sense, not one in particular), which is also discussed by Ray 1980. Tugene 2001 tackles the question of a united national identity in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, both from within the text and outside of it.

  • Kirby, David P. “Bede’s Native Sources for the Historia ecclesiastica.” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 48 (1965–1966): 341–371.

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    Seeks to evaluate the sources Bede was able to draw upon for the history of Northumbria and the south of England and considers his difficulties with oral tradition.

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  • Markus, Robert A. “Bede and the Tradition of Ecclesiastical Historiography.” In Bede and His World: The Jarrow Lectures, Vol. 1. Edited by xMichael Thompson, 385–407. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1994.

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    A reprint of the 1975 Jarrow Lecture. Examines Bede’s inspiration by Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History.

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  • Ray, Roger. “Bede’s Vera lex historiae.” Speculum 55 (1980): 1–21.

    DOI: 10.2307/2855707Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of the resonances and possible implications of Bede’s statement in the preface to the Ecclesiastical History of the English People concerning oral traditions.

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  • Shanzer, Danuta. “Bede’s Style: A Neglected Historiographical Model for the Style of the Historia ecclesiastica?” In Source of Wisdom: Old English and Early Medieval Latin Studies in Honour of Thomas D. Hill. Edited by Charles D. Wright, Frederick M. Biggs, and Thomas N. Hall, 329–352. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

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    Within the context of a more general study of Bede’s prose style in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum, Shanzer proposes that Bede was influenced by Rufinus’s style in his translation from the Greek of Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History.

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  • Tugene, Georges. L’idée de nation chez Bède le Vénérable. Collection des Études Augustiniennes, Série Moyen Âge et Temps Modernes 37. Paris: Brepols, 2001.

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    Examines Bede’s presentation of the forces that created a sense of unified national identity.

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  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People: A Historical Commentary. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    Intended to go some way toward making up for the very thin amount of historical commentary provided by Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors in their edition. Reprinted in 1991.

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  • Wright, J. Robert. A Companion to Bede: A Reader’s Commentary on The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

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    Intended to accompany a reading of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People and derived from class notes built up over forty years of teaching the text. The audience is thus clearly defined as “the intelligent and enquiring reader” rather than the scholar. Seeks to restore the balance somewhat toward Bede as a writer focused on the ecclesiastical rather than only the political or the chronological.

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Bede’s Poetry

Bede was an accomplished Latin poet and left not only what is effectively a hagiographical epic, his verse Life of St. Cuthbert, but also a collection of hymns for use in the liturgy.

Hymns

More than twenty hymns survive from Bede’s hand; taken together with his metrical Life of St. Cuthbert (treated in Bede’s Hagiographical Works), they show him to be an accomplished poet.

Texts and Translations

The only access to this aspect of Bede’s creative output is Johannes Fraipont’s edition (Bede 1955), which should be used in conjunction with the strongly critical review by Bulst 1958–1959. One hopes Fraipont will soon be rendered obsolete by Michael Lapidge’s forthcoming (2010) edition of Bede’s verse, which will be published as part of the Oxford Medieval Texts series.

  • Bede. “Liber hymnorum: Rhythmi.” In Opera homiletica, Opera rhythmica. Edited by David Hurst and Johannes Fraipont, 405–451. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 122. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1955.

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    An edition that cries out to be superseded not least because it includes some hymns certainly not by Bede (numbers 4 and 5) and never thought to be by him.

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  • Bulst, Walther. “Bedae opera rhythmica.” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 89 (1958–1959): 83–91.

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    A review, rightly critical, of Johannes Fraipont’s Corpus Christianorum Series Latina edition (Bede 1955).

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Scholarship

Bede’s hymns have only been studied in a serious way by Lapidge 1996 and Lapidge 2004.

Letters

Most of Bede’s letters survive as dedicatory prefaces to longer works, addressed to Acca, bishop of Hexham, Eusebius (Hwætberht), and so on, and they tend to be edited, translated, and discussed in those contexts.

Letter to Ecgbert (Epistola ad Ecgbertum Episcopum)

Bede sent this letter the year before his death to the man who was shortly to become archbishop of York in lieu of a face-to-face conversation prevented by Bede’s increasing infirmity. It is an exhortation to improvement of all kinds from one who is critical of all that he sees around him. He begins with personal advice to Ecgbert on how to conduct himself as a bishop, including the responsibilities of the role. He then gives some practical suggestions for the deployment of resources to create new bishoprics as well as criticisms of private monasteries and what goes on in them. The letter, when read carefully within a tradition of forceful “truth-telling” admonition, is a crucial document for understanding Bede’s perspective on his own times, as well as his keen sense of the need for reform and repentance, at the point when he was finalizing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Texts and Translations

Charles Plummer’s edition (Bede 1896) is still the standard one; an accessible translation based on that text has been provided by Judith McClure and Roger Collins (Bede 1994).

  • Bede. Venerabilis Baedae opera historica. 2 vols. Edited by Charles Plummer. Oxford: Clarendon, 1896.

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    Includes very full annotations. See Volume 1, pp. 405–423, for this letter.

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  • Bede. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede’s Letter to Ecgbert. Translated by Judith McClure and Roger Collins. World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    Very helpfully packages the Letter to Ecgbert with the Ecclesiastical History of the English People to encourage the reading of the two works side by side. The translation is followed by explanatory annotation. See pp. 343–357.

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Scholarship

Thacker 1983 highlights Bede’s critical view of his contemporaries.

  • Thacker, Alan. “Bede’s Ideal of Reform.” In Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies Presented to J. M. Wallace-Hadrill. Edited by Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough, and Roger Collins, 130–153. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.

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    In this influential essay Thacker argues for Bede’s awareness of what needed changing in his own day, in the Church and in society, and states that he had clear and concrete suggestions for how to remedy the ills he saw and condemned in his letter to Ecgbert.

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Lost Works and Works Attributed to Bede

The earliest editions of Bede’s writings include works found in manuscripts mistakenly put under his name or alongside his authentic works, and it is inevitable that such a figure would attract anonymous texts into his orbit. Gorman 2001 presents the clearest exposition of this problem, and Gorman 1996 deals with one individual case. McClure 1984 by contrast makes the case for a new addition to Bede’s oeuvre. Lapidge 1975 reconstructs a lost collection of epigrams.

  • Gorman, Michael M. “The Commentary on the Pentateuch Attributed to Bede in PL 91:189–208.” Revue Bénédictine 106 (1996): 61–108, 255–307.

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    Puts aside the attribution of this work to Bede in the publication of all his works (drawn from often faulty earlier printed editions) by J.-P. Migne.

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  • Gorman, Michael M. “The Canon of Bede’s Work and the World of Ps. Bede.” Revue Bénédictine 111 (2001): 399–445.

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    Lists and reviews the known canon of Bede’s work and examines the outliers.

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  • Lapidge, Michael. “Some Remnants of Bede’s Lost Liber epigrammatum.” English Historical Review 90.357 (1975): 798–820.

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    Reviews the evidence for the book of epigrams Bede mentions among his works in Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Volume 24. Two epigrams seem to have survived, which Lapidge prints. Reprinted in Anglo-Latin Literature 600–899, edited by Michael Lapidge, 357–379 (London: Hambledon, 1996).

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  • McClure, Judith. “Bede and the Life of Ceolfrid.” Peritia 3.3 (1984): 71–84.

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    Seeks to demonstrate that the text printed by Charles Plummer (see Bede 1896, cited under Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow [Historia abbatum], Vol. 1, pp. 388–404) as the anonymous Historia abbatum (but more commonly referred to as Vita Ceolfridi) was a life of Abbot Ceolfrid by Bede, which he then incorporated into his Historia abbatum. Suggests that the text was perhaps intended as a homily for the community.

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Bede’s Literary Style

Often overlooked in favor of the focus on sources, context, message, and so on is the question of how Bede wrote his many prose works. Sharpe 2005 and Lapidge 2005 review Bede’s style, overturning some earlier assumptions. Shanzer 2007 also examines this question with regard to his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

  • Lapidge, Michael. “Poeticism in Pre-Conquest Anglo-Latin Prose.” In Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose. Edited by Tobias Reinhardt, Michael Lapidge, and James N. Adams, 321–337. Proceedings of the British Academy 129. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Within the scope of a wider survey, Lapidge includes a discussion of Bede’s limited use of poeticisms in his prose.

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  • Shanzer, Danuta. “Bede’s Style: A Neglected Historiographical Model for the Style of the Historia ecclesiastica?” In Source of Wisdom: Old English and Early Medieval Latin Studies in Honour of Thomas D. Hill. Edited by Charles D. Wright, Frederick M. Biggs, and Thomas N. Hall, 329–352. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

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    Within the context of a more general study of Bede’s prose style in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum, Shanzer proposes that Bede was influenced by Rufinus’s style in his translation from the Greek of Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History.

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  • Sharpe, Richard. “The Varieties of Bede’s Prose.” In Aspects of the Language of Latin Prose. Edited by Tobias Reinhardt, Michael Lapidge, and James N. Adams, 339–355. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Opens up discussion of Bede’s Latin prose, noting that it has frequently been praised for its clarity yet at its hardest it presents significant challenges and is so varied in register across a lifetime’s output as to defy a monochrome definition.

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Bede’s Reputation

Bede’s later reputation can be assessed in various ways, including the demand for copies of his works (Parkes 1991), how and where he was cited, the extent to which he was accorded veneration (Pfaff 1993), and later attitudes toward his authority. Gransden 1981 focuses on Bede in the estimation of later historiographers, while Hill 2006 views the matter from the perspective of those who compiled later collections of homilies.

  • Gransden, Antonia. “Bede’s Reputation as an Historian in Medieval England.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 32 (1981): 397–425.

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    Reviews attitudes toward Bede’s historical works among later medieval writers.

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  • Hill, Joyce. “Carolingian Perspectives on the Authority of Bede.” In Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede. Edited by Scott DeGregorio, 227–249. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2006.

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    In the Carolingian era Bede became an authority on a par with the fathers of the patristic era, a fact to which his prominence in the homiliaries of the period testify.

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  • Parkes, Malcolm B. “The Scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow.” In Scribes, Scripts, and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation, and Dissemination of Medieval Texts. By Malcolm B. Parkes. London: Hambledon, 1991.

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    A reprint of Parkes’s 1982 Jarrow Lecture. Shows how the scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow was obliged to cope with the ever-increasing demand for copies of Bede’s writings.

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  • Pfaff, Richard W. “Bede among the Fathers? The Evidence from Liturgical Commemoration.” Studia Patristica 28 (1993): 225–229.

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    Examines the extent to which Bede’s status as belonging among the church fathers was reflected in the veneration accorded to him in the form of special prayers and references to Bede in calendars intended to shape liturgical practice.

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/15/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0005

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