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Publication Year: 2011

Works prior to this book focused on Bede as not only a European, but also as an English scholar, historian, scientist, or a biographer of saints, and have used a traditional approach towards his explanation of the Bible. Bede's interpretation of his work, its continuous progress, and the reasons behind his hurried appointment to an authority almost as high as the Church Fathers are all topics examined within the text. Essays are by Roger Ray, Faith Wallis, Calvin B. Kendall, George Hardin Brown, Scott DeGregorio, Arthur G. Holder, Lawrence T. Martin, Walter Goffart, and Joyce Hill.

Published by: West Virginia University Press



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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Series Information, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-11


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: The New Bede

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pp. 1-10

For the quantity, variety, and brilliance of his work, it is likely that Bede would have stood out in any age.1 The recent increase in collective interpretations of his writings has done much to remind us of that and, in itself, provides a clear sign of the vitality currently animating the study of Bede and his world.2 Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of the Venerable Bede, which had its origin in a series of sessions held between 1998 and 2003 at the International Medieval Congress,3 continues this development but differs from its predecessors in showing how Bedan scholarship has shifted its emphasis in recent years. The studies gathered here attest to three developments in particular...

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Who Did Bede Think He Was?

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pp. 11-36

In this essay I shall propose that Bede saw himself as a creator of Christian Latin culture, specifically as the latest in a line of fellow creators, like Augustine and Jerome.1 He would never have claimed to be one of the patres; it would have been an immense rhetorical blunder that would have driven his (or Augustine’s or Jerome’s) readers away. By apparent contrast, he claims occasionally to be “following the footsteps of the Fathers,” patrum uestigia sequens, and this phrase, which is discussed in more than one contribution to the present volume, has been for many Bedan scholars what fides quaerens intellectum has been...

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Bede and the Ordering of Understanding

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pp. 37-64

Bede was for long regarded as the very model of a saintly and humble teacher.1 His primary aims—essentially practical— were thought to be the establishment of “sound foundations of knowledge” for “the unlearned reader,” and hence it was held that for him “the quest for originality was of secondary importance.”2 Such views, at once affectionate and patronizing, imply a modest and unassuming personality concerned primarily with the transmission of knowledge derived from writers more sophisticated and creative than himself. Of course, it was always recognized that his Historia ecclesiastica was a masterpiece...

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Si Naturam Quæras: Reframing Bede’s “Science”

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pp. 65-100

In 1970, Bede was admitted into a distinctively modern “hall of fame,” the Dictionary of Scientific Biography.1 This accolade was the climax of a movement initiated largely in the mid-1930s to identify what were seen as Bede’s “contributions” to science.2 Many historians are now quite accustomed to referring to Bede’s “scientific writings,” which usually means his survey of cosmology De natura rerum, his two works on time reckoning De temporibus and De temporum ratione, and sometimes his account of cosmogenesis in the first part of his commentary on...

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The Responsibility of Auctoritas: Method and Meaning in Bede’s Commentary on Genesis

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pp. 101-120

In complementary chapters in this volume, Roger Ray argues that the Venerable Bede, while effectively deploying modesty topoi of the rhetorical tradition, in fact ranked himself as an exegete in the company of the Doctors of the Church, and Joyce Hill offers evidence that, within a hundred years of his death, he was regarded on the Continent as enjoying auctoritas equal to that of his great predecessors.1 The present chapter, which examines Bede’s methods and his understanding of the meaning of the text of the Old Testament in his In Genesim...

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Bede’s Neglected Commentary on Samuel

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pp. 121-142

Bede’s In primam partem Samuhelis never gained the circulation of his other major exegetical works. Whatever the cause may be, it is not for lack of effort and artistry on Bede’s part. Both in the prologue to the first book and to the third, he remarks how much labor and sweat, “sudor,” went into this commentary.1 As a major contribution it is not easily ignored: in his bibliography at the end of the Historia ecclesiastica, Bede records high on the list “On the First Part of Samuel, that is, up to the death of Saul, four books.”2 And it is a big work: at 272 pages in the modern edition...

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Footsteps of His Own: Bede’s Commentary on Ezra–Nehemiah

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pp. 143-168

At the forefront of Bede’s achievements as an exegete stands his ground-breaking work on Ezra-Nehemiah.1 A massive work in three books, this Bedan commentary is the only complete exegesis of this portion of the Old Testament to come down to us from either the patristic or medieval era. The existence of the work adds weight to Roger Ray’s claim in his contribution to this volume that Bede “wrote as if he were blazing—not following—trails.”2 However much Bede declared himself to be pursuing the Fathers’ footsteps, none had been left behind for him to trace in this instance.3 The absence of a...

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Christ as Incarnate Wisdom in Bede’s Commentary on the Song of Songs

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pp. 169-188

For the Venerable Bede, the Song of Songs was an allegorical drama prefiguring “the mysteries of Christ and the Church . . . under the figure of a bridegroom and a bride.”1 In this interpretation he was, of course, following well-established patterns of Christian interpretation. However, unlike many other exegetes both before and after, Bede understood those mysteries of Christ and the Church in a distinctly historical manner. For Bede, the Song of Songs presents an elaborately detailed theology of history, with its centerpoint in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ—the coming in human flesh of God’s own divine...

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Bede’s Originality in his Use of the Book of Wisdom in his Homilies on the Gospels

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pp. 189-202

In the preface to his Expositio Actuum Apostolorum, and in several other places as well, Bede characterized himself as a traditionalist, “following in the footsteps of the Fathers,”1 and his exegetical works often include frequent and lengthy quotations from earlier writers. Consequently, many earlier scholars faulted Bede for his heavy dependence on the thoughts and even the very words of his predecessors. This criticism was applied not only to Bede’s exegetical commentaries, but to his Homilies on the Gospels as well. For example, Edwin Charles Dargan’s classic two volume work, A History of Preaching, gives Bede’s homilies only...

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Bede’s History in a Harsher Climate

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pp. 203-226

In a memorable appreciation of Bede, the late Sir Richard Southern spoke of being awed by Jarrow, the site of the monastery in which Bede lived and worked.1 The Jarrow that I visited inspired more regret than elation. There was a church lying amidst the decay of industrialism, with pylons and hightension wires providing the only uplift. Since then, there have been changes for the better, but South Tyneside seems immune to improvement. Hopeful organizers have now created a small theme park called “Bede’s World.”...

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Carolingian Perspectives on the Authority of Bede

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pp. 227-250

Amalarius of Metz, notable as the first western scholar to make a systematic attempt to provide an exegesis of the liturgy, referred to Bede when putting forward a particular point of interpretation and made the confident assertion “his authority is sufficient for me” (mihi sufficit ejus auctoritas).1 And so that settled the issue: if Bede said so, it was good enough for Amalarius, and if the assertion could be made thus baldly, it was presumably good enough for everyone else as well. The context was heavily learned—Amalarius’ magnum opus, the De ecclesiasticis officiis—and although the exegesis of the liturgy was a novel...


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pp. 251-280


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pp. 281-282


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pp. 283-287

Back Cover

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p. 301-301

E-ISBN-13: 9781935978299
E-ISBN-10: 1935978292
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933202099
Print-ISBN-10: 1933202092

Page Count: 287
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st ed.