Bede

The Venerable Bede translates John 1902.jpg
Bede (/bd/ BEED; Old English: Bǣda, Bēda; 672/3 – 26 May 735), also known as Saint Bede, Venerable Bede, and Bede the Venerable (Latin: Bēda Venerābilis), was an English Benedictine monk at the monastery of St. Peter and its companion monastery of St. Paul in the Kingdom of Northumbria of the Angles (contemporarily Monkwearmouth–Jarrow Abbey in Tyne and Wear, England). Born on lands likely belonging to the Monkwearmouth monastery, Bede was sent there at the age of seven and later joined Abbot Ceolfrith at the Jarrow monastery, both of whom survived a plague that struck in 686, an outbreak that killed a majority of the population there. While he spent most of his life in the monastery, Bede traveled to several abbeys and monasteries across the British Isles, even visiting the archbishop of York and King Ceolwulf of Northumbria. He is well known as an author, teacher (a student of one of his pupils was Alcuin), and scholar, and his most famous work, Ecclesiastical History of the English People gained him the title "The Father of English History". His ecumenical writings were extensive and included a number of Biblical commentaries and other theological works of exegetical erudition. Another important area of study for Bede was the academic discipline of computus, otherwise known to his contemporaries as the science of calculating calendar dates. One of the more important dates Bede tried to compute was Easter, an effort that was mired with controversy. He also helped establish the practice of dating forward from the birth of Christ (Anno Domini – in the year of our Lord), a practice which eventually became commonplace in medieval Europe. Bede was one of the greatest teachers and writers of the Early Middle Ages and is considered by many historians to be the single most important scholar of antiquity for the period between the death of Pope Gregory I in 604 and the coronation of Charlemagne in 800.

In 1899, Pope Leo XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church. He is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation; Anselm of Canterbury, also a Doctor of the Church, was originally from Italy. Bede was moreover a skilled linguist and translator, and his work made the Latin and Greek writings of the early Church Fathers much more accessible to his fellow Anglo-Saxons, which contributed significantly to English Christianity. Bede's monastery had access to an impressive library which included works by Eusebius, Orosius, and many others.

Almost everything that is known of Bede's life is contained in the last chapter of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a history of the church in England. It was completed in about 731, and Bede implies that he was then in his fifty-ninth year, which would give a birth date in 672 or 673. A minor source of information is the letter by his disciple Cuthbert (not to be confused with the saint, Cuthbert, who is mentioned in Bede's work) which relates Bede's death. Bede, in the Historia, gives his birthplace as "on the lands of this monastery". He is referring to the twinned monasteries of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, in modern-day Wearside and Tyneside respectively; there is also a tradition that he was born at Monkton, two miles from the monastery at Jarrow. Bede says nothing of his origins, but his connections with men of noble ancestry suggest that his own family was well-to-do. Bede's first abbot was Benedict Biscop, and the names "Biscop" and "Beda" both appear in a king list of the kings of Lindsey from around 800, further suggesting that Bede came from a noble family.

Bede's name reflects West Saxon Bīeda (Northumbrian Bǣda, Anglian Bēda). It is an Anglo-Saxon short name formed on the root of bēodan "to bid, command". The name also occurs in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 501, as Bieda, one of the sons of the Saxon founder of Portsmouth. The Liber Vitae of Durham Cathedral names two priests with this name, one of whom is presumably Bede himself. Some manuscripts of the Life of Cuthbert, one of Bede's works, mention that Cuthbert's own priest was named Bede; it is possible that this priest is the other name listed in the Liber Vitae.

At the age of seven, Bede was sent, as a puer oblatus, to the monastery of Monkwearmouth by his family to be educated by Benedict Biscop and later by Ceolfrith. Bede does not say whether it was already intended at that point that he would be a monk. It was fairly common in Ireland at this time for young boys, particularly those of noble birth, to be fostered out as an oblate; the practice was also likely to have been common among the Germanic peoples in England. Monkwearmouth's sister monastery at Jarrow was founded by Ceolfrith in 682, and Bede probably transferred to Jarrow with Ceolfrith that year. The dedication stone for the church has survived to the present day; it is dated 23 April 685, and as Bede would have been required to assist with menial tasks in his day-to-day life it is possible that he helped in building the original church. In 686, plague broke out at Jarrow. The Life of Ceolfrith, written in about 710, records that only two surviving monks were capable of singing the full offices; one was Ceolfrith and the other a young boy, who according to the anonymous writer had been taught by Ceolfrith. The two managed to do the entire service of the liturgy until others could be trained. The young boy was almost certainly Bede, who would have been about 14.

When Bede was about 17 years old, Adomnán, the abbot of Iona Abbey, visited Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. Bede would probably have met the abbot during this visit, and it may be that Adomnan sparked Bede's interest in the Easter dating controversy. In about 692, in Bede's nineteenth year, Bede was ordained a deacon by his diocesan bishop, John, who was bishop of Hexham. The canonical age for the ordination of a deacon was 25; Bede's early ordination may mean that his abilities were considered exceptional, but it is also possible that the minimum age requirement was often disregarded. There might have been minor orders ranking below a deacon; but there is no record of whether Bede held any of these offices. In Bede's thirtieth year (about 702), he became a priest, with the ordination again performed by Bishop John.

This page was last edited on 15 May 2018, at 17:47.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venerable_Bede under CC BY-SA license.

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