« Beckx, Pierre Jean Bede Bedell, William »


BEDE or BÆDA (called "the Venerable"): The first great English scholar; b. in Northumbria (according to tradition, at Monkton, Durham, 5 m. e. of Newcastle) 672 or 673; d. at the monastery of Jarrow (6 m. e. of Newcastle) May 25, 735. Almost all that is known of his life is contained in a notice added by himself to his Historia ecclesiastica (v, 24), which states that he was placed in the monastery at Wearmouth at the age of seven, that he became 23deacon in his nineteenth year, and priest in his thirtieth. He was trained by the abbots Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid, and probably accompanied the latter to Jarrow in 682. There he spent his life, finding his chief pleasure in being always occupied in learning, teaching, or writing, and zealous in the performance of monastic duties. His works show that he had at his command all the learning of his time. He was proficient in patristic literature, and quotes from Puny the Younger, Vergil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace, and other classical writers, but with some disapproval. He knew Greek and a little Hebrew. His Latin is clear and without affectation, and he is a skilful story-teller. Like all men of his time he was devoted to the allegorical method of interpretation, and was credulous concerning the miraculous; but in most things his good sense is conspicuous, and his kindly and broad sympathies, his love of truth and fairness, his unfeigned piety, and his devotion to the service of others combine to make him an exceedingly attractive character. His works were so widely spread throughout Europe and so much esteemed that he won the name of "the teacher of the Middle Ages."

Bede's writings are classed as scientific, historical, and theological. The scientific include treatises on grammar (written for his pupils), a work on natural phenomena (De rerum natura), and two on chronology (De temporibus and De temporum ratione). The most important and best known of his works is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, giving in five books the history of England, ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Cæsar to the date of completion (731). The first twenty-one chapters, treating of the period before the mission of Augustine, are compiled from earlier writers such as Orosius, Gildas, Prosper of Aquitaine, and others, with the insertion of legend and tradition. After 596, documentary sources, which Bede took pains to obtain, are used, and oral testimony, which he employed not without critical consideration of its value. His other historical works were lives of the abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and lives in verse and prose of St. Cuthbert. The most numerous of his writings are theological, and consist of commentaries on the books of the Old and New Testaments, homilies, and treatises on detached portions of Scripture. His last work, completed on his death-bed, was a translation into Anglo-Saxon of the Gospel of John.

Bibliography: The collected editions of Bede's works (such as by J. A. Giles, with Eng. transl. of the historical works and life, Patres ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, 12 vols., London, 1843–44; in MPL, xc–xcv) leave much to be desired. Good editions of the historical works, particularly of the Historia ecclesiastica, have been issued by J. Smith, Cambridge, 1722; J. Stevenson, Hist. eccl., London, 1838, Opera historica minora, 1841; G. H. Moberly, Oxford, 1869; J. E. B. Mayor and J. R. Lumby, Hist. eccl., books iii and iv, Cambridge, 1881; A. Holder, Freiburg, 1890; C. Plummer, 2 vols., Oxford, 1896; Eccl. Hist., transl., introduction, life, and notes, by A. M. Sellar, London, 1907. The two works on chronology have been edited by T. Mommsen in MGH, Chron. min., iii (1898). There are English versions of the Ecclesiastical History by Stevens, 1723, revised by J. A. Giles, London, 1840; J. Stevenson, ib. 1853; and L. Gridley, Oxford, 1870. The old Eng. version of the Hist. eccl., with transl. and introduction, was ed. by T. Miller, in 4 parts, ib. 1870. For Bede's life consult the introductions and notes to the editions mentioned, particularly those of Stevenson and Plummer; G. F. Browne, The Venerable Bede, in The Fathers for English Readers, London, 1879, New York 1891; K. Werner, Beda der Ehrwürdige und seine Zeit, Vienna, 1881; J. B. Lightfoot, in Leaders of the Northern Church, London, 1890 (biographical sermons); F. Phillips, in Fathers of the English Church, vol. i, London, 1891 (simple, scholarly, fair); W. Bright, Early English Church History, pp. 367–371 et passim, Oxford, 1897.

« Beckx, Pierre Jean Bede Bedell, William »
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