St. Bede the Venerable
walls of the imposing Norman Cathedral of Durham lies the simple tomb of a
Christian monk who has earned the title as "Father of English
Bede was born on the Tyne, in County Durham, and was taken as a child of
seven to the monastery of Wearmouth. Shortly afterwards he was moved to
become one of the first members of the monastic community at Jarrow. Here,
he was ordained a deacon when he was 19 and a priest when he was 30; and
here he spent the rest of his life. He never travelled outside of this
area but yet, became one of the most learned men of Europe.
The scholarship and culture of Italy had been brought to Britain where it
was transported to Jarrow. Here it was combined with the simpler
traditions, devotions and evangelism of the Celtic church. In this setting
Bede learned the love of scholarship, personal devotion and discipline .
He mastered Latin, Greek and Hebrew and had a good knowledge of the
classical scholars and early church fathers.
Bede's writings cover a broad spectrum including natural history, poetry,
Biblical translation and exposition of the scriptures. His earliest
Biblical commentary was probably that on the book of the Revelation. He is
credited with writing three known Latin hymns.
He is remembered chiefly for his "Ecclesiastical History of the
English People." This five volume work records events in Britain from
the raids by Julius Caesar in 55-54 BC to the arrival of the first
missionary from Rome, Saint
Augustine in 597. Bede's writings are considered the best summary
of this period of history ever prepared. Some have called it "the
finest historical work of the early Middle Ages."
Bede's motive for recording history reminds us of his deepest desires. He
clearly states his purpose in his writings when he says, "For if
history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is
encouraged to imitate what is good; or if it records evil of wicked men,
the good, religious reader or listener is encouraged to avoid all that is
sinful and perverse, and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing
As we celebrate the new millennium, we are indebted to Bede, as it is to
this man that we owe, from his historical accounts, our dating of years
from the birth of Christ.
to Barbara Cross, Mission to the World, Chelmsford, Essex