Bede

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Bede : biography

– 26 May 0735

When Bede was about 17 years old, Adomnan, 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.

In about 701 Bede wrote his first works, the De Arte Metrica and De Schematibus et Tropis; both were intended for use in the classroom. He continued to write for the rest of his life, eventually completing over 60 books, most of which have survived. Not all his output can be easily dated, and Bede may have worked on some texts over a period of many years. His last-surviving work is a letter to Ecgbert of York, a former student, written in 734. A 6th-century Greek and Latin manuscript of Acts that is believed to have been used by Bede survives and is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University; it is known as the Codex Laudianus. Bede may also have worked on one of the Latin bibles that were copied at Jarrow, one of which is now held by the Laurentian Library in Florence.A few pages from another copy are held by the British Museum. Bede was a teacher as well as a writer; he enjoyed music, and was said to be accomplished as a singer and as a reciter of poetry in the vernacular. It is possible that he suffered a speech impediment of some kind, but this depends on a phrase in the introduction to his verse life of Saint Cuthbert. Translations of this phrase differ, and it is quite uncertain whether Bede intended to say that he was cured of a speech problem, or merely that he was inspired by the saint’s works.Whiting, "The Life of the Venerable Bede", in Thompson, "Bede: His Life, Times and Writing", pp. 5–6.Dorothy Whitelock, "Bede and his Teachers and Friends", in Bonner, Famulus Christi, p. 21.

In 708, some monks at Hexham accused Bede of having committed heresy in his work De Temporibus. The standard theological view of world history at the time was known as the six ages of the world; in his book, Bede calculated the age of the world for himself, rather than accepting the authority of Isidore of Seville, and came to the conclusion that Christ had been born 3,952 years after the creation of the world, rather than the figure of over 5,000 years that was commonly accepted by theologians.Hurst, Bede the Venerable, p. 38. The accusation occurred in front of the bishop of Hexham, Wilfrid, who was present at a feast when some drunken monks made the accusation. Wilfrid did not respond to the accusation, but a monk present relayed the episode to Bede, who replied within a few days to the monk, writing a letter setting forth his defence and asking that the letter also be read to Wilfrid. Bede had another brush with Wilfrid, for the historian himself says that he met Wilfrid, sometime between 706 and 709, and discussed √Üthelthryth, the abbess of Ely. Wilfrid had been present at the exhumation of her body in 695, and Bede questioned the bishop about the exact circumstances of the body and asked for more details of her life, as Wilfrid had been her advisor.Goffart Narrators p. 322 In 733, Bede travelled to York to visit Ecgbert, who was then bishop of York. The See of York was elevated to an archbishopric in 735, and it is likely that Bede and Ecgbert discussed the proposal for the elevation during his visit. Bede hoped to visit Ecgbert again in 734, but was too ill to make the journey. Bede also travelled to the monastery of Lindisfarne, and at some point visited the otherwise-unknown monastery of a monk named , a visit that is mentioned in a letter to that monk. Because of his widespread correspondence with others throughout the British Isles, and due to the fact that many of the letters imply that Bede had met his correspondents, it is likely that Bede travelled to some other places, although nothing further about timing or locations can be guessed. It seems certain that he did not visit Rome, however, as he would have mentioned it in the autobiographical chapter of his Historia Ecclesiastica.Colgrave & Mynors, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, p. 566, n. Nothhelm, a correspondent of Bede’s who assisted him by finding documents for him in Rome, is known to have visited Bede, though the date cannot be determined beyond the fact that it was after Nothhelm’s visit to Rome.Plummer, Bedae Opera Historica, vol. II, p. 3.