Bede : biography

– 26 May 0735

Bede also wrote homilies, works written to explain theology used in worship services. Bede wrote homilies not only on the major Christian seasons such as Advent, Lent, or Easter, but on other subjects such as anniversaries of significant events.

Both types of Bede’s theological works circulated widely in the Middle Ages. A number of his biblical commentaries were incorporated into the Glossa Ordinaria, an 11th-century collection of biblical commentaries. Some of Bede’s homilies were collected by Paul the Deacon, and they were used in that form in the Monastic Office. Saint Boniface used Bede’s homilies in his missionary efforts on the continent.

Bede sometimes included in his theological books an acknowledgement of the predecessors on whose works he drew. In two cases he left instructions that his marginal notes, which gave the details of his sources, should be preserved by the copyist, and he may have originally added marginal comments about his sources to others of his works. Where he does not specify, it is still possible to identify books to which he must have had access by quotations that he uses. A full catalogue of the library available to Bede in the monastery cannot be reconstructed, but it is possible to tell, for example, that Bede was very familiar with the works of Virgil. There is little evidence that he had access to any other of the pagan Latin writers–he quotes many of these writers but the quotes are almost all to be found in the Latin grammars that were common in his day, one or more of which would certainly have been at the monastery. Another difficulty is that manuscripts of early writers were often incomplete: it is apparent that Bede had access to Pliny’s Encyclopedia, for example, but it seems that the version he had was missing book xviii, as he would almost certainly have quoted from it in his De temporum ratione.M.L.W. Laistner, "The Library of the Venerable Bede", in A.H. Thompson, "Bede: His Life, Times and Writings", pp. 237–262.

Works on the Old Testament

The works dealing with the Old Testament included Commentary on Samuel,Ward Venerable Bede p. 67 Commentary on Genesis,Ward Venerable Bede p. 68 Commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah, On the Temple, On the Tabernacle,Ward Venerable Bede p. 72 Commentaries on Tobit, Commentaries on Proverbs, Commentaries on the Song of Songs, Commentaries on the Canticle of Habakkuk,Ward Venerable Bede p. 74 The works on Ezra, the Tabernacle and the Temple were especially influenced by Gregory the Great’s writings. He was also the one responsible for replacing the title God in the Hebrew texts to read ‘Lord of Hosts.’

Works on the New Testament

Bede’s works included Commentary on Revelation,Ward Venerable Bede p. 51 Commentary on the Catholic Epistles,Ward Venerable Bede p. 56 Commentary on Acts, Reconsideration on the Books of Acts,Ward Venerable Bede pp. 58–59 On the Gospel of Mark, On the Gospel of Luke, and Homilies on the Gospels.Ward Venerable Bede p. 60 At the time of his death he was working on a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English.Loyn Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest p. 270

Other historical works


As Chapter 66 of his On the Reckoning of Time, in 725 Bede wrote the Greater Chronicle (chronica maiora), which sometimes circulated as a separate work. For recent events the Chronicle, like his Ecclesiastical History, relied upon Gildas, upon a version of the Liber pontificalis current at least to the papacy of Pope Sergius I (687–701), and other sources. For earlier events he drew on Eusebius’s Chronikoi Kanones. The dating of events in the Chronicle is inconsistent with his other works, using the era of creation, the anno mundi.Wallis (trans.), The Reckoning of Time, pp. lxvii–lxxi, 157–237, 353–66