Thursday, February 21, 2013

People You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Should: Bede

Bede (which rhymes with feed) lived his entire life in a monastery where he grew a beard which could house a flock of birds. Yet he is most known for his mind, which gave words to the history of England.

We know very little of Bede. We only know what he has recorded for us, which is not much. He was born in 672. He died in 735 while singing a hymn. He lived out most of the dash between those dates in a monastery in Jarrow (which is near modern-day Newcastle…which also doesn’t help me locate it any better).

Though the man himself is not much known his work is well preserved.

Why You Should Know Him:

Have you ever wondered why we use AD in our dates, or where this came from? Look no further than Bede. Actually, it wasn’t Bede who invented the anno domini but he did make it popular. Much like Justin Bieber didn’t invent bad music he just made it popular.

The anno domini is not why you should know Bede, though. We owe a great debt to Bede because of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Our information on the conversion of England would be dicey at best if it were not for this scholar, now known as The Venerable Bede. There are those that critique Bede’s work. And some of that criticism may be just. Yet his work has shaped history.

There is one other reason I believe we should know Bede; he seems to have really loved the Lord and passionately proclaimed the gospel. His commentaries are in Latin. Since the only Latin I know comes from Monty Python’s Holy Grail I couldn’t understand much. However, I was able to read a couple of sermons that were translated. One such sermon On the Meeting of Mercy and Justice is a wonderful exposition of the gospel (read an article about that sermon here).

Bede is an interesting figure in that he lived in the 700s and spoke of the world being round


You can see his love for Christ in quotes like this:

"No words are able to speak," he wrote, "that beauty, that virtue, that glory, that magnificence, surpasses every expression, every sense of human mind. And if to attain to that ineffable sight and to be made radiant with the splendor of Christ's countenance it were worthwhile for you to suffer torment every day—if it were worthwhile for you to endure hell itself for a season, so that you might behold Christ coming in glory, and be joined to the number of the saints—is it not then well worthwhile for you to endure [mere] earthly sorrows that you may be partakers of such good and of such glory?"

This is a great quote for all students of history:

“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 devout, religious listener or reader is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.”

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