An English doctor historian and more – St Bede

This week, we have been looking at the Doctors of the Church. We wanted to end the week by looking at the only Englishman in this illustrious list of 33, so far!

The venerable Bede, or St Bede of Jarrow, to give just two of his titles, is known primarily as an historian; if Herodotus is the ‘Father of history’, Bede is the ‘Father of English history’. He was proficient in other academic disciplines too, however, and corresponded with scholars across the world, as Fr Jerome Bertram explains in Doctors of the Church:

“Bede is remembered above all as an historian. In fact he wrote a great deal more than his famous Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, producing deeply spiritual commentaries on some of the more unpromising parts of the Old Testament, such as the instructions to Moses on building the Tabernacle. He also produced an amazingly complicated work of mathematics and astronomy, intended practically to enable anyone to calculate the date of Easter.”

He was also one of the first to use a system of counting years beginning with the Birth of Jesus, and it is for these and other achievements in the field of history that he is known as ‘Venerable’, a title that was used for him even during his own lifetime. He saw that clear research can help dispel the lies and misunderstandings that time almost necessarily breeds. His monastery was said to contain a staggering 200 books, and Bede himself was familiar with Solinus, Eusebius and other ancients; his History set out the growth of the Church in his lands, taking the Acts of the Apostles as his model.

“Bede showed how an accurate and well-researched account of the past can help us to brush away the cobwebs of false history, and serve the Church for the future.”

He was made a Doctor of the Church in 1899 and his feast day is on May 25th. Next week, we will see what gives saints the right to this special title, and whether any other modern saints might make the cut.

St Bede, pray for us.

Doctors of the Church is available from CTS priced £2.50

Of related interest:

B703 Augustine of Hippo – St Augustine was a bishop, is a father of the Church and a Doctor of the Church, but above all is a man with an extraordinary story to tell. This booklet uses the famous Confessions of St Augustine to recount the wonderful journey from a life of sin and error to a life lived for Christ.
Spiritual Masters: Medieval Fathers and Writers – In this richly illustrated, beautifully bound hardback volume, Pope Benedict examines the great saints of the Middle Ages from St Odo, Abbot of Cluny, to St Peter Lombard the twelfth-century theologian.
The Fathers of the Church – Following his series of Catecheses on the Apostles and major figures of the primitive Church, Benedict XVI turns all his knowledge and insight to the preachers, writers, homilists and theologians of the next five centuries.

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One comment on “An English doctor historian and more – St Bede

  1. I am forever indebted to you for this inmfnoatior.

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