By Kerry Jane Elford
M.Phil Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2009
Abstract: Although the priests and other clergy of the Anglo-Saxon Church have received far less attention from modern scholars than the institutions which they staffed, attention is now turning again to these personnel, and especially to the ordained clergy below the rank of bishop.
As yet, however, no new systematic survey has been carried out of the uses made in our primary sources for the Anglo-Saxon Church of the Latin and the Old English terms for these religious. Only by a fresh examination of each term, informed by our recently much improved understanding of how the Anglo-Saxon Church’s organisation for the delivery of pastoral care evolved from multi-priest minsters towards single-priest churches, and of how the roles of its personnel changed accordingly, may we test long-established ideas about how and why particular words were used and therefore how they should be translated into modern English.
Whilst word constraints have limited the number of sources studied here, some tentative but potentially important conclusions have been reached on these various terms’ usages by early medieval writers. Regrettably, however, no significant new light has been thrown on the hard question of how the Old English word preost is best understood and translated.