Theological Works of the Venerable Bede and their Literary and Manuscript Presentation, with Special Reference to the Gospel Homilies

Theological Works of the Venerable Bede and their Literary and Manuscript Presentation, with Special Reference to the Gospel Homilies

Allan, Verity L.

Master of Letters, St. Cross College, Oxford (2006)


This thesis examines the homilies of the Venerable Bede (c.673–735) and their theology, style, transmission and audience response. It extends upon work done by Hurst (who edited the homilies), van der Walt and Carroll. It investigates why people were reading Bede’s homilies, how they read and understood them, and how they responded to them. There is a brief survey of important themes in the homilies: grace, heresy, the six ages of the world and ecclesiology, and how they combine in Bede’s theology as expressed in the homilies and elsewhere. These themes are also examined in connection with Bede’s sources. Particular attention is given here to Gregory the Great, who also wrote a collection of homilies which may have influenced Bede.

The style of the homilies is examined, with particular attention given to Bede’s sentence structure, as that is the principal barrier to understanding them. Bede’s style is complex, but it is clear that he used grammatical structures to facilitate reading. There is a study of Bede’s use of cadence in the homilies, using statistical methods. Cadence is particularly useful for those listening to the homilies, as it indicates the end of a clause.

The analysis of sentence structure is accompanied by an analysis of punctuation in one of the few surviving manuscripts from the scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow. The layout and punctuation of this manuscript demonstrate that the scribes there were working to a system which would enable the reader of the text to assemble the grammatical structures correctly.

Finally, the dissemination of manuscripts of the homilies across Carolingian Europe is analysed. The homilies spread widely and were popular. An analysis of the punctuation of these manuscripts shows that the punctuation style of Wearmouth-Jarrow had an influence on subsequent scribes, though the changing tastes in punctuation can also be witnessed in the changes made by subsequent scribes and readers.


Click here to read this thesis from St. Cross College, Oxford 

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