Bede’s Sacred Time Collection

We have gotten used to the concept of Bede’s Temple trilogy as if they were the driving force behind his life’s work. A far bigger and broader theme can be found on his works, a planned collection of works on cosmology and sacred time. These works stretch from his earliest works to among his last.

An incomplete list is a follows:

– The Nature of Things and On Time, 703

On Revelations, c. 703

– On Genesis (717-725)

– On the Reckoning of Time, c. 725

– Hymn of the Six Ages (after 725)

–  a variety of Letters

This is my list so far. I doubt it is complete. In fact from what I’ve heard On the Song of Songs may fit in here but I won’t know for sure until I read the new translation in a few weeks.

Bede’s interest in the ‘ages of fleeting time’ flow from before Creation to ages yet to come all in equal measure. You can fit virtually all of Bede’s works into this view of time. His works on the historical books of the bible, On Samuel and On Ezra-Nehemiah, for sure.  We know from On Time he was inserting the Saxons of Britain into the flow of sacred time, albeit very briefly in the Lesser Chronicle. In the years following his publication of On Time he seems to have become much more interested in inserting more of the history of his own people into sacred history, although he never over does it. He maintains perspective that the English have only a very small role in sacred history. He really only allows himself a couple of indulgences by adding St Æthelthryth, St Cuthbert and Abbot Coelfrith to the greater chronicle in On the Reckoning of Time. The other English additions in the greater chronicle are in keeping with the references to other peoples. It’s not hard to envision Bede’s imagination swept away in the flow of time, surfing on those billows in the mystical ark.


4 thoughts on “Bede’s Sacred Time Collection

  1. Very nice post. You might add the Historia Ecclesiastica. While it does not talk about time per se, there is a chronicle at the end, and a great deal of chronological material, not to mention considerable space devoted to the Easter controversy. In a sense, it is the working out in time of Bede’s writings on time.

    1. Larry–

      Just trying to ascertain if this is you. Watching the “Two Towers,” remembering how you, if this is you, gave me the Tolkien trilogy to read when we were at Burroughs. If not you, this will make no sense. If this IS my Larry Creider, you will know. And remember, both that, and “group,” and John Guth, and Ann Akren. If so, an email would be much appreciated.


  2. Came across this post on a random google search of “bede’s sacred history.” This precise topic is actually shifting from an interest to (hopefully) a dissertation. I often wonder whether Bede’s preoccupation with the nature of time has much to do with his sense of the flow of biblical time and the interpretation of the Bible itself. Anyway, I could rattle on, but just wanted to chime in briefly.

    The blog’s great!

    1. A dissertation on Bede’s ‘scientific’ works would be interesting! I love Bede’s On the Nature of Things and the hymn that he wrote on the ages of the world. The hymn is in the new edition of On the Nature of Things.

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