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Bede’s Perspective and Purpose in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Chip Schroeder 

The story of the strengthened church is reflective of Bede’s account of the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, or Ecclesiastical History of the English People, finished in 731. Bede’s book can be divided into two parts, which mirror the stages of the building of theLindisfarne church. The first theme, covered in the first two books of the five-book Ecclesiastical History, is Christianity’s arrival in Britain and proliferation throughout the island.This portion, which spans the period from the first century AD to 633, can be seen as the initialconstruction of the church. Bede bases much of the history in the first two books off of secondary sources written about events one hundred or more years before he lived. The second portion of Bede’s History, like the renovation of the Lindisfarne church, follows the theme of theeffort of the Roman Catholic Church to correct the practices of the Celtic Christians byconforming them to Roman practices. Books III through V follow this theme of unification,which is a key issue in English ecclesiastical history from 633 through the time when Bede iswriting the book in the late 720’s. As a life-long monk in Northumbria, Bede was personallyinvolved in the Romanization of English churches, which accounts for his partiality towardsRoman practices.

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