Lent Reading Group – Bede


St Michael’s Lent Group – 5 Thursdays in Lent 7.00-8.15pm: Reading Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.


The Reading Group will meet at St Michael’s Mount Dinham

at 7 pm on Thursdays March 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th and April 2nd

(one session for each of Bede’s five books).

All are welcome to as many – or as few – sessions as they wish to attend.

Copies of the book will be available, but any edition or translation will do.

Bede’s History may seem an odd choice for a Lent book. To be sure, Bede was the most learned man of his age, and his Church History of the English People is by far the most important source for the series of events which, in the late 6th and 7th centuries AD, converted and Christianised the Anglo-Saxons, the only Germanic invaders of the former Roman Empire who were thorough-going pagans. That would give his History at least an antiquarian interest.

But there is more to this book. It is more than the record of a period in the distant past. Bede was in the first place a Biblical scholar, and like most other mediaeval scholars he read the Bible as something more than a record of past events. He harmonised what he read there with what he knew from elsewhere – as is clear from his On the Nature of Things and his Commentary on Genesis, Bede was a natural scientist. He considered the moral character and intent of the men and women whose actions he described, he was a connoisseur of holiness and its consequences.

It is not far-fetched to think that Bede intended his History to be read in a similar way, and wrote accordingly. The result is a thoughtful exploration of phenomena which have a perennial interest: what constitutes conversion, what does it mean for a polity to live (like ancient Israel) under the judgment of Almighty God, what place has violence in the Christian life, are buildings important for Christians, how can one aspire to live well – like S. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Bede’s greatest hero. And along the way, we meet the first English poet, a refugee from the Islamic invasion of the Levant and the oldest complete manuscript of the Vulgate Bible.



Four ways of reading Scripture according to John Cassian
Literal: Jerusalem is a city in Judah (obvs)

Allegorical: Jerusalem as the church (how it fits into what else we know)

Tropological (moral): Jerusalem as the soul (what we are)

Anagogical (spiritual): Jerusalem as Heaven (what we aspire to)







St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Dinham Road, Mount Dinham, Exeter, EX4 4EB