In Bede’s view, English church history continued the story of the New Testament. As he did with the Jews of old and the Gentiles of apostolic times, God was redeeming the English people for himself. Like the biblical writers, Bede recounts the history of that redemption in order to remind the English of what God has done. All history is redemptive history.
As the first great historian of the church in England, Bede belongs to a world very different from our own. For him, history was never purely secular, but a temporal manifestation of the divine plan of redemption. Bede also believed that this divine plan worked through Christian kings and the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Some of Bede’s Celtic contemporaries disagreed with these views. Many modern readers, too, find such a pro-establishment bias suspicious or even repressive.
Other critics have judged Bede a “second-rate scholar” because his Ecclesiastical History is largely derived from the works of previous church historians. However, this material has been carefully reshaped by a redemptive historical vision and made theologically coherent so that the sum is greater than its parts. “It takes a kind of genius to do this sort of thing well,” judges one modern medievalist—a kind of genius that Bede undeniably possessed.
“It has ever been my delight to learn or to teach or to write.”
Bede the Venerable pic.twitter.com/mGxmyfiBiX
— Paul Keeley (@drcrouchback) May 25, 2022