Pastoral eschatology, reform and book 5 of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica

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O'Mahony, David
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University College Cork
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This thesis examines the eschatology of Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (AD731), and in particular the eschatological elements of the lesser-studied Book 5. Bede has a profound interest in the pastoral care of his people (not just those of his native Northumbria, but all Anglo-Saxons) and has a real fear that they are on the verge of missing out on salvation. He presents English history as taking place in the last era of the world before the Last Judgement, and this heightened concern sees him interpret eschatological elements in a pastoral light. When he writes about the fate of the soul and potential signs of divine judgement, it is to inspire moral reform; hence this thesis argues that his eschatology is pastoral. This thesis locates the eschatology of the Historia within Bede’s wider body of work, and especially his scriptural commentaries. It shows that pastoral eschatology is a theme running through his work from his earliest career. This thesis uses Insular and classical texts to examine how the location of Britain and Ireland has a dramatic effect on how Bede interprets sacred time. It pays particular attention to Bede’s writings on the fate of the soul to argue that Bede saw the English as potentially being judged on a catastrophically wide scale, following biblical examples but also the example of the Britons. As part of this theme it argues that Bede saw the Saracens as potential agents of judgement, much as the English had been the agents of judgement sent to the Britons.
History , Medieval history , Eschatology , Northumbria , Anglo-Saxon , Early medieval , Exegesis
O'Mahony, D. 2019. Pastoral eschatology, reform and book 5 of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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