Bede, on Ezra and Nehemiah

Bede, on Ezra and Nehemiah

Bede, on Ezra and Nehemiah

Bede, on Ezra and Nehemiah


From the patristic age until the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582, computus – the science of time reckoning and art of calendar construction – was a subject of intense concern to medieval people. Bede's The Reckoning of Time (De temporum ratione) was the first comprehensive treatise on this subject, and the model and reference for all subsequent teaching, discussion and criticism of the Christian calendar. The Reckoning of Time is a systematic exposition of the Julian solar calendar and the Paschal table of Dionysius Exiguus, with their related formulae for calculating dates. But it is more than a technical handbook. Bede sets calendar lore within a broad scientific framework and a coherent Christian concept of time, and incorporates themes as diverse as the theory of tides and the threat of chiliasm. This translation of the full text includes an extensive historical introduction and a chapter-by-chapter commentary. The Reckoning of Time also serves as an accessible introduction to the computus itself.


Among the scholarly achievements of the Venerable Bede (d. 735) his ground-breaking work on the Jewish sanctuaries must rank high. The bulk of it, comprising three massive verse-by-verse commentaries, is quite without parallel in the patristic canon, a virtual exegetical trilogy on the temple in its early historical phases: De tabernaculo, in three books, on the account of the tabernacle in Exodus 24:12-30:31; De templo, in two books, on the details of Solomon's temple in 1 Kings 5:1-7:51; and In Ezram et Neemiam, in three books, on EzraNehemiah's account of the post-exilic construction of the second temple. The first two of these commentaries already appear in Liverpool University Press's Translated Texts for Historians series; the third, On Ezra and Nehemiah, is offered in the present volume, making the whole trilogy available, finally, to readers in English.

In the larger scheme, this volume adds to the growing list of Bede's exegetical works now available in English translation. To date 11 of the extant 18 commentaries have been translated, but this is only a

1 On Bede's life, see Brown 1987: 1-23 and Ward 1990: 1-18.

2 For the Latin texts, see CCSL 119A, ed. D. Hurst (Turnhout, 1969). The ground
breaking nature of these works is evident from the Ordinary Gloss, which derives all of its
commentary for Ezra-Nehemiah and the majority of it for the relevant portions of Exodus
and 1 Kings from Bede: see Glossa ordinaria 1:161-90, 2:96-114, and 2:261-305. On the
originality of On the Tabernacle and On the Temple, see also Holder 1989b: 237; for On
Ezra and Nehemiah
, see below pp. xv, xxii. In addition to these commentaries, Bede
composed three homilies on the tabernacle-temple theme: see Horn. 2.1,2.24, and 2.25.

3 Bede: On the Tabernacle, trans. A. Holder, TTH 18 (Liverpool, 1994); and Bede:
On the Temple
, trans. S. Connolly, TTH 21 (Liverpool, 1995).

4 These are: Explanation of the Apocalypse, On the Seven Catholic Epistles,
Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, On the Tabernacle, On the Temple, Thirty
Questions on the Book of Kings, On Habakkuk, On Tobit
(twice), On Eight Questions,
and Collectaneum on the Pauline Epistles; there is also a translation of the fifty Homilies
on the Gospel:
see Bibliography for details. Additionally, Foley and Holder 1999
contains translations of three shorter biblical works, On the Holy Places, On the Resting
, and On What Isaiah Says. Translations in progress include On the Song of Songs
by Arthur Holder, On Genesis by Calvin Kendall, and a new translation of Explanation
of the Apocalypse
by Faith Wallis.

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