On Ezra and Nehemiah

On Ezra and Nehemiah

On Ezra and Nehemiah

On Ezra and Nehemiah


The Venerable Bede’s In Ezram et Neemiam* is the first and only complete commentary written on these biblical books in either the patristic or later medieval era. As the Introduction argues, this work of Bede’s is an excellent example of the allegorical method of biblical interpretation which Bede inherited from the Fathers of the Church and for which he himself is justly famed. At the same time, Bede’s decision to take up these particular biblical texts on the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem after the return from exile in Babylon is itself fraught with a deeper significance in the context of contemporary ecclesiastical events. By making this text available in English for the first time, DeGregorio’s translation seeks not only to make this work accessible to readers unable to confront the text in its original Latin, but also to alter the conception of Bede as a commentator from that of a slavish imitator to a daring innovator. *Ezra and Nehemiah are two books of the Old Testament of the Bible, originally one work in the Hebrew canon.


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 Places, 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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