Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri Poenitentiales and Selections from Related Documents

By John T. McNeill; Helena M. Gamer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Penitentials of the Anglo-Saxon Church

1. THE PENITENTIAL OF THEODORE
(668-690, with later elements)

[THE IMPORTANCE of this work, emanating from Theodore of Tarsus (archbishop of Canterbury, 668-90) is generally recognized. Perhaps the most original and valuable part of Wasserschleben's essay on the history of the penitentials is that in which he determines the true penitential of Theodore.1 The tradition of Theodore's authorship of a penitential is attested by numerous references in authors of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. The Liber pontificalis, compiled in the late eighth century, has usually been cited in this connection. In one manuscript of this work it is stated that Theodore "with wonderful consideration set forth the sentences of sinners or the number of years one ought to do penance for every sin."2 This passage, however, appears to be a late addition to the book.3 Yet it can hardly be later in origin than the Liber pontificalis, since it is also found in Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards, written about 790.4 Half a century later Raban Maur at least twice cited the penitential canons of Theodore, calling them "constitutions" and "capitula."5Regino of Prüm prescribes the Penitential of Theodore as one of the two from which choice may be made.6 In Irish penitential writings about the end of the seventh century Theodore was named and quoted.7 The penitential published by Albers as probably Bede's or of Bede's period, though regarded by others as somewhat later,

____________________
1
Bussordnungen, pp. 14-37.
2
L. Duchesne, Le Liber pontificalis, II, xxv.
3
Cf. W. Levison's review of Finsterwalder's work cited below, p. 181, n. 21, in Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, kan. Abt., XIX ( 1930), 706.
4
History of the Lombards, V, 30. Paul wrote this work after his retirement in 786; he died in 795.
5
Migne P. L., CX, 491; 1085. Cf. Schmitz II, p. 511. Although Raban quotes passages found in both books of the present Penitential of Theodore Schmitz thinks it unlikely that he knew the book as one work. The reference to "the penitential which Theodore, archbishop of Britain, with the other bishops established," in the work On the Penance of Laymen, ascribed to Raban Maur and published in the Cologne ( 1626) edition of his works, VI, 114 (cf. Wasserschleben, Bussordnungen, p. 15) may not be from his pen.
6
See below, pp. 217, 314.
7
Coll. can. Hib., I, 22; LIV, 12, 13, 14. Theodore is named in the last three of these quotations, all of which are from Book II of the penitential.

-179-

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