The Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Written AD 731
This book is from my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge. It started off well, as Bede described the makeup of the early people of Britain, then mentioned Gaius, Diocletian, Valentinian, Augustine of Canterbury, the Arians, and other names from history I am familiar; but when "the river ran dry in its bed and left [Alban] a way to cross," I became a little skeptical. I noted in the margin: not sure I believe this. When Germanus used relics of saints to restore a young girl's eyesight, I added: I really cannot believe this.
After that, they were such a distraction -- miracles, spirits, visions, raising people from the dead, healing people by drinking water that touched the relics of dead saints, and incorruptible bodies after death. I could give examples, but why spoil the story?
Look! Here are some samples of my margin notes or exclamations:
I'm not sure what to think about this.
OK, I'm not sure I believe this.
Jesus performed a miracle through Augustine?
Peter appears to Laurence! (That's Peter, the Apostle.)
Mellitus put out a fire through faith. (Who needs water?)
Huh, what? Peter isn't her protector. I'm sure of it.
Oh, great. Now he's seeing visions.
But Jesus already saved him when He died on the cross. Why did [King Edwin] have to do more?
Again, I have a hard time believing this stuff.
No, come on!
This is ridiculous!
This is hog wash.
Healed by fairy dust. This does not glorify Jesus.
No, no, no! So ridiculous.
This is total blasphemy.
This is such a lie.
Not possible. Wrong.
Baptism does not save you.
Oh, this is crazy.
Another weird occurrence.
Another weird idea.
Really, this is lame.
A 3-year old boy has prophetic vision? Seriously?
Why would she need to do this since Jesus paid it all?
The Apostles meet with a boy. They're dead!
Having a hard time with this.
Again, not believing this.
This doesn't give life; Jesus' death does.
What is going on with this foretelling?
Return from the dead?
Hmmm . . . grunt.
I struggle with what more to say about this. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, though 2.5 would have been more accurate. The fact that it was written in the 8th century carries some weight, especially because Bede recollects emperors, popes, kings, as well as political and historical conflicts.
The obstacle is my lack of sympathies over early or medieval Catholic Church history and my struggle believing mystical and supernatural ideas committed by men. Bede's Ecclesiastical History is full of these wonders, which he claims to have collected from previous ancient sources and by those who declared to have witnessed these events.
As I understand, these wonders began to slow down or cease by the end of the Apostolic Age, with the end of the Apostles -- men who walked with Jesus and saw Him at his Resurrection -- and shortly after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. In other words, by the 2nd century the abundance of miracles or supernatural occurrences decreased or were unnecessary because the Holy Spirit took its place in the hearts of believers. And frankly, the idea that relics (objects touched by dead saints) have any saving power is just a reckless manmade idea.
So . . . is this book for you?
If you are interested in early history (through 8th century), particularly early English history, and even more especially the spread of Christianity throughout England, and you are not bothered by mystical ideas, then this is for you. It is not a long book, and it is fairly easy reading. Knock yourself out. I am ready to move on to the next book in TWEM Histories: The Prince, by Machiavelli.