History at Leicester

Heresy and Orthodoxy in the works of Bede

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (£224,198)

September 2010 - August 2013

Dr Peter Darby

Dr Peter Darby has been awarded a three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship to carry out a research project ‘Heresy and Orthodoxy in the Works of Bede’. Bede (c.673-735) was the most prolific and original thinker of the early Anglo-Saxon Church. He helped to establish the allegiance of the Anglo-Saxon Church to Rome and codify its principles of faith. Bede was one of the key voices that negotiated the dialogue between religious authority and deviance from it in early Christian England. The project traces Bede’s impact upon the evolution of notions of heresy and orthodoxy in Anglo-Saxon England through an inter-textual study of his corpus of writing. After his death, Bede’s writings were studied throughout Anglo-Saxon England and continental Europe. Concerns about deviant thought are evident in Bede’s earliest biblical commentaries. They recur in many contexts thereafter, especially in works composed after 708 when Bede was himself accused of heresy. The project will offer a comprehensive study of heresy as a theme in Bede’s writing and examine the sources of his information about orthodox theology. It will show how Bede’s ideas on these themes were linked to his understanding of Christian history and his concerns about declining ecclesiastical standards in eighth-century Northumbria. The study will have implications for our perception of Bede and his influence, and our understanding of the development of the Church in the medieval West.

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