Bede: On the Temple


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Bede: On the Temple

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Bede proceeds this way in his early commentaries, such as those on the Apocalypse and on the Seven Catholic Epistles. But in the commentaries of his maturity he applies his creative talents as a teacher, historian, writer of narrative prose and poetry; and he skillfully organizes the narrative so that it not only comments verse by verse but also forms a satisfying, unified whole. In this commentary on the Tabernacle, Bede begins Book I with a paragraph introduction, explaining that first he is going to describe the elements, topography, and circumstances and then speak about the figure, the symbolic meaning of the tabernacle, vessels, and utensils.

After giving the historical background and significance of Moses' contact with God on the mount and God's command for the Israelites to make the sanctuary for his dwelling with them, Bede describes the ark and its parts in nine chapters. In the longer Book II thirteen chapters , he follows the chapters of Exodus about the construction of the tabernacle and its appurtenances. In book III, after a chapter on the oil for the lamp, which we might think ought to be placed more logically at then end of the preceding book, Bede takes up the vestments of the priesthood, the altar of incense, and the purificatory basin.

In the captivating discussion of the meaning of the golden plate "lamminam" engraved with the words "holy to the Lord, " which was affixed to the highpriest's turban, Bede compares the priest's apotropaic plate to the protective emblem of the cross on the Christians forehead.

Bede’s Temple as History

Here is one of the places that Holder could have been more helpful in the notes, by at least adding to the liturgical note note 4, p. In the latter part of Book III, by noting the verses Bede omits from his commentary, we can see something of Bede's editorial method at work. He leaves out large parts of Exodus 29 and 30, such as the offering of cattle and the besprinkling and marking of the priests with blood.

Then, in the last chapter, 14, on the bronze basin, instead of just treating it verse by verse and coming to an end, Bede interweaves a synthesis and summary of the whole commentary. In a lovely reprise he talks not only of the Christian significance of the tabernacle but also the altar of holocaust signifying the "extinction of carnal desires" p.

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Most modern biblical readers are partial to some symbolic reading of the text and adverse to others. Thus, to accept the golden crown as symbolic of regal glory presents no problem.

Bede: On the Temple | Photios Library | TinyCat

Were not bothered when Bede compares the Tabernacle to transient life in this world inhabited by Gods presence, and the Temple to the perduring life with God in eternity; and most would also accept Bedes explanation that the Tabernacle can signify Gods presence among the Israelites, and the Temple can signify God's presence in the Christian Church. But there comes a point when the modern mind may even balk, either at the ambiguity or polysemous quality of the symbol or at the symbolic mode for specific details, such as for posts, skins, pots, tongs, forks.

This is where the allegorical mode challenges our understanding. As Holder remarks in an article on "Allegory and History in Bedes Interpretation of Sacred Architecture," ABR [], "Every part of the structure whether tabernacle of temple , every detail of ornament, every number, measurement, or point of the compass described in the biblical accounts, presented Bede with the mystery of the Church. Nor was his interest limited to the buildings themselves. The names and races of those who built each edifice, like the vestments of the priests who ministered in them, contained hidden meanings yielding much in the way of doctrinal instruction, moral exhortation, and good example for the pastors and teachers who now stand as pillars in the spiritual house of God, which is the Church.

Frequently, to the modern mind's consternation, Bede furnishes two or more explanations for an object "It can mean this, or, if we like, this or this". For Bede and his readers, this was not a problem but a bonus. Such an understanding of symbol derives from the late antique and medieval mindset that sees the world and the objects of this world as signs, semeia, pointing to transcendental reality Cf.

Augustine's semiology in the De Doctrina Christiana.

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It is such a reflective, multi-faceted, polyvalent, and seemingly forced effort that creates the alterity, the difference, between our understanding of symbol and Bede's. Where I find my medieval sympathies tried the most is in the sections where Bede plays the Augustinian numbers game, as, for instance, in his interpretation of the fifty cubits in Exodus Nonetheless, Holder contends that despite some forced meanings Bedes exegesis still provides a valid, efficacious, pastoral understanding of Scripture for the modern Christian. I concur, but Bede's exegesis also teaches our modern mind something about the elastic potential and interpretative inexhaustibility of the biblical text, its cumulative hermeneutics, and its invitation to understand the text in a new old way.

The reviewer's task includes calling attention to faults and corrigenda. Here my task is not onerous. I have compared the translation with the Latin throughout, and can attest that Holder has fashioned a very good translation indeed; its elegant clarity must have cost him many hours' labor. It was carefully vetted by the late Margaret Gibson. Only very rarely, such as on the bottom of page 79 and top of page 80, is the translation confused or confusing.

The only problem with the text layout is that throughout most of Book II for some strange reason the marginal reference numbers to the CCSL are off by six to twelve lines, so that, for instance, [65] on p. The notes are spare but helpful.

I would like to have seen a few more explanations for words that are confusing in translation, such as "sacrament" for Bede's "sacramentum. Finally, a word of praise should be voiced for the editors and presses of the series in which this translation appears. The nineteen titles so far translated are important ones for students of the late antique and early medieval periods; with ever fewer scholars capable of reading Latin easily, translations such as these make available major texts that would remain inaccessible without them.

The translations in this low-priced series are generally of high quality, but Holder's translation Bede's On the Tabernacle establishes a highwater mark. Quick jump to page content. Holder concludes with a bibliography and indices of biblical and patristic sources My remarks here are, in medieval terms, a gloss on Holder's gloss-translation on Bedes commentary-gloss on Exodus, chapters Author Biography.

George Hardin Brown Stanford University. Gregory of Tours. Gregory of Tours: Glory of the Martyrs by St. Bede the Venerable: Homilies on the Gospels Vol. Lives of the Visigothic Fathers by A. Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles by Venerable Bede. Trent Foley.

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The Questions on the Octateuch. The Homilies of Wulfstan by Dorothy Bethurum ed. The Age of Bede by St. Bede the Venerable. Life of St. Columba by St.

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