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THE VENERABLE BEDE
By Wally Garchow  wally@calweb.com

The Venerable BEDE was made a saint in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII. BEDE was traditionally said to have been born in Monkton, Jarrow, Durham in 672/3 A. D. He died 25 May 735 A. D. in Jarrow and was originally buried there. His remains were later moved to rest in the Galilee Chapel at Durham Cathedral.

BEDE was a cleric and joined the monastery at about age 30. He is best known for his writings. In particular, his Historia ecclesiatica, completed about 731/2, told the story of the Christian church in England between the time of Julius Caesar and when St Augustine became the Archbishop of Canterbury (abt 500 years). He also wrote commentaries on various Biblical texts and composed two treatises on the matter of reckoning the date of Easter. In fact, we owe to BEDE our contemporary convention of dating events before and after Christ (B.C. and A.D.). He is to this day our main source on the Anglo-Saxon response to Christianity in early England and is known for his searching after the truth and verifying his 'facts' with eye-witness accounts.

But I am puzzled by the name BEDE (also given as BAEDA and BEDA). Was it a given name or something we might now call a surname? While his parents are unknown, did he have any progeny? What are the origins of the BEDE/BEEDE surname?

Let's see, the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) shows the old meanings:

1- bede: a short prayer (pertinent to Venerable Bede)
2- bede: variant spelling for 'bead' - same meaning as #1 bede house: house of prayer
3- bede: a command or a bidding
4- bede: a miner's pickaxe
5- bedeaf: to deafen
6- bedeal: to deprive; to bereave
7- bedee: a soldier's boy

This gets interesting in its own right because a bead/bede in the prayer meaning comes from counting 'beads' or prayers as in using a rosary. But that word is from Old English rather than Latin - it can be traced into the Germanic tongues but seems to have come to England through Frisian. It also relates to "bidding" in the sense of offering prayers. In Middle English, you might have heard 'bid your beads' meaning to offer up prayers or saying one's beads.

But what all of this might have to do with Venerable BEDE would be pure fiction. I guess what I was wondering was if the name BEDE was his before he got involved with the church of if he acquired it as a cleric. In light of the meanings of the word, I suspect he acquired it when he joined the church.

And what THAT might have to do with Eli in the 18th century would be nothing at all. By 1713, the English were using names much as we do now. I sincerely doubt if Eli was called BEDE to indicate he was prayerful <g>. And he likely had no connection at all to the St. Bede who gave us B. C. and A. D. to puzzle over as kids.

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