Early Medieval Theology

In reponse to bls’s comment–here’s some real early medieval theology for ya! It’s a chunk of chapter 2 wherein I collect from several sources the fundamental narrative that Aelfric works from. My working title for this file is “Aelfric’s Kerygma.” Enjoy…

Ælfric constantly returns to a core narrative of redemption throughout his homilies and other writings. While the content of this narrative is implicit inhis works, he explicitly presents it in four texts: the first sermon of the first book of the Catholic Homilies (CH I.1) where it is most clearly and directly defined, the Letter to Sigeweard (Sige) where it is interwoven with the whole history of Israel, and the Letter to Wulfgeat (Wulf) and the second Letter to Wulfstan (2Lup) where it appears in summary.
The heart of the narrative is the story of the creeds: The Holy Trinity, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is eternal and pre-existent. [CH I.1.6-9, 17-21; Sige.30-44; Wulf] The Trinity–primarily through the Father and the Son–created the world, all things seen and unseen. [CH I.1.9-13, 21; Sige.28-34; Wulf] The Holy Spirit holds all things in life and forgives those who truly repent [Sige.40-44; Wulf].
In the process of creation, God created ten angel hosts. [CH I.1.22-26; Sige.51-54; Wulf] The tenth host, led by Lucifer, rebelled against God on account of Lucifer’s pride [CH I.1.29-43; Sige.67-101; Wulf] and were cast from heaven. [CH I.1.43-45; Sige.101-105] This host exists now as the demonic order. [CH I.1.26-27, 34-39, 57-62; Sige.105-107; Wulf] In order to replace this host, [CH I.1.62-64; Sige.113-116] God created humanity–first Adam, then Eve–and placed them in the garden, [CH I.1.64-73, 86-94; Sige.108-113; Wulf] presenting the tree in the center of the garden as a test of obedience and loyalty–the loyalty that Satan and his host lacked. [CH I.1.74-83; Sige.116-117] Through the devil’s trickery Eve was deceived [CH I.1.125-139; Sige.117-118; Wulf] and humanity disobeyed God’s command, [CH I.1.139-142; Sige.118-119; Wulf] receiving dismisal from the garden and death as a consequence. [CH I.1.142-154; Sige.119-120; Wulf]
From Adam came Noah who had three sons; [CH I.1.181-190; Sige.158-161] after God led them through the flood, [CH I.1.191-202; Sige.150-156, 195-197] the eldest of the sons, Shem was the ancestor of the Hebrews [CH I.1.222-231; Sige.239-241] whom God rescued from Egypt [CH I.1.232; Sige.325-359] and to whom the Law was given. [CH I.1.232; Sige.366-370]
From the Hebrew people God chose the Blessed Virgin Mary [CH I.1.236-241; Sige.891-892; Wulf] from whom Jesus was born incarnate by the Holy Spirit. [CH I.1.241-245; Wulf] Jesus performed a great many miracles that the people might believe that he was the Son of God. [CH I.1.253-261; Sige.900, 913-917] He taught that humanity must believe rightly in God, be baptized, and demonstrate faith with good works. [CH I.1.261-264] Fundamentally, though, he came for the redemption of humanity. [CH I.1.245-246, 270-273; Sige.918; Wulf] The devil used Judas to incite the Jews to kill Jesus [CH I.1.265-275] and he was crucified. [CH I.1.275-276; Sige.917-918; Wulf] After the crucifixion he was buried [CH I.1.276-277; Wulf] and descended into hell where he conquered the devil [CH I.1.277-278; Wulf] and freed Adam, Eve, and their descendants. [CH I.1.278-280; Wulf] He arose from the dead on the third day [CH I.1.280-281; Sige.918-919; Wulf] and rejoined his disciples, teaching them that they must go throughout the earth, teaching and baptizing. [CH I.1.281-284] On the fortieth day he ascended bodily into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father. [CH I.1.284-287; Sige.919-920; Wulf] He will come at the end of time on the clouds with great power and will raise all souls that they may be judged. [CH I.1.287-291; Sige.920-921; Wulf] The wicked will be cast into eternal fire; the righteous he will bring into the heavenly kingdom. [CH I.1.291-293; Sige.922; Wulf]

7 thoughts on “Early Medieval Theology

  1. texanglican

    Derek, I am a PhD student in the dept of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago (as well as an aspirant to holy orders in the diocese of Fort Worth, TX). It was all I could do to convince my committee at U of C to let me take qualifying exams that extended down Gregory the Great. What program are you working in that lets a NT student write on a 10th century monk’s exegesis? I am quite envious. I will add a link your fine blog on Texanglican, and look forward to learning more from you in the future. Good luck with your work, and Merry Christmas.

  2. Derek the Ænglican

    Thanks for the kind words!

    I can’t really identify my program as it would compromise the identities of some of my pseudonymous posters. The short answer is that my director is a former Benedictine which helps… ;-)

    Your topic sounds quite interesting–is it NT or Early Christianity? You working with the progymnasmata materials?

  3. texanglican

    Derek, I am a PhD student in the dept of New Testament and Early Christian Lit at the Univ. of Chicago (and an aspirant to holy orders in the dio of Fort Worth, Texas). I must say that I am envious of your being able to write on a 10th century exegete in an NT program. It was all that I could do to convince my committee to let me include figures down to Gregory the Great in my qualifying exams! My own diss deals with the letters of St. Athanasius. Your work sounds fascinating. May I ask which school you are attending? I am adding a link to your fine,interesting blog on my own, Texanglican. I look forward to being further educated by Haligweorc in the future. Pax.

  4. texanglican

    Sorry for the double post, sir. I didn’t realize my first comment had gone through. I think I can figure out where you’re studying from your hint. As for my project, I am indeed using the prog and a host of ancient materials on epistolary rhetoric. My advisor is Margaret Mitchell. If you are familiar with her recent book “The Heavenly Trumpet” on John Chrysostom’s De Laudibus Pauli sermons, you have some idea of what most of us in the “Chicago School” are up to these days. Good luck with your work, and congratulations on surviving the transit strike. And merry Christmas.

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    Randall–I sent you an email

    I’m quite familiar with Dr. Mitchell’s work–and have _Heavenly Trumpet_ on my bookshelf to be consumed next month…

    I haven’t done much with the specifically with the epistolary side of rhetoric (being primarily a Gospels/homiletics guy I haven’t had to…)

    I’m interested in what I *think* is an emerging interest in church-based scholars using rhetoric and claiming the history of interp. It’d be great to hear your thoughts on this. I feel some posts coming on…

  6. bls


    See what interesting conversations a person can get into, when he starts talking about the Big Big Story of the End of the World?


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