Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649 – Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)

Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649

Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)
Tuesday 10 May
5.30pm – King’s Manor KG/84

Fifty years after Archbishop Theodore convened a synod at Hatfield in 679 to demonstrate the orthodoxy of the English in anticipation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Bede memorialized the synod and its orthodoxy in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Given the contested nature of what constituted the true faith—the recta fides—it is surprising that Bede only quoted portions of the definition of faith made by the English bishops and recorded in a synodical letter to Rome. Bede’s selectiveness raises pressing questions: What did he leave out? Why did he leave it out?

While some have assumed that Bede was ignorant of the theological and historical contexts, particularly the Christological crises, of the seventh century, textual evidence reveals otherwise. Bede’s understanding of what constituted heretical and orthodox Christology, that is how the divine and human are related in the person of Jesus Christ, developed over his lifetime as he acquired sources. I propose a timeline of when Bede gained access to two key Roman sources: The Book of Pontiffs and the acts of the Lateran Council (649), and discuss how these sources changed the trajectory of Bede’s heresiology and Christology. Although Bede was relatively familiar with the competing Christologies which had divided the East and West by the time he completed the Ecclesiastical History in 731, I argue that he purposefully and wisely focused on Trinitarian doctrine in his account of the Hatfield synod, thus shaping the Anglo-Saxon perception of the recta fides for centuries.


Professor Miranda Wilcox is Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where she teaches medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of religious and textual culture in early medieval Europe, especially in Anglo-Saxon England. She is working on a book project titled Confessing the Faith in Anglo-Saxon England. This winter she is working on a chapter about definitions of faith made by Anglo-Saxon church councils and continental definitions transmitted to Anglo-Saxon England. She received a master’s and doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame.

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