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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

*The Lindisfarne Gospels: Aldred's Gloss* for God and St. Cuthbert and all the Saints Together who are in the Island

30th April 2013, 17:30, Pemberton Lecture Theatre, PG21, Palace Green, Durham , Prof Eric Stanley, Oxford University

This paper begins with the colophon. It was written by Aldred, the glossator who wrote the meaning of the Latin Gospels word for word in the Northumbrian language.

The colophon, at the end of the book, shows that he was aware of the glory of the book: he may have thought that the glory was for God, but the gloss between the lines gave the sense for us here in Northumbria in the last quarter of the tenth century. The colophon tells us in detail who fashioned the book. Aldred associates himself significantly with St John’s Gospel. In this paper Aldred’s more expansive marginal annotations are discussed, rather than the interlinear word-for-word glosses. The marginal annotations are less dependent on the Gospel text, and therefore often reveal more of Aldred’s thinking. His marginal comments include an explanation of the Immaculate Conception. He uses the otherwise unknown and unexplained adjective bebbisc for ‘Nazarene’. This paper tries to explain the word. For the Beatitudes Aldred reveals a profound wish to get the difficult sense right, and again there is more space for that in the margin. What exactly is the meaning of ‘poor in spirit’ in the First Beatitude? In the Second Beatitude the adjective meek, in ‘blessed are the meek’, is difficult. In the Third Beatitude, ða milde means ‘the mild’ or perhaps ‘the merciful’. The Fourth Beatitude is of those that ‘doe hunger and thirst’; yet what they feel hunger and thirst for is iustitia, ‘righteousness, justice’. In the Vulgate text of the Beatitude at Luke 6:22 malum occurs. With short accusative malum means ‘evil’, with long the word means some fruit, normally ‘apple’, and also a fruit-tree, ‘apple-tree’. Aldred, therefore, has the alternative gloss yfel » apoltre. What is the significance of that alternative glossing? At Matthew 12:8 he grapples with the problem of the Sabbath-day among the Jews. Phillips Brooks’s ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ uses the same contrast that Aldred used for Bethlem ... unðærfe ðing at Matthew 2:6: & ðu bethlem eorðu [iuda] unðærfe ðing lyttel arð in aldormonnum iudæs ‘And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art a far from unprosperous little thing among the chiefs of Judah’. If we understand that we understand where our Heilsgeschichte began. Aldred’s gloss is the work of an intellectual divine.

The lecture will take place in Pemberton Lecture Theatre PG21 and will be followed by a reception and opportunities for further discussion in the Birley Room, Hatfield College.

Details of talks throughout 2013 can be found via

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