Allegorizing History: The Venerable Bede, Figural Exegesis and Historical Theory

By Timothy J. Furry

How the interplay between historiography and theology in the Venerable Bede’s work impact Christian understanding of history.

ISBN: 9780227174241


What is history and how does it impact upon biblical interpretation and theology? Allegorizing History seeks to answer this question by arguing that conceptions of the past and the purposes of history impact upon biblical interpretation and vice versa. Invoking Constantin Fasolt’s notion of history as ‘a knowledge of the past, as well as the technique by which such knowledge is produced’, and re-fashioning Erich Auerbach’s historical enterprise in Figura (1938), Furry contends that the understanding and practice of historical writing is inevitably affected by philosophy and theology, thereby rendering all history as figural or allegorical. Famous for his Ecclesiastical History of the Anglo-Saxon People and biblical commentaries, the Venerable Bede is studied in dialogue with Augustine, contemporary theology and historical theory to make this interdisciplinary argument.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 172

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Timothy J. Furry (PhD, University of Dayton) is Instructor of Religion and Philosophy and Chaplain at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He is co-editor of Ecclesiology and Exclusion (2012) and author of multiple theological essays, book chapters and reviews.


List of Images

1. (Re)Framing History: A Contemporary Historiography of Bede’s Historia
2. Can History Be Figural? A Study of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica and De Templo
3. Interpreting Genesis: Creation and the Relationship between the Literal and Figural Senses
4. Anachronism and the Status of the Past in Bede’s Historia and Figural Exegesis
5. Bede and Frank Ankersmit: The Inevitability of Figural History



Endorsements and Reviews

This is an absolutely fascinating book. … Timothy Furry is remarkably successful in arguing that the instruments developed by modern philosophers of history are conditional for doing adequate justice to the surprising semantic richness of a historical text of almost 1300 years ago. Furry is to be congratulated for his having been the first to reveal Bede’s real historical genius.
Frank Ankersmit, Professor of Intellectual History and Historical Theory, University of Groningen

Through a disarmingly engaging study of the Venerable Bede, Furry provides a subtle Christian apologetic about the nature of history. Taking history back for legitimate Christian interpretation, Furry steps nimbly through scriptural exegesis, Augustinian metaphysics, medieval theology, and contemporary philosophy, despoiling the Egyptians as he goes. This is a wonderfully creative re-appropriation of the tradition, which reopens a fertile space for a Christian reading of the past.
Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology, Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto

Few issues are more pressing today – and more vexed – than the relation of ‘history’ to scriptural interpretation. … Relying on recent theory that moves us beyond the stale dualisms of the romantic period, Furry allows us to see Bede anew as a skillful historian and a faithful theologian. But this book is not only about Bede. It is also a fresh, hopeful plea for theological work that returns to first-order questions about what history is and why it matters.
Michael Legaspi, Instructor of Religion and Philosophy, Andover Phillips Academy

… the ambition of this book excites. More scholars – Christians and non-Christians alike – should reevaluate philosophy of history from a medieval perspective.
Nathan J. Ristuccia, in Reviews in Religion & Theology, Vol 22, Issue 2

Furry’s lucid style, helpful analogies, and impressive grasp of his multifarious series of interlocking subjects are sure to delight any careful reader who is interested in how the past relates to the present. A careful work such as this merits careful attention.
Josh Bruce, in The Expository Times, Vol 127, No 11