The Living God in Aelfric's De Falsis Diis


  • N. M. Robinson


'He always took great pleasure in instructing the young men and boys, in explaining Latin books to them in the English language, in teaching them the rules of grammar and metre, and exhorting them gently to strive for greater things.' This was said of Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester 963-84, but the same and more could be said of his pupil, Aelfric, with the added proviso that linguistic competence was desirable, not merely as an end in itself, but as the means to a greater end, the propagation of the faith. Writing in English for the benefit of a non-Latinate audience, Aefric addressed the problem of an inadequately educated clergy with realistic practicality by providing two collections of homilies for the Temporale and some supplementary pieces. For the monastic schola he produced a grammar based on Priscian, the first such work in English, a Latin-English vocabulary, and a colloquy to assist in learning Latin. In response to specific requests or requirements he also wrote an anthology of saints' lives for devotional reading, a condensed version of the Regularis Concordiae, several pastoral letters, and some translations from Scripture into the vernacular, this last being undertaken with the utmost reluctance on Aelfric's part. In each case the appropriate material is presented in a style both rich and lucid, innovative and apt, guiding understanding, correcting error, teaching the true faith.