Bible and Sword

Bible and Sword by Barbara W. Tuchman Read Free Book Online

Book: Bible and Sword by Barbara W. Tuchman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara W. Tuchman
residents to flee to Carthage. Here he came into conflict with St. Augustine, who dominated the Christian scene from his Carthaginian garden. Pelagius, a man of untroubled faith, did not share the awful soul struggles of the Saint of Hippo, nor could he accept Augustine’s insistence that salvation was not within man’s power to achieve, but was only within the Divine power to bestow. Hoping to find a more sympathetic religious climate, he moved on to Palestine, only to come up against the cantankerous Jerome, who promptly denounced him as an old fool dulled by Scotch porridge. For already his creed, contained in a series of commentaries on St. Paul, which incidentally form the oldest known book to have been written by a Briton, was making enemies for him among the entrenched episcopacy, in proportion as it gained headway in the Christian world.
    It was a characteristically British heresy even then; for Pelagius rediscovered Free Will. Repudiating the doctrine of original sin, he suggested instead that sin was a matter of choice rather than an unavoidable inheritance from Adam. This appalling theory filled church officials with horror. For if it were admitted that men were not totally depraved from birth but could achieve righteousness and grace through their own ability, then of what avail was Jesus’ atonement on the Cross? If the Redeemer was not a necessity for mankind, no more was the Church. Such subversive ideas could not be allowed by the doctrinaires of the day. Led by Augustine and Jerome, they kept the controversy raging until they had secured the condemnation of Pelagianism as heresy.
    Within the lifetime of Pelagius the Roman Empire, pulling in its legions from the provinces in an effort to defend its core against the barbarians, had withdrawn from Britain. The country was left to its own devices against theever-ready Picts and Scots, soon followed by the Anglo-Saxons. Under the new Invaders the heathen pall redescended on the former Romanized settlements, though not on the more remote regions of the North and West. Pushed back by the new barbarians, the Celts retreated to the fringes of the British Isles, and here Celtic Christianity survived. From one of the remarkable Scotch monasteries in the North another figure, the Abbot Andamnan of Iona, emerges to penetrate the cloudy history of that dim era. His connection with Palestine was fortuitous; Andamnan happened to fall host to a French bishop, Arculf, who, sailing home from a nine months’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was shipwrecked on the stony Scottish coast about the year 690. A storm at sea gave Britain its first in the endless count of English travel books on Palestine.
    Warming his guest, no doubt, with the steaming Scotch porridge so despised by Jerome, Andamnan, a man “most learned in the Scriptures,” must have listened fascinated to Arculf’s first-hand description of the Holy Places. One can imagine the two cowled figures in the bare hall of the monastery, swept by sea wind and Caledonian fog; the traveler telling his tale of far-off places, of sacred shrines and relics, the listener urging him on with eager questions. Andamnan took it down in Latin, the language common to both, and presented the finished work, entitled
De Locis Sanctis
, to the King of Northumbria. From here it came into the hands of a great contemporary and fellow Northumbrian, the Venerable Bede, through whose efforts the book was destined to have a much wider circulation than its remote origin might have warranted. Bede abridged and rewrote
De Locis Sanctis
, including it, though with full credit to Arculf and Andamnan, among his own historical and ecclesiastical works and thus assuring its survival. During the course of the Middle Ages more than one hundred transcripts were made of Bede’s condensed version and a score of Andamnan’s original. These figures, in the days of painstaking longhand reproduction and scarceparchment, represent a best seller. Setting the

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