The Old Testament in Anglo-Saxon England

Basic Concepts

Old Testament (Catholic Bible): 39 + 7 Books
Pentateuch Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Historical books Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel (2), Kings (2), Chronicles (2), Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Maccabees (2)
Wisdom books Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus
Major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Ezekiel, Daniel
Minor prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Hebrew / Aramaic / Greek / Apocryphal / rejected by Jerome

Bible Translation

Bible Translation

Bible Access

Typology: Four Senses of Scripture

Historia Literal signification
Allegoria Prefiguration of NT events
Tropologia Moral lesson
Anagogia Eschatological signification


Type Antitype Level
The Flood Christ’s baptism Allegorical
The Red Sea crossing Cleansing of sins (through baptism) Tropological
The conquest of Canaan The attainment of the heavenly Jerusalem Anagogical
The sacrifice of Isaac The crucifixion Allegorical
The sacrifice of Isaac True faith Tropological


Exemplum Lesson
The Ten Virgins Do not neglect or delay your religious duties
The Workers in the Vineyard Grace is not a measure of effort or achievement
Peter’s walk on water Faith is a necessary condition of achievement

Homiletic Terminology

Exemplum Illustrative story or parable
Pericope Scriptural passage selected for reading out during Mass
Sermon Cathechetical or exhortative discourse
Homily Exposition on the pericope

In Anglo-Saxon studies, homily is used to refer to all religious exhortations, whether or not they make reference to a pericope.

Notable Old Testament Episodes

Gn 1–2 Creation
Gn 3 Fall of Man
Gn 4 Killing of Abel
Gn 6–8 Noah’s Flood
Gn 11 Tower of Babel
Gn 12–21 Abraham and Sarah
Gn 18–19 Sodom and Gomorrah
Gn 19 Lot
Gn 22 Abraham and Isaac
Gn 27 Isaac’s blessing of Jacob
Gn 37–45 Joseph

Notable Old Testament Episodes

Ex 3–4 Moses and the burning bush
Ex 3–12 Ten plagues of Egypt
Ex 12 Passover and Exodus
Ex 14 Crossing of the Red Sea
Ex 20 Ten Commandments
Jo 6 Fall of Jericho
Jgs 13–16 Samson and Delilah
1 Kings 3 Solomon and the newborn baby
Jb Job
Jon Jonah

Books Retold in Anglo-Saxon Literature

Genesis Creation to Egypt
Exodus Egyptian oppression to the Tabernacle
Leviticus Regulations for the priesthood and lay cleanliness
Numbers The Tabernacle to Canaan; the forty years to the plains of Moab
Deuteronomy Moses’ three speeches (including the law code); succession by Joshua
Joshua Conquest of Canaan; distribution of land between the tribes
Judges Israel’s cycle of faithlessness and its religious leaders’ corrective efforts
Judith An Israelite widow’s assassination of an Assyrian general
Psalms Songs of praise and appeals for deliverance
Daniel Prophetic visions and dreams set at the Babylonian and Persian courts
Genesis Near-complete composite prose translation; poetic retelling Gen, GenA, GenB
Exodus Incomplete prose translations; poetic retelling Ex, ÆCHom II, 15, ByrM, LawAfEl, Exod
Leviticus Selective prose translation Lev
Numbers Selective prose translation Num
Deuteronomy Selective prose translation Deut
Joshua Incomplete, summarizing prose paraphrase Josh
Judges “Homily” / selective prose retelling Judg
Judith Poetic retelling Jdt
Psalms Prose translation; verse translation PPs, PPs (prose)
Daniel Poetic retellings Dan, Az

Homilies, Epistles, Treatises

On the Old and New Testament (ÆLet 4) A synopsis with pointers to typology (all books)
Preface to Genesis (ÆGenPref) On the dangers of vernacular Scripture (Gn)
De creatore et creatura (ÆCreat) Didactic text on creation, the nature of God, and Salvation History (Gn)
Interrogationes Sigewulfi in Genesim (ÆIntSig) Dialectical work tackling cruxes of Creation (Gn)
Hexameron (ÆHex) Detailed text on the process and products of creation (Gn)
De populo Israhel (ÆHom 21) The Israelites’ repeated dissent and punishment (Ex, Nm)

Homilies, Epistles, Treatises

By cyningum (ÆHom 23) Points out how rulers sometimes justifiably send their generals to fight in their stead (Sm, Kgs, Chr)
ÆLS (Book of Kings) An excerpt from the Book of Kings (Kgs).
ÆLS (Pr Moses) Draws a lesson from Moses’ prayer for Joshua’s victory (Ex).
In cena Domini (HomS 23) Explains the liturgical practice of caput ieiunii with reference to Adam (Gn)
HomU 11 (Verc 7) Points out how toil and doctrine earned the patriarchs divine rewards (Gn)
HomU 21 Reasons that unlike Adam, we have no memory of Paradise (paraphrase from Gregory’s Dialogues) (Gn)

Homilies, Epistles, Treatises

HomU 57 Interprets the 70 years of exile as the 7 ages of the world (Chr, Ezr, Jer, Dn)
De visione Isaie prophete (WHom 11) In which God calls out the Israelites by mouth of Isaiah for specific sins (Is).
Wulfstan’s version of Ælfric’s De falsis diis (WHom 12) An abbreviated introduction to classical polytheism, followed by the recommendation to worship the one trinitarian God (Gn).
Verba Ezechielis prophete (WHom 16) Warns that bishops and priests have a duty not only to live virtuously, but to address the vices of the people (Ez, Is).
Be godcunde warnunge (WHom 19) Translates some of God’s instructions to Moses (Lev)