The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by tuttle »

Is anyone familiar with The Heliand?

It's a 9th century Old Saxon epic poem, twice as long as Beowulf, that is essentially a reimagination of the gospel in a Germanic context.

It's purpose was not for official church reading, but more likely to be read in the monasteries or the mead-halls, when the feasting was over and the fires were bright and the storyteller would chant or sing.

I hesitate to say it is a blend of Christianity with Germanic pagan images and culture, but such things are certainly infused into it, and done so in a way in which the familiar pagan imagery is Christianized. For instance, the Germanic pagan's were enamored with the power of words, magic words. Thus God's words are powerful magic words. The gospel itself is God's Spell. The four gospel writers are heroes chosen and skilled by God to write this tale, using powerful and divine words. In the same way, the poet uses the familiarity of the Germanic warrior society in how it speaks of companionship and loyalty and heroes, etc. God is called Our Chieftain. John the Baptist is the warrior-companion to Christ. And Jesus is often referred to as the Mighty Christ. (Fun fact, it is speculated that due to the popularity of this poem and it's Christianizing of the Germanic warrior culture, that this poem might be the first instance, and perhaps the source, of what became the characteristics of knightly culture in the later Middle Ages.)

The poem is broken up into fitts, which we can essentially think of as individual songs, and re-tells the whole gospel.

Anyway, it's a fascinating read for any Christian, doubly for any Christian with any affinity towards Germanic culture or just has an appreciation for old epic poetry in general. If you like Beowulf, you'll like this.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by sweetandsour »

I just now read the entire Wiki article for it. I remember muddling through Beowulf in high school, but don't remember Heliand. The history of it is interesting.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by Del »

True story:

Pipeson was reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales last November. ("Hey, Dad... I have to agree with Chaucer: Beowulf is really old.")

He discovered, in the Introduction, that Chaucer had made his own translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy into Middle English. Thus Pipeson was having great fun looking for themes from Boethius in Chaucer's tales. The Knight's Tale and the Author's Tale are straight up Boethius, and he is woven into other tales as well.

Pipeson got into his head that he just had to have a copy of Chaucer's Boethius from the 1300's in his library. He found a reprint on Amazon.

Perusing the Introduction to this work, Pipeson learned that Chaucer was not the first to translate Boethius into "English." King Alfred the Great had translated Boethius into Old English (Saxon) in the late 800's. Christianity was pretty well established in England, there were monasteries and monks to copy manuscripts, and Alfred had established schools for educating children across his realm. But unlike the European continent, Alfred's schools taught in English instead of Latin. So his people needed translations of Scripture and great books.

[Worship at the Divine Liturgy was also according to the English Rite in Old English. I just checked on this myself, and English Catholics worshipped in English language right up to the Reformation, when Catholic worship in English was suppressed for 300 years and lost forever. By the time Catholics were emancipated in England, the Tridentine Mass in Latin had become the norm of the universal Church. The myth that English Catholics had been "forced by Rome to worship in Latin" in the centuries before the Reformation is just one of many Victorian-era historical errors and slanders that persist today. Even I believed it.]

Anyhow, now Pipeson just had to have a copy of the Alfred's Boethius in Old English. Found it on Amazon.

"I can kinda read Chaucer in Middle English, but I can't make any sense of Old English. I guess I have to learn Old English now."

So Pipeson found a home-study, "Teach Yourself Old English" textbook on Amazon. With a link to audio files so he could get the pronunciation down right.

Long Story-Short: Pipeson has spent the last two months enjoying the study of Old English. He spends some time with it, every day. (Except last weekend, when we rushed to have his appendix removed. Even so, Pipeson recited some Old English poems and riddles for me to take his mind from the pain.)
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by tuttle »

Del wrote: 01 Mar 2023, 06:04 True story:

Pipeson was reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales last November. ("Hey, Dad... I have to agree with Chaucer: Beowulf is really old.")

He discovered, in the Introduction, that Chaucer had made his own translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy into Middle English. Thus Pipeson was having great fun looking for themes from Boethius in Chaucer's tales. The Knight's Tale and the Author's Tale are straight up Boethius, and he is woven into other tales as well.

Pipeson got into his head that he just had to have a copy of Chaucer's Boethius from the 1300's in his library. He found a reprint on Amazon.

Perusing the Introduction to this work, Pipeson learned that Chaucer was not the first to translate Boethius into "English." King Alfred the Great had translated Boethius into Old English (Saxon) in the late 800's. Christianity was pretty well established in England, there were monasteries and monks to copy manuscripts, and Alfred had established schools for educating children across his realm. But unlike the European continent, Alfred's schools taught in English instead of Latin. So his people needed translations of Scripture and great books.

[Worship at the Divine Liturgy was also according to the English Rite in Old English. I just checked on this myself, and English Catholics worshipped in English language right up to the Reformation, when Catholic worship in English was suppressed for 300 years and lost forever. By the time Catholics were emancipated in England, the Tridentine Mass in Latin had become the norm of the universal Church. The myth that English Catholics had been "forced by Rome to worship in Latin" in the centuries before the Reformation is just one of many Victorian-era historical errors and slanders that persist today. Even I believed it.]

Anyhow, now Pipeson just had to have a copy of the Alfred's Boethius in Old English. Found it on Amazon.

"I can kinda read Chaucer in Middle English, but I can't make any sense of Old English. I guess I have to learn Old English now."

So Pipeson found a home-study, "Teach Yourself Old English" textbook on Amazon. With a link to audio files so he could get the pronunciation down right.

Long Story-Short: Pipeson has spent the last two months enjoying the study of Old English. He spends some time with it, every day. (Except last weekend, when we rushed to have his appendix removed. Even so, Pipeson recited some Old English poems and riddles for me to take his mind from the pain.)
Sounds like a kindred spirit.

The book I brought along for my wait at the hospital last weekend (ortho surgery for RNOL...went great) was a menagerie of Anglo-Saxon works. I found my way to the poetry section and slow read The Wanderer.

I've also done a fair bit of learning Old English as an ongoing hobby. I have a translation of Beowulf by Benjamin Thorpe that gives a word for word OE to Modern English that I break out every few months and knuckle down on.

Alfred sounds like a pretty great guy.

And back to Chaucer (the trick is to read him out loud), I just purchased a book that might intrigue your appendix-less offspring called Tolkien's Lost Chaucer. Tolkien almost wrote a book on Chaucer, had everything lined up for it, had all his notes, etc, and in true Tolkeinian niggling fashion, he didn't finish. Anyway his notes were recently discovered and this book is all about that.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by Wosbald »

+JMJ+
tuttle wrote: 28 Feb 2023, 05:53 […]

Anyway, it's a fascinating read for any Christian, doubly for any Christian with any affinity towards Germanic culture or just has an appreciation for old epic poetry in general. If you like Beowulf, you'll like this.
I'd not heard of this. Not surprising, since I'm really not a big "Literature" kind-of-guy. My best memory of Beowulf is when I subsequently realized it had some preparatory resonances for LOTR.

Nonetheless, interesting. Thanx fer sharin' yer geek-out!

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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by Del »

I find this amazing: We encourage Christians to read the Bible.... Yet we don't teach our children how to read, enjoy, and appreciate any other old books.

Pipeson enjoys reading Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Boethius, Plutarch, Dante, Chaucer.... and the Bible. The old books have a special feeling about them, very different from modern books. (For reference, Shakespeare marks the beginning of the modern era of writers who earned a living by writing for mass consumption.)

The difference is simple: The ancient authors didn't write for money.

The writers didn't get paid for their effort. They wrote their works as an act of love for their readers, present and future. They knew that they had something special to share, is all. They knew that future readers would appreciate having it. As Pipeson puts it: Boethius was thinking of me while he wrote. He wrote this for me.

The Scripture writers were the same way. They didn't write with a mind toward being parsed into verses and used as proof texts. They wrote to share their wisdom with their readers, for love of those whom they would never meet in their lifetimes.

Pipeson loves the openings to each of St. Paul's letters, always some version of, "I, Paul, chosen by Christ to share this wisdom with you, and for love of you from Christ and myself, Greetings!"

The ancient authors are easy to read. And if you haven't read some of them, you are cheating yourself of some very good friends. I learned this from Pipeson, and it is true. [As Hans Gruber sheepishly explains, "The benefits of a classical education!"]

Pipeson's coworkers like to tease him in good humor. (He takes it so well!) "Why do you read those old books?"

He responds with a quote from Thucydides ("History of the Peloponnesian War"). As the King of Sparta rebuked some fools from Athens, saying, "We are wise. We are not so highly educated as to disdain the traditions of our ancestors."

Do not disdain the wisdom of our ancestors! These books were written for you and preserved by generations -- for you. They have not lost their value.

If nothing else, read an ancient book or two just to enrich your reading of Sacred Scripture.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by jruegg »

I believe I read somewhere that The Saxon Gospel has been revised and is now called The Norman Gospel by Hastings Publishing.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by Biff »

jruegg wrote: 02 Mar 2023, 15:38 I believe I read somewhere that The Saxon Gospel has been revised and is now called The Norman Gospel by Hastings Publishing.
:D I see what you did there.
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by Del »

Biff wrote: 02 Mar 2023, 20:00
jruegg wrote: 02 Mar 2023, 15:38 I believe I read somewhere that The Saxon Gospel has been revised and is now called The Norman Gospel by Hastings Publishing.
:D I see what you did there.
They deleted seven books and parts of several others, right?
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The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel

Post by tuttle »

jruegg wrote: 02 Mar 2023, 15:38 I believe I read somewhere that The Saxon Gospel has been revised and is now called The Norman Gospel by Hastings Publishing.
It was unharolded
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