The paschal theology of Abbot Ceolfrith of Wearmouth-Jarrow

Julianna Grigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Failure to achieve a consensus on a regular Easter cycle divided
Christians in the second century and again in the fourth. In the seventh century
and early eighth, the matter was contested among the churches of Britain and
Ireland. In this period, Ceolfrith, abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow, sent a letter to the
king of the Picts, outlining the reasons for following a nineteen-year paschal
cycle. Bede, in his Historia ecclesiastica, reproduced Ceolfrith’s letter,
preserving a unique study on the logistical and theological complexities in the
debate on how to derive the correct date to celebrate Easter. Concentration on
Ceolfrith’s computistical argument, however, can miss his interpretation of
paschal theology that emphasises the Resurrection rather than the Passion; his
Christological emphasis on the biblical Exodus story; and his mystical
interpretation of Easter as a spiritual journey where light triumphs over
darkness. This article therefore discusses Ceolfrith’s paschal theology and
considers the way in which it may have affected liturgical rites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-134
JournalThe Innes Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Bede
  • Ceolfrith
  • Easter
  • computus
  • Wearmouth-Jarrow
  • Nechtan mac
  • derelei
  • paschal theology

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