Beowulf is a good example of bad catechesis in the Scriptures and in church doctrine and practice. Christianity is presented by scops/minstrels/poets who had general notions about Christianity but were lacking in the detailed knowledge.
In Beowulf the Christian elements are about equally distributed between narrative and speeches. While the poet’s reflections and characters’ statements are mostly Christian, the customs and ceremonies, on the other hand, are almost entirely heathen/pagan: At the beginning of the poem, there is the account of the pagan funeral rites of Scyld Scefing, and at the close of the poem we see the heathen rites of burial for Beowulf himself, including cremation, deposition of treasures and armor, etc. with the corpse in the burial mound overlooking the sea. That enables the poet to “communicate his Christian vision of pagan heroic life.”(Bloom 2). Additonally, earlier in the poem, the Danes, when under extreme pressure from Grendel, reverted to Satan-worship:
At times they prepared sacrifice in temples,
war-idol offerings, said the old words aloud,
that the great soul-slayer might bring some comfort
in their country’s disaster. Such was their custom,
the hope of the heathen; they remembered Hell
in their deepest thoughts. They knew not the Lord,
the Judge of our deeds, were ignorant of God,
knew not how to worship our Protector above,
the King of Glory (175ff)
This fact of heathen rites and customs seems to point to the con...
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...e and practice.
Alexander, Michael, translator. The Earliest English Poems. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: Beowulf, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.
Frank, Roberta. “The Beowulf Poet’s Sense of History.” In Beowulf – Modern Critical Interpretations, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
The Holy Bible, edited by dom Bernard Orchard. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.
Ward & Trent, et al. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–21; New York: Bartleby.com, 2000
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