Christian Influence

Laura Maxwell (English 111, 1994)

The Roman conversion of the Anglo-Saxons is customarily dated from 597, the year in which Augustine established his mission at Canterbury, and as the various kingdoms of the English were Christianized, they received not only a new religion but also a new alphabet: the Latin alphabet of the Roman and Celtic church

J.A. Burrow, Medieval Writers and Their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 1100-1500, 24

Not merely a translation, but an interweaving of Christian and Anglo-Saxon cultures and cultural lore is evident in most Old English poems that survived as manuscripts. There are biblical stories, such as Juliana, a saint's life, and Judith, that are reinterpreted for an Anglo-Saxon audience. But there are also clear Christian influences on Anglo-Saxon imagery and stories, as exemplified in the kenning "wuldres Wealdend" or wielder of wonders (for God) in Beowulf -- evidence that the Anglo-Saxon oral poetic form and content underwent significant cultural translation when surrounded by Christian literate culture, undoubtedly well before the poem was written down. Yet the influence was mutual, insofar as the Anglo-Saxon audience was concerned: Anglo-Saxon understandings of the world influenced interpretations of Bible stories, for example, in the representation of Satan as an ungenerous lord (ll. 685-90), which superimposes the conceptual framework of the comitatus, or warrior fellowship, upon biblical characters.