The last chapter

James Doyle Penrose, Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St John’s Gospel, 1902.

James Doyle Penrose, Bede on his deathbed completing his translation of St John’s Gospel, 1902. The original hangs outside the Anderson Room in the University Library.
By kind permission of the Trustees of Bible Society.

In these days … he was much busied with … the translation into our own language …of the Gospel of St John … When the Tuesday before the Lord’s
Ascension came, his breathing became much worse … Nonetheless he continued his teaching all that day and dictated cheerfully … At daybreak on
Wednesday he told us to finish the writing which we had begun. We did this until the third hour … There was one of us with him who said: ‘Beloved master, there is still one chapter missing from the book you were dictating, but it seems to me difficult to ask you for more.’ But he answered: ‘It is easy. Take your pen and prepare it and write quickly.’ And this he did … Then the boy of whom I spoke, Wilbur by name, said again: ‘Beloved master, there is still one sentence left, not yet written down.’ He answered: ‘Write it then.’ After a short time the boy said: ‘Now it is written.’ And he replied: ‘Good. It is finished.’ … And … he breathed out his spirit from his body.

Translation by Peter Meadows of Cuthbert’s letter on the death of Bede. Bede’s translation of the Gospel of St. John, probably the first rendition of any part of the Bible into English, does not survive.