Regulars here will realise that I regularly look at the Christian tradition through Benedictine lenses.

I realise that there have been some who have questioned the existence of St Benedict, but now I come across the work of British scholar Francis Clark The Pseudo-Gregorian Dialogues (Studies in the History of Christian Thought, 37) (here is a good bit of this book online) and The Gregorian Dialogues and the Origins of Benedictine Monasticism (Studies in the History of Christian Thought) (OK, at $US 684 second hand, I’m actually not going to be adding this to my personal library currently! Really??!!)

We all know there’s no contemporary reference to Benedict (supposedly c. 480–547). All we know derives from the Dialogues of Gregory. The authenticity of those Dialogues has, of course, been questioned. But Francis Clark contends Benedict’s Rule is seventh century and that the Dialogues, similarly, are a seventh century construction by a clerk in the papal archives, patching together genuine Gregorian material with other stuff. This means the Benedictine legacy stems from the early eighth century.

Here Matthew dal Santo of Trinity College, Cambridge, argues strongly for the more conservative position.

I’m certainly open to having my prejudices challenged, and there isn’t too much riding on this for me, but currently I would still be comfortable with talking about Benedict as if he is a historical person…

Furthermore, the Dialogues has never looked like a contemporary biography, and the Rule of Benedict has (hence) been more significant than its author…

What do you think? And please add any more you know about this debate…

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