Almost everything that is known of Bede's life is contained in a notice added by himself when he was 59 to his Historia (Book V, Chapter 24), which states that he was placed in the monastery at Wearmouth at the age of seven, that he became deacon in his nineteenth year, and priest in his thirtieth. He implies that he finished the Historia at the age of 59, and since the work was finished around 731, he must have been born in 672/3. It is not clear whether he was of noble birth. He was trained by the abbots Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid, and probably accompanied the latter to Wearmouth's sister monastery of Jarrow in 682. There he spent his life, prominent activities evidently being teaching and writing, the two of most interest to him. There he also died, on 25 May 735, and was buried, although his body was later transferred to Durham Cathedral.
His works show that he had at his command all the learning of his time. It was thought that the library at Wearmouth-Jarrow was between 300-500 books, making it one of the largest and most extensive in England. It is clear that Biscop made strenuous efforts to collect books during his extensive travels.Bede's writings are classed as scientific, historical and theological, reflecting the range of his writings from music and metrics to exegetical Scripture commentaries. He was proficient in patristic literature, and quotes Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace and other classical writers, but with some disapproval. He knew some Greek, but no Hebrew. His Latin is generally clear and without affectation, and he was a skilful story-teller. However, his style can be considerably more obscure in his Biblical commentaries.
Bede's scriptural commentaries employed the allegorical method of interpretation and his history includes accounts of miracles, which to modern historians has seemed at odds with his critical approach to the materials in his history. Modern studies have shown the important role such concepts played in the world-view of Early Medieval scholars.
The most important and best known of his works is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, giving in five books and 400 pages the history of England, ecclesiastical and political, from the time of Caesar to the date of its completion (731). The first twenty-one chapters, treating of the period before the mission of Augustine of Canterbury, are compiled from earlier writers such as Orosius, Gildas, Prosper of Aquitaine, the letters of Pope Gregory I and others, with the insertion of legends and traditions. After 596, documentary sources, which Bede took pains to obtain throughout England and from Rome, are used, as well as oral testimony, which he employed with critical consideration of its value. He cited his references and was very concerned about the provenance of his sources, which created an important historical chain.
Bede's use of something similar to the anno Domini era, created by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in 525, throughout Historia Ecclesiastica was very influential in causing that era to be adopted thereafter in Western Europe. Specifically, he used anno ab incarnatione Domini (in the year from the incarnation of the Lord) or anno incarnationis dominicae (in the year of the incarnation of the Lord). He never abbreviated the term like the modern AD. Unlike the modern assumption that anno Domini was from the birth of Christ, Bede explicitly refers to his incarnation or conception, traditionally on 25 March. Within this work, he was also the first writer to use a term similar to the English before Christ. In book I chapter 2 he used ante incarnationis dominicae tempus (before the time of the incarnation of the Lord). However, the latter was not very influential—only this isolated use was repeated by other writers during the rest of the Middle Ages. The first extensive use of 'BC' (hundreds of times) occurred in Fasciculus Temporum by Werner Rolevinck in 1474, alongside years of the world (anno mundi).