Although the homilies lack any surviving prefaces or other identification by Ælfric(1), evidence elsewhere points to his authorship. To begin with there is the physical context of the texts. As can be seen from a quick glance at Chapter II, both the Maccabees and Judith are found in Ælfrician manuscripts, i.e. the other texts contained in the manuscripts are predominantly by Ælfric. In the case of Esther we have L'Isle's observation that it is part of a collection of:
More of the ould Testament
quoted in the saxon Homilies whi\ch/
are entitled in Latine Catholici Sermones:
& translated \into the ould English/ by Ælfricus Abbas(2)
Direct attribution by Ælfric is not as clear-cut as one would like but in his Letter to Sigeweard he does state that he worked on Esther ða ic awende in Englisc on ure wisan sceortlice (Crawford, 1922, p. 48) as well as Judith seo ys eac on Englisc on ure wisan gesett (Crawford, 1922, p. 48). For the Maccabees Ælfric is more direct when he states that7 ic awende hig on Englisc 7 rædon gif ge wyllað eow sylfum to ræde! (Crawford, 1922, p. 51).
Evidence for his authorship can also be drawn from the fact that the themes running throughout these three biblical texts are common to other writings known to be by Ælfric. Similarly, characteristic phrasing, found in the three texts occur frequently in Ælfric's other works(3). For example, choices noted by Pope(4) in Ælfric's use of words also occur in the three texts. In the Maccabees l. 485 the text uses ælfremed(om) as opposed to fremde, and in ll. 746-50 there are four occurrences of the noun cweartern(e) as opposed to cearcern. Both in Esther l. 182 and Judith l. 196, the verb hogian is employed instead of hycgan. The absence of such words and phrases as manna gehwylc, æfre ænig, nænig, and æghwilc should also be noted(5). Similarly, there are no med-/met- compounds, and the texts display the standard Ælfrician method of reserving the pp. lifigende for honouring the Lord (Esther l. 67, Maccabees l. 399) with libbende being used for mortals (e.g. Judith l. 50). Similarly, the fusion of faran and feran noted by Pope is also present in the three homilies. Here faran forms occur only in the present tense (e.g. Maccabees l. 498), whilst feran forms dominate the preterite (e.g. Judith l. 42, Maccabees l. 211, etc.(6)). Similar evidence can be found in the use of certain conjunctions(7). Ælfric commonly shows a preference for the double forms swa swa (e.g. Pope, 1967, I, l. 15; IX, l. 83; etc.) and þa þa (e.g. Pope I, l. 442; II, l. 7; etc.), examples of which can be found in all three homilies (8). While not conclusive it can be claimed that these points of agreement, taken as a whole, support the theory of Ælfric's authorship.
(1) Unlike, for example, the Letter to Sigeweard, which begins Ælfric Abbod gret freondlice... (Crawford, 1922, p. 15). [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(2) Oxford, Bodleian, MS Laud Misc. 381, f.116v, ll. 1-4. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(3) Note the endings to all threeÐam sy wuldor 7 lof a to worulde! Amen (Judith, ll. 380-81); Sy wuldor 7 lof þam welwillendan Gode, a on ecnysse. We cwæþað: AMEN! (Maccabees, ll. 720-21); and Sy wuldor 7 lof þam welwillendan Gode se þe æfre rixað on ecnysse! Amen. (Esther, ll. 278-79) all of which declare the glory and love of the eternal Lord, are similar to phrases in other Ælfrician homilies: þam sy wuldor and wurðmynt. A to worulde. Amen (Godden, 1979, XXIII, ll. 1978) and Sy him wuldor and wurðmynt on ealra worulda woruld. Amen (Godden, 1979, XXXVII, ll. 205-06). See also Feria VI in tertia ebdomada quadragesimæ (Pope, V, 1967, l. 290); Feria VI in quarta ebdomada quadragesimæ (Pope, VI, 1967, l. 373); and Dominica Post Ascensionem Domini (Pope, IX, 1967, l. 218). [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(4) Pope (1967, pp. 99-102). See also E. Dietrich, Abt. Ælfrik zur Literatur-Geschichte der Angelsächsischen Kirche, Zeitschrift für die Historische Theologie 25 (1885), p.544, n.140; and K. Jost, Wulfstanstudien (Bern, 1950), pp. 159-76. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(5) For the latter two, in keeping with Pope's observations on traits identifiable as Ælfrician, there is the noted presence of nan and ælc in all three texts. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(6) Note the exception of gefor, Maccabees l. 640. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(7) See Pope (1967, pp. 102-3), and Jost (1927). [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]
(8) For swa swa see Judith l. 332, Esther l. 31, and Maccabees l. 47; for þa þa see Judith l. 75, Esther ll. 2829, and Maccabees l. 371. [To return to the appropriate part of the text click here.]