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The Biography of the Bible

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Author Topic: The Biography of the Bible  (Read 1079 times)
Azrael
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« Reply #105 on: July 18, 2009, 10:13:03 pm »

appeared during the last half of the fourteenth century the "morning star of the Reformation," John Wiclif (whose name is spelled in twenty-eight different ways). Trained in scholastic philosophy at Oxford, fellow of Balliol, Master of Balliol, in favor at the courts of Edward III and Richard II, he was statesman, philosopher, theologian, and reformer. Largely due to his efforts was the defeat of Pope Urban V when the latter claimed from England the payment of feudatory tribute. Five papal bulls against him failed to shake his influence. He sent out his students as itinerant preachers against the corruptions of the Church, and he organized a group of scholars to translate the Bible from the Vulgate into the vernacular. But when his study of the Scriptures led him to deny the doctrine of transubstantiation (the literal presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Communion service), which had been a subject of dispute from the time of Justin Martyr until Pope Innocent III declared it an article of faith in 1215, then Oxford University turned against its leader and deprived him of his office. He was forced to retire to the living of Lutterworth where he died in 1384.

Two years before Wiclif's death, however, the

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translation of the Bible which had been projected by him was finished, the first part as far as the middle of the Book of Baruch being chiefly the work of his disciple Nicholas of Hereford, the rest being possibly the work of Wiclif himself. In 1388 the whole was revised by another disciple, John Purvey, after which for over a hundred years the "Wiclif Bible" remained the only English translation in existence.
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Azrael
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« Reply #106 on: July 18, 2009, 10:13:39 pm »

The Lollards, as the followers of Wiclif came to be called, developed into a mighty social force. They denied the papal authority and the temporal lordship of the clergy; they denounced the worship of images and relics, the pilgrimages to the shrines of saints, and the ceremony of the mass; they were opposed to all wars, and to capital punishment. The Church was forced to adopt more and more vigorous measures against them: from excommunication and imprisonment it proceeded at the beginning of the fifteenth century to burnings at the stake. The circulation of the vernacular Bible, the source of all the Lollard "errors," was strictly forbidden. The persecutions continued through the reigns of Henry V and Henry VI, and the Lollard movement was eventually broken up, though probably not so much by the persecutions

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as by the devastating Wars of the Roses which held back all learning and social progress in England for over fifty years.

The Lollard movement left to posterity the one work of medieval English poetry worthy to rank with Chaucer's—The Vision of Piers Plowman by William Langland, and it left the Wiclif Bible—which continued to circulate in secret, despite the suppression, to such an extent that no less than one hundred and eighty copies have come down to us—and it gave birth to the Reformation.

John Huss, rector of the University of Prague, was deeply influenced by Wiclif: he taught much the same doctrine and instituted a translation of the Bible into the Czech vernacular, for which he paid with his life by burning at the stake in 1415. A hundred years later, Martin Luther, a monk of Wittenberg, deeply influenced by Huss, preached the same doctrines, but this time, though he was excommunicated there was no burning, for he had a nation behind him. So little had all the persecutions availed to halt the spread of ideas that were needed and sought after by the people.

The reformers, however, would hardly have succeeded, or succeeded so soon, but for two extraneous events. The first was the fall of Constantinople

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Azrael
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« Reply #107 on: July 18, 2009, 10:13:54 pm »

before the Turks in 1453. Hundreds of Greek scholars, bearing with them treasured manuscripts, fled to western Europe where they became influential teachers. The New Learning, consisting in a revival of Greek culture, gained adherents everywhere. And scholars, at least, could no longer be satisfied with a Latin version of the New Testament when the original Greek was once more accessible.

A still greater boon to the reformers was the invention of printing, generally attributed to Johann Gutenberg, about the middle of the fifteenth century. The first complete work to issue from the Gutenberg press at Mainz was a Latin edition of the Bible, printed in the manuscript style to which men were accustomed, and illuminated by hand. Forty-five copies have been preserved of this the first and most beautiful of all printed books.

The reformers were quick to take advantage of the new invention. A French translation of the Bible was brought out as early as 1474, and Germany already possessed eighteen vernacular versions when Luther's translation appeared in 152234. In two of these earlier German translations, through a pre-Puritan puritanism, the Song of
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Azrael
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« Reply #108 on: July 18, 2009, 10:14:32 pm »



Title page of the Great Bible (1539)
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Azrael
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« Reply #109 on: July 18, 2009, 10:15:50 pm »



Title page of the Douai Bible (1609)
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Azrael
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« Reply #110 on: July 18, 2009, 10:16:08 pm »

 Songs was left in Latin lest it prove a corrupter of youth.

Luther's rendering was by far the most accurate that had yet appeared. For the New Testament he used the Greek text of Erasmus’ edition (published hurriedly in 1515 in order to forestall a Spanish publisher, but thoroughly revised in 1519); for the Old Testament he used substantially the Masoretic text which had been preserved from generation to generation in practically the second-century form by a guild of Hebrew scholars known as the Masoretes, who consecrated their lives to this one purpose; only in the case of the Apocrypha was Luther content with the inferior Latin text. But his translation had a greater merit than mere accuracy. He was a master of words, not their slave; interested not in any pedantic adherence to literalness but in giving the full meaning of the original as forcefully and vividly as possible; the result was that he produced a work of literature so influential that, mainly because of it, the High German in which he wrote eventually displaced Low German and became the national tongue.

Although Luther included all the books of the Bible in his translation, he was far from holding the view which later arose among Protestants that

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Azrael
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« Reply #111 on: July 18, 2009, 10:16:22 pm »

all parts of the Bible were equally inspired. Reverencing especially the writings of Paul, whose doctrine of justification by faith became the cornerstone of his own teaching, he recognized the non-Pauline authorship of Hebrews, considered the anti-Pauline Epistle of James as of relatively little worth, and doubted the value of Esther, Jonah, Jude, and Revelation. Disputes over the canon, together with much hairsplitting as to the exact nature of Christ's spiritual presence in the bread and wine of the Communion, alienated Luther from the Swiss reformers, Zwingli and Calvin, to the great detriment of the progress of the Reformation.

England, which had once led in the translation of the Scriptures, now lagged behind the other nations. Not only were there versions in French and German but also in Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and Bohemian, before the English, exhausted by their civil wars, made any attempt to replace the suppressed Wiclifite translation, now outmoded in its clumsy antiquated prose, by some more faithful and readable translation. But when the work was once begun, although it brought death to its originator, it was

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Azrael
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« Reply #112 on: July 18, 2009, 10:16:33 pm »

carried through to a more glorious conclusion than in any other land.

William Tyndale, who suffered martyrdom to give us the basis of the English Bible that we now possess, was born no one knows when or where or of what parents. The most probable conjectural date is some time between 1490 and 1495, the most likely place somewhere in Gloucestershire on the Welsh border. He was entered at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1510, took his M.A. there in 1515, and went for further study to Cambridge which the fame of Erasmus had made a center of Greek and theological learning. After being ordained to the priesthood, he acted as tutor to the children of Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, from 1521 to 1523, during which time he also preached in neighboring villages and possibly at Bristol. His liberal views giving offense to the local clergy, he was summoned before William of Malvern, the chancellor of Worcester, on charges of heresy, but was allowed to depart for London without censure. That he already cherished the design of making a vernacular translation of the Scriptures is evident from an incident that occurred during his residence at Little Sodbury. Becoming

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« Reply #113 on: July 18, 2009, 10:16:53 pm »

involved one day in theological argument with a visiting ecclesiastic, when the latter exclaimed, "We were better without God's laws than without the Pope's," Tyndale indignantly replied, "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more than thou dost." Seven hundred years after Alfred the Great and two hundred after Wiclif, their still undefeated spirit was reborn.

In London, Tyndale's plans received encouragement from laymen but none from the clergy. He lived for a year as chaplain in the house of Alderman Humphrey Monmouth, meanwhile preaching at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, beginning his translation of the New Testament, and striving vainly to win the ear of the bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall. The bishop, he found, was irreconcilably opposed to his project and, if it were completed, would prevent its publication. At last Tyndale came to understand, in his own words, "not only that there was no room in my Lord of London's palace to translate the New Testament but also that there was no place to do it in all England."

Determined to pursue his task, nonetheless, even at the cost of exile, Tyndale went to Germany, where, after probably visiting Luther at Wittenberg,

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« Reply #114 on: July 18, 2009, 10:17:19 pm »

he settled with his amanuensis, William Roy, in Cologne, and completed his work on the New Testament. An edition was already on the press when a zealous Catholic named Johann Dobneck learned of the undertaking and immediately reported it to John Cochlaeus, dean at Frankfurt, who persuaded the senate of Cologne to interdict the printing. Tyndale took the sheets already finished and fled to Worms where two editions, quarto and octavo, were brought out on the press of Peter Schoeffer in 1526.

Copies were smuggled into England in bales of cotton, but many of them were seized and destroyed through the diligence of Cardinal Wolsey and Bishop Tunstall. In order to suppress the edition entirely, the Bishop sent a special agent to Antwerp to buy up all the copies of this "pestilent New Testament." The Antwerp Protestants gratified him to some extent and then immediately sent the money on to Tyndale to finance larger undertakings of the same nature!

Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, judged by its influence, was the greatest work of English prose ever achieved by a single individual. Following, like Luther, the Greek text of Erasmus, he also made good use of Luther's own translation,

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« Reply #115 on: July 18, 2009, 10:17:33 pm »

and rivaled the great German in a style which so successfully combined dignity, brevity, and familiarity that it worked a revolution in English prose. Tyndale's New Testament was substantially the New Testament of the King James version, which was, as we shall see later, essentially a revision of earlier translations. Even when the King James version was in its turn revised in 1881, the editors testified that eighty per cent of the words in the Revised Version of the New Testament were still the words of Tyndale.

The translator's personal reward for this masterwork was hardship and danger. Harried from place to place, he took refuge for a time with Philip of Hesse at Marburg but found it advisable to move about under such concealment that his wanderings cannot be traced today. Nevertheless, these years were rich in literary production. Having learned Hebrew for the purpose, he finished the translation of the Pentateuch in 1530 and that of the Book of Jonah, which, unlike Luther, he valued highly, in 1531. Meanwhile, his breach with the Church was completed by his following Wiclif and the Swiss reformer Zwingli in a denial of transubstantiation. He set forth his views on the authority of the Scriptures over the Church and on the separation of

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« Reply #116 on: July 18, 2009, 10:17:50 pm »

 Church and State in his Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1528) and Obedience of a Christen Man (1528), which drew forth a reply by Sir Thomas More, author of the Utopia, this in turn eliciting a rejoinder by Tyndale. In spite of his hostility to the Catholic Church, he could not stomach the brutal method of Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and in his Practyse of Prelates (1530) he excoriated both the Church and the king.

In 1535 he was at Antwerp, busied with further translation, when he was betrayed by Henry Phillips, an Englishman whom he had befriended. For fifteen months he was confined in Valverde Castle, six miles from Brussels, awaiting trial as a heretic. His friends tried desperately to secure the intercession of Henry VIII, but that monarch, who had become a Protestant in 1534 merely because of the Pope's refusal to validate his divorce, was not the man to forget Tyndale's attack upon him. He did permit Thomas Cromwell to write letters in Tyndale's behalf to Archbishop Carandolet, president of the council, and to the governor of the castle, but without more active intervention these were quite useless. The prisoner, who had serenely turned his confinement to good account by carrying on his translation of the Old Testament through

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« Reply #117 on: July 18, 2009, 10:18:00 pm »

 Second Chronicles, was condemned as a heretic, and on October 6, 1536, he was executed by strangling, and his body was publicly burned. To the end, he thought only of his great task, and his last words were, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."

The opening of the King's eyes occurred the very next year but in a somewhat devious manner. Miles Coverdale, an English reformer of about Tyndale's age and, like him, educated at Erasmus’ Cambridge, had found it necessary to spend the troublous years 1528–35 on the Continent rather than in England. According to an unsupported statement of John Foxe, he had met Tyndale in Hamburg and had given him some assistance in his translation of the Pentateuch. However that may be, he had by 1535, without going back to the original texts, completed a translation of the entire Bible in an English style less forceful than Tyndale's but with more of purely literary grace. While sufficiently courageous and a powerful orator, Coverdale was by nature pacific and not averse to the use of tact in a good cause. Accordingly, he dedicated his translation to King Henry VIII and "his dearest just wyfe, and most vertuous Pryncesse, Queen Anne." Since the King had not yet

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« Reply #118 on: July 18, 2009, 10:18:14 pm »

fallen into the mood to execute this dearest wyfe, he accepted the compliment and graciously allowed Coverdale's work to be admitted into England. A complete Bible in English now at last existed and could be freely read.

Coverdale's work, however, contained numerous errors, and in 1537 a better translation appeared over the name of Thomas Matthew, a pseudonym for John Rogers, Tyndale's literary executor. It included all of Tyndale's translations, published and unpublished, and where Tyndale was not available it made use of Coverdale. But the fiery notes of the editor were much too democratic in character to please the ruling powers, so one Richard Taverner was encouraged to rush through a hasty revision of "Matthew's Bible," omitting most of the notes, which was published in the same year, 1537.

This, too, proved unsatisfactory, and Coverdale was commissioned to make a new translation. As printing was cheaper in France, the work was brought out there, but just when the first impression of twenty-five hundred copies was off the press, these were seized and burned by order of the Inquisition. Coverdale was able to rescue a few copies which one of the officers of the Inquisition

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« Reply #119 on: July 18, 2009, 10:18:24 pm »

had privately sold to a haberdasher for waste paper; with these and the presses and types, Coverdale returned to England, where in 1539 the work was published in a huge folio, known from its size as the "Great Bible." A second edition, published in 1540, was called "Cranmer's Bible" from a long introduction by Archbishop Cranmer. With it, Coverdale's major work in the translation of the Scriptures was completed. Much of it was incorporated in the King James version, and Coverdale's rendering of the Psalms, adopted as the Psalter of the first Book of Common Prayer under Edward VI, still appears in the Anglican and Protestant Episcopal Prayer Books. Not an impeccable scholar, Coverdale was a felicitous writer with a delicate ear for all niceties of language; the English Bible owes more to him than to any other man except the mighty Tyndale.

In 1551 Coverdale became bishop of Exeter, but the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary, under whom all English versions of the Bible were suppressed, brought him a year's imprisonment, after which he fled to Geneva whither the more radical reformers had preceded him. There all came under the influence of Calvin and his Scottish follower, John Knox. The result was the appearance

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