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Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #3 Women and versions

Portrait of Catherine Aragon

Portrait of Catherine Aragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 16th century a Roman Catholic woman was making life very difficult for bible readers. The daughter of King Henry VIII and the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, born February 18, 1516, Greenwich, near London, got to be a pawn in England’s bitter rivalry with more powerful nations, being fruitlessly proposed in marriage to this or that potentate desired as an ally.

A studious and bright girl, named princess of Wales in 1525, Mary Tudor was educated by her mother and a governess of ducal rank. When her father did not get approval from Rome to divorce Catherine of Aragon, he left her in July 1531 to never see her again. In 1533 his marriage to Anne Boleyn took place and Cranmer declared Catherine’s marriage invalid. Catherine took refuge increasingly in her religion and her Spanish ladies-in-waiting.

Mary Tudor daughter of Kind Henry VIII. of Eng...

Mary Tudor daughter of Kind Henry VIII. of England and Katherine of Aragon, 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary was allowed to see her mother only rarely, but all her sympathies were with her mother. When the Act of Uniformity of 1549 forbade the use of the mass, Mary continued to hear it and was warned. She replied that, in her conscience, ‘it is not worthy to have the name of law’.  She staged a brilliantly effective coup d’état based in East Anglia. She moved swiftly to restore not only traditional worship but also obedience to the pope (a much less popular cause), although legal problems delayed England’s reconciliation with Rome until November 1554. She also insisted on keeping the title of “kingdom” for the island of Ireland, which her father had unilaterally adopted in place of the former papal grant to English monarchs of “lordship” of Ireland.

Sample of Taverner’s Bible, Mark 1:1-5

In 1537 John Rodgers, working under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew” for safety, produced a Bible translation on Tyndale’s previously published editions with the addition of his unpublished Old Testament material. The remainder used Coverdale’s translation. This Matthew’s Bible received the approval of Henry VIII. It got some minor revisions in 1539 published under the name Taverner’s Bible or The Most Sacred Bible, edited by Richard Taverner as a private venture of the two printers Grafton and Whitchurch, which was threatened by a rival edition published in 1539 in folio (Herbert #45) by “John Byddell for Thomas Barthlet” .

Geneva Bible 1560 edition

Old heresy laws were restored (1555) and now the Catholics persecuted the protestants fiercely. In those times education among women became fashionable, partly because of Catherine’s influence, and her donations of large sums of money to several colleges. This also made women to read the bible, which the then Mary I had forbidden. Therefore those who wanted to have the Word of God printed had to go to the continent to reproduce the Bible. Coverdale and John Knox (the Scottish Reformer) led a colony of Protestant exiles. Under the influence of John Calvin, they published the New Testament in 1557.

The 1st woman tempting Adam made that the 16th century men brought them to put on garments, printing that they “made themselves breeches”, which caused this bible translation also to be called the “Breeches Bible“. William Whittingham supervised the translation, now known as the Geneva Bible, which was written in collaboration with Miles/Myles Coverdale. Men did the smuggling over sea and the women took care that the holy book was well hidden in the house.

The study aids, and explanatory ‘tables’, i.e. indexes of names and topics, in addition to the extensive marginal notes made that lay people who could read were able to do bible studies at home. Good point of this translation was also that the translator showed the words they added to make the text readable. In Roman typeface verse divisions were used to facilitate quotation, whilst words not present in the original, yet required to complete the sense in English were printed in italics.

After the Geneva Bible could be imported without hindrance it still took until 1576 for an english printed edition.

That Geneva bible also founds its way to the New World were the women at home also could find an authoritative translation genuinely based on the Hebrew and Greek originals.

After that the authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England the Great Bible was reinstated in the churches. It was called the Great Bible because of its large size, but is known also by several other names: the Cromwell Bible, since Thomas Cromwell directed its publication; Whitchurch’s Bible after its first English printer; the Chained Bible, since it was chained to prevent removal from the church. It has also been termed less accurately Cranmer’s Bible, since Thomas Cranmer was not responsible for the translation, but his preface first appeared in the second edition. This first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury (1533–56), adviser to the English kings Henry VIII and Edward VI, was denounced by the Catholic queen Mary I for promoting Protestantism and convicted of heresy to be burned at the stake.

Title page of the Great Bible (1539).

His action to put the English Bible in parish churches, drew up the Book of Common Prayer, which borrowed greatly from Martin Luther‘s Litany and Myles Coverdale‘s New Testament and composed a litany that remains and was taken up again. To avoid people stealing the bible it was chained to the church reading stand, hence it’s nickname Chained Bible.

In 1547 Cranmer was responsible for the publication of a Book of Homilies designed to meet the notorious grievance that the unreformed clergy did not preach enough and in which the reformed doctrines of the Church of England in greater depth and detail were presented than in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. In it the exhortations direct people to read scripture daily and to lead a life of prayer and faith in Jesus Christ. Next to those exhortations can be found lengthy scholarly treatises intended to inform church leaders in theology, church history, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church. Previously in sermons not so many references to holy scripture were given and in the Eucharist or Eucharistic Christian Liturgy of the Catholic church was not much place for bible readings. In the two books of homilies eye is also given to the texts of the Church Fathers and other primary sources. Women were not yet in the picture.

In a certain way women often arranged the household, the cooking but also the upbringing of the children, including bringing them some thoughts about God and God’s Law. In those families the Geneva Bible gained instantaneous and lasting popularity over against its rival, the Great Bible. Its technical innovations contributed not a little to its becoming for a long time the family Bible of England, which, next to Tyndale, exercised the greatest influence upon the King James Version.

Matthew Parker, undated engraving. (Photos.com/Jupiterimages)

Males having dominance, several bishops found that  the objectionable partisan flavour of the Geneva’s marginal annotations demanded a new revision. By about 1563–64 Archbishop Matthew Parker of Canterbury [ex chaplain to Anne Boleyn, master of Corpus Christi (1544), vice-chancellor (1545 and 1549), dean of Lincoln (1552)] had determined upon its execution and the work was apportioned among many scholars, most of them bishops, from which the popular name ‘Bishops’ Bible‘ (1568) was derived. Parker sustained a distinctly Anglican position between extreme Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and sought to find the proper doctrinal and historical basis for the Church of England, and to this end he accumulated a library with many Anglo-Saxon and medieval manuscripts (which can be seen in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).

Though not formally dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, the Bishops’ Bible includes a portrait of the queen on its title page. The 1569 quarto edition shows Elizabeth accompanied by female personifications of Justice, Mercy, Fortitude, and Prudence.

The high-church party of the Church of England associated Calvinism with Presbyterianism, which sought to replace government of the church by bishops (Episcopalian) with government by lay elders. Wanting to go back more to the original Hebrew texts several bishops translated a book but no overseer took time to do some editing, making that the translation practice varies greatly from book to book and that in certain books the tetragrammaton יהוה YHWH is represented by “the LORD”, and the Hebrew “Elohim” is represented by “God”. But in the Psalms the practice is the opposite way around. The books that Parker himself worked on are fairly sparingly edited from the text of the Great Bible, while those undertaken by Edmund Grindal of London, whose Puritan sympathies brought him into serious conflict with Queen Elizabeth I, emerged much closer to the Geneva text. From him it was hoped that he might drive a wedge between the moderate Puritans and the new party of radical reform. Probably through the influence of Nicholas Ridley, who had been master of Pembroke Hall, Grindal was selected as one of the Protestant disputants during the visitation of 1549. He had a talent for this work and was often given similar tasks. {Wikipedia} He fell foul of Elizabeth in regard to “prophesyings,” or meetings of clergy for mutual edification and study, since he wished to regulate and continue them, whereas she wished to prevent their meeting.

Priest hole on second floor of Boscobel House, Shropshire

At the time of Queen Elizabeth I families wanting to bring up their children in the Catholic faith made it possible for priests to visit them in secret by hiring them in as so called childwatchers or au-pairs or as housekeeper, and by building a priest hole, little crevices or interstices, by false panelling, false fireplace or incorporated into water closets, in their house, so that the presence of a priest could be concealed when searches were made of the building. Jesuit lay brother Nicholas Owen spent much of his life building priest holes to protect the lives of persecuted priests. Women played a very important role in avoiding the “pursuivants” (priest-hunters) finding the hidden priests as well in hiding any book that could give an impression Catholic teaching was given in the house. Outdoors Catholic symbols where placed so that other Catholics could find meeting places. Women took on the role of hostess. They also could check the families of which their children came befriended with, to make sure the family could not become in danger of being exposed. for such things market and public places where good to hear all sorts of women-talk and gossip.

In 1572 the Bishops’ Bible was extensively revised and a more “ecclesiastical” language was chosen. The text was brought more into line with that found in the Geneva Bible; and in the Old Testament, the Psalms from the Great Bible were printed alongside those in the new translation, which had proved impossible to sing. From 1577 the new psalm translation was dropped altogether; while further incremental changes were made to the text of the New Testament in subsequent editions. The last edition of the complete Bible was issued in 1602, but the New Testament was reissued until at least 1617.
William Fulke published several parallel editions up to 1633 with the New Testament of the Bishops’ Bible alongside the Rheims New Testament, specifically to controvert the latter’s polemical annotations.

Also this Bible translation failed to displace the Geneva Bible as a domestic Bible to be read at home, but that was not its intended purpose. The intention was for it to be used in church as what would today be termed a “pulpit Bible”.

Douai bible – Old Testament (1609)

English Roman Catholic scholars connected with the University of Douai in what was then in the Spanish Netherlands but now part of France, worked from the Latin Vulgate to present the New Testament, printed in Rheims in 1582. A group of former Oxford men, among them the initiator William Cardinal Allen, and principal translator Gregory Martin, and Thomas Worthington, who provided the Old Testament in two volumes, in 1609 and 1610, just before the King James version. Gregory Martin his version, in Bishop Richard Challoner’s third revised edition (1752), was the standard Bible for English Roman Catholics until the 20th century, and his phraseology influenced the Anglican translators of the Authorized, or King James, Version (1611). Although retaining the title Douay–Rheims Bible, the revision undertaken by bishop Richard Challoner; the New Testament in three editions 1749, 1750, and 1752; the Old Testament (minus the Vulgate deuterocanonical), in 1750 Challoner revision was a new version, which was also looked at by the makers of the King James version, which saw the light in 1611.

Mary I got her nickname Bloody Mary for all the killings of protestants and Bible readers. The burnings discredited the church she loved, sowed a harvest of hatred, and dogged the catholic cause for centuries to come. Mary, against her wish and intentions, did more than anyone else to make England a protestant nation.

Having put an end to the printing of Bibles in England for several years 53 years after her death it was a bible translation which would be used by several denominations from the Protestant as well as the Catholic group.

That 1611 bible translation has had a profound impact not only on most English translations that have followed it, but also on English literature as a whole. The 47 translators used the widest range of source texts to create what was to become the “Authorized Version” in England and being the most widely used of the Early Modern English Bible translations. Its use has continued in some traditions up to the present.

Too many people who say the King James Bible is the only right bible translation all people should follow, do forget that there have been many reprints with lots of differences, not only of printing faults or mistakes but also with several changes of words and phrases.

Already in the first year there was a print mistake, creating a he and she bible. This came from the final clause of chapter 3, verse 15 of Ruth:

“and he went into the city.”

Both printings contained errors. Some errors in subsequent editions have become famous: The so-called Wicked Bible (1631) derives from the omission of “not” in chapter 20 verse 14 of Exodus,

“Thou shalt commit adultery,”

for which the printers were fined £300; the “Vinegar Bible” (1717) stems from a misprinting of “vineyard” in the heading of Luke, chapter 20.

Because of the translators lack of Hebrew language knowledge,  certain words where wrongly translated or wrongly presented as figures or persons instead of characteristics, which still up to today, has several people having the wrong idea or concepts of certain discussed points in the Bible (e.g. sheolhell, Satanadversary). Also for the New Testament or Greek Writings the great early Greek codices were not yet known or available, and Hellenistic papyri, which were to shed light on the common Greek dialect, had not yet been discovered.

Portions of Old Testament books of undisputed authority found among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Amos 2 – Oxy 846 – University of Pennsylvania; E 3074

The Greek Magical Papyri (Latin Papyri Graecae Magicae, abbreviated PGM), dated from the 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE were only discovered in the 18th century and later. (The collected texts were published for the first time in two volumes in 1928 and 1931.) It also was only in the late 19th and early 20th century that archaeologists like Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt found the Oxyrhynchus manuscripts in Egypt, so that thousands of Greek and Latin documents, letters and literary works could seriously be researched.

Late Second Temple Period and after Late Antiquity texts including Aramaic, as in Bodleian Heb.d83, Greek, as a subset of the Greek Magical Papyri catalogued by Karl Preisendanz and others were discovered primarily during the heyday of Near Eastern archaeology in the late 19th Century, and subsequent interpretation and cataloguing, primarily took place during the early 20th Century.

In 1769 the authorised King James Version was again revised, but still not with enough knowledge of the original Scriptures, and adapted to the standards of the mid-18th Century by Hebraist and fellow and vice-principal of Hertford College Benjamin Blayney for the Oxford University Press. Most of those prints were destroyed by fire in the Bible warehouse, Paternoster Row, London. This version became the base for the newer versions. In 1885 a Revised Version was made which became the predecessor of a rival for the old King James Version, the Revised Standard Version of 1952 (New Testament in 1948)

In the 18th and 19th century more scholars and bible students started looking at what archaeologists had found and listened also to language scholars who knew much more about Hebrew and Old Greek than those of the 16th and 17th century England.

With the discovery of more ancient sources, Modern English Bible translations have proliferated in the Modern English age to a degree never seen before.

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Preceding articles:

Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #1 Pre King James Bible

Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #2 King James Bible versions

Next: Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #4 Steps to the Women’s Bibles

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Additional reading

  1. Codex Sinaiticus available for perusal on the Web
  2. Rare original King James Bible discovered
  3. King James Bible Coming into being
  4. Looking at notes of Samuel Ward and previous Bible translation efforts in English
  5. Celebrating the Bible in English
  6. TheBible4Life KJV Jubileum
  7. What English Bible do you use?
  8. The Most Reliable English Bible
  9. 2001 Translation an American English Bible
  10. NWT and what other scholars have to say to its critics
  11. New American Bible Revised Edition
  12. The NIV and the Name of God
  13. Archeological Findings the name of God YHWHUse of /Gebruik van Jehovah or/of Yahweh in Bible Translations/Bijbel vertalingen
  14. Dedication and Preaching Effort 400 years after the first King James Version
  15. Hebrew, Aramaic and Bibletranslation
  16. Some Restored Name Versions
  17. Anchor Yale Bible
  18. iPod & Android Bibles

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Further reading

  1. The Tudor State
  2. A Princess is Born
  3. Anne Boleyn – Part I
  4. Anne Boleyn – Part II
  5. A Palace Fit For A Prince
  6. “Elizabeth I” by Margaret George
  7. September 1, 1532 – Anne Boleyn Created Marquess of Pembroke
  8. Henry & Anne – Devoted Lovers
  9. Anne Boleyn & The King’s Proposal
  10. Anne Boleyn, Hunter or Hunted?
  11. Anne Boleyn Speaks
  12. Wife, Spinster or Nun…?
  13. The Most Happy 👑 Anne & I – Part 2
  14. Lady Anne Will Be My Queen
  15. The Execution Of Anne Boleyn 1536
  16. Back to the Boleyns 
  17. A Thought For The Wives
  18. The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula
  19. Short Documentary: The Top 15 Most Evil Women in History
  20. Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd
  21. A new perspective: ‘She-Wolves’ Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I
  22. Edward VI and Mary I
  23. The ‘Silent’ Tudor
  24. The Tragic Life of ‘Bloody’ Mary Tudor
  25. ‘Bloody Mary’ or just Mary I? | W.U Hstry
  26. The Myth of Bloody Mary
  27. Happy 500th Birthday Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary, Bloodied Mary, Muddy Mary.
  28. The Queen’s Fool by Phillipa Gregory 
  29. I sentence you to death by acquittal?
  30. 14th November 1501: Prince Arthur Tudor marries Katherine of Aragon.
  31. On this day in 1518 – Princess Mary and the Dauphin of France were betrothed
  32. November 26, 1533 – Henry FitzRoy Marries Mary Howard
  33. On this day in 1553 – Queen Mary I was coronated
  34. May 25, 1553 – A Triple Wedding
  35. February 1, 1554 – Mary I Speech at Guildhall Opposing Wyatt’s Rebellion
  36. On this day in 1555 – Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer stood trial
  37. February 28, 1556 – Burial of Stephen Gardiner at Winchester Cathedral
  38. November 17, 1558 – Death of Mary I
  39. They died on the same day …
  40. 29th April 1559. Elizabethan Settlement.
  41. On this day in 1571 – Bishop John Jewel died
  42. Three Lives of Hampton Court
  43. On Pictures in Books
  44. Of well-connected Archbishops
  45. The Nine Days of the Nine Day Queen
  46. Discussion Questions – ‘The Queen’s Fool’ by Philippa Gregory
  47. July 6, 1553: Edward VI Dies, Northumberland Tries to Implement His ‘Device for the Succession’
  48. The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
  49. A Colchester mystery
  50. How did people hide and share their religion in the Tudor times?
  51. Introduction to “Show me your glory” and a one year Bible reading plan
  52. There was a Word
  53. What is YHWH? What is the tetragrammaton?
  54. The Seal of Solomon’s Tetragrammaton
  55. The Seal of Solomon and the Four-Lettered Name of God
  56. Tetragrammaton Meditation
  57. The Name of Yehovah
  58. Trinity or Tetragrammaton?
  59. The Lord, the Lord …translating the tetragrammaton
  60. God’s name and Hovah-logic 2 (by Nehemia Gordon)
  61. 13th November 1539. Power Yoked with Religion.
  62. The Breeches Bible
  63. The Psalms by Loutherbourg
  64. Tyndale Executed for Heresy on This Date
  65. Scholar finds earliest known draft of King James Bible wrapped in a stained piece of waste vellum
  66. Oldest King James Bible Draft Discovered
  67. Earliest Known Draft of 1611 King James Bible Is Found
  68. First edition of King James Bible from 1611 found in church cupboard
  69. Sneak Preview: Blessed Are the Phrasemakers…
  70. Ye King Iames Bible
  71. AV1611: England’s Greatest Achievement
  72. 1617 King James Bible
  73. The King James Bible 1
  74. The King James Bible 2
  75. The King James Bible and the Restoration
  76. The Wicked Bible
  77. Why King James Bible?
  78. The King James Bible is the Truth!
  79. King James Only?
  80. Drafting the King James Bible
  81. The King James Removed Verses?
  82. Handwritten King James Bible Proves the Bible Not Inspired
  83. Handwritten Draft Of King James Bible Discovered: Reveals No ‘Divine Powers’
  84. Did Shakespeare Write Psalm 46 in the King James Bible?
  85. The King James Bible vs. Shakespeare
  86. The Indestructible Book: King James Bible 1611
  87. #Scripture #Only #KJV #Protestant #Meme
  88. Thees, Thous, and Wot Nots
  89. Everyday Phrases We Use That Came From The King James Bible
  90. Which is the best English Bible?
  91. I am King James Bible Only
  92. Does The King James Bible Reveal The Identity Of The Antichrist?
  93. Christopher Hill’s Bible (Part 4): The Radical English Bible
  94. About Bible Translations
  95. Many Modern Translations of the Bible are challenging the Deity of Christ!
  96. The King James Bible with Alexander Scourby
  97. The King James AV 1611 Bible vs the New International Version
  98. Wherefore pleaseth archaic English?
  99. Greek Bibles Are Not The Standard
  100. Who Still gets the Print Newspaper… and Reads it?
  101. Putting Words in My Mouth: Review of The Cultural Legacy of the King James Bible at Durham Book Festival
  102. Our Whole Heart: Language and the Book of Common Prayer
  103. Evening Prayer 27.7.16, William Reed Huntington, Liturgist & Ecumenist, 1909
  104. The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
  105. The Invitation to Table Fellowship
  106. A collect for our times
  107. The School for Prayer
  108. From the Pulpit (or centre aisle!) 03-01-16
  109. New Age Deism: Part Two
  110. The Bible: Kept Pure in All Ages
  111. How Hollywood Copies the Bible
  112. 10 Misinterpreted Phrases We Use Incorrectly On A Daily Basis
  113. Five Eternal Truths
  114. #Ecumenism is #Hypocresy and a #Demonic teaching.
  115. #Ecumenism:>  #Spiritual #Whoredom (Documentary) – YouTube
  116. An Insurance Policy with God
  117. Do Not Fear
  118. Isaiah 41:10
  119. Homosexuality: A Biblical Refutation (Queen James Bible Debunked)
  120. #Vatican #Catholic #Hypocrisy #Arrogance and #False #Teaching : #Threatened with #Hell if I don’t become a Catholic. · The #Catholic so called church · Disqus
  121. Bible Bashing
  122. A General Introduction
  123. The New Testament in the Book of Mormon: A Primer
  124. The Passion for Learning In the Church of Christ
  125. Textual Criticism Pt. 1
  126. Textual Criticism 3
  127. What is the difference between Hell and the Lake of Fire?
  128. A Biblical Examination of Hell
  129. Don’t go to hell!!
  130. The Attack on the Bible
  131. Christian Traveling Men
  132. Do Not trust in man!!
  133. My Love/Hate Relationship
  134. On my Bookshelf
  135. The Effectual Bible Student #12
  136. Issues in Christianity Today #9
  137. Imagine Being this Astonished Professor
  138. A Burning Heart
  139. God bless you and keep you
  140. Be Doers of the Word

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Sample of Taverner's Bible, Mark 1:1-5

Sample of Taverner’s Bible, Mark 1:1-5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #1 Pre King James Bible

The Greek translation of the Old Testament made it accessible in the Hellenistic period (c. 300 bcec. 300 ce) and provided a language for the New Testament and for the Christian liturgy and theology of the first three centuries. The Bible in Latin shaped the thought and life of Western people for a thousand years. People had no bible in their own vernacular.

Throughout history vocally people recounted the Hebrew myths of creation which have superseded the racial mythologies of Latin, Germanic, Slavonic, and all other Western peoples.

Here and there scribes wrote notes in their own language or provided a word for word translation between the lines of the Latin text.

Liber Generationis, the opening page of the Gospel of St. Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels, (Photo credit: British Library)

Already in the 10th century an Old English translation of the Gospels was made in the Lindisfarne Gospels, a manuscript illuminated in the late 7th or 8th century in the Hiberno-Saxon style with a word-for-word gloss inserted between the lines of the Latin text by the scrybe Aldred, Provost of Chester-le-Street. The book was probably made for Eadfrith, the bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 to 721. Attributed to the Northumbrian school, the Lindisfarne Gospels show the fusion of Irish, classical, and Byzantine elements of manuscript illumination and may be considered to be the oldest extant translation of the Gospels into the English language.

The Tower of Babel, from an illustrated manuscript (11th century) containing some Latin excerpts from the Hexateuch. Ælfric was responsible for the preface to Genesis as well as some of its translations. Another copy of the text, without lavish illustrations but including a translation of the Book of Judges, is found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 509.

Produced in approximately 990 the Wessex Gospels (also known as the West-Saxon Gospels) are a full translation of the four gospels into a West Saxon dialect of Old English. In 1842 still copies were printed by Richard & John Taylor as the Da Halgan Godspel on Englisc – the Anglo Saxon Version of the Holy gospels. The Cambridge University press brought a version with the Latin text and Lindisfarne Gospels included in 1871-1879.

The Anglo-Saxon prose writer, considered the greatest of his time, Benedictine Abbot Ælfric translated much of the Old Testament into Old English. He was the author of a Latin grammar, hence his nickname Grammaticus, he also wrote Lives of the Saints, Heptateuch (a vernacular language version of the first seven books of the Bible), as well as letters and various treatises.

The book of Genesis up to the story of Abraham and Isaac, along with selections from other books of the first six books of the Hebrew Bible, the Hexateuch, under the directon of Æthelweard were translated in the 11th century, by Ælfric into the vernacular, that is, into Old English.

A page from the Ormulum demonstrating the editing performed over time by Orm (Parkes 1983, pp. 115–16), as well as the insertions of new readings by “Hand B”.

Like its Old English precursor from Ælfric, and Abbot of Eynsham a version in Middle English was reproduced in the 12th century by an Augustinian monk named Orm (or Ormin) at the behest of his brother Brother Walter. It consisted of just under 19,000 lines of early Middle English verse. ‘The Ormulum or Orrmulum)
The motivation was to provide an accessible English text for the benefit of the less educated, which might include some clergy who found it difficult to understand the Latin of the Vulgate, and the parishioners who in most cases would not understand spoken Latin at all (Treharne 2000, p. 273).

We do know that mostly the pastors also gave themselves a paraphrased Gospel reading before going over to their exhortation, because the laity did not understand Latin and there had to be some relation of the sermon to the ‘bible reading’.

At the end of the 13th century a Psalter saw the light in English, which would be a base for Wycliffe version of the English Bible. The theological scholar and advocate of the English reform movement within the Roman Church, Nicholas Of Hereford, who later recanted his unorthodox views and participated in the repression of other reformers, became influenced by Wycliffe, founder of an evangelical Christian group called Lollards. He was entrusted to make a translation of the Old Testament, of which the the major part was completed before a synod in London and his subsequent departure for Rome in 1382.

Long thought to be the work of Wycliffe himself, the Wycliffite translations are now generally believed to be the work of several hands. Nicholas of Hereford is known to have translated a part of the text; John Purvey and perhaps John Trevisa are names that have been mentioned as possible authors.

When the first complete translation of the Bible into English emerged, it became the object of violent controversy because it was inspired by the heretical teachings of John Wycliffe. Intended for the common man, it became the instrument of opposition to ecclesiastical authority.

Archbishop Arundel (1353–1414) initiated against the Lollards (followers of John Wycliffe) a campaign that resulted in the burning of several of them. He summoned a synod of clergy to Oxford in 1408 a synod of clergy summoned to Oxford for discussion of the forbidding of the translation and use of Scripture in the vernacular. The proscription was rigorously enforced, but remained ineffectual.

Oldcastleburning.jpg

John Oldcastle being burnt for insurrection and Lollard heresy.

The distinguished soldier and martyred leader of the LollardsJohn Oldcastle who gained the friendship of King Henry IV’s son Henry, prince of Wales, was in 1413 indicted by a convocation, presided over by Archbishop Thomas Arundel of Canterbury, for maintaining both Lollard preachers and their opinions. Though he had served as a justice of the peace, and was High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1406–07 and even had an amicable relationship with the prince of Wales, now Henry V, who regarded Sir John as “one of his most trustworthy soldiers”, which earned him special consideration, he failed to honour the king’s appeals to submit and was brought to trial the same year. Oldcastle declared his readiness to submit to the king “all his fortune in this world” but was firm in his religious beliefs and was hanged over a fire that consumed the gallows, on December 14.

In the course of the 15th century the Wycliffite Bible or Wycliffe’s Bible, which had appeared over a period from approximately 1382 to 1395, achieved wide popularity as is evidenced by the nearly 200 manuscripts extant, most of them copied between 1420 and 1450. The first versions where still following the word order in the Latin text which made them difficult to read. Later versions made more concessions to the native grammar of English so that it was easier for laypersons to comprehend.

In 1526 Peter Schoeffer, who had entered the printing business as the partner of Gutenberg’s creditor, Johann Fust, whose daughter he later married, in the German city of Worms came to print the work of an educated english man from Oxford and Cambridge, who was an impressive scholar, fluent in eight languages, and was ordained as a Christian priest in around 1521. That English scholar, William Tyndale, had previously translated a tract by the humanist who was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance Desiderius Erasmus, from Rotterdam, whose writings argued for personal faith: a direct relationship between the individual and God, not one mediated and controlled by the Church hierarchy. Erasmus helped lay the groundwork for the historical-critical study of the past, especially in his studies of the Greek New Testament and the Church Fathers. He was the the first editor of the New Testament, and also an important figure in patristics and classical literature.

For William Tyndale it had become clear that people had more to listen to God His Word than to the words of a church-organisation which was telling people things which were not according to the Words of God. Naturally it was very easy for a church to tell people anything that supposedly would be written in the bible, though they knew it was no Biblical teaching, but by presenting it as such, they could keep the people in control and in their hand.

Four centuries later still many preachers just take verses out of contexts and keep repeating them at the service without ever reading the whole chapter or at least the paragraph, where more clarity could be found. In this way still many churches proclaim un-biblical teachings though people are often not aware of it and continue to stay in that denomination often giving it enough money, being asked to do so by their pastors, not to come into hell (for them a place for eternal torture) .

At the time of Tyndale Christians continued to be governed from Rome by the Pope offering church services in Latin throughout the Christian world, and translation of the Latin Bible into the vernacular, in other words the local language anyone could understand, was actively discouraged and even worse in many countries forbidden.

In England under the 1408 Constitutions of Oxford, it was strictly forbidden to translate the Bible into the native tongue, so that those governing could be sure no uneducated people could come to see what was really written in the bible.

Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor and Sir Thomas More vigorously enforced this ban in an attempt to prevent the rise of English ‘Lutheranism’.

The only authorised version of the Bible was St Jerome’s Latin translation, known as the ‘Vulgate’, made in the fourth century and understood only by highly-educated people.

Aided by money from Sir Humphrey and others, Tyndale in May 1524, set sail for Germany where he hoped his secret work could be continued in greater safety. There he could work without fear basing his translation on a New Testament in Greek that had recently been complied by Erasmus from several manuscripts older and more authoritative than the Latin Vulgate. By re-translating into English a closer version to the original texts could be created for the English speaking community.

Printing began in Cologne in the summer of 1525, but word of the project soon reached the Dean of Frankfurt. He not only arranged a ban on printing in Cologne but also alerted Cardinal Wolsey to Tyndale’s activities. Tyndale fled with his assistant, William Roy, to Worms, where a pocket-sized edition was the first of two to be completed. By April 1526, Tyndale’s New Testament, pronounced heretical in England, so his Bibles were smuggled into the country in bales of cloth, to being read behind closed doors in England.

Though it did not include all of the books we enjoy today his version was used later on as a base for the versions the Church of England used.

The Bible, translated by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale, 1535 edition.

In 1529 the Yorkshireman and Augustinian friar who was ordained a priest (1514) at Norwich and later became bishop of Exeter, Myles Coverdale, helped William Tyndale translate the Pentateuch in Hamburg and then apparently settled in Antwerp, where he translated the Bible. It was there that he in 1535 compiled and published the first complete (Old Testament and New Testament) Modern English translation of the Bible (cf. Wycliffe’s Bible in manuscript) printed by Merten de Keyser (Martin Lempereur) who also had who printed the first complete French Bible translation, in Antwerp. This Coverdale Bible, although allowed to circulate in England, lacked official approval because of its so called heretical tendentiousness and its inadequacy as a translation. A new edition, “overseen and corrected,” was published in England by James Nycholson in Southwark in 1537. Another edition of the same year bore the announcement, “set forth with the king’s most gracious license.” In 1538 a revised edition of Coverdale’s New Testament printed with the Latin Vulgate in parallel columns issued in England was so full of errors that Coverdale promptly arranged for a rival corrected version to appear in Paris. Accordingly, Thomas Cromwell the King’s vice-gerent, or deputy, in spiritual affairs, engaged Coverdale to work in England on a new version, using a revised edition of Tyndale’s work known as Matthew’s Bible. Coverdale’s renewed efforts resulted in the publication in 1539 of the widely accepted Great Bible. The later editions (folio and quarto) published in 1539 were the first complete Bibles printed in England. The 1539 folio edition carried the royal licence and was therefore the first officially approved Bible translation in English. In edited 1540 Coverdale also edited Cranmer’s Bible.

72 years later an other Royal licensed bible would deliver such an important Bible translation it would become reprinted for centuries, becoming a still preferred version by many.

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Preceding in Dutch: Broeders en Zusters in Christus door de eeuwen heen #11 Vredelievende waarheidzoekers

Next: Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #2 the King James Bible versions

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Additional reading

  1. Biblical literature
  2. The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Holy Gospels at archive.org
  3. The Holy Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian, and Old Mercian Versions at archive.org
  4. Celebrating the Bible in English
  5. The Bible4Life ­- a Multimedia Presentation
  6. Wycliffe Associates supporting underground Bible translators
  7. Seminar on Bible Translation in Prague
  8. HalleluYah Scriptures
  9. Americans really thinking the Messiah Christ had an English name
  10. Christian clergyman defiling book which did not belong to him
  11. Codex Sinaiticus
  12. Codex Sinaiticus available for perusal on the Web
  13. The Anjou Bible Project
  14. The NIV and the Name of God
  15. Why believing the Bible
  16. Human & Biblical teachings
  17. Bible & us

 

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Further reading

  1. Where Words Come From
  2. Saint Jerome
  3. Jerome and the Vulgate
  4. Could Bezae be a response to the Vulgate?
  5. God’s Word- The Vulgate?
  6. S. Hieronymus
  7. #WhyBible
  8. Many endured Hell to bring us the Bible in English….
  9. The Middle Ages part 2
  10. Medieval bling
  11. The Protestant Deformation
  12. Rumblings of Reformation: John Wycliffe and the Supremecy of the Word of God
  13. 1385 Wycliffe: Gen. Cap 1:1-2
  14. 1385 Wycliffe: Gen. Cap 1:28-30
  15. 1385 Wycliffe: Gen. Cap 2:6-15
  16. William Tyndale – 6 October 2015
  17. William Tyndale: Rebel of the Vernacular Scriptures
  18. William Tyndale 1
  19. William Tyndale 2
  20. Online gallery Sacred texts Tyndale New Testament
  21. Tindall alias Hitchins Family of North Nibley
  22. Williams Tyndale: The Experiential Outworking of Sola Scriptura
  23. William Tyndale On the Law
  24. Or a Cab Driver
  25. Translating Tyndale’s Dedication
  26. William Tyndale & Charles Spurgeon On Sacred Words And Deeds
  27. Sermon: A Man Who Gave His Life that You Might Have an English Bible
  28. Desiderius Erasmus
  29. The Remarkable Erasmus
  30. Thoughts on Anglicanism
  31. The Reformation
  32. A little tale of mediaeval sleeping….
  33. Skimming, Scanning, and Illiteracy
  34. helpmate
  35. Puritan History
  36. When It Was Unthinkable that the State Would Affirm God
  37. R.C. Sproul on Understanding Bible Translations
  38. How to Deepen the Spiritual Life of A Congregation
  39. Thinking time
  40. English Historical Fiction Authors: The Christians Are Coming! (The islands of Iona and Lindisfarne)
  41. Archaeologists Locate Lindisfarne monastery
  42. A Monk’s Chronicle: 22 August 2016 — A Bridge to Somewhere
  43. #WordlessWednesday #Lindisfarne Priory & Castle #Photography
  44. Reign of Terror
  45. Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne – A Vision For Today
  46. Lindisfarne – A Holy Island
  47. Northumberland Coastal Way
  48.  Lindisfarne Island
  49. Why I Love Lindisfarne, and Why You Should Go Right Now
  50. Lindisfarne and Leeds
  51. That’s Not Old English! (how to act like a total tool…and enjoy doing it!)
  52. Converging Worlds: Cultural Exchanges in Literature and the Written Word (Conference, 20th June)
  53. English: The Living Language
  54. A Brief History of the English Language, pt. 12
  55. The Finale – A Brief History of the English Language
  56. On the Origins of the word ‘Read’
  57. dwindle
  58. wel-þungen
  59. hālig-mōnaþ
  60. hærfest-mōnaþ
  61. Va-etchanan 5776
  62. Stomp the Yard
  63. Scripture Celebration
  64. Languages and Translation
  65. Meaning of TH House Names
  66. Incredible! 182 Years Later, SE Asian Group Receives the Gospel in their Language from Wycliffe
  67. Bible Translation in the Jungle
  68. Hack On IT
  69. May 21st
  70. Double Edged Sword
  71. What price a Bible?
  72. How Much Does A Bible Really Cost?
  73. Handing knowledge down the years
  74. Today in Christian History: June 10
  75. 139 You who believe in the Name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13
  76. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 1
  77. The Conflict Over Different Bible Versions/Part 6
  78. Is the King James Version of the Bible the Only Bible Christians Should Trust and Read/Part 2

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