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HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE.

NO. I.
For the information of those of limited reading, we design to
give a few historical facts respecting the progress of the English
bible. The importance and utility of these historical notices will
be apparent as we proceed.

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It is a remarkable coincidence in the history of all the noted
reformers from Popery, that they all gave a translation of the
Scriptures in the vernacular tongue of the people whom they
labored to reform. There are other striking coincidences in the
history of these men which may hereafter be noticed. John
Wickliffe, who was born 1324, and died 1384, was the first
reformer that disturbed the peace and unity of the church of
Rome, and he was the first man that translated the New
Testament into the English language. One of the errors which
the popular clergy of that day laid to his charge, was, that he
taught -- that the New Testament is a perfect rule of life and
manners, and OUGHT TO BE READ BY THE PEOPLE. He also
taught that there were but two officers in the christian church,
viz. the bishops and the deacons. "That christians must practise
and teach only the laws of Christ." His disciples were called
Lollards. Wickliffe's Testament was in manuscript circulated
amongst the laity and read with great avidity. But the reading
of this blessed volume was attended with great danger, for in
the beginning of Henry Vth's reign a law was passed, which
enacted -- "That whosoever they were, that should read the
scriptures in the mother tongue, (which was then called
reproachfully Wicleu's Learning,) they should forfeite lande,
catel, lif, and godes, from theyre heyres for ever, and so be
condempned for heretykes to God, enemies to the crowne, and
moste errant traitors to the lande." So great was the rage of the
clergy against reading the New Testament in English, when it
first made its appearance. Every one who read it was suspected
of heresy, and many were suspected of having read it, against
whom it could not be proved, because they were a little more
intelligent than their neighbors. For the reading of this volume
will soon make a layman more intelligent than a priest who only
uses it as a text book. John Keyser became so intelligent as to
say, that although the Archbishop of Canterbury had
excommunicated him, "he was not excommunicated before
God, for his corn yielded as well as his neighbors." This much
light was however dangerous to this man, for he was
committed to jail for knowing and saying this much. This
happened in the reign of Edward VI.
John Wickliffe made his translation, A. D. 1367, not from the
Greek but from the vulgate New Testament as read in the
Catholic church. This vulgate which was read for many
centuries, was a correction of the old Italic version, conjectured
to have been made in the middle of the second century, not
long after the first Syriac version was made. The old Italic was
made from the Greek and Old Testament from the Septuagint.
Jerome, A. D. 382, translated the Old Testament into Latin from
the Septuagint, or rather corrected from the old Italic version.
The Italic version, mended by Jerome, has been long in great
repute amongst the Romanists, and is what is commonly called
the Vulgate, from which Wickliffe gave the first English New
Testament.
EDITOR.
HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE.
NO. II.
Anno Domini 1526 the New Testament was translated into
English by Tyndal. This translation was printed at Antwerp. It
had an astonishing circulation, amongst the people. The
bishops of the English hierarchy condemned it. They not
onlycondemned it as a dangerous book for the laity, but
COmplaned of it to the king, and proceeded against those that
read it with great severity. His majesty, Henry VIII called it in by
way of proclamation, June, 15[30], and promised a more
correct translation. But says Neal, "it was impossible to stop the
curiosity of the people so long, for though the bishops bought
up and burnt all they could meet with, the Testament was
reprinted abroad and sent over to merchants in London, who
dispersed the copies privately among their acquaintance[s] and
friends." "At length it was moved in convocation that the whole
Bible should be translated into English and set up in churches;
but most of the old clergy were against it. They said this would
lay the foundation for immmerable heresies, as it had done in
Germany, and that the people mere not proper judges of the
sense of scriptures. To which it was replied that the scriptures
were written at first in the vulgar tongue; that our Saviour
comanded his hearers to search the scriptures, that It was
necessary the people could do so now. These arguments
prevailed with the majority to consent that the petition should
be presented to the king, that his majesty would please to give
order about it. But the old bishops were too much disinclined
to move in it. The Reformers, therefore, were forced to have
recourse to Tyndal's translation."

Two remarkable facts in the history of the first translators of


the scriptures are worthy of particular notice. The first is that all
who attained to the honor of first reformers attempted to give
a translation of the scriptures in the vulgar tongue of the
people they labored to reform. Peter Waldus, A.D. 1160,
attempted a translation of the four Gospels into the French
language. John Wickliffe, A.D. 1367, translated the New
Testament into English, Martin Luther gave a translation of the
Bible into German. Olivetan translated into the French, and
Beza, the friend and companion of Calvin, rendered the New
Testament into Latin. The second fact is, that the reigning
clergy uniformly opposed these translations under the pretext
of their inaccuracy, and their dangerous tendency amongst the
laity.

But to return to the English Bible, it is a fact worthy of some


attention, that Wickliffe, who gave the first translation, was
condemned as a heretic, and after his death, the orthodox dug
up his bones and burned them. William Tyndal, too, who gave
the second Engfish translation, was condemned to death and
executed as a heretic.

William Tyndal’s New Testament was printed in one octavo


volume, without a name, without any marginal references, or
table at the end. In the year 1536 it had passed through five
editions in Holland. Tyndal also made a good progress in
translating the Old Testament The five books of Moses, the
books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the two books of Samuel, the
Kings and Chronicles, with Nehemiah and Jonas, were
translated by him. Miles Coverdale and John Rogers finished it.
Some marginal notes were added which gave offence to
theclergy and the whole work was prohibited by authority,
Tyndal translated, as Wickliffe before him, from the Vulgate
Latin, and not from the Greek. Archbishop Cranmer reviewed
and

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corrected it, leaving out the notes and prologue, cancelled the
name of Tyndal, and gave it the fictitious name of Thomas
Matthews' Bible. It was sometiems called Cranmer's Bible,
though in fact it was still Tyndal’s transation corrected. The
Archbishop's name and influence obtained the royal authority.
and it was read by all sorts of people.
EDITOR.