The Bible’s Journey To English Translation
HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO BE TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH John Wycliffe John Wycliffe did the very first English translation of the Bible in 1382 AD. He was a professor at Oxford, a scholar and also a theologian
HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO BE TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
John Wycliffe did the very first English translation of the Bible in 1382 AD. He was a professor at Oxford, a scholar and also a theologian and he wrote out the entire Bible in English, by hand. Later, with the help of a good many of his colleagues, he wrote out several copies of this English version, translated from the Latin Vulgate, as that was his only source at that time.
The Pope became so angry with this translation that, even forty-four years after Wycliffe’s death, he ordered that hise bones be dug up. After this, he had them crushed to dust and scattered into the waters of a nearby river.
John Hus continued with the idea that everyone should have access to a Bible in their own language, something that was not allowed by the Catholic church at that time. Because of this teaching, he was killed by being burned at the stake in 1415, and Wycliffe Bibles were used to start the fire under his feet.
Hus had some haunting last words, however. He said that in one hundred years, God would raise up a man, and the reform that he would call for would not be able to be suppressed. As it turns out, Martin Luther came up with his 95 Theses of Contention in 1517, just a little more than a hundred years after Hus had spoken those words.
Sometime during the 1490’s, Thomas Linacre decided to undertake learning the Greek language. He happened to be the personal physician to both King Henry the 7th and King Henry the 8th. He undertook reading the Gospels in their original Greek and recorded in his diary that, either the Greek translation that he had read was not the Gospel at all, or he and everyone else was not Christian.
There was, apparently, so much difference between the original Greek, in which the New Testament was written, and the Latin Vulgate, that they could not be correlated in Linacre’s eyes at all. Latin had obviously failed to preserve the Gospel’s true message, but the Church would threaten to execute anyone who used any language other than Latin with which to read the Scriptures. Still, Latin was never an original Scripture language.
Another professor at Oxford, John Colet, began reading from the Greek New Testament around 1496, after which he would translate it to English for all of his students. This turned into translations he did for London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral. People were so intent on hearing God’s Word preached in a language they knew, more than 20,000 people found their way into the church, with at least another 20,000 outside, waiting to get in. Had Colet not had so many friends in such high places, or had not been such a powerful himself, he surely would not have been able to escape execution for his “crimes”.
William Tyndale was the first to actually have the New Testament printed, via printing press, in the English language. He had enough fluency in eight distinct languages that people had said any one of them could easily have been his mother tongue. His English New Testament was printed about 1526. It was a translation that was considered so great, it was the basis for most of the Authorized King James Version, printed in 1611, as well as the English Revised Version, printed in 1885.
Tyndale was later burned at the stake, ultimately because of the heretical natural of his translations, which were banned after being investigated by King Henry VIII, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church.
Over the next several years, Myles Coverdale and John Rogers went on to further Tyndale’s work on the English Bible translations. Finally, in 1539, Thomas Cranmer hired Coverdale to help publish what would later be known as the “Great Bible”. The printing of this Bible, oddly enough, was requested by King Henry the 8th himself. This was the King’s revenge on the Catholic church because the Pope had refused to give his permission for the King to put his wife away in divorce and then to marry his mistress afterwards.
Queen “Bloody” Mary
Later, however, Queen “Bloody” Mary came into power, and handed England back over to the Roman Catholic church. Then, in 1555, she had both John Rogers and Thomas Cranmer burned at the state for their part in the English translation of the Bible, which was once again considered a crime against the Church and against England itself. It was at this time that people began to flee England due to the immense persecution by Queen Mary on all who were not practicing Catholics.
These English refugees found a safe haven at Switzerland’s Church at Geneva. Myles Coverdale, John Foxe, Thomas Sampson, William Whittingham, John Calvin and John Knox were among those who sought to produce an English Bible with which they could educate their families while in exile.
The Geneva Bible
In 1560, the official Geneva Bible was completed. It was the first Bible to actually number the verses and chapters, so that passages could be found more quickly and easily. It also contained extensive notes in the margin, most of which cited vast differences from the Catholic teachings, as well as controversial statements about the church and its leadership.
The Geneva Bible was the Bible people chose, over and over, for more than one hundred years, with over 144 editions published from 1560 until 1644. About 90% of the Geneva Bible was actually the original translation done by Tyndale. In fact, if you closely examine the 1611 King James Bible, you will see the major influence was the Geneva Bible, more than any other source.
The Authorized King James Bible
Finally, in 1604, King James I of England was approached by Protestant clergy who stated their desire for a new Bible translation they could use to replace the one printed in 1568. They knew that people loved the Geneva Bible, however they had a distaste for the marginal notes that contained such controversial statements as a proclamation that the Pope was the Anti-Christ.
More than fifty scholars came together to create the translations that would end the need for any more translations after. The Bibles used in creating this new translation included the Tyndale New Testament, Coverdale Bible, Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible and the Rheims New Testament. The Rheims New Testament was the only Catholic Bible used in the translation which would become the Authorized KJV.
During 1605 and 1606, scholars researched all these Bibles and more. Throughout 1607, 1608, and 1609, they assembled their research and work together into one place. The work finally went to the press in 1610 and the huge pulpit folios measuring sixteen inches tall were the first to come into being in 1611. Today, we know this translation as the “1611 King James Bible”.
The following year, they printed enough King James Bibles so that there was one chained to every single church pulpit throughout England. After that, individual sized copies were printed so that every family could have their very own copy of the English Bible.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!