The Translators to the Reader

Foreword.

The Translators to the Reader


Foreword

The General Committee of the Trinitarian Bible Society, having reason to believe that the original preface prefixed by the Translators to the Authorised Version in 1611 is very little known today, believes that it is desirable to issue The Translators to the Reader in order to re-acquaint today's Christian with this important and timely document. This original preface, last issued by the Trinitarian Bible Society on the Tercentenary of the Authorised Version in 1911, is a statement of the methods and principles employed in the translation of the Authorised Version, of how the translators viewed their role in the work and of the reasons for issuing this new version. It is virtually a defence of the Authorised Version itself, as well as of “the former translations” in the English language.

The work of Tyndale

The revision work of the translators must be viewed in the light of English versions available at the time. Wycliffe's translation from the Latin opened the door for greater works. The Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, Taverner's Bible, the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible all had a common ancestor: the monumental work of William Tyndale, which provided the English basis for all of these translations. Some relied more heavily on Tyndale than others did, but all used the work of this great pioneer of English translations. Even though the Authorised Version was to be a revision of the Bishops' Bible, the translators relied heavily upon the work of Tyndale. It has been estimated that the Authorised Version New Testament is 92% the same as Tyndale's New Testament. This sheds light on the statement found on the title page of the Authorised Version: “Translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised… ”

The translators of the Authorised Version depended upon the original languages of Scripture, the Hebrew and Greek, whilst comparing and revising these earlier translations.

“If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New. … If truth be to be tried by these tongues, then whence should translation be made, but out of them? These tongues, therefore, (the Scriptures, we say, in those tongues,) we set before us to translate, being the tongues wherein God was pleased to speak to his Church by his Prophets and Apostles.”

The Need Today

The need for this document is seen clearly in the current understandings — and misunderstandings — circulating today regarding the production and status of the Authorised Version. In recent years, different ideas have emerged regarding the work of the translators of this majestic old version of the Bible. Some people claim that the translators were limited in their ability to do the work because they did not have the understanding of the Biblical languages we have today. On the opposite side are those who claim that the translators were “inspired” by God and received advanced revelation to produce an inerrant English Bible.

According to The Translators to the Reader, those who undertook this project saw themselves as neither. Instead, the translators saw themselves as competent scholars undertaking the work of translation in dependence upon God's grace.

“There were many chosen that were greater in other men's eyes than in their own, and that sought the truth rather than their own praise. Again, they came … learned, not to learn.”

“And in what sort did these assemble? In the trust of their own knowledge, or of their sharpness of wit, or deepness of judgement, as it were in an arm of flesh? At no hand. They trusted in him that hath the key of David, opening, and no man shutting; they prayed to the Lord, the Father of our Lord … ”

The Goal Accomplished

The translators said, “we never thought from the beginning that we should need to make a new translation, nor yet to make a bad one a good one, … but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath been our endeavour, that our mark”. Their desire was fulfilled, and has continued to be fulfilled through nearly four hundred years. Other translations of the Scriptures come and go, but their work — our Authorised Version — continues as the standard of English translation.

In reprinting this original preface, the Trinitarian Bible Society hopes to renew an appreciation for the Authorised Version, its historical place of prominence and its practical use in everyday life for reading, evangelism, and edification.

As we enter the new millennium, may God be pleased to bless His Word to this generation and many more to come!


The Translators to the Reader

The best things have been calumniated.

Zeal to promote the common good, whether it be by devising anything ourselves, or revising that which hath been laboured by others, deserveth certainly much respect and esteem, but yet findeth but cold entertainment in the world. It is welcomed with suspicion instead of love, and with emulation instead of thanks: and if there be any hole left for cavil to enter, (and cavil, if it do not find a hole, will make one) it is sure to be misconstrued, and in danger to be condemned. This will easily be granted by as many as know story, or have any experience. For, was there ever anything projected, that savoured any way of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of gainsaying, or opposition? A man would think that civility, wholesome laws, learning and eloquence, synods, and Church-maintenance, (that we speak of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a sanctuary, and out of shot,1 as they say, that no man would lift up the heel, no, nor dog move his tongue against the motioners of them. For by the first, we are distinguished from brute-beasts led with sensuality: by the second, we are bridled and restrained from outrageous behaviour, and from doing of injuries, whether by fraud or by violence: by the third, we are enabled to inform and reform others, by the light and feeling that we have attained unto ourselves: briefly, by the fourth being brought together to a parle face to face, we sooner compose our differences than by writings, which are endless: and lastly, that the Church be sufficiently provided for, is so agreeable to good reason and conscience, that those mothers are holden to be less cruel, that kill their children as soon as they are born, than those nursing fathers and mothers (wheresoever they be) that withdraw from them who hang upon their breasts (and upon whose breasts again themselves do hang to receive the spiritual and sincere milk of the word) livelihood and support fit for their estates. Thus it is apparent, that these things which we speak of are of most necessary use, and therefore that none, either without absurdity can speak against them, or without note of wickedness can spurn against them.

Yet for all that, the learned know that certain worthy men2 have been brought to untimely death for none other fault, but for seeking to reduce their countrymen to good order and discipline: and that in some commonweals3 it was made a capital crime, once to motion the making of a new law for the abrogating of an old, though the same were most pernicious: and that certain,4 which would be counted pillars of the State, and patterns of virtue and prudence, could not be brought for a long time to give way to good letters and refined speech, but bare themselves as averse from them, as from rocks or boxes of poison: and fourthly, that he was no babe, but a great clerk,5 that gave forth (and in writing to remain to posterity) in passion peradventure, but yet he gave forth, that he had not seen any profit to come by any synod or meeting of the clergy, but rather the contrary: and lastly, against Church maintenance and allowance, in such sort as the ambassadors and messengers of the great King of kings should be furnished, it is not unknown what a fiction or fable (so it is esteemed, and for no better by the reporter6 himself, though superstitious) was devised: namely, that at such time as the professors and teachers of Christianity in the Church of Rome, then a true Church, were liberally endowed, a voice forsooth was heard from heaven, saying, Now is poison poured down into the Church, &c. Thus not only as oft as we speak, as one saith, but also as oft as we do anything of note or consequence, we subject ourselves to everyone's censure, and happy is he that is least tossed upon tongues; for utterly to escape the snatch of them it is impossible. If any man conceit that this is the lot and portion of the meaner sort only, and that princes are privileged by their high estate, he is deceived. As the sword devoureth as well one as the other, as it is in Samuel;7 nay, as the great commander charged his soldiers in a certain battle to strike at no part of the enemy, but at the face; and as the King of Syria commanded his chief captains to fight neither with small nor great, save only against the King of Israel:8 so it is too true, that envy striketh most spitefully at the fairest, and at the chiefest. David was a worthy prince, and no man to be compared to him for his first deeds, and yet for as worthy an act as ever he did (even for bringing back the ark of God in solemnity) he was scorned and scoffed at by his own wife.9 Solomon was greater than David, though not in virtue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdom he built a temple to the Lord, such a one as was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all? We doubt of it. Otherwise, why do they lay it in his son's dish, and call unto him for easing of the burden?10 Make, say they, the grievous servitude of thy father, and his sore yoke, lighter.11 Belike he had charged them with some levies, and troubled them with some carriages; hereupon they raise up a tragedy, and wish in their heart the temple had never been built. So hard a thing it is to please all, even when we please God best, and do seek to approve ourselves to everyone's conscience.

The highest personages have been calumniated.

If we will descend to later times, we shall find many the like examples of such kind, or rather unkind, acceptance. The first Roman emperor12 did never do a more pleasing deed to the learned, nor more profitable to posterity, for conserving the record of times in true supputation, than when he corrected the Calendar, and ordered the year according to the course of the sun: and yet this was imputed to him for novelty, and arrogancy, and procured to him great obloquy. So the first christened emperor13 (at the leastwise that openly professed the faith himself, and allowed others to do the like) for strengthening the empire at his great charges, and providing for the Church, as he did, got for his labour the name Pupillus,14 as who would say, a wasteful prince, that had need of a guardian, or overseer. So the best christened emperor,15 for the love that he bare unto peace, thereby to enrich both himself and his subjects, and because he did not seek war but find it, was judged to be no man at arms,16 (though indeed he excelled in feats of chivalry, and shewed so much when he was provoked) and condemned for giving himself to his ease and to his pleasure. To be short, the most learned emperor17 of former times, (at the least, the greatest politician) what thanks had he for cutting off the superfluities of the laws, and digesting them into some order and method? This, that he hath been blotted by some to be an epitomist, that is, one that extinguished worthy whole volumes, to bring his abridgements into request. This is the measure that hath been rendered to excellent princes in former times, even, cum bene facerent, male audire, for their good deeds to be evil spoken of. Neither is there any likelihood that envy and malignity died and were buried with the ancient. No, no, the reproof of Moses taketh hold of most ages: You are risen up in your fathers' stead, an increase of sinful men.18 What is that that hath been done? that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun,19 saith the wise man. And S. Stephen, As your fathers did, so do you.20

His Majesty's constancy, notwithstanding calumniation, for the survey of the English translations.

This, and more to this purpose, his Majesty that now reigneth (and long and long may he reign, and his offspring for ever, himself and children, and children's children always)21 knew full well, according to the singular wisdom given unto him by God, and the rare learning and experience that he hath attained unto; namely, that whosoever attempteth anything for the public (specially if it pertain to religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same setteth himself upon a stage to be glouted upon by every evil eye, yea, he casteth himself headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharp tongue. For he that meddleth with men's religion in any part meddleth with their custom, nay, with their freehold; and though they find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of altering. Notwithstanding his royal heart was not daunted or discouraged for this or that colour, but stood resolute, as a statue immoveable, and an anvil not easy to be beaten into plates,22 as one saith; he knew who had chosen him to be a soldier, or rather a captain, and being assured that the course which he intended made much for the glory of God, and the building up of his Church, he would not suffer it to be broken off for whatsoever speeches or practices. It doth certainly belong unto kings, yea, it doth specially belong unto them, to have care of religion, yea, to know it aright, yea, to profess it zealously, yea, to promote it to the uttermost of their power. This is their glory before all nations which mean well, and this will bring unto them a far most excellent weight of glory in the day of the Lord Jesus. For the Scripture saith not in vain, Them that honour me, I will honour;23 neither was it a vain word the Eusebius delivered long ago, that piety towards God24 was the weapon, and the only weapon, that both preserved Constantine's person and avenged him of his enemies.

The praise of the Holy Scriptures.

But now what piety without truth? what truth (what saving truth) without the word of God? what word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture? The Scriptures we are commanded to search (John 5.39; Isa. 8.20). They are commended that searched and studied them (Acts 17.11 and 8.28, 29). They are reproved that were unskilful in them, or slow to believe them (Matt. 22.29; Luk. 24.25). They can make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3.15). If we be ignorant, they will instruct us; if out of the way, they will bring us home; if out of order, they will reform us; if in heaviness, comfort us; if dull, quicken us; if cold, inflame us. Tolle, lege; tolle, lege: Take up and read, take up and read the Scriptures, (for unto them was the direction) it was said unto S. Augustine25 by a supernatural voice. Whatsoever is in the Scriptures, believe me, saith the same S. Augustine,26 is high and divine; there is verily truth, and a doctrine most fit for the refreshing and renewing of men's minds, and truly so tempered, that every one may draw from thence that which is sufficient for him, if he come to draw with a devout and pious mind, as true religion requireth. Thus S. Augustine. And S. Hierome:27 Ama scripturas, et amabit te sapientia, &c. Love the Scriptures, and wisdom will love thee. And S. Cyril28 against Julian; Even boys that are bred up in the Scriptures, become most religious, &c. But what mention we three or four uses of the Scripture, whereas whatsoever is to be believed or practised, or hoped for, is contained in them? or three or four sentences of the Fathers, since whosoever is worthy the name of a Father, from Christ's time downward, hath likewise written not only of the riches, but also of the perfection of the Scripture? I adore the fullness of the Scripture, saith Tertullian against Hermogenes.29 And again, to Apelles30 an heretick of the like stamp, he saith: I do not admit that which thou bringest in (or concludest) of thine own (head or store, de tuo) without Scripture. So Saint Justin Martyr31 before him: We must know by all means, saith he, that it is not lawful (or possible) to learn (anything) of God or of right piety, save only out of the Prophets, who teach us by divine inspiration. So Saint Basil32 after Tertullian: It is a manifest falling away from the Faith, and a fault of presumption, either to reject any of those things that are written, or to bring in (upon the head of them, epeisagein) any of those things that are not written. We omit to cite to the same effect S. Cyril B. of Jerusalem, in his 4 Cateches. Saint Hierome against Helvidius, Saint Augustine in his third book against the letters of Petilian, and in very many other places of his works. Also we forbear to descend to latter Fathers, because we will not weary the reader. The Scriptures then being acknowledged to be so full and so perfect, how can we excuse ourselves of negligence, if we do not study them? of curiosity, if we be not content with them? Men talk much of eiresione,33 how many sweet and goodly things it had hanging on it; of the Philosopher's stone, that it turneth copper into gold; of Cornu-copia, that it had all things necessary for food in it; of Panacea the herb, that it was good for all diseases; of Catholicon the drug, that it is instead of all purges; of Vulcan's armour, that it was an armour of proof against all thrusts, and all blows, &c. Well, that which they falsely or vainly attributed to these things for bodily good, we may justly and with full measure ascribe unto the Scripture, for spiritual. It is not only an armour, but also a whole armoury of weapons, both offensive and defensive; whereby we may save ourselves and put the enemy to flight. It is not an herb, but a tree, or rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every month, and the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine. It is not a pot of Manna, or a cruse of oil, which were for memory only, or for a meal's meat or two, but as it were a shower of heavenly bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great; and as it were a whole cellar full of oil vessels; whereby all our necessities may be provided for, and our debts discharged. In a word, it is a panary of wholesome food, against fenowed34 traditions; a physician's shop (Saint Basil35 calleth it) of preservatives against poisoned heresies; a pandect of profitable laws against rebellious spirits; a treasury of most costly jewels against beggarly rudiments; finally, a fountain of most pure water springing up unto everlasting life. And what marvel? the original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the inditer, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the Apostles or Prophets; the penmen, such as were sanctified from the womb, and endued with a principal portion of God's Spirit; the matter, verity, piety, purity, uprightness; the form, God's word, God's testimony, God's oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, &c.; the effects, light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost; lastly, the end and reward of the study thereof, fellowship with the Saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and that never shall fade away. Happy is the man that delighteth in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditateth in it day and night.

Translation necessary.

But how shall men meditate in that which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue? as it is written, Except I know the power of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian to me.36 The Apostle excepteth no tongue; not Hebrew the ancientest, not Greek the most copious, not Latin the finest. Nature taught a natural man to confess, that all of us in those tongues which we do not understand are plainly deaf; we may turn the deaf ear unto them. The Scythian counted the Athenian, whom he did not understand, barbarous:37 so the Roman did the Syrian, and the Jew, (even S. Hierome38 himself calleth the Hebrew tongue barbarous, belike because it was strange to so many): so the Emperor of Constantinople calleth the Latin tongue barbarous, though Pope Nicolas do storm at it:39 so Jews, long before Christ, called all other nations Lognazim, which is little better than barbarous. Therefore as one complaineth that always in the Senate of Rome there was one or other that called for an interpreter:40 so, lest the Church be driven to the like exigent, it is necessary to have translations in a readiness. Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered.41 Indeed, without translation into the vulgar tongue the unlearned are but like children at Jacob's well (which was deep)42 without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered with this motion, Read this, I pray thee, he was fain to make this answer, I cannot, for it is sealed.43

The translation of the Old Testament out of the Hebrew into Greek.

While God be known only in Jacob, and have his Name great in Israel, and in none other place, while the dew lay on Gideon's fleece only, and all the earth besides was dry;44 then for one and the same people, which spake all of them the language of Canaan, that is Hebrew, one and the same original in Hebrew was sufficient. But when the fullness of time drew near, that the Sun of righteousness, the Son of God, should come into the world, whom God ordained to be a reconciliation through faith in his blood, not of the Jew only, but also of the Greek, yea, of all them that were scattered abroad; then, lo, it pleased the Lord to stir up the spirit of a Greek prince (Greek for descent and language), even of Ptolemy Philadelph, King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching, as Saint John Baptist did among the Jews by vocal. For the Grecians, being desirous of learning, were not wont to suffer books of worth to lie moulding in kings' libraries, but had many of their servants, ready scribes, to copy them out, and so they were dispersed and made common. Again, the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the colonies, which thither they had sent. For the same causes also it was well understood in many places of Europe, yea, and of Africa too. Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becometh hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded forth in the market-place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to contain the Scriptures, both for the first preachers of the Gospel to appeal unto for witness, and for the learners also of those times to make search and trial by. It is certain that that translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them to take that which they found (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than by making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations as though they made a translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. This may be supposed to be some cause, why the translation of the Seventy was allowed to pass for current. Notwithstanding, though it was commended generally, yet it did not fully content the learned, no, not of the Jews. For not long after Christ, Aquilla fell in hand with a new translation, and after him Theodotion, and after him Symmachus: yea, there was a fifth and a sixth edition, the authors whereof were not known. These with the Seventy made up the Hexapla, and were worthily and to great purpose compiled together by Origen. Howbeit the edition of the Seventy went away with the credit, and therefore not only was placed in the midst by Origen, (for the worth and excellency thereof above the rest, as Epiphanius45 gathereth) but also was used by the Greek fathers for the ground and foundation of their commentaries.46 Yea, Epiphanius above-named doth attribute so much unto it, that he holdeth the authors thereof not only for interpreters, but also for prophets in some respect: and Justinian the Emperor,47 enjoining the Jews his subjects to use specially the translation of the Seventy, rendereth this reason thereof, because they were, as it were, enlightened with prophetical grace.48 Yet for all that, as the Egyptians are said of the Prophet to be men and not God, and their horses flesh and not spirit:49 so it is evident, (and Saint Hierome50 affirmeth as much) that the Seventy were interpreters, they were not prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yea, sometimes they may be noted to add to the original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the word, as the Spirit gave them utterance. This may suffice touching the Greek translations of the Old Testament.

Translation out of Hebrew and Greek into Latin.

There were also within a few hundred years after CHRIST translations many into the Latin tongue: for this tongue also was very fit to convey the Law and the Gospel by, because in those times very many countries of the West, yea of the South, East, and North, spake or understood Latin, being made provinces to the Romans. But now the Latin translations were too many to be all good, for they were infinite (Latini Interpretes nullo modo numerari possunt, saith S. Augustine.51) Again, they were not out of the Hebrew fountain (we speak of the Latin translations of the Old Testament) but out of the Greek stream, therefore the Greek being not altogether clear, the Latin derived from it must needs be muddy. This moved S. Hierome, a most learned father, and the best linguist without controversy, of his age, or of any that went before him, to undertake the translating of the Old Testament, out of the very fountains themselves; which he performed with that evidence of great learning, judgement, industry, and faithfulness, that he hath for ever bound the Church unto him, in a debt of special remembrance and thankfulness.

The translating of the Scripture into the vulgar tongues.

Now though the Church were thus furnished with Greek and Latin translations, even before the faith of CHRIST was generally embraced in the Empire: (for the learned know52 that even in S. Hierome's time the Consul of Rome and his wife were both Ethnicks, and about the same time the greatest part of the Senate also) yet for all that the godly-learned were not content to have the Scriptures in the language which themselves understood, Greek and Latin, (as the good lepers were not content to fare well themselves, but acquainted their neighbours with the store that God had sent, that they also might provide for themselves)53 but also for the behoof and edifying of the unlearned which hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and had souls to be saved as well as they, they provided translations into the vulgar for their countrymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion hear Christ speaking unto them in their mother tongue, not by the voice of their minister only, but also by the written word translated. If any doubt hereof, he may be satisfied by examples enough, if enough will serve the turn. First, S. Hierome54 saith, Multarum gentium linguis Scriptura ante translata, docet falsa esse quo addita sunt, &c., i.e. The Scripture being translated before in the languages of many nations, doth shew that those things that were added (by Lucian or Hesychius) are false. So S. Hierome in that place. The same Hierome55 elsewhere affirmeth that he, the time was, had set forth the translation of the Seventy, suoe linguoe hominibus, i.e. for his countrymen of Dalmatia. Which words not only Erasmus doth understand to purport, that S. Hierome translated the Scripture into the Dalmatian tongue, but also Sixtus Senensis,56 and Alphonsus a Castro,57 (that we speak of no more) men not to be excepted against by them of Rome, do ingenuously confess as much. So S. Chrysostome,58 that lived in S. Hierome's time, giveth evidence with him: The doctrine of S. John (saith he) did not in such sort (as the philosophers did) vanish away: but the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians, and infinite other nations, being barbarous people, translated it into their (mother) tongue, and have learned to be (true) philosophers, he meaneth Christians. To this may be added Theodorit,59 as next unto him both for antiquity, and for learning. His words be these, Every country that is under the sun is full of these words (of the Apostles and Prophets) and the Hebrew tongue (he meaneth the Scriptures in the Hebrew tongue) is turned not only into the language of the Grecians, but also of the Romans, and Egyptians, and Persians, and Indians, and Armenians, and Scythians, and Sauromatians, and briefly into all the languages that any nation useth. So he. In like manner, Ulpilas is reported by Paulus Diaconus60 and Isidor61 (and before them by Sozomen62) to have translated the Scriptures into the Gothic tongue: John Bishop of Seville by Vasseus,63 to have turned them into Arabic about the year of our Lord 717: Beda by Cistertiensis, to have turned a great part of them into Saxon: Efnard by Trithemius, to have abridged the French Psalter, as Beda had done the Hebrew, about the year 800: King Alured by the said Cistertiensis, to have turned the Psalter into Saxon:64 Methodius by Aventius65 (printed at Ingolstad) to have turned the Scriptures into Sclavonian:66 Valdo, Bishop of Frising, by Beatus Rhenanus,67 to have caused about that time the Gospels to be translated into Dutch rhythm, yet extant in the library of Corbinian: Valdus, by divers, to have turned them himself, or to have gotten them turned, into French about the year 1160: Charles, the fifth of that name, surnamed The wise, to have caused them to be turned into French, about 200 years after Valdus's time, of which translation there be many copies yet extant, as witnesseth Beroaldus.68 Much about that time, even in our King Richard the Second's days, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen with divers, translated, as it is very probable, in that age. So the Syrian translation of the New Testament is in most learned men's libraries, of Widminstadius's setting forth; and the Psalter in Arabic is with many, of Augustinus Nebiensis's setting forth. So Postel affirmeth, that in his travel he saw the Gospels in the Ethiopian tongue; and Ambrose Thesius allegeth the Psalter of the Indians which he testifieth to have been set forth by Potken in Syrian characters. So that to have the Scriptures in the mother tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up, either by the Lord Cromwell in England,69 or by the Lord Radevil in Polonie, or by the Lord Ungnadius in the Emperor's dominion, but hath been thought upon, and put in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation; no doubt because it was esteemed most profitable to cause faith to grow in men's hearts the sooner, and to make them to be able to say with the words of the Psalm, As we have heard, so we have seen.70

The unwillingness of our chief adversaries, that the Scriptures should be divulged in the mother tongue, &c.

Now the Church of Rome would seem at the length to bear a motherly affection towards her children, and to allow them the Scriptures in their mother tongue: but indeed it is a gift,71 not deserving to be called a gift, an unprofitable gift: they must first get a licence in writing before they may use them, and to get that, they must approve themselves to their confessor, that is, to be such as are, if not frozen in the dregs, yet soured with the leaven of their superstition. Howbeit, it seemed too much to Clement the Eighth72 that there should be any licence granted to have them in the vulgar tongue, and therefore he overruleth and frustrateth the grant of Pius the Fourth. So much are they afraid of the light of the Scriptures, (Lucifugae Scripturarum, as Tertullian73 speaketh) that they will not trust the people with it, no not as it is set forth by their own sworn men, no not with the licence of their own bishops and inquisitors. Yea, so unwilling they are to communicate the Scriptures to the people's understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confess that we forced them to translate it into English against their wills. This seemeth to argue a bad cause, or a bad conscience, or both. Sure we are, that it is not he that hath good gold that is afraid to bring it to the touchstone, but he that hath the counterfeit; neither is it the true man that shunneth the light, but the malefactor, lest his deeds should be reproved:74 neither is it the plain dealing merchant that is unwilling to have the weights or the meteyard brought in place, but he that useth deceit. But we will let them alone for this fault, and return to translation.

Back to top ^

Page 1 of 2   Next page >

Trinitarian Bible Society (U.S.A.), 927 Alpine Commerce Park, Suite 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49544, U.S.A. · Tel.: (616) 735-3695 · Fax: (616) 785-7237

U.S.A. Tax Exemption Number: 237365237