Bible Preservation - Early English Translations

  1. WYCLIFFE’S TRANSLATION
    1. John Wycliffe
      1. Born in Yorkshire, England, about 1320
      2. Educated at Oxford
      3. Opposed papal authority and many Roman Catholic doctrines
      4. Dies from natural causes in 1384
    2. Translation
      1. New Testament completed in 1380
      2. Entire Bible completed in 1382
      3. Supposedly made translation from the Latin Vulgate.  Some have argued in recent years that his translation was made from the Old Latin Vulgate and was very close to the Received Text.  These same people argue that Richard Purvey, who revised Wycliffe’s translation in 1388, is the man who conformed it to Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.
      4. Translated into the Middle English of Chaucer and cannot be understood by modern readers without language study
    3. Circulation
      1. Printing was not invented in Europe until about 1450 by Gutenberg
      2. Wycliffe’s translation had to be circulated in hand-written copies that took about 10 months to complete
      3. Some, who could not buy it, would pay to be able to read it for one hour a day.  Other stories exist about those who would give a wagon load of hay for a few pages of it.
      4. Wycliffe’s Bible had a great influence on the Lollard movement in England during the late 14th and early 15th centuries.  This movement, which denied papal authority and transubstantiation (among other things) was brutally stamped out by the Roman Catholic authorities.  Yet, a few remained to take part in the separation from Rome in the early 16th century.
      5. About 170 copies of Wycliffe’s translation exist today
    4. After His Death
      1. Forty years after his death, the Catholics dug up Wycliffe’s bones, burned them and scattered the ashes in the River Swift
      2. The Convocation at Oxford in 1408 condemned Wycliffe and forbade “upon pain of the greater excommunication the unauthorized translation of any text of the Scriptures into English or any other tongue by way of a book, pamphlet, treatise or the reading of such.”
  2. TYNDALE’S TRANSLATION
    1. William Tyndale
      1. Studied Greek at Cambridge under Erasmus
      2. Major life goal was to put an English translation, not of the Vulgate but of the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, into the hands of his countrymen
      3. He said, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope
      4. Left England in 1524 and joined Reformers on the European Continent
      5. Betrayed, put in prison for a year and a half, and finally strangled and then burned at the stake in 1536
      6. This last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”
    2. Translation
      1. Printed his English New Testament in 1526
      2. At least 15,000 copies were printed and secretly imported into England in bales of cotton, sacks of flour, etc.
      3. Became the first New Testament printed in English
      4. Very few copies remain because of the opposition
      5. Tyndale also translated the Pentateuch and Jonah into English but did not finish the Old Testament
      6. The New Testament of the King James Bible has been said to be essentially Tyndale’s
  3. COVERDALE’S TRANSLATION
    1. Translated entirely by Miles Coverdale
    2. Printed in 1535
    3. The first entire Bible printed in English
    4. The first English Bible to make a separation between the Old Testament books and the Apocrypha
  4. MATTHEW’S TRANSLATION
    1. Translated by John Rogers (also called Thomas Matthew) who was burned at the stake under Queen Mary
    2. Printed in 1537 and dedicated to the king
    3. Used much of Tyndale’s work
    4. Became the basis for later translations
  5. THE GREAT BIBLE
    1. Printing
      1. Official translation during the reign of Henry VIII
      2. Printed in 1539
      3. A copy was ordered to be printed for every church, the cost to be paid half by the pastor and half by the members
      4. Called the “Great bible” because it measured 15 inches long and 9 inches wide
    2. Other Names
      1. “Chained Bible” – because it was chained to the desks of churches for safe keeping
      2. “Treacle Bible” – because Jeremiah 8:22 was translated “Is there no treacle in Gilead?”
      3. “Bug Bible” – because the 1549 edition translated Psalm 91:5 “Thou shall not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night”
  6. SPECIAL NOTES
    1. The 1542 Convocation of the Church of England attempted to Latinize the English Version making it essentially a Roman Catholic Version.  They failed.
    2. In 1551, Sir Robert Stephens divided the New Testament into verses in his Greek New Testament
  7. THE GENEVA BIBLE
    1. Translation
      1. Translated and printed in Geneva by English reformers who had fled from Queen Mary
      2. John Calvin wrote an introductory epistle for the New Testament which was issued in 1557
      3. The entire Bible was completed in 1560
      4. Sometimes called the “Breeches Bible” because of the translation of Genesis 3:7 – “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves breeches.”
    2. Significance
      1. Became the most popular Bible for almost three-quarters of a century
      2. First translation to divide chapters into verses
      3. First Bible to use italics to indicate words not in the original languages
      4. First English translation to omit the apocryphal books
      5. Last edition appeared in 1644
  8. THE BISHOP’S BIBLE
    1. Translated by several bishops and other scholars
    2. Published in 1568
    3. Never as popular as the Geneva Bible
    4. Very expensive and poorly translated
  9. THE CATHOLIC ENGLISH TRANSLATION
    1. Made by Roman Catholics who left England
    2. Called the Rheims-Douay Version
      1. New Testament issued from Rheims, France in 1582
      2. Old Testament came from Douat, France in 1610
    3. Follows Jerome’s Latin Vulgate
    4. Never very successful
David Reagan