Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Condemned for Translating The Bible?

John Wycliff and William Tyndale are commonly looked upon as Protestant heroes, bravely translating the Bible into English, despite sinister Catholic anti-Bible laws.

The thing is, translating the Bible wasn't against the law. The law just said that Bible translations had to be approved, and there already were approved English translations. Sadly, there wasn't enough demand at the time to make booksellers produce more of the approved versions.

Tyndale translated the Bible without permission in 1525. His translation was condemned, but this was because the Bible had been translated with an agenda. The Tyndale Bible, like the Wycliff Bible before it, had been translated, not to be faithful to the original texts, but to be an argument against Catholicism. The Tyndale Bible, like Luther's (also condemned) German Bible, contained notes denouncing the Catholic Church and her teachings, as well as modifications to the text itself. This is hardly what you would expect if the Bible clearly speaks a Protestant message, refuting Catholicism on its own. Apparently the Bible must be changed if we want it to disagree with the Church.

Not only Catholic loyalists saw fault in the translation. The founder of Anglicanism, King Henry VIII, opposed the Tyndale translation, even after his break with the Catholic Church.

Under civil law of the time, heretics were seen as being leaders of civil unrest, somewhat akin to terrorist leaders today, and they did cause great amounts of destruction and warfare throughout European history (not that the Church didn't share some of the blame). Thus Tyndale was put to death under Habsburg Emperor Charles V in 1536.

The Catholic Church released its official English translation, the Douay-Rheims version, not too much later, in 1582 (New Testament) and 1609 (Old Testament).


More on Tyndale.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Here's an interesting quote on this issue from Henry G. Graham's book, "Where we Got the Bible."

"There were nine editions of the Bible in German by the time Martin Luther was born in 1493 and twenty-seven editions in German before Luther published his own in 1520.

Before the first Protestant Bible was printed, more than 600 editions of the Catholic Bible had been printed in Europe, of which 198 were in the languages of the people."