1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bible, English
BIBLE, ENGLISH. The history of the vernacular Bible of the English race resolves itself into two distinctly marked periods—the one being that of Manuscript Bibles, which were direct translations from the Latin Vulgate, the other that of Printed Bibles, which were, more or less completely, translations from the original Hebrew and Greek of the Old and New Testaments.
1. The Manuscript Bible.—The first essays in Biblical translation, or rather paraphrasing, assumed in English, as in many other languages, a poetical form. Even in the 7th century, according to the testimony of Bede (Hist. Eccl. Cædmon. iv. 24), Cædmon sang “de creatione mundi et origine humani generis, et tota Genesis historia, de egressu Israel ex Aegypto et ingressu in terram repromissionis, de aliis plurimis sacrae Scripturae historiis, de incarnatione Dominica, passione, resurrectione et ascensione in coelum, de Spiritus Sancti adventu, et apostolorum doctrina.” It is, however, doubtful whether any of the poetry which has been ascribed to him can claim to be regarded as his genuine work.
The first prose rendering of any part of the Bible—and with these we are mainly concerned in the present inquiry—originated in all probability in the 8th century, when Bede, the eminent scholar and churchman, translated Bede. the first portion (chs. i.-vi. 9) of the Gospel of St John into the vernacular, but no part of this rendering is extant. His pupil Cuthberht recorded this fact in a letter to a fellow-student, Cuthwine: “a capite sancti evangelii Johannis usque ad eum locum in quo dicitur, ‘sed haec quid sunt inter tantos?’ in nostram linguam ad utilitatem ecclesiae Dei convertit” (Mayor and Lumby, Bedae Hist. Eccl. p. 178).
The 9th century is characterized by interlinear glosses on the Book of Psalms, and towards its close by a few attempts at independent translation. Of these “glossed Psalters” twelve MSS. are known to exist, and they may be 9th and 10th century glosses. ranged into two groups according to the Latin text they represent. The Roman Psalter is glossed in the following MSS.: (1) Cotton Vesp. A. 1 (Vespasian Psalter); (2) Bodl. Junius 27; (3) Univ. Libr. Camb. Ff. 1. 23; (4) Brit. Mus. Reg. 2. B. 5; (5) Trin. Coll. Camb. R. 17. 1 (Eadwine’s Psalter); (6) Brit. Mus. Add. 37517. The Gallican Psalter in the following: (1) Brit. Mus. Stowe 2 (Spelman’s text); (2) Cotton Vitell. E. 18; (3) Cotton Tib. C. 16; (4) Lambeth 48; (5) Arundel 60; (6) Salisbury Cath. 150.
The oldest and most important of these MSS. is the so-called Vespasian Psalter, which was written in Mercia in the first half of the 9th century. It was in all probability the original from which all the above-mentioned Old English glosses were derived, though in several instances changes and modifications were introduced by successive scribes. The first verse of Psalm c. (Vulg. xcix. 2) may serve as a specimen of these glosses.
MS. Vespasian. A. 1.
Wynsumiað gode, all eorðe
ðiowiaƌ Dryhtne in blisse;
ingað in gesihðe his in
Jubilate Deo, omnis terra;
servite Domino in laetitia;
intrate in conspectu eius in
MS. Stowe. 2.
Drymað drihtne, eall eorðe;
ðeowiað drihtne on blisse;
infarað on gesyhðe hys
Jubilate Domino, omnis terra;
Servite Domino in laetitia;
introite in conspectu eius
To the late 9th or early 10th century a work may be assigned which is in so far an advance upon preceding efforts as to be a real translation, not a mere gloss corresponding word for word with the Latin original. This is the famous Paris Psalter, a rendering of the first fifty Psalms (Vulg. i.-l. 10), contained in the unique MS. lat. 8824 in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. The authorship of this version is doubtful, being by some scholars attributed to King Alfred (d. 901), of whom William of Malmesbury writes (Gesta Regum Anglorum, ii. 123), “Psalterium transferre aggressus vix prima parte explicata vivendi finem fecit.” This view is, however, denied by others.
In the course of the 10th century the Gospels were glossed and translated. The earliest in date is a Northumbrian Gloss on the Gospels, contained in a beautiful and highly interesting MS. variously known as the Durham Book, Lindisfarne Gospels. the Lindisfarne Gospels, or the Book of St Cuthbert (MS. Cotton, Nero. D. 4). The Latin text dates from the close of the 7th century, and is the work of Eadfrith, bishop of Lindisfarne (698–721). The English gloss was added about a century and a half later (c. 950) by one Aldred, whom Dr Charles O’Conor (Bibl. Stowensis, 1818–1819, ii. 180) supposes to have been the bishop of Durham of that name. The Lord’s Prayer is glossed in the following way:—
- Matthew vi. 9. Suae ðonne iuih gie bidde fader urer ðu arð
sic ergo uos orabitis + Pater noster qui és
- ðu bist in heofnum & in heofnas; sie gehalgad noma ðin;
in caelis; sanctificetur nomen tuum;
- (10) to-cymeð ric ðin. sie willo ðin suae is in heofne
adueniat regnum tuum fiat uoluntas tua sicut in caelo
- J in eorðo.
et in terra.
- (11) hlaf userne oferwistlic sel ús to dæg.
panemnostrum super-substantiale[m] dá nobis hodie.
- (12) J forgef us scylda usra suae uoe forgefon scyldgum
et demitte nobis debita nostra sicut nos dimittimus debitoribus
- (13) J ne inlæd usih in costunge ah gefrig usich from yfle
et ne inducas nos in temtationem sed libera nos a malo.
Of a somewhat later date is the celebrated Rushworth Version of the Gospels (MS. Bodl. Auct. D. ii. 9), which contains an independent translation of the Gospel of St Matthew, and a gloss on those of St Mark, St Luke and St John, Rushworth Version. founded upon the Lindisfarne glosses. From a note in the manuscript we learn that two men, Færman and Owun, made the version. Færman was a priest at Harewood, or Harwood, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and to him the best part of the work is due. He translated the whole of St Matthew, and wrote the gloss of St Mark i.-ii. 15, and St John xviii. 1-3. The remaining part, a mere transcript, is Owun’s work. The dialect of the translation of St Matthew is Mercian.
A further testimony to the activity which prevailed in the field of Biblical lore is the fact that at the close of the century—probably about the year 1000—the Gospels were rendered anew for the first time in the south of England. West-Saxon Gospels. Of this version—the so-called West-Saxon Gospels—not less than seven manuscripts have come down to us. A note in one of these, MS. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 140, states, ego Ælfricus scripsi hunc librum in Monasterio Baðþonio et dedi Brihtwoldo preposito, but of this Ælfric and his superior nothing further is known.
The Lord’s Prayer is rendered in the following way in these gospels:—
West-Saxon Gospels.—MS Corpus 140.
Towards the close of the century the Old Testament found a translator in Ælfric (q.v.), the most eminent scholar in the close of the 10th and the opening decades of the 11th century. According to his own statement in De vetere testamento, Ælfric. written about 1010, he had at that period translated the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Job, Esther, Judith and the Maccabees. His rendering is clear and idiomatic, and though he frequently abridges, the omissions never obscure the meaning or hinder the easy flow of the narrative.
Dietrich, Ælfric’s most competent biographer (Niedner’s, Zeitschrift für historische Theologie, 1855-1856), looks upon the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges as a continuation of his Lives of Saints, including as they do in a series of narratives the Old Testament saints. Genesis is but slightly abridged, but Job, Kings, Judges, Esther and Judith as well as the Maccabees are mere homilies epitomized from the corresponding Old Testament books. Judith is metrical in form.
The 11th century, with its political convulsions, resulting in the establishment of an alien rule and the partial suppression of the language of the conquered race, was unfavourable to literary efforts of any kind in the vernacular. With the exception of Ælfric’s late works at the very dawn of the century, we can only record two transcripts of the West-Saxon Gospels as coming at all within the scope of our inquiry.
In the 12th century the same gospels were again copied by pious hands into the Kentish dialect of the period.
The 13th century, from the point of view of Biblical renderings into the vernacular, is an absolute blank. French—or rather the Anglo-Norman dialect of the period—reigned supreme amongst the upper classes, in schools, in Anglo-Norman Period. parliament, in the courts of law and in the palace of the king. English lurked in farms and hovels, amongst villeins and serfs, in the outlying country-districts, in the distant monasteries, amongst the lower clergy, amongst the humble and lowly and ignorant. There were certainly renderings of the Bible during the 12th, 13th and early 14th centuries, but they were all in French. Some of these translations were made in England, some were brought over to England and copied and recopied. Amongst the latter was the magnificently illuminated Norman Commentary on the Apocalypse, some of the earliest copies of which were written in an English hand. In fact before the middle of the 14th century the entire Old Testament and the greater part of the New Testament had been translated into the Anglo-Norman dialect of the period. (MSS. Bibl. Nat. fr. 1, 9562, Brit. Mus. Reg. I.C. iii. Cf. S. Berger, La Bible française au moyen âge, Paris, 1884, pp. 78 ff.)
When English finally emerged victorious, towards the middle and latter half of the 14th century, it was for all practical purposes a new language, largely intermixed with French, differing from the language of the older period in sound, flexion and structure. It is evident that any Old English versions which might have survived the ravages of time would now be unintelligible, it was equally natural that as soon as French came to be looked upon as an alien tongue, the French versions hitherto in use would fail to fulfil their purpose, and that attempts should again be made to render the Bible into the only language 14th-century renderings. intelligible to the greater part of the nation—into English. It was also natural that these attempts should be made where the need was most pressing, where French had gained least footing, where parliament and court were remote, where intercourse with France was difficult. In fact in the Northern Midlands, and in the North even before the middle of the 14th century, the book of Psalms had been twice rendered into English, and before the end of the same century, probably before the great Wycliffite versions had spread over the country, the whole of the New Testament had been translated by different hands into one or other of the dialects of this part of the country.
At the same time we can record only a single rendering during the whole century which originated in the south of England, namely the text of James, Peter, 1 John and the Pauline Epistles (edited by A. C. Paues, Cambridge, 1904).
Of these pre-Wycliffite versions possibly the earliest is the West Midland Psalter, once erroneously ascribed to William of Shoreham. It occurs in three MSS., the earliest of which, Brit. Mus. Add. 17376, was probably written between 1340 and 1350. It contains a complete version of the book of Psalms, followed by the usual eleven canticles and the Athanasian Creed. The Latin original is a glossed version of the Vulgate, and in the English translation the words of the gloss are often substituted for the strong and picturesque expressions of the Biblical text; in other respects the rendering is faithful and idiomatic. The following two verses of the first psalm may exemplify this:—
MS. British Mus. Add. 17376.
Before the middle of the century Richard Rolle (q.v.), the hermit of Hampole (+ 1349), turned into English, with certain additions and omissions, the famous Commentary on the Psalms by Peter Lombard. The work was undertaken, Richard Rolle. as the metrical prologue of one of the copies tells us (MS. Laud. misc. 286), “At a worthy recluse prayer, cald dame Merget Kyrkby.” The Commentary gained immediate and lasting popularity, and spread in numerous copies throughout the country, the peculiarities of the hermit’s vigorous northern dialect being either modified or wholly removed in the more southerly transcripts. The translation, however, is stiff and literal to a fault, violating idiomatic usage and the proper order of words in its strict adherence to the Latin. The following brief extracts may exemplify the hermit’s rendering and the change the text underwent in later copies.
|MS. Univ. Coll. 64.||MS. Reg. 18 B. 21.|
|(i. 1.) Blisful man þe whilk oway ged noght in þe
counsaile of wicked, and in þe way of synful stode
noght, & in þe chaiere of pestilens he noght sate. (2)
Bot in laghe of lord þe will of him; and in his laghe he
sall thynke day & nyght.
|Blessed is þat man þat haþ not gone in þe counsell of|
wicked men, and in þe weye of sinfull men haþ not stonde,
and in þe chaire of pestilence sat not. 2. But in þe lawe of
our lorde is þe will of him; and [in] his lawe we shall þinke
day and nyght.
Approximately to the same period as these early renderings of the Psalter belongs a version of the Apocalypse with a Commentary, the earliest MS. of which (Harleian 874) is written in the dialect of the North Midlands. This Commentary, for a long time attributed to Wycliffe, is really nothing but a verbal rendering of the popular and widely-spread Norman Commentary on the Apocalypse (Paul Meyer and L. Delisle, L’Apocalypse en Français au XIIIe siècle, Paris, 1901), which dates back as far as the first half of the 13th century, and in its general tenor represents the height of orthodoxy. The English apocalypse, to judge from the number of MSS. remaining, must have enjoyed great and lasting popularity. Several revisions of the text exist, the later of which present such striking agreement with the later Wycliffite version that we shall not be far wrong if we assume that they were made use of to a considerable extent by the revisers of this version.
To the North Midlands or the North belongs further a complete version of the Pauline Epistles found in the unique MS. 32, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, of the 15th century.
Commentaries on the Gospels of St Matthew, St Mark and St Luke, we are told by the heading in one of the MSS. (Univ. Libr. Camb. Ii. 2. 12), were also translated into English by “a man of þe north cuntre.” The translation of these Gospels as well as of the Epistles referred to above is stiff and awkward, the translator being evidently afraid of any departure from the Latin text of his original. The accompanying commentary is based on the Fathers of the Church and entirely devoid of any original matter. The opening lines of the third chapter of Matthew are rendered in the following way:—
MS. Camb. Univ. Libr. Ii. 2. 12.
A version of the Acts and the Catholic Epistles completes the number of the New Testament books translated in the northern parts of England. It is found in several MSS. either separately or in conjunction with a fragmentary Southern Version of the Pauline Epistles, Peter, James and 1 John in a curiously compiled volume, evidently made, as the prologue tells us, by a brother superior for the use and edification of an ignorant “sister,” or woman vowed to religion. The translation of this, our only southern text, surpasses all previous efforts from the point of view of clearness of expression and idiomatic use of English, and, though less exact, it may be even said in these respects to rank equal with the later or revised Wycliffite version.
Apart from these more or less complete versions of separate books of the Bible, there existed also numerous renderings of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, accounts of the Life, Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, translations of the epistles and gospels used in divine service, and other means of familiarizing the people with Holy Scripture. It was the custom of the medieval preachers and writers to give their own English version of any text which they quoted, not resorting as in later times to a commonly received translation. This explains the fact that in collections of medieval homilies that have come down to us, no two renderings of the Biblical text used are ever alike, not even Wyclilfe himself making use of the text of the commonly accepted versions that went under his name.
It is noteworthy that these early versions from Anglo-Saxon times onwards were perfectly orthodox, executed by and for good and faithful sons of the church, and, generally speaking, with the object of assisting those whose knowledge of Latin proved too scanty for a proper interpretation and understanding of the holy text. Thus Richard Rolle’s version of the Psalms was executed for a nun; so was in all likelihood the southern version of the epistles referred to above. Again the earliest MS. (Harl. 874) of the Commentary on the Apocalypse gives the owner’s name in a coeval hand as “Richard Schepard, presbiter,” and the Catholic Epistles of MS. Douce 250 were probably glossed for the benefit of men in religious orders, if one may judge from a short Commentary to James ii. 2, “& þerfore if eny man come into youre siȝt, þat is, into youre cumpenye þat beþ Godes religiouse men in what degre so ȝe be.” Nor do any of the remaining works contain anything but what is strictly orthodox.
It is first with the appearance of Wycliffe (q.v.) and his followers on the arena of religious controversy that the Bible in English came to be looked upon with suspicion by the orthodox party within the Church. For it is a well-known fact The Wycliffite Versions. that Wycliffe proclaimed the Bible, not the Church or Catholic tradition, as a man’s supreme spiritual authority, and that he sought in consequence by every means in his power to spread the knowledge of it among the people. It is, therefore, in all likelihood to the zeal of Wycliffe and his followers that we owe the two noble 14th-century translations of the Bible which tradition has always associated with his name, and which are the earliest complete renderings that we possess of the Holy Scriptures into English.
The first of these, the so-called Early Version, was probably completed about 1382, at all events before 1384, the year of Wycliffe’s death. The second, or Later Version, being a thorough revision of the first, is ascribed to the year 1388 by Sir Frederic Madden and the Rev. Joshua Forshall in their edition of these two versions.
It is a matter of uncertainty what part, if any, Wycliffe himself took in the work. The editors of the Wycliffite versions say in the Preface, pp. xv. ff.—“The New Testament was naturally the first object. The text of the Gospels was extracted from the Commentary upon them by Wycliffe, and to these were added the Epistles, the Acts and the Apocalypse, all now translated anew. This translation might probably be the work of Wycliffe himself; at least the similarity of style between the Gospels and the other parts favours the supposition.” The Wycliffite authorship of the Commentaries on the Gospels, on which the learned editors base their argument, is, however, unsupported by any evidence beyond the fact that the writer of the Prologue to Matthew urges in strong language “the propriety of translating Scripture for the use of the laity.” The Biblical text found in these Commentaries is in fact so far removed from the original type of the Early Version as to be transitional to the Late, and, what is still more convincing, passages from the Early Version, from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, are actually quoted in the Commentary. Under such circumstances it would be folly to look upon them as anything but late productions, at all events later than the Early Version, and equal folly to assign these bulky volumes to the last two years of Wycliffe’s life merely because the text used in them happens to be that of the Early Version. It is therefore at present impossible to say what part of the Early Version of the New Testament was translated by Wycliffe.
The Old Testament of the Early Version was, according to the editors (Preface, p. xvii.), taken in hand by one of Wycliffe’s coadjutors, Nicholas de Herford. The translator’s original copy and a coeval transcript of it are still extant in the Bodleian library (Bodl. 959, Douce 360). Both break off abruptly at Baruch iii. 19, the latter having at this place a note inserted to the following effect: Explicit translacionem Nicholay de herford. There is consequently but little doubt that Nicholas de Herford took part in the translation of the Old Testament, though it is uncertain to what extent. The translator’s copy is written in not less than five hands, differing in orthography and dialect. The note may therefore be taken to refer either to the portion translated by the last or fifth hand, or to the whole of the Old Testament up to Baruch iii. 19. Judging from uniformity of style and mode of translation the editors of the Bible are inclined to take the latter view; they add that the remaining part of the Old Testament was completed by a different hand, the one which also translated the New Testament. This statement is, however, not supported by sufficient evidence. In view of the magnitude of the undertaking it is on the contrary highly probable that other translators besides Wycliffe and Nicholas de Herford took part in the work, and that already existing versions, with changes when necessary, were incorporated or made use of by the translators.
The Early Version, apart from its completeness, shows but little advance upon preceding efforts. It is true that the translation is more careful and correct than some of the renderings noticed above, but on the other hand it shares all their faults. The translation of the Old Testament as far as Baruch iii. 19 is stiff and awkward, sometimes unintelligible, even nonsensical, from a too close adherence to the Latin text (e.g. Judges xx. 25). In the remaining parts the translation is somewhat easier and more skilful, though even here Latinisms and un-English renderings abound.
It is small wonder, therefore, if a revision was soon found necessary and actually taken in hand within a few years of the completion of the Earlier Version. The principles of work adopted by the revisers are laid down in the general prologue to their edition, the so-called “Later Version.”
It is uncertain who the revisers were; John Purvey, the leader of the Lollard party after Wycliffe’s death, is generally assumed to have taken a prominent part in the work, but the evidence of this is extremely slight (cf. Wycl. Bible, Preface, oo. xxv. f.). The exact date of the revision is also doubtful: the editors of the Wycliffe Bible, judging from the internal evidence of the Prologue, assume it to have been finished about 1388. This Revised or Later Version is in every way a readable, correct rendering of the Scriptures, it is far more idiomatic than the Earlier, having been freed from the greater number of its Latinisms; its vocabulary is less archaic. Its popularity admits of no doubt, for even now in spite of neglect and persecution, in spite of the ravages of fire and time, over 150 copies remain to testify to this fact. The following specimens of the Early and Late Versions will afford a comparison with preceding renderings:—
|Early Version.||Late Version.|
|(Psalm i. 1.) Blisful the man, that went not awei in the
counseil of vnpitouse, and in the wei off sinful stod not; and
in the chayer of pestilence sat not. (2) But in the lawe of the
Lord his wil; and in the lawe of hym he shal sweteli thenke
dai and nyȝt.
(Matthew iii. 1.) In thilke days came Ioon Baptist,
prechynge in the desert of Iude, sayinge, (2) Do ȝe
penaunce, for the kyngdom of heuens shal neiȝ, or cume
niȝe. (3) Forsothe this is he of whome it is said by Ysaye the
prophet. A voice of a cryinge in desert, Make ȝe redy the
wayes of the Lord; Make ȝe riȝtful the pathes of hym. (4)
Forsothe that ilk Ioon hadde cloth of the heeris of cameylis,
and a girdil of skyn aboute his leendis; sothely his mete
weren locustis, and hony of the wode.
|(i. 1.) Blessid is the man, that ȝode not in the councel|
of wickid men; and stood not in the weie of synneris,
and sat not in the chaier of pestilence. (2) But his wille
is in the lawe of the Lord; and he schal bithenke in the
lawe of hym dai and nyȝt.
(iii. 1.) In tho daies Ioon Baptist cam, and prechide in
The 15th century may well be described as the via dolorosa of the English Bible as well as of its chief advocates and supporters, the Lollards. After the death of Wycliffe violence and anarchy set in, and the Lollards came The Lollards. gradually to be looked upon as enemies of order and disturbers of society. Stern measures of suppression were directed not only against them but against “Goddis Lawe,” the book for which they pleaded with such passionate earnestness. The bishops’ registers bear sufficient testimony to this fact. It would appear, however, as if at first at all events the persecution was directed not so much against the Biblical text itself as against the Lollard interpretations which accompanied it. In a convocation held at Oxford under Archbishop Arundel in 1408 it was enacted “that no man hereafter by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue, by way of a book, booklet, or tract; and that no man read any such book, booklet, or tract, now lately composed in the time of John Wycliffe or since, or hereafter to be set forth in part or in whole, publicly or privately, upon pain of greater excommunication, until the said translation be approved by the ordinary of the place, or, if the case so require, by the council provincial. He that shall do contrary to this shall likewise be punished as a favourer of heresy and error.”
It must be allowed that an enactment of this kind was not without justification. The Lollards, for instance, did not hesitate to introduce into certain copies of the pious and orthodox Commentary on the Psalms by the hermit of Hampole interpolations of their own of the most virulently controversial kind (MSS. Trin. Coll. Camb. B.V. 25, Brit. Mus. Reg. 18. C. 26, &c.), and although the text of their Biblical versions was faithful and true, the General Prologue of the Later Version was interlarded with controversial matter. It is small wonder if the prelates and priests sought to repress such trenchant criticism of their lives and doctrines as appeared more especially in the former work, and probably in many others which since have perished in “faggots and burning.”
For all this, manuscripts of Purvey’s Revision were copied and re-copied during this century, the text itself being evidently approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, when in the hands of the right people and if unaccompanied by controversial matter.
Of the Lollard movement in Scotland but little is known, but a curious relic has come down to our times in the shape of a New Testament of Purvey’s Revision in the Scottish dialect of the early 16th century. The transcriber was in all probability a certain Murdoch Nisbet, who also showed his reforming tendencies by adding to it a rendering of Luther’s Prologue to the New Testament. 2. The Printed Bible.—It is singular that while France, Spain, Italy, Bohemia and Holland possessed the Bible in the vernacular before the accession of Henry VIII., and in Germany the Scriptures were printed in 1466 and seventeen times reprinted before Luther began his great work, yet no English printer attempted to put the familiar English Bible into type. No part of the English Bible was printed before 1525, no complete Bible before 1535, and none in England before 1538.
Versions of the Scriptures so far noticed were all secondary renderings of the Vulgate, translations of a translation. It was only with the advent of the “new learning” in England that a direct rendering from the originals became possible. Erasmus in 1516 published the New Testament in Greek, with a new Latin version of his own; the Hebrew text of the Old Testament had been published as early as 1488.
The first to take advantage of these altered conditions was William Tyndale (q.v.), “to whom,” as Dr Westcott says, “it has been allowed more than to any other man to give its characteristic shape to the English Bible.” Of William Tyndale. Tyndale’s early life but little is known. Be it enough for our purpose to say that he thoroughly saturated his mind with the “new learning,” first at Oxford, where in 1515 he was admitted to the degree of M.A., and then in Cambridge, where the fame of Erasmus still lingered. Before the beginning of 1522 we find Tyndale as chaplain and tutor in the family of Sir John Walsh of Old Sodbury in Gloucestershire. He was there constantly involved in theological controversies with the surrounding clergy, and it was owing to their hostility that he had to leave Gloucestershire. He then resolved to open their eyes to the serious corruptions and decline of the church by translating the New Testament into the vernacular. In order to carry out this purpose he repaired in July or August 1523 to London, and to the famous protector of scholars and scholarship, Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall. His reception was, however, cold, the bishop advising him to seek a livelihood in the town. During a year of anxious waiting, it became clear to him “not only that there was no rowme in my lorde of londons palace to translate the new testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all englonde.” In May 1524 he consequently betook himself to Hamburg, his resolution to carry out his great work never for a moment flagging, and it was probably during his stay in this free city and in Wittenberg, where he may have been stimulated by Luther, that his translation of the New Testament was actually made. At all events there is no doubt that in 1525 he was in Cologne, engaged in printing at the press of Peter Quentel a quarto edition of the New Testament. This edition was provided with prefaces and marginal glosses. He had advanced as far as the tenth sheet, bearing the signature K, when his work was discovered by Johann Cochlaeus (q.v.), a famous controversialist and implacable enemy of the Reformation, who not only caused the Senate of Cologne to prohibit the continuation of the printing, but also communicated with Henry VIII. and Wolsey, warning them to stop the importation of the work at the English seaports. Tyndale and his assistant, William Roye, managed, however, to escape higher up the Rhine to Worms, and they succeeded in carrying with them some or all of the sheets which had been printed. Instead of completing Quentel’s work, Peter Schoeffer, the Worms printer, was employed to print another impression of 3000 in a small octavo size, without prefaces to the books or annotations in the margin, and only having an address “To the Reder” at the end in addition to the New Testament itself. Two impressions, the quarto having possibly been completed by Schoeffer, arrived in England early in the summer of 1526, and were eagerly welcomed and bought. Such strong measures of suppression were, however, at once adopted against these perilous volumes, that of the quarto only a single fragment remains (Matt, i.-xxii. 12), now preserved in the British Museum (Grenville, 12179), of the octavo only one perfect copy (the title-page missing) in the Baptist College at Bristol, and one imperfect in the library of St Paul’s cathedral.
But Tyndale continued his labours undaunted. In 1529 the manuscript translation of Deuteronomy is mentioned as having perished with his other books and papers in a shipwreck which he suffered on the coast of Holland, on his way to Hamburg. In 1530, however, the whole of the Pentateuch was printed in Marburg by Hans Luft; it is provided with prefaces and marginal annotations of a strongly controversial character. The only perfect copy is preserved in the Grenville library of the British Museum. It was reissued in 1534 with a new preface and certain corrections and emendations in Genesis, and again in London in 1551.
In 1531 the Book of Jonah appeared with an important and highly interesting prologue, the only copy known of which is in the British Museum.
Meanwhile the demand for New Testaments, for reading or for the flames, steadily increased, and the printers found it to their advantage to issue the Worms edition of the New Testament in not less than three surreptitious reprints before 1534. This is testified by George Joye in his Apology, who himself brought out a fourth edition of Tyndale’s New Testament in August 1534, freed from many of the errors which, through the carelessness of the Flemish printers, had crept into the text, but with such alterations and new renderings as to arouse the indignation of Tyndale. The only remaining copy, a 16mo, is in the Grenville library. To counteract and supersede all these unauthorized editions, Tyndale himself brought out his own revision of the New Testament with translations added of all the Epistles of the Old Testament after the use of Salisbury. It was published in November 1534 at Antwerp by Martin Emperowr. Prologues were added to all books except the Acts and the Apocalypse, and new marginal glosses were introduced. Three copies of this edition are in the British Museum, and it was reprinted in 1841 in Bagster’s Hexapla. In the following year Tyndale once more set forth a revised edition, “fynesshed in the yere of oure Lorde God A.M.D. and XXXV.,” and printed at Antwerp by Godfried van der Haghen. In this headings were added to the chapters in the Gospels and the Acts, and the marginal notes of the edition of 1534 were omitted. It is chiefly noted for the peculiarities of its orthography. Of this edition one copy is in the University library, Cambridge, a second in Exeter College, Oxford, and a fragment in the British Museum. It is supposed to have been revised by Tyndale while in prison in the castle of Vilvorde, being the last of his labours in connexion with the English Bible. His execution took place on the 6th of October 1536, and about the same time a small folio reprint of his revised edition of 1534 was brought out in England, the first volume of Scripture printed in this country, probably by T. Berthelet. A perfect copy is found in the Bodleian library. In later years, between 1536 and 1550, numerous editions of Tyndale’s New Testament were printed, twenty-one of which have been enumerated and fully described by Francis Fry.
“The history of our English Bible begins with the work of Tyndale and not with that of Wycliffe,” says Dr Westcott in his History of the English Bible, p. 316, and it is true that one of the most striking features of the work of Tyndale is its independence. Attempts have been made to show that especially in the Old Testament he based a great deal of his work on the Wycliffite translations, but in face of this we have his own explicit statement, “I had no man to counterfet, nether was holpe with englysshe of eny that had interpreted the same (i.e. the New Testament), or soche lyke thīge ī the scripture beforetyme.”
He translated straight from the Hebrew and Greek originals, although the Vulgate and more especially Erasmus’s Latin version were on occasion consulted. For his prefaces and marginal notes he used Luther’s Bible freely, even to paraphrasing or verbally translating long passages from it.
Apart from certain blemishes and awkward and even incorrect renderings, Tyndale’s translation may be described as a truly noble work, faithful and scholarly, though couched in simple and popular language. Surely no higher praise can be accorded to it than that it should have been taken as a basis by the translators of the Authorized Version, and thus have lived on through the centuries up to the present day.
The following specimens may prove of interest:—
The thryde Chapter.
Meanwhile a complete English Bible was being prepared by Miles Coverdale (q.v.), an Augustinian friar who was afterwards for a few years (1551-1553) bishop of Exeter. As the printing was finished on the 4th of October 1535 it Miles Coverdale. is evident that Coverdale must have been engaged on the preparation of the work for the press at almost as early a date as Tyndale. Foxe states (op. cit. v. 120) that Coverdale was with Tyndale at Hamburg in 1529, and it is probable that most of his time before 1535 was spent abroad, and that his translation, like that of Tyndale, was done out of England.
In 1877 Henry Stevens, in his catalogue of the Caxton Exhibition, pointed out a statement by a certain Simeon Ruytinck in his life of Emanuel van Meteren, appended to the latter’s Nederlandische Historie (1614), that Jacob van Meteren, the father of Emanuel, had manifested great zeal in producing at Antwerp a translation of the Bible into English, and had employed for that purpose a certain learned scholar named Miles Conerdale (sic). In 1884 further evidence was adduced by W. J. C. Moens, who reprinted an affidavit signed by Emanuel van Meteren, 28 May 1609, to the effect that “he was brought to England anno 1550 ... by his father, a furtherer of reformed religion, and he that caused the first Bible at his costes to be Englisshed by Mr Myles Coverdal in Andwarp, the w’h his father, with Mr Edward Whytchurch, printed both in Paris and London” (Registers of the Dutch Reformed Church, Austin Friars, 1884, p. xiv.). Apart from the reference to Whytchurch and the place of printing, this statement agrees with that of Simeon Ruytinck, and it is possible that van Meteren showed his zeal in the matter by undertaking the cost of printing the work as well as that of remunerating the translator. Mr W. Aldis Wright, however, judging from the facts that the name of Whytchurch was introduced, that the places of printing were given as London and Paris, not Antwerp, and lastly that Emanuel van Meteren being born in 1535 could only have derived his knowledge from hearsay, is inclined to think that the Bible in which J. van Meteren was interested “was Matthew’s of 1537 or the Great Bible of 1539, and not Coverdale’s of 1535.”
It is highly probable that the printer of Coverdale’s Bible was Christopher Froschouer of Zürich, who printed the edition of 1550, and that the sheets were sent for binding and distribution to James Nicolson, the Southwark printer. This first of all printed English Bibles is a small folio in German black letter, bearing the title: “Biblia, The Bible; that is, the Holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament, faithfully and truly translated out of Douche (German) and Latyn into Englishe, M.D.XXXV.” The volume is provided with woodcuts and initials, the title-page and preliminary matter in the only two remaining copies (British Museum and Holkam Hall) being in the same type as the body of the book. A second issue of the same date, 1535, has the title-page and the preliminary matter in English type, and omits the words “out of Douche and Latyn”; a third issue bears the date 1536. A second edition in folio, “newly oversene and corrected,” was printed by Nicolson, with English type, in 1537; and also in the same year, a third edition in quarto. On the title-page of the latter were added the significant words, “set forth with the Kynge’s moost gracious licence.”
Coverdale, however, was no independent translator. Indeed, he disavows any such claim by stating expressly, in his dedication to the king, “I have with a cleare conscience purely & faythfully translated this out of fyue sundry interpreters, hauyng onely the manyfest trueth of the scripture before myne eyes,” and in the Prologue he refers to his indebtedness to “The Douche (German) interpreters: whom (because of theyr synguler gyftes and speciall diligence in The Bible) I haue ben the more glad to folowe for the most parte, accordynge as I was requyred.” These “fyue interpreters” Dr Westcott (ibid. p. 163) identifies as Luther, the Zürich Bible, the Latin version of Pagninus, the Vulgate, and, in all likelihood, the English translation of Tyndale.
Though not endowed with the strength and originality of mind that characterized Tyndale’s work, Coverdale showed great discrimination in the handling and use of his authorities, and moreover a certain delicacy and happy ease in his rendering of the Biblical text, to which we owe not a few of the beautiful expressions of our present Bible.
The following extracts from the edition of 1535 may serve as examples of his rendering:—
The first psalme.
The gospell of S. Mathew.
It should be added that Coverdale’s Bible was the first in which the non-canonical books were left out of the body of the Old Testament and placed by themselves at the end of it under the title Apocripha.
The large sale of the New Testaments of Tyndale, and the success of Coverdale’s Bible, showed the London booksellers that a new and profitable branch of business was opened out to them, and they soon began to avail Matthew’s Bible. themselves of its advantages. Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch were the first in the field, bringing out a fine and full-sized folio in 1537, “truely and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew.” Thomas Matthew, is, however, in all probability, an alias for John Rogers, a friend and fellow-worker of Tyndale, and the volume is in reality no new translation at all, but a compilation from the renderings of Tyndale and Coverdale. Thus the Pentateuch and the New Testament were reprinted from Tyndale’s translations of 1530 and 1535 respectively, with very slight variations; the books from Joshua to the end of Chronicles are traditionally, and lately also by external evidence, assigned to Tyndale and were probably left by him in the hands of Rogers. From Ezra to Malachi the translation is taken from Coverdale, as is also that of the Apocryphal books. John Roger’s own work appears in a marginal commentary distributed through the Old and New Testaments and chiefly taken from Olivetan’s French Bible of 1535. The volume was printed in black letter in double columns, and three copies are preserved in the British Museum. In 1538 a second edition in folio appeared; it was reprinted twice in 1549, and again in 1551. It is significant that this Bible, like Coverdale’s second edition, was “set forth with the kinges most gracyous lycence,” probably with the concurrence of Cranmer, since he, in a letter to Cromwell, begged him to “exhibit the book unto the king’s highness, and to obtain of his grace ... a licence that the same may be sold and read of every person, without danger of any act, proclamation or ordinance, heretofore granted to the contrary.” And thus it came to pass, as Dr Westcott strikingly puts it, that “by Cranmer’s petition, by Crumwell’s influence, and by Henry’s authority, without any formal ecclesiastical decision, the book was given to the English people, which is the foundation of the text of our present Bible. From Matthew’s Bible—itself a combination of the labours of Tyndale and Coverdale—all later revisions have been successively formed” (op. cit. p. 71).
Meanwhile the successful sale of Matthew’s Bible, the private venture of the two printers Grafton and Whitchurch, was threatened by a rival edition published in 1539 in folio and quarto by “John Byddell for Thomas Barthlet” Taverner. with Richard Taverner as editor. This was, in fact, what would now be called “piracy,” being Grafton’s Matthew Bible revised by Taverner, a learned member of the Inner Temple and famous Greek scholar. He made many alterations in the Matthew Bible, characterized by critical acumen and a happy choice of strong and idiomatic expressions. He is, perhaps, the first purist among the Biblical translators, endeavouring, whenever possible, to substitute a word of native origin for the foreign expression of his predecessors. His revision seems, however, to have had little or no influence on subsequent translators, and was only once, in 1549, reprinted in its entirety. Quarto and octavo editions of the New Testament alone were published in the same year, 1539, as the original edition, and in the following year, 1540, the New Testament in duodecimo. The Old Testament was reprinted as part of a Bible in 1551, but no other editions are known than those named.
It will have been observed that the translations of Holy Scripture which had been printed during these years (1525-1539) were all made by private men and printed without any public authority. Some of them had indeed been set The Great Bible, 1539. forth by the king’s licence, but the object of this is shown by the above-quoted letter of Archbishop Cranmer to Cromwell, touching Matthew’s Bible. It is “that the same may be sold and read of every person ... until such time that we, the bishops, shall set forth a better translation, which I think will not be till a day after doomsday.” This letter was written on the 4th of August 1537, and the impatient words at the end refer to an authorized version which had been projected several years before, and which was, in fact, at that very time in preparation, though not proceeding quickly enough to satisfy Cranmer. In the year 1530, Henry VIII. had issued a commission of inquiry respecting the expediency and necessity of having “in the English tongue both the New Testament and the Old” (Wilkins’ Concilia, iii. 737). This commission reported against the expediency of setting forth a vernacular translation until there was a more settled state of religious opinion, but states that the king “intended to provide that the Holy Scripture shall be, by great, learned and Catholic persons, translated into the English tongue if it shall then seem to His Grace convenient to be” (ib. 740). The Convocation of Canterbury refreshed the royal memory on the subject by petitioning the king on the 19th of December 1534 “that His Majesty would vouchsafe to decree, that the Scriptures should be translated into the vulgar tongue ... and ... delivered to the people according to their learning” (ibid. 770). The subject was again before Convocation in 1536, but the detailed history is lost to us—all that is known being that Cromwell had placed Coverdale at the head of the enterprise, and that the result was an entirely new revision, based on Matthew’s Bible. Coverdale consulted in his revision the Latin version of the Old Testament with the Hebrew text by Sebastian Münster, the Vulgate and Erasmus’s editions of the Greek text for the New Testament.
Concerning the printing of this authorized Bible more details are known. Cromwell had planned the work on a large scale, too large evidently for the resources of the English presses, for it was determined that the printing should be entrusted to Francis Regnault, a famous Paris printer. At the request of Henry VIII., a licence was granted to Regnault for this purpose by Francis I., while Coverdale and Grafton were sent over in 1538 to superintend the work as it passed through the press. The work was pressed forward with all speed, for, as Coverdale writes to Cromwell, they were “dayly threatened” and ever feared “to be spoken withall.” Indeed, when the printing was far advanced, on the 17th of December 1538, its further progress was interdicted by the Inquisitor-general for France, and orders were given to seize the whole of the impression. Coverdale and Grafton left Paris quickly, but soon returned, rescued a great number of the finished sheets, “four great dry-vats” full of them having been sold to a haberdasher instead of being burnt—and conveyed types, printing-presses and workmen to England. Thus the volume which had been begun in Paris in 1538 was completed in London, the colophon stating that it was “Fynisshed in Apryll, Anno M.CCCCC.XXXIX.” It is a splendid folio Bible of the largest volume, and was distinguished from its predecessors by the name of The Great Bible. The title-page represents Henry VIII. giving the “Word of God” to Cromwell and Cranmer, who, in their order, distribute it to laymen and clerics, and describes the volume as “truly translated after the veryte of the Hebreue and Greke texts by þe dylygent studye of dyverse excellent learned men, expert in the forsayde tongues. Prynted by Rychard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch.” “Certain godly annotations,” which Coverdale promised in the Prologue, did not, however, appear in the first issue, nor in any of the following. This was the first of seven editions of this noble Bible which issued from the press during the years 1539-1541,—the second of them, that of 1540, called Cranmer’s Bible from the fact that it contained a long Preface by Archbishop Cranmer, having the important addition “This is the Byble apoynted to the vse of the churches” on the title-page. Seventy years afterwards it assumed the form ever since known as the Authorized Version, but its Psalter is still embedded, without any alteration, in the Book of Common Prayer.
For the sake of comparison the following extracts from St Matthew are given, according to the edition of 1539.
Meanwhile the closing years of Henry VIII.’s reign were characterized by restrictive measures as to the reading and use of the Bible. Tyndale Version was prohibited by an act of parliament, 1543; at the same time it was enacted that all notes and marginal commentaries in other copies should be obliterated, and that “no woman (unless she be a noble or gentle woman), no artificers, apprentices, journeymen, servingmen, under the degree of yeomen ... husbandmen or labourers” should read or use any part of the Bible under pain of fines and imprisonment.
In 1546 Coverdale’s Bible was included in the proscription, the Great Bible being the only translation not interdicted. During Edward VI.’s reign there was a brief respite, but with the accession of Mary the persecutions of the William Whittingham. English Bible and its friends were renewed. Cranmer suffered martyrdom at the stake, as John Rogers had done before him. Other prominent reformers, amongst them Coverdale, sought refuge in Geneva, the town of Calvin and Beza, where they employed their enforced leisure in planning and carrying out a new revision of the Bible. The first fruits of these labours was a New Testament issued in June 1557, with an introduction by Calvin, probably the work of William Whittingham. The volume, in a convenient quarto size, printed in clear Roman type, and provided with marginal annotations, gained immediate popularity in England, where a Bible suited for household demands had long been needed. It was the first Bible which had the text divided into “verses and sections according to the best editions in other languages.”
Whittingham’s enterprise was, however, soon superseded by an issue of the whole Bible, which appeared in 1560, the so-called Genevan Bible, popularly also known as the Breeches Bible, from its rendering of Gen. iii. 7, “They sewed The Genevan Bible. fig leaves together and made themselves breeches.” This edition was mainly due to the combined efforts of William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby and Thomas Sampson, and the expenses towards printing and publication were borne by members of the congregation at Geneva. It represented in the Old Testament a thorough and independent revision of the text of the Great Bible with the help of the Hebrew original, the Latin versions of Leo Judä (1543), Pagninus (1528), Sebastian Münster (1534-1535), and the French versions of Olivetan. The New Testament consisted of Tyndale’s latest text revised to a great extent in accordance with Beza’s translation and commentary. The changes introduced by the Genevan translators were, as a rule, a great improvement, and the version received a ready welcome and immediate popularity, not only on account of its intrinsic merits, but because of its handy size, usually that of a small quarto, and of its being printed, like Whittingham’s New Testament, in a readable Roman type instead of black letter. Like this earlier publication, it had the division of the chapters into verses, and a marginal commentary which proved a great attraction to the Puritans. The popularity of the Genevan Bible was so great that between 1560 and 1644 at least 140 editions of it were published, and this in spite of its not being allowed for use in the churches.
In 1576 the New Testament of the Genevan Bible was again revised by Lawrence Tomson and provided with a new commentary mainly translated from Beza. It soon became popular and even replaced the Genevan New Testament in later editions of this Bible.
Some time after the accession of Queen Elizabeth an attempt was made to improve the authorized Great Bible, and in this way to challenge the ever growing popularity of the Calvinistic Genevan Bible. The initiative was taken The Bishops’ Bible. by Archbishop Parker, about 1563-1565, who, according to Strype (Parker i. 414) “took upon him the labour to contrive and set the whole work a going ... by sorting out the whole Bible into parcels ... and distributing these parcels to able bishops and other learned men, to peruse and collate each the book or books allotted them ... and they to add some short marginal notes for the illustration or correction of the text.”
The work was pushed forward with energy, and on the 5th of October 1568 the volume was ready for publication. It was a magnificent folio, generally known as the Bishops’ Bible, since not less than eight of these dignitaries took part in the revision. But the detached and piecemeal way in which the revision had been carried out naturally caused certain inequalities in the execution of the work. The different parts of the Bible vary considerably in merit, the alterations in the New Testament, for instance, showing freshness and vigour, whereas most of the changes introduced in the Old Testament have been condemned as “arbitrary and at variance with the exact sense of the Hebrew text” (Westcott, op. cit. p. 237). Several editions of the Bishops’ Bible were afterwards published, but it is doubtful whether the ecclesiastical authorities in spite of repeated enactments (Cardwell, Synodalia, pp. 115, 123, 210, 292) ever succeeded in entirely enforcing its public use in the churches. After 1569 the Great Bible ceased, however, to be reprinted. But in the homes the Genevan version still maintained its supremacy. One thing is certain, that the book of Psalms of the new revision had fairly soon to give way before the well-known and smooth rendering of the Great Bible. In the second edition of the Bishops’ Bible, 1572, the two texts were actually printed side by side; in all later editions except one (1585) the older Psalter alone remained.
From the time of Tyndale onwards the translation of the Scriptures into English had been more or less an outcome of the great reformatory movements within the church. It was not until Queen Elizabeth’s reign that members The Reims and Douai Version. of the Romanist party found it expedient to translate the Bible into the vernacular “for the more speedy abolishing of a number of false and impious translations put forth by sundry sectes, and for the better preseruation or reclaime of many good soules endangered thereby” (Preface to the Rhemish Version).
According to the title-page the New Testament was “translated faithfvlly into English ovt of the authentical Latin, according to the best corrected copies of the same, diligently conferred vvith the Greeke and other editions in diuers languages.... In the English College of Rhemes, 1582.” The Old Testament had been “long since” completed, but “for lacke of good meanes” (Preface to the New Testament), its appearance was delayed till 1609-1610, when it was published at Douai. The complete work, known as the Rhemes and Douay Version, was reprinted in Rouen in 1635, and after a considerable time revised by Dr Challoner (1749-1750). The translation is really anonymous, but there seems to be little doubt that it was carried out by some of the Romanist refugees connected with the Seminary at Douai and the English college at Reims, the chief amongst them being Gregory Martin, William Allen, Richard Bristow and J. Reynolds. Like the Wycliffite Versions it is merely a secondary rendering from the Latin Vulgate, and it suffered from many of the defects which characterized these versions, extreme literalness, often stilted, ambiguous renderings, at times unintelligible except by a reference to the Latin original, as in Luke xxii. 18, “I will not drink of the generation of the vine,” or Phil. ii. 7, “But he exinanited himself.” As further examples of this rendering we print the same passages from St Matthew:—
The strongly Latinized vocabulary of this version was not without its influence on the next great venture in English translations of the Bible, the Authorized Version.
The English Bible, which is now recognized as the Authorized Version wherever the English language is spoken, is a revision of the Bishops’ Bible, begun in 1604, and published in 1611. It arose incidentally out of a Conference The Authorized Version, 1611. between the High Church and the Low Church parties convened by James I. at Hampton Court Palace in January 1604, for the purpose of determining “things pretended to be amiss in the church,” and was originally proposed by Dr Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the leader and spokesman of the Low Church party, and subsequently on the committee which revised the translation of the Prophets.
No real opposition was offered to the proposal, and the king cleverly sketched out on the moment a plan to be adopted. He “wished that some special pains should be taken in that behalf for one uniform translation—professing that he could never yet see a Bible well translated in English—and this to be done by the best learned in both the Universities; after them to be reviewed by the bishops and the chief learned of the Church; from them to be presented to the privy council; and lastly to be ratified by his royal authority; and so this whole church to be bound unto it and none other.” He also particularly desired that no notes should be added by way of comment in the margin, since some of those in the Genevan Bible appeared to him “very partial, untrue, seditious and savouring too much of dangerous and traiterous conceits.”
The appointment of the revisers was a work of much responsibility and labour, and five months elapsed before they were selected and their respective portions assigned to them; but the list of those who began the work, and who, with some few changes in consequence of deaths, brought it to a happy conclusion, shows how large an amount of scholarship was enlisted. It includes Dr Andrewes, afterwards bishop of Winchester, who was familiar with Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Greek, Latin and at least ten other languages, while his knowledge of patristic literature was unrivalled; Dr Overall, regius professor of theology and afterwards bishop of Norwich; Bedwell, the greatest Arabic scholar of Europe; Sir Henry Savile, the most learned layman of his time; and, to say nothing of others well known to later generations, nine who were then or afterwards professors of Hebrew or of Greek at Oxford or Cambridge. It is observable also that they were chosen without reference to party, at least as many of the Puritan clergy as of the opposite party being placed on the committees.
| Dr Lancelot Andrewes, dean of Westminster.
Dr John Overall, dean of St Paul’s.
Dr Hadrian de Saravia, canon of Canterbury.
Dr Richard Clark, fellow of Christ’s Coll., Camb.
Dr John Layfield, fellow of Trin. Coll., Camb.
Dr Robert Teigh, archdeacon of Middlesex.
Mr Francis Burleigh, Pemb. Hall, Camb., D.D., 1607.
Mr Geoffrey King, fellow of King’s Coll., Camb.
Mr Thompson, Clare Hall, Camb.
Mr William Bedwell, St John’s Coll., Camb.
| Mr Edward Lively, fellow of Trin. Coll.
Mr John Richardson, afterwards master of Trin. Coll.
Mr Laurence Chatterton, master of Emm. Coll.
Mr Francis Dillingham, fellow of Christ’s Coll.
Mr Thomas Harrison, vice-master of Trin. Coll.
Mr Roger Andrewes, afterwards master of Jesus Coll.
Mr Robert Spalding, fellow of St John’s.
Mr Andrew Byng, fellow of St Peter’s Coll.
| Dr John Harding, pres. of Magd. Coll.
Dr John Reynolds, pres. of Corpus Christi Coll.
Dr Thomas Holland, afterwards rector of Ex. Coll.
Mr Richard Kilbye, rector of Lincoln Coll.
Dr Miles Smith, Brasenose Coll.
Dr Richard Brett, fellow of Lincoln Coll.
Mr Richard Fairclough, fellow of New Coll.
| Dr John Duport, master of Jesus Coll.
Dr William Branthwait, master of Caius Coll.
Dr Jeremiah Radcliffe, fellow of Trin. Coll.
Dr Samuel Ward, afterwards master of Sid. Coll.
Mr Andrew Downes, fellow of St John’s Coll.
Mr John Bois, fellow of St John’s Coll.
Mr Robert Ward, fellow of King’s Coll.
| Dr Thomas Ravis, dean of Christ Church.
Dr George Abbot, dean of Winchester.
Dr Richard Eedes, dean of Worcester.
Dr Giles Thompson, dean of Windsor.
Mr (Sir Henry) Saville, provost of Eton.
Dr John Perin, fellow of St John’s Coll.
Dr Ravens [fellow of St John’s Coll.]
Dr John Harmer, fellow of New Coll.
| Dr William Barlow, dean of Chester.
Dr William Hutchinson, archdeacon of St Albans.
Dr John Spencer, pres. of Corp. Chr. Coll., Ox.
Dr Roger Fenton, fellow of Pemb. Hall, Camb.
Mr Michael Rabbett, Trin. Coll., Camb.
Mr Thomas Sanderson, Balliol Coll., Oxford, D.D., 1605.
Mr William Dakins, fellow of Trin. Coll., Camb.
When this large body of scholars were set down to their task, an elaborate set of rules was drawn up for their guidance, which contained a scheme of revision as well as general directions for the execution of their work. This is one of the very few records that remain of their undertaking.
It is not possible to determine in how far all these rules were adhered to. All we know of the way this noble work was carried out is contained in the Preface, where Dr Miles Smith, in 1612 bishop of Gloucester, in the name of his fellow-workers gives an account of the manner and spirit in which it was done:—
From the above it appears that the actual work of revision occupied about two years and nine months, an additional nine months being required for the final preparation for press. The edition appeared at length in 1611, the full title being as follows: The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues, & with the former Translations diligently compared and reuised, by his Maiesties speciall comandement. Appointed to be read in Churches. Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie. Anno Dom. 1611. Since that time many millions of this revised translation have been printed, and the general acceptance of it by all English-speaking people of whatever denomination is a testimony to its excellence.
Still the work of improving and correcting went on through the centuries, and a modern copy of the Authorized Version shows no inconsiderable departures from the standard edition of 1611. Dr Scrivener imputes some of those differences “to oversight and negligence ... but much the greater part of them” he holds to be “deliberate changes, introduced silently and without authority by men whose very names are often unknown.” (A. C. P.)
More ambitious attempts at amending the new version were not lacking, but they all proved fruitless, until in February 1870 the Convocation of Canterbury appointed a committee to consider the subject of revision. The report of The Revised Version. this committee, presented in May, was adopted, to the effect “that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong”; and shortly afterwards two companies were formed for the revision of the Authorized Version of the Old and New Testaments.
These companies consisted of the following:—1. For the Old Testament:—(α) Appointed by Convocation.—Connop Thirlwall, bishop of St David’s (d. 1875); Alfred Ollivant (1798–1882), bishop of Llandaff; E. Harold Browne (1811–1891), bishop of Ely; Christopher Wordsworth, bishop of Lincoln; and Lord Arthur Hervey (1808–1894), bishop of Bath and Wells; Archdeacon H. J. Rose (d. 1873); William Selwyn (1806–1875), canon of Ely and Lady Margaret professor at Cambridge; Dr John Jebb (1805–1886), canon of Hereford; and Dr William Kay (1820–1886). (β) Invited.—Dr William Lindsay Alexander (1808–1884), congregational minister; Thomas Chenery (1826–1884), professor of Arabic at Oxford, and afterwards (1877) editor of The Times; Frederick Charles Cook (1810–1889), canon of Exeter; Professor A. B. Davidson; Dr Benjamin Davies (1814–1875), professor of oriental and classical languages at Stepney Baptist College; the Rev. A. M. Fairbairn, congregationalist; the Rev. Frederick Field (1801–1885), fellow of Trinity, Cambridge; Dr C. D. Ginsburg; the Rev. Dr Gotch of Bristol; Archdeacon Benjamin Harrison (1808–1887), Hebraist; the Rev. Stanley Leathes (1830–1900), professor of Hebrew at King’s College, London; Professor M’Gill; Canon Robert Payne Smith (1819–1895), regius professor of divinity at Oxford, dean of Canterbury (1870); Professor J. J. S. Perowne, afterwards bishop of Worcester; the Rev. Edward Hayes Plumtre (1821–1891), professor of exegesis at King’s College, London, afterwards dean of Wells; Canon E. Bouverie Pusey; William Wright (1830–1889), the orientalist; W. Aldis Wright, Cambridge. Of these Canons Cook and Pusey declined to serve, and ten members died during the progress of the work. The secretary of the company was Mr W. Aldis Wright, fellow of Trinity, Cambridge.
2. For the New Testament:—(α) Appointed by Convocation.—Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Winchester; Charles J. Ellicott, bishop of Gloucester and Bristol; and George Moberly, bishop of Salisbury; Dr Edward Bickersteth (1814–1892), prolocutor of the lower house of convocation; Henry Alford, dean of Canterbury, and Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, dean of Westminster; Joseph Williams Blakesley (1808–1885), canon of Canterbury, and (1872) dean of Lincoln. (β) Invited.—The Rev. Dr Joseph Angus, president of the Stepney Baptist College; Dr David Brown; Richard Chenevix Trench, archbishop of Dublin; the Rev. Dr John Eadie (1810–1876), Presbyterian; the Rev. F. J. A. Hort; the Rev. W. G. Humphry (1815–1886), vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London; the Rev. Benjamin Hall Kennedy, canon of Ely; William Lee (1815–1883), archdeacon of Dublin, and professor of ecclesiastical history in the university; J. B. Lightfoot, afterwards bishop of Durham; Professor William Milligan; the Rev. William Fieldian Moulton (1835–1898), Wesleyan biblical scholar; Dr J. H. Newman; the Rev. Samuel Newth (1821–1898), congregationalist, professor of ecclesiastical history at, and afterwards president of, New College, London; Dr A. Roberts; the Rev. G. Vance Smith; Dr Robert Scott; the Rev. F. H. A. Scrivener (1813–1891), rector of St Gerrans, Cornwall; Charles Wordsworth, bishop of St Andrews; Dr W. H. Thompson; Dr S. P. Tregelles; Dr C. J. Vaughan; Canon Westcott. Of these, Dr Thompson and Dr Newman declined to serve. Dean Alford, Dr Tregelles, Bishop Wilberforce and Dr Eadie were removed by death. Only the first vacancy was filled up. Dean Merivale was co-opted, and on his resignation Professor, afterwards Archdeacon, Edwin Palmer. The Rev. J. Troutbeck, minor canon of Westminster, acted as secretary.
Negotiations were opened with the leading scholars of the Protestant denominations in America, with the result that similar companies were formed in the United States. The work of the English revisers was regularly submitted to their consideration; their comments were carefully considered and largely adopted, and their divergences from the version ultimately agreed upon were printed in an appendix to the published work. Thus the Revised Version was the achievement of English-speaking Christendom as a whole; only the Roman Catholic Church, of the great English-speaking denominations, refused to take part in the undertaking. The Church of England, which had put forth the version of 1611, fitly initiated the work, but for its performance most wisely invited the help of the sister churches. The delegates of the Clarendon Press in Oxford, and the syndics of the Pitt Press in Cambridge, entered into a liberal arrangement with the revisers, by which the necessary funds were provided for all their expenses. On the completion of its work the New Testament company divided itself into three committees, working at London, Westminster and Cambridge, for the purpose of revising the Apocrypha.
The work of the Old Testament company was different in some important respects from that which engaged the attention of the New Testament company. The received Hebrew text has undergone but little emendation, and the revisers had before them substantially the same Massoretic text which was in the hands of the translators of 1611. It was felt that there was no sufficient justification to make any attempt at an entire reconstruction of the text on the authority of the versions. The Old Testament revisers were therefore spared much of the labour of deciding between different readings, which formed one of the most important duties of the New Testament company. But the advance in the study of Hebrew since the early part of the 17th century enabled them to give a more faithful translation of the received text. The value of their work is evident, especially in Job, Ecclesiastes and the prophetical books.
It is the work of the New Testament committee which has attracted most attention, whether for blame or praise. The critical resources at the disposal of scholars in 1611 were very meagre, and the few early manuscripts with which they were acquainted failed to receive the attention they deserved. The results of modern critical methods could not fail to make the incompleteness of the “Received Text,” and of the “Authorized Version,” which was based on it, obvious. It had long been the opinion of all competent scholars that a thorough revision was necessary. A proposal in favour of this course was made in Convocation in 1856, but it was not until fourteen years later that the committee was appointed to undertake the work. The revisers’ first task was to reconstruct the Greek text, as the necessary foundation of their work. In this difficult duty they were no doubt influenced by Westcott and Hort’s edition of the New Testament. These two scholars were members of the committee which prepared the Revised Version, and on the question of various readings they appear to have exercised a predominating influence. The revisers were privately supplied with instalments of Westcott and Hort’s text as their work required them. But it is scarcely necessary to say that the Revised Version is not the work of one or two scholars. Different schools of criticism were represented on the committee, and the most careful discussion took place before any decision was formed. Every precaution was taken to ensure that the version should represent the result of the best scholarship of the time, applied to the work before it with constant devotion and with the highest sense of responsibility. The changes in the Greek text of the Authorized Version when compared with the textus receptus are numerous, but the contrast between the English versions of 1611 and 1881 is all the more striking because of the difference in the method of translation which was adopted. The revisers aimed at the most scrupulous faithfulness. They adopted the plan—deliberately rejected by the translators of 1611—of always using the same English word for the same Greek word. “They endeavoured to enable the English reader to follow the correspondences of the original with the closest exactness, to catch the solemn repetition of words and phrases, to mark the subtleties of expression, to feel even the strangeness of unusual forms of speech.”
The revision of the New Testament was completed in 407 meetings, distributed over more than ten years. It was formally presented to Convocation on May 17, 1881. The revision of the Old Testament occupied 792 days, and was finished on June 20, 1884. The revised Apocrypha did not make its appearance until 1895.
The text of the Revised Version is printed in paragraphs, the old division of books into chapters and verses being retained for convenience of reference. By this arrangement the capricious divisions of some books is avoided. Various editions of the New Version have been published, the most complete being the edition of the whole Bible with marginal references. These references had their origin in the work of two small subcommittees of the revisers, but they received their present form at the hands of a specially appointed committee. The marginal references given in the original edition of the Authorized Version of 1611 have been retained as far as possible.
The work of the revisers was received without enthusiasm. It was too thorough for the majority of religious people. Partisans found that havoc had been played with their proof texts. Ecclesiastical conservatives were scandalized by the freedom with which the traditional text was treated. The advocates of change were discontented with the hesitating acceptance which their principles had obtained. The most vulnerable side of the revision was that on which the mass of English readers thought itself capable of forming a judgment. The general effect of so many small alterations was to spoil the familiar sonorous style of the Authorized Version. The changes were freely denounced as equally petty and vexatious; they were, moreover, too often inconsistent with the avowed principles of the revisers. The method of determining readings and renderings by vote was not favourable to the consistency and literary character of the Version. A whole literature of criticism and apology made its appearance, and the achievement of so many years of patient labour seemed destined to perish in a storm of resentments. On the whole, the Revised Version weathered the storm more successfully than might have been expected. Its considerable excellences were better realized by students than stated by apologists. The hue and cry of the critics largely died away, and was replaced by a calmer and juster appreciation.
The work of the revisers has been sharply criticized from the standpoint of specialists in New Testament Greek. Dr Rutherford stated the case briefly and pointedly in the preface to his translation of the Epistle to the Romans (London, 1900). He maintains that “the Greek of the New Testament may never be understood as classical Greek is understood,” and accuses the revisers of distorting the meaning “by translating in accordance with Attic idiom phrases that convey in later Greek a wholly different sense, the sense which the earlier translators in happy ignorance had recognized that the context demanded.”
The use of the new Version has become general. Familiarity has mitigated the harshness of the revisers’ renderings; scholarship, on the whole, has confirmed their readings. The Version has been publicly read in parish churches both in London and in the country. In Canterbury cathedral and Westminster Abbey it has definitely displaced the older Version. Bishops have acquiesced and congregations approved. It is no longer possible to maintain the plausible and damaging contention that the Revised Bible is ill suited for public use. The Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury in May 1898 appointed a committee to consider the expediency of “permitting or encouraging” the use of the Revised Version in the public services of the Church. (H. H. H.*)
- See A. S. Cook, Biblical Quotations in Old English Prose Writers, with an introduction on Old English Biblical Versions (London, 1898–1903), vol. i. pp. xxvi. ff.; H. Sweet, The Vespasian Psalter in “Oldest English Texts” (E.E.T.S., No. 83, London, 1885); F. Harsley, Eadwine’s Canterbury Psalter (E.E.T.S., No. 92, London, 1892); John Spelman, Psalterium Davidis Latino-Saxonicum Vetus (London, 1640); Fr. Roeder, Der altengl. Regius Psalter (Reg. II. B. 5, Halle, 1904).
- Benjamin Thorpe, Libri Psalmorum versio Antiqua Latina cum paraphrasi Anglo-Saxonica (Oxford, 1835); cf. J. D. Bruce, The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Book of Psalms ... known as the Paris Psalter (Baltimore, 1894).
- K. W. Bouterwek, Die vier Evangelien in alt-nordh. Sprache (Gütersloh, 1857), id. Screadunga (Elberfeld, 1858, prefaces to the Gospels); J. Stevenson and E. Waring, The Lindisfarne and Rushworth Gospels (Surtees Soc., 1854–1865); W. W. Skeat, The Holy Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian and Old Mercian Versions (Cambridge, 1871–1887).
- See Stevenson, Waring and Skeat, op. cit.
- W. W. Skeat, The Holy Gospels in Anglo-Saxon, &c. (Cambridge, 1871-1887); J. W. Bright, The Gospel of Saint Luke in Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1893); for earlier editions see Cook, op. cit, p. lx.
- C. W. M. Grein, Ælfrik de vetero et novo Testamento, &c.—Bibl. d. Angels. Prosa (Cassel and Göttingen, 1872), p. 6; E. Thwaites, Heptateuchus, Liber Job, et Evangelium Nicodemi; Anglo-Saxonice (Oxon., 1698).
- K. D. Bülbring, The Earliest Complete English Prose Psalter (E.E.T.S., No. 97), part i. (London, 1891); cf. A. C. Paues, A Fourteenth-Century Engl. Bibl. Version (Upsala Diss.) (Cambridge, 1902), p. lvi.
- H. R. Bramley, The Psalter and Certain Canticles... by Richard Rolle of Hampole (Oxford, 1884); cf. H. Middendorff, Studien über Richard Rolle von Hampole unter besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner Psalmen-Commentare (Magdeburg, 1888).
- A. C. Paues, A Fourteenth-Century English Biblical Version (Cambridge, 1904), pp. xxiv. ff.
- See Paues, op. cit. p. 210.
- For a different view as to the authorship of the Wycliffite versions, see F. A. Gasquet, The Old English Bible and Other Essays (London, 1897), pp. 102 ff.
- Sir F. Madden and Rev. J. Forshall, The Holy Bible... made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and His Followers (4 vols., Oxford, 1850), pp. xix., xxiv.
- Cf. A. C. Paues, The English Bible in the Fourteenth Century.
- See Foxe, Acts and Monuments, iv. 135 ff. (ed. Townsend, 1846).
- Wilkin’s Concilia, iii. 317.
- T. G. Law, The New Testament in Scots, being Purvey’s Revision of Wycliffe’s version turned into Scots by Murdoch Nisbet, c. 1520 (Scot. T. S., Edinburgh, 1901-1905).
- B. F. Westcott, History of the English Bible (3rd ed.), revised by W. Aldis Wright (London, 1905), p. 25.
- Pref. to Genesis, p. 396 (Parker Soc.).
- Photo lithographed by Edw. Arber (London, 1871).
- Reprinted by G. Offor (London, 1836); reproduced in facsimile by Francis Fry (Bristol, 1862).
- Reprinted with an introduction by J. T. Mombert (New York, 1884).
- Reproduced in facsimile by Francis Fry (1863).
- Cf. H. Bradshaw, Bibliographer (1882-1881), i. 3 ff. (reprinted 1886).
- See F. Jenkinson, Early English Printed Books in the Univ. Libr. Cambridge, iii. (1730).
- See Biographical Description of the Editions of the New Testament, Tyndale’s Version, in English (1878).
- Epistle to the Reader in the New Testament of 1526, reprinted by G. Offor; cf. Parker Soc. (1848), p. 390.
- Westcott, op. cit. p. 57 note.
- See Dr Ginsburg’s information to Mr Tedder, D.N.B. xii. 365.
- Cf. H. Stevens, Catalogue of the Caxton Exhibition (1877) p. 88.
- Remains, Parker Soc., pp. II f.
- Westcott, op. cit. p. 172 note.
- Cranmer’s Works, letter 194 (Parker Soc.).
- See examples in Westcott, op. cit. pp. 208 f.
- Burnet’s Ref., ed. Pococke, 1865.
- Westcott, op. cit. pp. 180 f.
- Remains (Parker Soc.), p. 493; cf. J. A. Kingdon, Incidents in the Lives of Thomas Poyntz and Richard Grafton (1895).
- Cf. Burnet’s Ref. i. 584.
- Printed in Bagster’s Hexapla, 1841, reprinted separately in 1842.
- See “Address to the Reader.” The division into verses of the New Testament was first found in R. Stephanus’ Greek-Latin New Testament (4th ed., 1551), whereas these divisions already existed in the Hebrew Old Testament.
- See T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, Historical Catal. of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Libr. of the Brit, and Foreign Bible Soc. (London, 1903).
- See J. G. Carleton, The Part of Rheims in the Making of the English Bible (Oxford, 1902).
- Barlow, Sum and Substance of the Conference ... in Cardwell’s History of Conferences, pp. 187 f.
- Compiled chiefly from the list found in Cardwell’s Synodalia (ed. 1844), ii. 145-146, a reprint from Burnet’s Doc. Annals, ii. 106 ff., “who himself took his list from a copy belonging originally to Bishop Ravis.” The list is correct for the year 1604; cf. Westcott, op. cit. pp. 112 f.
- Quoted from G. Burnet’s Hist. of Reformation, ii. p. 368 (1861).
- A reprint of this edition has been published by the Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1833).