Bible (Coverdale)/A prologe to the reader
Myles Couerdale Unto the Chriſten reader.
Onſiderynge how excellent knowlege and lernynge an interpreter of ſcripture oughte to haue in the tongues, and ponderyng alſo myne owne inſufficiency therin, & how weake I am to perfourme ye office of a tranſlatoure, I was the more lothe to medle with this worke Notwithſtondynge whan I cōſydered how greate pytie it was that we ſhulde wante it ſo longe, & called to my remembraunce ye aduerſite of them, which were not onely of rype knowlege, but wolde alſo with all theyr hertes haue perfourmed yt they beganne, yf they had not had impediment: conſiderynge(I ſaye) that by reaſon of theyr aduerſyte it coulde not ſo ſoone haue bene broughte to an ende, as oure moſt proſperous nacyon wolde fayne haue had it: theſe and other reaſonable cauſes conſydered, I was the more bolde to take it in hande. And to helpe me herin, I haue had ſondrye tranſlacions, not onely in latyn, but alſo of the Douche interpreters: whom(becauſe of theyr ſynguler gyftes & ſpeciall diligence in the Bible) I haue ben the more glad to folowe for the moſt parte, accordynge as I was required. But to ſaye the trueth before God, it was nether my laboure ner deſyre, to haue this worke put in my hande: neuertheles it greued me yt other nacyōs ſhulde be more plenteouſly prouyded for with ye ſcripture in theyr mother tongue, then we: therfore whan I was inſtantly requyred, though I coulde not do ſo well as I wolde, I thought it yet my dewtye to do my beſt, and that with a good wyll.
Where as ſome men thynke now yt many tranſlacyons make diuiſyon in ye fayth and in the people of God, yt is not ſo: for it was neuer better with the congregacion of god, then whan euery church allmoſt had ye Byble of a ſondrye trāſlacion. Amonge the Grekes had not Origen a ſpecyall tranſlacyon? Had not Vulgarius one peculyar, & lykewyſe Chryſoſtom? Beſyde the ſeuentye interpreters, is there not the tranſlacyon of Aqilla, of Theodotio, of Symachus, and of ſondrye other? Agayne, amonge the Latyn men, thou findeſt yt euery one allmoſt vſed a ſpecyall & ſondrye tranſlacyoon: for in ſo moch as euery byſſhoppe had the knowlege of ye tongues, he gaue his diligence to haue the Byble of his awne tranſlacion. The doctours, as Heireneus, Cyprtanus, Tertullian, S. Jherome, S.Auguſtine, Hylatius & S. Ambroſe vpon dyuerſe places of the ſcripture, reade not ye texte all alyke.
Therfore oughte it not to be taken as euel yt ſoch men as haue vnderſtondynge now in oure tyme, exercyſe them ſelues in ye tongues, & geue their diligence to tranſlate out of one language in to another. Yee we ought rather to geue god hye thankes therfore, which thorow his ſprete ſtereth vp mēs myndes, ſo to exerciſe them ſelues therin. Wolde god it had neuer bene left of after ye tyme of S. Auguſtine, then ſhulde we neuer haue come in to ſoch blindnes & ignoraūce, in to ſoch erroures & deluſyons. For as ſoone as the Byble was caſt aſyde, & nomore put in exercyſe, then beganne euery one of his awne heade to wryte what ſo euer came in to his brayne and yt ſemed to be good in his awne eyes and ſo grewe ye darknes of mēs tradiciōs And this ſame is ye cauſe yt we haue had ſo many wryters, which ſeldome made mēcyon of ye ſcripture of the Byble: & though they ſome tyme aleged it, yet was it done ſo farre out of ſeaſon & ſo wyde from ye purpoſe, that a mā maye well perceaue, how that they neuer ſawe the oryginall.
Seynge then yt this diligent exercyſe of tranſlatynge doth ſo moch good & edifyeth in other languages, why ſhulde it do euell in oures? Doutles lyke as all nacyons in ye dyuerſite of ſpeaches maye knowe one God in the vnyte of faith, and be one in loue: euen ſo maye dyuerſe tranſlacyons vnderſtonde one another, & that in the head articles & grounde of oure moſt bleſſed faith, though they vſe ſondrye wordes. Wherfore me thynke we haue greate occaſyon to geue thankes vnto God, that he hath opened vnto his church the gyfte of interpretacyon & of pryntyng, and that there are now at this tyme ſo many; which with ſoch diligēce and faithfulnes interprete ye ſcripture to the honoure of god and edifyenge of his people, where as(lyke as whan many are ſhutynge together) euery one doth his beſt to be nyeſt the marke. And though they can not all attayne therto, yet ſhuteth one nyer then another, and hytteth it better then another, yee one can do it better thē another, who is now then ſo vnreaſonable, ſo deſpytefull, or enuyous, as to abhore him yt doth all his diligence to hytte ye prycke, and to ſhute nyeſt it, though he myſſe & come not nyeſt the mark? Ought not ſoch one rather to be commēded, and to be helped forwarde, that he maye exercyſe himſelfe the more therin?
For the which cauſe(acordyng as I was deſyred) I toke the more vpon me to ſet forth this ſpeciall tranſlacyon, not as a checker, not as a reprouer, or deſpyſer of other mens tranſlacyons(for amonge many as yet I haue founde none without occaſyon of greate thankeſgeuynge vnto god) but lowly & faythfully haue I folowed myne interpreters, & that vnder correccyon. And though I haue fayled eny where(as there is noman but he myſſeth in ſome thynge) loue ſhall conſtyrre all to ye beſt without eny peruerſe iudgment. There is noman lyuynge yt can ſe all thynges, ne that hath god geuen eny man to knowe euery thynge. One ſeyth more clearly then another, one hath more vnderſtondyng then another, one can vtter a thynge better then another, but noman ought to enuye, or diſpyſe another. He that can do better then another, ſhulde not ſet him at naught yt vnderſtondeth leſſe: Yee he that hath ye more vnderſtondyng, ought to remembre that the ſame gyfte is not hys but Gods, and yt God hath geuē it him to teach & enfourme the ignoraunt. Yf thou haſt knowlege therfore to iudge where eny faute is made, I doute not but thou wilt helpe to amende it, yf loue be ioyned with thy knowlege. Howbeit wherin ſo euer I can perceaue by my ſelfe, or by the informacyon of other, that I haue fayled(as it is no wonder) I ſhall now by the helpe of God ouerloke it better & amende it.
Now wil I exhorte the(who ſo euer thou be yt readeſt ſcripture) yf thou fynde oughte therin yt thou vnderſtondeſt not, or that apeareth to be repugnaunt, geue no temerarious ner hayſtye iudgmēt therof, but aſcrybe it to thyne awne ignoraunce, not to the ſcrypture thynke yt thou vnderſondeſt it not, or yt it hath ſome other meanynge, or yt it is happlye ouerſene of ye interpreters, or wronge prynted. Agayne, it ſhall greately helpe ye to vnderſtonde ſcripture, yf thou marke not onely what is ſpoken or wrytten, but of whom, & vnto whom, with what wordes, at what tyme where, to what intent, with what circumſtaunce, conſyderynge what goeth before, and what foloweth after. For there be ſome thynges which are done & wryttē, to the intente yt we ſhulde do lykewyſe: as whan Abraham beleueth God, is obedient vnto his worde, & defendeth Loth his kynſman from violent wronge. There be ſome thynges alſo which are wryttē, to the intente yt we ſhulde eſchue ſoch lyke. As whan Dauid lyeth with Urias wyfe, & cauſeth him to be ſlayne. Therfore(I ſaye) whan thou readeſt ſcripture, be wyſe & circumſpecte: & whan thou commeſt to ſoch ſtraunge maners of ſpeakynge & darke ſentences, to ſoch parables & ſimilitudes, to ſoch dreames or vyſions as are hyd from thy vnderſtondynge, cōmytte them vnto God or to the gyfte of his holy ſprete in them yt are better lerned then thou.
As for the commendacyon of Gods holy ſcripture, I wolde fayne magnifye it as it is worthy, but I am farre vnſufficiēt therto, & therfore I thoughte it better for me to holde my tonge, then with few wordes to prayſe or commēde it: exhortynge ye(moſt deare reader) ſo to loue it, loue it, ſo to cleue vnto it, & ſo to folowe it in thy daylye conuerſacyon, yt other men ſeynge thy good workes & the frutes of ye holy gooſt in the, maye prayſe the father of heauen, & geue his worde a good reporte: for to lyue after the lawe of God, & to leade a vertuous conuerſacyon, is the greateſt prayſe yt thou canſt geue vnto his doctryne.
But as touchynge the euell reporte and diſprayſe that the good worde of God hath by the corrupte and euell conuerſacyon of ſome, yt daylye heare it and profeſſe it outwardly with theyr mouthes, I exhorte ye(moſt deare reader) let not yt offende the ner withdrawe thy mynde frō the loue of ye trueth, nether moue ye to be partaker in lyke vnthankfulnes: but ſeynge yt lighte is come into the worlde, loue nomore the workes of darknes, receaue not the grace of god in vayne. Call to thy remembraunce how louynge & mercifull God is vnto the, how kyndly and fatherly he helpeth the in all trouble, teacheth thyne ignoraunce, healeth the in all thy ſyckneſſe, forgeueth the in all thy ſynnes, fedeth ye, geueth the drynke, helpeth ye out of preſon, noryſheth the in ſtraunge countrees, careth for the, & ſeyeth yt thou wante nothynge. Call this to mynde(I saye) & that earneſtly, and conſydre how thou haſt receaued of god all theſe benefites(yee and many mo then thou canſt deſyre) how thou art bounde lykewiſe to ſhewe thy ſelfe vnto thy neghboure as farre as thou canſt, to teach him yf he be ignoraunt, to helpe him in all his trouble, to heale his ſycknes, to forgeue him his offences, and that hartely, to fede him, to cheriſh him, to care for him, and to ſe yt he wante nothyng: And on this behalfe I beſeke the(thou yt haſt ye ryches of this worlde, and loueſt God with thy harte) to lyfte vp thyne eyes, and ſe how greate a multitude of poore people renne thorow euery towne: haue pitie on thyne awne fleſh, helpe them with a good harte, and do with thy councell all that euer thou canſt, that this vnſhamefaſt beggynge maye be put downe, that theſe ydle folkes maye be ſet to laboure, & that ſoch as are not able to get theyr lyuynge, maye be prouyded for. At the leeſt thou yt art of councell with ſoch as are in auctoryte, geue them ſome occaſyon to caſt theyr heades together, and to make prouyſyon for the poore. Put the in remembraunce of thoſe noble cityes in other countrees, that by the auctoryte of theyr prynces haue ſo rychely ād well prouided for theyr poore people, to the greate ſhame & deſhoneſtye of vs, yf we lykewyſe receauynge ye worde of God, ſhewe not ſoch lyke frutes therof. Wolde God yt thoſe men(whoſe office is to maynteyne ye comon welth) were as diligent in this cauſe as they are in other. Let vs bewarre by tymes, for after vnthankfulnes there foloweth euer a plage: the mercyful hande of God be with vs, & defende vs that we be not partakers therof.
Go to now(moſt deare reader) & ſyt the downe at the Lordes fete and reade his wordes, &(as Moſes teacheth the Jewes) take them in to theyr herte, & let thy talkynge & communicacion be of them when thou ſytteſt in thyne houſe, or goeſt by ye waye, whan thou lyeſt downe, & whan thou ryſeth vp. And aboue all thynges faſſhyon thy lyfe, & cōuerſacion acordyng to the doctryne of the holy gooſt therin, that thou mayeſt be partaker of ye good promyſes of god in the Byble, & be heyre of of his bleſſynge in Chriſt. In whom yf thou put thy truſt, & be an vnfayned reader or hearer of hys worde with thy hert, thou ſhalt fynde ſweteneſſe theryn, & ſpye wōderous thynges, to thy vnderſtondynge, to the auoydynge of all ſedicyous ſectes, to the abhorrynge of thy olde ſynfull lyfe, & to the ſtablyſhynge of thy godly conuerſacyon.
In the firſt boke of Moſes(called Geneſis) thou mayeſt lerne to knowe the almightye power of god in creatynge all of naught, his infinite wyſdome in ordryng the ſame, his ryghteouſnes in punyſhynge ye vngodly, his loue & fatherly mercy in comfortynge the righteous with his promes. &c.
In the ſeconde boke(called Exodus) we ſe the myghtye arme of god, in delyuerynge his people from ſo greate bondage out of Egype, and what prouyſyon he maketh for them in the wildernes, how he teacheth them with his wholſome worde and how the Tabernacle was made and ſet vp.
In the thyrde boke(called Leuiticus) is declared what ſacrifices the preſtes & Leuites vſed, and what theyr office & miniſtracyon was.
In the fourth boke(called Numerus) is declared how the people are nombred and muſtred, how the captaynes are choſen after ye trybes & kynreds, how they wēte forth to ye battayll, how they pitched theyr tentes, & how they brake vp.
The fyfth boke(called Deuteronemium) ſheweth how that Moſes now beynge olde, rehearſeth the lawe of god vnto ye people, putteth them in remembraunce agayne of all the wonders & benefices that god had ſhewed for them, and exhorteth them earneſtly to loue ye Lorde theyr god, to cleue vnto him, to put there truſt in him and to herken vnto his voyce. After the death of Moſes doth Joſue brynge the people in to the lōde of promes where God doth wonderous thynges for his people by Joſue, which diſtributeth ye londe vnto them, vnto euery trybe theyr poſſeſſion. But in theyr wealth they fotgat the goodnes of God, ſo that oft tymes he gaue thē ouer in to the hande of theyr enemies. Neuertheles whan ſo euer they called faithfully vpon him, and conuerted, he delyuered them agayne, as the boke of Judges declareth.
In the bokes of the kynges, is deſcrybed the regiment of good and euell prynces, and how the decaye of all nacions commeth by euel kynges. For in Jeroboam thou ſeyſt what myſchefe, what ydolatrye & ſoch like abhominacyon foloweth, whā the kynge is a maynteyner of falſe doctryne, a̅d cauſeth the people to ſynne agaynſt God, which fallinge awaye from gods worde, increaſed ſo ſore amonge them, that it was the cauſe of all theyr ſorowe and miſery, & the very occaſion why Iſrael firſt and then Juda, were caryed awaye into captyuite. Agayne, in Joſaphat, in Ezechias and in Joſias thou ſeyſt the nature of a vertuous kynge. He putteth downe the houſes of ydolatrye, ſeyth that his preſtes teach nothynge but ye lawe of God, cōmaundeth his lordes to go with them, and to ſe that they teach the people. In theſe kynges(I ſaye) thou ſeyſt the cōdicyon of a true defender of ye fayth for he ſpareth nether coſt ner laboure, to manteyne the lawes of God, to ſeke the welth & proſperite of his people, and to rote out the wicked. And where ſoch a prince is, thou ſeyſt agayne, how God defendeth him and his people, though he haue neuer ſo many enemyes. Thus wente it with thē in the olde tyme, and euen after ye ſame maner goeth it now with vs: God be prayſed therfore, ād graunte vs of his fatherly mercy, that we be not vnthankful: leſt where he now geueth vs a Joſaphat, an Ezechias, yee a very Joſias, he ſende vs a Pharao, a Jeroboam, or an Achab.
In the two firſt bokes of Eſdras & in Heſter thou ſeyſt the delyueraunce of the people, which though they were but fewe, yet is it vnto vs all a ſpeciall cōforte, for ſo moch as God is not forgetfull of his promes, but bryngeth them out of captiuite, acordynge as he had tolde them before.
In the boke of Job we lerne comforte and pacience, in that God not onely punyſheth the wicked, but proueth & tryeth the iuſt and righteous(howbeit there is noman innocent in his ſighte) by dyuerſe troubles in this lyfe, declaryng therby, yt they are not his baſtardes, but his dare ſonnes, and that he loueth them.
In the Pſalmes we lerne how to reſorte onely vnto God in all oure troubles, to ſeke helpe at him, to call onely vpon him, to ſatle oure myndes by paciēce, & how we ought in proſperite to be thankfull vnto him,
The Prouerbes and the Preacher of Salomon teach vs wyſdome, to knowe God, oure owne ſelues, and the worlde, and how vayne all thynges are, ſaue onely to cleue vnto God.
As for the doctryne of the Prophetes, what is it els, but an earneſt exhortacion to eſcheue ſynne, & to turne vnto God? a faythfull promes of the mercy ād pardon of God, vnto all them yt turne vnto him, and a threatenyng of his wrath to the vngodly? ſauynge that here and there they prophecye alſo manifeſtly of Chriſt, of ye expulſion of the Jewes, and callynge of the Heythen.
Thus moch thought I to ſpeake of ye olde Teſtament, wherin almyghtie God openeth vnto vs his myghtye power, his wyſdome, his louynge mercy & righteouſneſſe: for the which cauſe it oughte of no man to be abhored, deſpyſed, or lyghtly regarded, as though it were an olde ſcripture yt nothyng belōged vnto vs, or yt now were to be refuſed. For it is Gods true ſcripture & teſtimony, which the Lorde Jeſus commaundeth the Jewes to ſearch. Who ſo euer beleued not the ſcripture, beleueth not Chriſt, and who ſo refuſeth it, refuſeth God alſo.
The New Teſtament or Goſpell, is a manyfeſt and cleare teſtymony of Chriſt how God perfourmeth his ooth and promes made in the Olde, and the Olde fulfylled and verifyed in the New. Now where as the moſt famous interpreters of all geue ſondrye iudgmentes of the texte(ſo farre as it is done by ye ſprete of knowlege in the holy gooſt) me thynke noman ſhulde be offended there at, for they referre theyr doinges in mekenes to the ſprete of trueth in the congregacyon of god: & ſure I am, that there commeth more knowlege and vnderſtondinge of the ſcripture by theyr ſondrie tranſlacyons, then by all the gloſes of oure ſophiſticall docteurs. For that one interpreteth ſomthynge obſcurely in one place, the ſame tranſlateth another(or els he him ſelfe) more manifeſtly by a more playne vocable of the ſame meanyng in another place. Be not thou offended therfore(good Reader) though one call a ſcrybe, that another calleth a lawyer: or elders, that another calleth father & mother: or repentaunce, that another calleth pennaunce or amendment. For yf thou be not diſceaued by mens tradiciōs, thou ſhalt fynde nomore dyuerſite betwene theſe termes then betwene foure pens and a grote. And this maner haue I vſed in any tranſlacyon, callynge it in ſome place pennaunce, that in another place I call repentaunce, and that not onely becauſe the interpreters haue done ſo before me, but that the aduerſaries of the trueth maye ſe, how that we abhore not this worde pēnaunce(as they vntruly reporte of vs) no more then the interpreters of latyn abhore penitere, when they reade reſipiſcere. Onely oure hertes deſyre vnto God, is, that his people be not blynded in ther vnderſtondyng, leſt they beleue pennaunce to be ought ſaue a very repētaunce, amēdment, or conuerſyon vnto God, and to be an vnfayned new creature in Chriſt, and to lyue acordyng to his lawe. For els ſhall they fal in to the olde blaſphemy of Chriſtes bloude, and beleue, that they thē ſelues are able to make ſatiſfaccion vnto God for theyr awne ſynnes, from the which erroure god of his mercy and plēteous goodnes preſerue all his.
Now to conclude: for ſo moch as all the ſcripture is wrytten for thy doctryne & enſample, it ſhal be neceſſary for the, to take holde vpon it, whyle it is offred the, yee and with ten handis thankfully to receaue it. And though it be not worthely miniſtred vnto the in this tranſlacyon(by reaſon of my rudnes) Yet yf thou be feruēt in thy prayer, God ſhal not onely ſende it the in a better ſhaype, by the myniſtracyon of other that beganne it afore, but ſhall alſo moue the hertes of them, which as yet medled not withall, to take it in hande, and to beſtowe the gifte of theyr vnderſtondynge theron, as well in oure language as other famous interpreters do in other languages. And I praye God, that thorow my poore miniſtracyon here in, I maye geue them that can do better, ſome occaſyon ſo to do: exhortyng the(moſt deare reader) in the meane whyle on Gods behalfe, yf thou be a heade, a Judge, or ruler of ye people, that thou let not the booke of this lawe departe out of thy mouth, but exerciſe thyſelfe therin both daye and nyghte, and be euer readyng in it as longe as thou lyueſt: that thou mayeſt lerne to feare the Lorde thy God, & not to turne aſyde from the commaundement, nether to the right hande ner to the lefte: leſt thou be a knower of perſonnes in iudgmēt, and wreſt the righte of the ſtraunger, of the fatherles or of the wedowe, and ſo ye curſe to come vpon the. But what office ſo euer thou haſt wayte vpon it, and execute it, to the mayntenaunce of peace, to the welth of thy people, defendynge the lawes of God, and the louers therof, and to the deſtruccyon of the wicked.
Yf thou be a preacher, and haſt the ouerſighte of the flocke of Chriſt, awake and fede Chriſtes ſhepe with a good herte, & ſpare no laboure to do them good, ſeke not thy ſelfe, & bewarre of fylthy lucere/but be vnto ye flocke an enſample, in ye worde, in cōuerſacyon, in loue, in feruentnes of ye ſprete, and be euer readynge, exhortynge, & teachynge in Gods worde, that the people of God renne not vnto other doctrynes and leſt thou thy ſelfe(whan thou ſhuldeſt teach other) be founde ignoraunt therin And rather then thou woldeſt teach the people eny other thynge then Gods worde take the boke in thyne hande, & reade the wordes euē as they ſtonde therin(for it is no ſhame ſo to do, it is more ſhame to make a lye) This I ſaye for ſoch, as are not yet experte in the ſcripture, for I reproue no preachyng without the book as longe as they ſaye the trueth.
Yf thou be a man that haſt wyfe and childrē, firſt loue thy wyfe, acordynge to the enſample of the loue, wherwith Chriſt loued the cōgregacion, and remembre that ſo doynge, thou loueſt euen thyſelfe: yf thou hate her, thou hateſt thine awne fleſh: yf thou cheriſhe her and make moch of her, thou cheriſeſt & makeſt moch of thyſelfe for ſhe is bone of thy bones, & fleſh of thy fleſh. And who ſo euer thou be that haſt children, brynge them vp in the nurtour and informacion of the Lorde. And yf thou be ignoraunt, or art otherwyſe occupied laufully that thou canſt not teach them thy ſelfe, then be euen as diligent to ſeke a good maſter for thy childrē, as thou waſt to ſeke a mother to beare them: for there lieth as great weight in the one as in ye other. Yee better it were for thē to be vnborne, then not to feare God, or to be euel brought vp, which thynge(I meane bryngynge vp well of children) yf it be diligently loked to, it is the vpholdinge of all comon welthes: and the negligence of the ſame, the very decaye of all realmes.
Fynally, who ſo euer thou be, take theſe wordes of ſcripture in to thy herte, and be not onely an outwarde hearer, but a doer therafter, and practyſe thyſelfe therin: that thou mayeſt fele in thine hert, the ſwete promyſes therof for thy conſolacion in
all trouble, & for the ſure ſtablyſhinge of thy hope in Chriſt, and haue euer
an eye to ye wordes of ſcripture, that yf thou be a teacher of other
thou mayeſt be within the boundes of the trueth, or
at the leeſt though thou be but an hearer or
reader of another mans doyn
ges, thou mayeſt
knowlege to iud-
ge all ſpretes, and be fre from
euery erroure, to the vtter deſtruccion
of all ſedicious ſectes & ſtraunge doctrynes, that
the holy ſcrypture maye haue fre paſſage, and be had in re-
putacion, to the worſhippe of the author therof,
which is euen God himſelfe: to whom
for his moſt bleſſed worde be
glory & domynion
now & euer.
- Deute. 6. a.
- 2 Par. 17. b.
- Jo. 5. d
- Joſ. 1. a
Deute. 17. d
- Deute. 24.
Roma. 12. b.
1. Pet. 4. b.
Leu. 20. d
2. Petr. 5. a.
2. Tim. 4. b.
Ti. 2. a
- Ephe. 5, c.
- Ephe. 6. a.