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899
BIBLE, ENGLISH

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.”[1]

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.

(Matthew iii. 1-4.) In those dayes Ihon the baptyser cam and preached in the wyldernes of Iury, saynge, Repent, the kyngedom of heven ys at hond. Thys ys he of whom it ys spoken be the prophet Isay, whych sayth: the voice of a cryer in wyldernes, prepaire ye the lordes waye, and make hys pathes strayght. Thys Ihon had hys garment of camelles heere, and a gyrdyll of a skynne about hys loynes. Hys meate was locustes * and wyldhe ony.

  • “Locustes are more then oware greshoppers, souche men vse to eate in divres parties of the est” (marginal note).

(Matthew vi. 9-13.) O oure father which art in heven, halewed be thy name. Let thy kingdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit ys in heven. Geve vs this daye oure dayly breade. And forgeve vs oure treaspases, even as we forgeve them whych treaspas vs. Lede vs nott in to temptacion, but delyvre vs from yvell. Amen. (Grenville 12179.)

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.”[2]

It is highly probable that the printer of Coverdale’s Bible was Christopher Froschouer of Zürich,[3] who printed the edition of 1550, and that the sheets were sent for binding and distribution to James Nicolson, the Southwark printer.[4] 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.”[5] 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.

(i. 1-2.) Blessed is þe man, þe goeth not in the councell of þe ungodly: þe abydeth not in the waye off synners, & sytteth not in þe seate of the scornefull. But delyteth in the lawe of þe Lorde, & exercyseth himself in his lawe both daye and night.


The gospell of S. Mathew.

(iii. 1-4.) In those dayes Ihon the Baptyst came and preached in the wildernes of Jury, saynge: Amende youre selues, the kyngdome of heuen is at honde. This is he, of whom it is spoken by the prophet Esay, which sayeth: The voyce of a cryer in þe wyldernes, prepare the Lordes waye, and make his pathes straight. This Ihon had his garment of camels heer, and a lethren gerdell aboute his loynes. Hys meate was locustes and wylde hony.

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;

  1. Epistle to the Reader in the New Testament of 1526, reprinted by G. Offor; cf. Parker Soc. (1848), p. 390.
  2. Westcott, op. cit. p. 57 note.
  3. See Dr Ginsburg’s information to Mr Tedder, D.N.B. xii. 365.
  4. Cf. H. Stevens, Catalogue of the Caxton Exhibition (1877) p. 88.
  5. Remains, Parker Soc., pp. II f.