Bible Translation Is a Hazardous Duty

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 10:03 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    Bible translation goes back to 280 to 150 B.C.E., when (seventy-two, according to tradition) translators gave us the Hebrew Old Testament books in Greek. From those days forward, translators have lived very dangerous lives, in trying to bring us the Word of God in the common languages of man. Most times this has been from the religious organizations themselves, who have caused the suffering and death of many translators. There are many good books out there on the history of the Bible, one being by Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible; another by Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible In Translation; As well as Journey from Texts to Translations, The: The Origin and Development of the Bible, by Paul Wegner.

    The English Bible

    The English Bible translation came to us in the late fourteenth century. John Wycliffe (c. 1328 – December 31, 1384), is the one credited with the handwritten translation. However, it was not rendered from the original language texts of Hebrew and Greek, but from the Latin Vulgate. Therefore, it was a translation of a translation. Exactly how much of the translation Wycliffe completed before his death in 1384 is unknown. However, what we do know is that there was strong opposition to his work. Both Wycliffe and those helping received bitter hatred from the religious leaders of his day. If it were not for his influence, he would have been martyred like many others.

    However, the story of Wycliffe does not end with his death. The Church leadership continued to oppose the copying of the Wycliffe translation. Some 24-years after Wycliffe’s death, in 1408, a Church council met in Oxford at the direction of Archbishop Arundel, prohibiting the use of the Holy Scriptures in English. This ban by the clergy was not going to stand up, as the people wanted to have a copy of the only English translation available to them. We have evidence of such, as we possess today nearly 200 copies of the Wycliffe translation, many that were made after 1420. John Wycliffe was so despised that these religious leaders had his bones dug up in 1428 to be burned, with the ashes to be cast into the river Swift.

    William Tyndale

    It would not be until the sixteenth century that we would see a translation that was rendered from the original language texts of Hebrew and Greek. It would be the William Tyndale, who would bring us our first printed English translation. Thinking that he could acquire the backing of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall, Tyndale went to London. However, he was unsuccessful in getting the bishop’s support.

    While still in London, Tyndale came to the realization that there would be no translation with the current attitude of the religious leaders in England. Therefore, in 1524 he headed for Germany. Once in Cologne, the translation of the New Testament got under way. However, the magistrates of Cologne were none too happy about this news as it reached them. Thus, they put a stop to the work. This forced Tyndale to move on to Worms; there the printing of the New Testament was finally completed. In time, translations of this New Testament were flooding England. Meanwhile, back in Worms, Tyndale continued his revision work on the translation.

    Needless to say, the English church authorities were beside themselves with rage. On May 4, 1530, copies of Tyndale’s translation were burned at St. Paul’s Cross in London. At the end of May, there was a royal decree backed by the church authorities, which listed the translation of Tyndale among wicked books and stated, “Detest them, abhor them; keep them not in your hands, deliver them to the superiors such as call for them.” For those that would think of ignoring the decree, it continued, “The prelates of the church, having the care and charge of your souls, ought to compel you, and your prince to punish and correct you.” There was no effort spared in attempts at destroying the translations in England.

    One of the reasons for such great hatred on the part of the religious leaders was Tyndale’s choice renderings of some terms. For instance, he chose to use “congregation” over “church;” “overseer” instead of “bishop;” and “love” in place of “charity.” It did not matter to the religious authorities that his choice of words was more accurate as to the original language terms. Even still, Tyndale had said he would correct anything that was proven inaccurate or that could be translated more clearly. The fact of the matter was that the religious authorities knew that these renderings affected the power of the church, giving the power back to the people. 

    In time, Tyndale’s efforts were to come to a close, as a man named Phillips pretended to be his friend and then betrayed him like Judas had done Christ. Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Vilvorde, near Brussels. In September of 1536, he was executed by being strangling and burned.

    The man, William Tyndale, a great scholar, set the foundation of translation from the 1611 King James Version, which was 90 percent Tyndale up unto the 2001 English Standard Version. Tyndale knowing that, day-in-and-day-out, his life was at risk, but he sought to bring to the English world, the Word of God, and not for glory or honor, but for the love of God and neighbor. There are dozens of men and women, who have suffered martyrdom to bring us God’s Word. Truly, the Bible translator has taken on a very dangerous task.

    1 Timothy 2:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

    3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

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    Dutch Scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:58 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    I WOULD have these words translated into all languages, so that not only Scots and Irish, but Turks and Saracens too might read them . . . I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows his plough, the weaver to hum them to the tune of his shuttle, the traveler to beguile with them the dullness of his journey. (Clayton 2006, 230)

    Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus penned those words in the early part of the 16th century. Like his English counterpart, William Tyndale, it was his greatest desire that God’s Word be widely translated, and that even the plowboy would have access to it.

    Much time has passed since the Reformation, and 98 percent of the world we live in today has access to the Bible. There is little wonder that the Bible has become the bestseller of all time. It has influenced men from all walks of life to fight for freedom and truth. This is especially true during the Reformation of Europe throughout the 16th century. These leading men were of great faith, courage and strength, such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, while others, like Erasmus, was more subtle in the change that he produced. Thus, it has been said of the Reformation that Martin Luther only opened the door to it after Erasmus picked the lock.

    There is not one historian of the period, who would deny that Erasmus was a great scholar. Remarking on his character, the Catholic Encyclopedia says: “He had an unequalled talent for form, great journalistic gifts, a surpassing power of expression: for strong and moving discourse, keen irony, and covert sarcasm, he was unsurpassed.” (Vol. 5, p. 514) Consequently, when Erasmus went to see Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England, just before Erasmus made himself known, More was so impressed with his exchange that he shortly said: “You are either Erasmus or the Devil.”

    The wit of Erasmus was evidenced in a response that he gave to Frederick, elector of Saxony, who asked him what he thought about Martin Luther. Erasmus retorted: “Luther has committed two blunders; he has ventured to touch the crown of the pope and the bellies of the monks.” (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature: Vol. 3 – p, 279) However, we must ask what type of influence did the Bible have on Erasmus and, in turn, what did he do to affect its future? First, let us look at the early years of Erasmus’ life.

    Erasmus’ Early Life

    He was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1466. He was not a happy boy living in a home as the illegitimate son of a Dutch priest. He was faced with the double tragedy of his mother’s death at seventeen, and his father shortly thereafter. His guardians ignored his desire to enter the university; rather they sent him to the Augustinian monastery of Steyn. Erasmus gained a vast knowledge of the Latin language, the classic as well as the Church Fathers. In time, this type of life was so detestable to him; he jumped on the opportunity, at the age of twenty-six, to become secretary to the bishop of Cambrai, Henry of Bergen, in France. This afforded him his chance to enter university studies in Paris. However, he was a sickly man, always ill, suffering from poor health throughout his entire life.

    It was in 1499 that Erasmus was invited to visit England. It was here that he met Thomas More, John Colet and other theologians in London, which fortified his resolution to apply himself to Biblical studies. In order to understand the Bible’s message better, he applied himself more fully in his study of Greek, soon being able to teach it to others. It was around this time that Erasmus penned a treatise entitled Handbook of the Christian Soldier, in which he advised the young Christian to study the Bible, saying: “There is nothing that you can believe with greater certitude than what you read in these writings.” (Erasmus and Dolan 1983, 37)

    While trying to escape the plague, make a living in an economy that had bottomed worse than our 20th century Great Depression, Erasmus found himself at Louvain, Belgium, in 1504. It was here that he fell in love with the study of textual criticism while visiting the Monastery of Parc. Within the library Erasmus discovered a manuscript of Italian scholar Lorenzo Valla: Annotations on the New Testament. Textual criticism is an art and science that studies manuscripts, evaluating internal and external evidence, especially of the Bible or works of literature, in order to determine which readings are the original or most authentic. Erasmus had commissioned himself toward the task of restoring the original text of the Greek New Testament.

    Erasmus moved on to Italy and subsequently pushed on to England once again. It is this trip that brought to mind his original meeting with Thomas More, meditating on the origin of More’s name (moros, Greek for “a fool”); he penned a write or satire, which he called Praise of Folly. In this work, Erasmus takes the abstract quality “folly” as being a human being, and pictured it as encroaching in all aspects of life, but nowhere is folly more in obvious than amid the theologians and clergy. This is his subtle way of exposing the abuses of the clergy. It is these abuses, which had brought on the Reformation that was now festering. “As to the popes,” he wrote, “if they claim to be the successors of the Apostles they should consider that the same things are required of them as were practiced by their predecessors.” Instead of doing this, he perceived, they believe that “to teach the people is too laborious; to interpret the scripture is to invade the prerogative of the schoolmen; to pray is too idle.” There is little wonder that it was said of Erasmus that he had “a surpassing power of expression”! (Nichols 2006, Vol. 2, 6)

    The First Greek Text

    Whilst teaching Greek at Cambridge University in England, Erasmus continued with his work of revising the text of the Greek New Testament. One of his friends, Martin Dorpius, attempted to persuade him that the Latin did not need to be corrected from the Greek. Dorpius makes the same error in thinking that the “King James Only” people make, arguing: “For is it likely that the whole Catholic Church would have erred for so many centuries, seeing that she has always used and sanctioned this translation? Is it probable that so many holy fathers, so many consummate scholars would have longed to convey a warning to a friend?”  (Campbell 1949, 71) Thomas More joined Erasmus in replying to these arguments, making the point that the importance lies within having an accurate text in the original languages.

    In Basel, Switzerland, Erasmus was about to be hassled by the printer Johannes Froben. Froben was alerted that Cardinal Ximenes of Toledo, Spain, had been putting together a Greek and Latin Testament in 1514. However, he was delaying publication until he had the whole Bible completed. The first printed Greek critical text would have set the standard, with the other being all but ignored. Erasmus published his first edition in 1516, while the Complutensian Polyglot (many languages) was not issued until 1522

    The fact that Erasmus was rushed to no end, resulted in a Greek text that contained hundreds of typographical errors alone.[1] Textual scholar Scrivener once stated: ‘[It] is in that respect the most faulty book I know,’ (Scrivener 1894, 185) This comment does not even take into consideration the blatant interpolations (insert readings) into the text that were not part of the original. Erasmus was not lost to the typographical errors, which corrected a good many in later editions. This did not include the textual errors. It was his second edition of 1519 that was used by Martin Luther in his German translation and William Tyndale’s English translation. This is exactly what Erasmus wanted, writing the following in that editions preface: “I would have these words translated into all languages. . . . I long for the ploughboy to sing them to himself as he follows his plough.”

    Sadly, the continuous reproduction of this debased Greek New Testament, gave rise to it becoming the standard, being called the Textus Receptus (Received Text), taking over 400 years before it was dethroned by the critical Text of B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort in 1881. Regardless of its imperfection, the Erasmus critical edition began the all-important work of textual criticism, which has only brought about a better critical text, as well as more accurate Bible translations.

    As was true with many other early Bibles in the early days of the Reformation, it had its detractors. Like the Geneva Bible, but on a much tamer note, Erasmus was critical of the clergy in his notes. For instance, the text of Matthew 16:18, which says, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” (Douay) Very plainly, he rejects the idea that this text is applied to primacy Peter, and that the pope is a successor of such. Imagine writing such a thing in the very edition you are going to dedicate to the pope! We can certainly see why Erasmus’ works were prohibited, even in the universities.

    Erasmus was not only concerned with ascertaining the original words; he was just as concerned with achieving an accurate understanding of those words. In 1519, he penned Principles of True Theology (shortened to The Ratio). Herein he introduces his principles for Bible study, his interpretation rules. Among them is the thought of never taking a quotation out of its context nor out of the line of thought of its author. Erasmus saw the Bible as a whole work by one author, and it should interpret itself.

    Erasmus Contrasted With Luther

    Erasmus penned a treatise called Familiar Colloquies in 1518, where again he was exposing the corruptions on the Church and the monasteries. Just one year earlier, in 1517, Martin Luther had nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Wittenberg, denouncing the indulgences, the scandal that had rocked numerous countries. Many folk were likely thinking that these two could bring change, and reform. This was not going to be a team effort though, as they both were at opposite ends of the spectrum on how to bring this reform about. Luther would come to condemn Erasmus, because he was viewed as being too moderate, seeking to peacefully make change within the Church. Many have viewed it as Erasmus thinking and writing, while Luther appeared to go beyond that with his actions.

    The seemingly small bond they may have shared (by way of their writings against the Church establishment), was torn down the middle in 1524 when Erasmus penned the essay On the Freedom of the Will. Luther believed that salvation results from “justification by faith alone” (Latin, sola fide) and not from priestly absolution or works of penance. In fact, Luther was so adamant on his belief of “justification by faith alone” that in his Bible translation, he added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28. What Luther failed to understand was that Paul was writing about the works of the Mosaic Law. (Romans 3:19, 20, 28) Thus, Luther denied the notion that man possesses a free will. However, Erasmus would not accept such faulty reasoning, in that it would make God unjust, because this would suggest that man would be unable to act in such a way as to affect his salvation.

    As the Reformation was growing throughout Europe, Erasmus was seeing complaints from both sides. Many of the religious leaders who supported the reform movement chose to leave the Catholic Church. While they could not predict the result of their decision, they moved forward, many ending in death. This would not be true of Erasmus though, for he withdrew from the debate, yet he did refuse to be made cardinal. His approach was to try to appease both sides. Thus, Rome saw his writings as being that of a heretic, prohibiting them, while the reformers denounced him as refusing to risk his life for the cause. Here was a man, emotionally broken over criticism, but in fear of rocking the boat with Rome, so he cautiously sat on the sideline.

    The affairs of Erasmus to the Reformation can be summarized as follows: “He was a reformer until the Reformation became a fearful reality; a jester at the bulwarks of the papacy until they began to give way; a propagator of the Scriptures until men betook themselves to the study and the application of them; depreciating the mere outward forms of religion until they had come to be estimated at their real value; in short, a learned, ingenious, benevolent, amiable, timid, irresolute man, who, bearing the responsibility, resigned to others the glory of rescuing the human mind from the bondage of a thousand years. The distance between his career and that of Luther was therefore continually enlarging, until they at length moved in opposite directions, and met each other with mutual animosity.”— (McClintock and Strong 1894, 278).

    The greatest gain from the Reformation is that the common person can now hold God’s Word in his hand. In fact, the Englishperson has over 100 different translations from which to choose. From these 16th century life and death struggles, in which Erasmus shared, there has materialized dependable and accurate Bible translations. Consequently, the ‘plowboy’ of 98 percent of the world can pick up his Bible, or at least part of it.

    The Textus Receptus

    The Dark Ages (5th to 15th centuries C.E.), was a time when the Church had the Bible locked up in the Latin language, and scholarship and learning were nearly nonexistent. However, with the birth of the Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe (1328-1384), and more officially in the 16th century Reformation, and the invention of the printing press in 1455, the restraints were loosened, and there was a rebirth of interest in the Greek language. Moreover, with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks 1453 C. E., many Greek scholars and their manuscripts were scattered abroad, resulting in a revival of Greek in the Western citadels of learning.

    About fifty years later, or in the  beginning of the sixteenth century, Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo, Spain, a man of rare capability and honor, invited foremost scholars of his land to his university at Alcala to produce a multiple-language Bible—not for the common people, but for the educated,. The outcome would be the Polyglot, named Complutensian corresponding to the Latin of Alcala. This would be a Bible of six large volumes, beautifully bound, containing the Old Testament in four languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin) and the New Testament in two (Greek and Latin). For the Greek New Testament these scholars had only a few manuscripts available to them, and those of late origin. One may wonder why this was the case, when they were supposed to have access to the Vatican library. This Bible was completed in 1514, providing the first printed Greek New Testament, but did not receive approval by the pope to be published until 1520 and was not released to the public until 1522.

    Froben, a printer in Basel, Switzerland became aware of the completion of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible and of its pending consent by the pope to be published. Immediately, he saw a prospect for making profits. He at once sent word to the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), who was the foremost European scholar of the day and whose works he had published in Latin, beseeching him to hurry through a Greek New Testament text. In an attempt to bring the first published Greek text to completion, Erasmus was only able to locate, in July of 1515, a few late cursive manuscripts for collating and preparing his text. It would go to press in October of 1515, and would be completed by March of 1516. In fact, Erasmus was in such a hurried mode he rushed the manuscript containing the Gospels to the printer without first editing it, making such changes, as he felt was necessary on the proof sheets. Because of this great rush job this work also contained hundreds of typographical errors. Erasmus himself admitted this in its preface that it was “rushed through rather than edited.” Bruce Metzger referred to the Erasmian text as a “debased form of the Greek testament. (B. M. Metzger 1964, 1968, 1992, 103)

    Needless to say, Erasmus was moved to produce an improved text in four succeeding editions of 1519, 1522, 1527, and 1535. Erasmus’ editions of the Greek text, we are informed, ended up being an excellent achievement, a literary sensation. They were inexpensive, and the first two editions totaled 3,300 copies, in comparison to the 600 copies of the large and expensive six-volume Polyglot Bible. In the preface of his first edition Erasmus stated, “I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private persons read the Holy Scriptures, nor have them translated into the vulgar tongues.” (Baer 2007, 268)

    Except for everyday practical consideration the editions of Erasmus had little to vouch for them, for he had access to five (some say eight) Greek manuscripts of reasonably late origin and none of these were of the whole Greek New Testament. Rather, these comprised one or more sections into which the Greek texts were normally divided: (1) the Gospels; (2) Acts and the general epistles (James through Jude); (3) the letters of Paul; (4) Revelation. In fact, of the some 5,750 Greek New Testament manuscripts that we now have, only about fifty are complete.

    Consequently, Erasmus had but one copy of Revelation (twelfth century). Since it was incomplete, he merely retranslated the missing last six verses of the book from the Latin Vulgate back into Greek. He even frequently brought his Greek text in line with the Latin Vulgate; this is why there are some twenty readings in his Greek text not found in any other Greek manuscript.

    Martin Luther would use Erasmus’ 1519 edition for his German translation, and William Tyndale would use the 1522 edition for his English translation. Erasmus’ editions were also the foundation for further Greek editions of the New Testament by others. For instance the four published by Robert Estienne (Stephanus, 1503-59). According to Bruce Metzger, the third of these, published by Stephanus, in 1550, became the Textus Receptus or Received Text of Britain and the basis of the King James Version. This took place through Theodore de Beza (1519-1605), whose work was based on the corrupted third and fourth editions of the Erasmian text. Beza would produce nine editions of the Greek text, four being independent (1565, 1589, 1588-9, 1598), and the other five smaller reprints. It would be two of Beza’s editions, that of 1589 and 1598, which would become the English Received Text.

    Beza’s Greek edition of the New Testament did not even differ as much as might be expected from those of Erasmus. Why do I say, as might be expected? Beza was a friend of the Protestant reformer John Calvin, succeeding him at Geneva, and was also a well-known classical and biblical scholar. In addition, Beza possessed two important Greek manuscripts of the fourth and fifth century, the D and Dp (also known as D2), the former of which contains most of the Gospels and Acts, as well as a fragment of 3 John and the latter containing the Pauline epistles. The Dutch Elzevir editions followed next, which were virtually identical to those of the Erasmian-influenced Beza text. It was in the second of seven of these, published in 1633, that there appeared the statement in the preface (in Latin): “You therefore now have the text accepted by everybody, in which we give nothing changed or corrupted.” On the continent, this edition became the Textus Receptus or the Received Text. It seems that this success was in no small way due to the beauty and useful size of the Elzevir editions.

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    The King James Version after 400 Years: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:56 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    Leland Ryken

    Wheaton College

    The King James Version has reached the milestone of the 400th anniversary of its first publication. Academic and religious conferences, museum displays, books and articles, and commemorative editions of the KJV have exploded in such quantity that 2011 can confidently be declared the year of the King James Bible. Although King James I granted a Puritan request for a new Bible translation with the sneering put-down that he had never seen the Bible well translated into English, a spirit of benediction fell on the process of translation and the book that resulted.

    The King James Version is a book of superlatives. For three centuries, when English-speaking people spoke of "the Bible," they meant the King James Version. The King James Bible is the all-time best seller among English language books, and according to David Daniell, in his magisterial book The Bible in English, the KJV is still the best-selling book worldwide. The King James Bible is the most quoted English book, the most widely read, the most printed, and the most influential. It is no wonder that Gordon Campbell claims in his book Bible:  The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 that the King James Version is "the most important book in the English language."

    The King James Version in the church

    We can divide the influence of the King James Bible into the two spheres of its influence in (1) the church and (2) the culture of England and America. From the time of its publication until the middle of the twentieth century, the King James Bible was the only major Bible in use among Christian individuals, families, and churches.

    I myself grew up in that milieu. When at the age of nine my parents gave me a Bible with my name embossed on it, it was a King James Bible. I memorized verses from the King James Bible at home, school, and church. Twice every Sunday the King James Version was read and expounded from the pulpit. I heard the King James Bible read after every meal, three times a day. My experience was doubtless replicated by millions of English-speaking Christians through the centuries.

    When we pick up Bible commentaries from the past like Matthew Henry’s commentary, we find that the authors who wrote them do not even tell us what translation of the Bible they have used (in obvious contrast to commentaries published in recent decades). It was simply understood that the author of a commentary had used the King James Version as the base text. If we read the sermons of the towering preachers of the past—Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham—the quotations from the Bible are from the King James Version. When we step into a church in England or America that has Bible verses on the walls, we hardly need to ask what translation is represented: it is the King James Version.

    The cultural influence in the King James Version

    Until the middle of the twentieth century, the Bible formed the universally accepted frame of reference for English-speaking cultures. Here, too, it was axiomatic that the King James Version was the Bible in view. In my book The Legacy of the King James Bible, I survey the spheres of culture where the King James Version was preeminent for over three centuries They include public discourse (such as presidential addresses and courtroom speeches), education, music, visual art, and literature.

    One of my favorite pieces of research for my book was public inscriptions that bear texts from the King James Version.  During my years at the University of Oregon I could look up every time I entered the library and read, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32, KJV). Every year two million visitors file past the cracked Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and read, “Proclaim LIBERTY through all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10, KJV). Inscribed on the "Isaiah wall" across the street from the United Nations headquarters in New York City is Isaiah 2:4: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…."

    But these inscriptions are merely a shorthand index to the influence of the King James Version in culture.  Even if every copy of the King James Version were to suddenly vanish, the King James Bible would live on in the music, visual art, and literature of the English-speaking world.

    It is right that the King James Version is being honored in many corners of England and America in this anniversary year. Regardless of what English translation one uses today, Christians should celebrate the fact that the King James Bible is the most influential English-language book of all time. Conversely, the sneering put-downs of the King James Version by people who prefer dynamic equivalent and colloquial translations are inappropriate.  Instead of gloating over the proliferation of modern translations, we should take stock of what was lost with the proliferation that began in the middle of the twentieth century. What was lost was a common Bible and all of the advantages that resulted from having a single Bible that English-speaking Christendom used. Biblical illiteracy has accompanied the eclipse of the King James Bible.

    The King James Version today

    The remainder of this article will cast an eye to the future and ask what functions the King James Version can serve in a day when it is only one of a dozen prominent English Bibles. But before I look forward, I want to take stock of the King James Version today.

    First, the rumors of the demise of the King James Version have been greatly exaggerated (to cite the comment made by Mark Twain when he read a newspaper account claiming that he was dead). If we consult the current sales of English Bibles, we will find that the King James Version is either second or third on the list. Then if we look at web sites related to the King James Bible, we find many churches and schools that remain loyal users of the King James Version. People who use a modern translation (as I myself do) have an unwarranted tendency to assume that everyone else, too, has abandoned the King James Version for a modern translation.

    Additionally, in the literary sphere the King James Version continues to reign unchallenged. Within my own guild of literary authors and scholars, the number of people who use anything other than the King James Version in their literary endeavors is statistically insignificant. Similarly, any study of art and music from the past that is rooted in the King James Bible requires that teachers and students use the same translation that is woven into the fabric of the art and music. In fact, every time we read a sermon, a religious document, a novel, a poem, a courtroom speech, a political speech from the seventeenth century through the middle of the twentieth century that quotes from the Bible, the King James Version lives on in the present.

    Looking forward

    I have already provided several answers to the question of what we can expect for the KJV in the future.  We can expect thousands and probably millions of English-speaking readers to continue to read the King James Bible. We can expect literary authors and to a lesser extent musical composers to weave the King James Version into their artistic works. And scholars who teach and write about the literature, art, and music of the past have no good alternative to using the KJV in their scholarship.

    My subject in the rest of this essay is to explore the continuing usefulness of the KJV as a model for English Bible translation today. My starting point is a comment that Alister McGrath makes on the last page of his book entitled In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. "The true heirs of the King James translators," writes McGrath, "are those who continue their task today, not those who declare it to have been definitively concluded in 1611." I interpret McGrath’s phrase "those who continue their task today" to mean "those who perpetuate the translation philosophy and style of the King James Version." I think that the statement is preeminently true of the English Standard Version.

    There are two dimensions to an English Bible, and accordingly two spheres in which the King James Version can serve as a reliable guide to modern translators. One is the content of a translation—what the translators put in front of the reading public as representing what the authors of the Bible wrote. The second is the style in which an English translation is embodied. Beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, all translation committees have faced a need to choose between perpetuating the King James tradition and repudiating it.

    I want to start my projection into the future by elaborating on my previous statement that modern translation committees face a fork in the road at which they must make a choice. The King James Bible itself was a synthesis of a series of six English Bible translations that had appeared during the sixteenth century, starting with William Tyndale. Unlike what prevails with many modern translations, the King James translators did not wish to be innovative and original. They did not view the preceding translations as rivals but as contributors to their own effort. The entire sixteenth century project was based on a communal understanding of knowledge in which successive translators viewed themselves as inheriting a great tradition, improving it, and then passing it on.

    The preface to the King James Version makes this principle of continuity with the existing tradition explicit. In a famous statement in the prefatory document entitled “The Translators to the Reader,” we read, "Truly (good Christian Reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, . . . but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not to be excepted against."

    This principle of perpetuating the great tradition from Tyndale through the King James Version is one way in which the KJV continues to exert an influence even among translators and readers who cast their lot with a modern translation. The prefaces to three modern translations explicitly align those translations with what is variously called the King James tradition, the Tyndale-King James legacy, and the classic mainstream of English Bible translations. The three translations that consciously perpetuate the principles of the King James tradition are the Revised Standard Version, the New King James Version, and the English Standard Version.

    By contrast, adherents of dynamic equivalent translations and colloquial translations either distance themselves from the King James tradition or repudiate it. One will look in vain for any statement of continuity with the KJV in the prefaces to these translations. The reason is obvious: the translators who produced these translations do not agree with the translation philosophy or the stylistic norms of the King James tradition. I turn now to these two subjects.

    Perpetuating the translation philosophy of the King James Version

    The King James translators did not consciously choose the translation philosophy that today goes by such names as verbal equivalence, essentially literal, or formal equivalence. Starting with Tyndale and running through the middle of the twentieth century, this was the only view of Bible of translation that held any genuine credence. Tyndale actually coined as many as two thousand English words in an effort to render in English what the biblical authors had written. Examples include intercession, atonement, peacemaker, and Passover. Not until the rise of dynamic equivalence was there any widespread doubt that the goal of English Bible translation was to take the reader as close as possible to the very words of the biblical authors.

    The King James Version accepted this premise without reservation. The translators found an equivalent English word or phrase for everything that was in the original text—but not more than was in the original text. They were so scrupulous about keeping the record straight regarding the original text that they followed the practice of the Geneva Bible of putting into italics words that had been added for the sake of intelligibility or fluency in English.

    As we look toward the future, then, we can say that the King James Version lives on among modern translations that likewise give readers an equivalent English word of phrase for everything that is in the original. The true significance of this is blunted if we simply quote from an essentially literal modern translation. To see the true significance, we need to set a literal translation alongside dynamic equivalent translations. The King James model lives on when a modern translation renders the last verse of Psalm 87 as "all my springs are in you." It dies when non-literal translations render it as "I too am from Jerusalem"(CEV) or "all good things come from Jerusalem"(NCV) or "in Zion is the source of all our blessings."(GNB)

    Honoring the King James Style

    Content is one half of an English Bible translation, and style is the other half. Style refers to the vocabulary and sentence structure through which the translation embodies the content. What role can the King James Version serve for future English Bible translation?  That question is easily answered: the King James Version lives on as a stylistic influence in the branch of English Bible translations that position themselves in the King James lineage, also called the classic mainstream of English Bible translation.

    Since I believe that the English Standard Version (ESV) is truest to the King James style, though in updated language and grammar, I will take my illustrations from it. Right in the preface we can see the claim that the ESV perpetuates the style of the King James Version. The preface claims that the ESV retains the “enduring language" of the King James tradition. That is a virtual code language for "the dignity, beauty, and elegance that is a hallmark of the King James Bible." The adjectives that we find in the prefaces of colloquial translations are "fresh" and "innovative" and "common," but emphatically not "enduring." Elsewhere the preface to the ESV speaks of the "simplicity, beauty, and dignity of expression" that it carries on from the King James Version and Revised Standard Version.

    It is not immediately apparent what descriptors to use when describing the King James style, but the words elegant (not to be equated with eloquent), dignified, and beautiful are indisputably accurate. The King James translators and their modern heirs do not reduce the Bible to the level of conversational or colloquial discourse as it prevails in the dormitory or the local coffee shop. At this point it is relevant to observe that the Bible in its original form is a primarily literary book. Literature always does things with language and syntax that elevate a statement above informal conversation.

    The key to the style of the King James Version and the English Standard Version is that it is elegant without being stilted. The actual vocabulary is often simple, but the effect is majestic. Since any choice of a specimen is somewhat arbitrary, I will simply select the famous statement from Jesus found in Luke 11:9-10:  "Ask, and it will be give to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened" (ESV). The vocabulary is simple, but the patterns of parallelism and antithesis raise the statement far above the chatter at the bus stop.

     Summary

    The King James Version is far from dead. It lives on as a cultural presence, especially (but not only) in the culture that comes to us from the past. It lives on among readers and churches that use it as their primary Bible. It lives on in modern translations like the ESV that perpetuate the translation philosophy and stylistic norms of the King James Version.

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    William Tyndale's Plowboy Reconsidered

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:55 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    Leland Ryken

    Wheaton College

    This essay is a historical study.  That may seem anomalous in a journal devoted to current translation issues and practices, so a word of explanation is in order.  One of the functions of inquiring into the history of English Bible translation is that it can clarify the essential principles of Bible translation.  When the issues are distanced from us in time, we can see some things more clearly because they are unclouded by contemporary crosswinds.

    More important than the clarifying power of distance, though, is the authority that attaches to historical precedents.  This authority may or not be completely valid, but it is a fact that in the current debate between rival translation philosophies an appeal to historical precedents is considered important.  Both essentially literal translators and dynamic equivalent and colloquial translators probe the past to find examples of their own preferred style of translation.

    The current debate about William Tyndale

     

    It is obvious that we live in a day of debunking.  On the Bible translation scene, the King James Version is regularly and rigorously debunked by advocates of colloquial English Bible translations.  In turn, it has become common for these debunkers to attempt to drive a wedge between the King James Version and William Tyndale's translation work nearly a century earlier.

    More specifically, the claim is made that the King James translators spoiled Tyndale by refining his style.  Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, has of course led the charge, but he is not alone.  Predictably, the claim is made that Tyndale produced a colloquial[1] translation, while the King James translation is elegant.  Peterson claims that the King James translators "desecrated language upwards" [Eat This Book (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2006), 162].

    The most famous statement that Tyndale made about Bible translation, next to his dying prayer that God would open the king of England's eyes, is a comment that he made about wanting the plowboy to know the Bible better than the Catholic priests.  I will quote the statement shortly and then analyze it, but as a lead-in to that, I need to note that translators in what I call the "modernizing" camp claim that Tyndale in a single utterance endorsed (1) a colloquial style for an English Bible, (2) an uneducated reader as the assumed audience for an English Bible, and (3) a dynamic equivalent philosophy of translation (buttressed, of course, by a few famous examples from Tyndale's actual translation).  My thesis in this article is that Tyndale's plowboy statement has been extravagantly misinterpreted, and that none of the three conclusions I listed in the previous sentence is warranted.

    Exactly what did Tyndale say?

    Tyndale's plowboy statement is recounted in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs.  The context of the statement itself disproves the use to which modernizing translators put it.  Tyndale uttered the statement before he had even begun his work of translating the Bible.  The occasion of the statement was not Bible translation per se.  Instead, the statement occurred as part of a debate about whether the pope or the Bible is the ultimate authority for religious belief and practice. 

    Upon graduating from Oxford University, Tyndale returned to his native Gloucestershire and assumed a position as schoolmaster in the Catholic household of Sir John Walsh.  Tyndale was an early Reformer whose views brought him into heated debates with the local clergy.  Tyndale was appalled at the ignorance of the Catholic clergy.  Additionally, he was convinced of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura on the question of religious authority.  I propose that these two things—the biblical ignorance of the clergy and the question of biblical authority—are the context for Tyndale's statement about the plowboy.

    We can hear these two themes of biblical ignorance among the clergy and the authority of Bible in the statement that I now quote: 

    There dwelt not far off a certain doctor, that he been chancellor to a bishop, who had been of old, familiar acquaintance with Master Tyndale, and favored him well; unto whom Master Tyndale went and opened his mind upon divers questions of the Scripture: for to him he durst be bold to disclose his heart. Unto whom the doctor said, "Do you not know that the pope is very Antichrist, whom the Scripture speaketh of? But beware what you say; for if you shall be perceived to be of that opinion, it will cost you your life."   Not long after, Master Tyndale happened to be in the company of a certain divine, recounted for a learned man, and, in communing and disputing with him, he drove him to that issue, that the said great doctor burst out into these blasphemous words, "We were better to be without God's laws than the pope's." Master Tyndale, hearing this, full of godly zeal, and not bearing that blasphemous saying, replied, "I defy the pope, and all his laws;" and added, "If God spared him life, ere many years he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than he did."  The grudge of the priests increasing still more and more against Tyndale, they never ceased barking and rating at him, and laid many things sorely to his charge, saying that he was a heretic.

    We should note first what is not going on here.  The statement about the plowboy is not a comment about Tyndale's preferred style for an English Bible.  It is not a designation of teenaged farm boys as a target audience for a niche Bible.  In fact, the account does not even mention translation of the Bible into English.  Foxe's account makes it clear that the subject of debate at this early stage in Tyndale's career was the question of papal authority vs. scriptural authority.  When the priest asserted a strong view of papal authority and denigrated the authority of the Bible, Tyndale responded by making an implied case for the Bible as the authority for Christian belief and conduct.  We should not overlook Foxe's follow-up comment about "the grudge of the priests."  The plowboy statement is part of a debate with Catholic priests over papal authority, not on the style of an English Bible.

    Therefore, what did Tyndale mean in his famous plowboy statement?  First, he implicitly asserted the right of the laity to the Bible.  The plowboy is a representative of the whole of English society.  Tyndale's statement is not a comment about English style but about how widely Tyndale wanted the English Bible to be disseminated in English society.  Even the humble working class should have access to the Bible.

    Secondly, Tyndale was making a statement about how much of the Bible he wanted the laity to know.  His statement, to quote again, is "that he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than [the priest] did."  The typical priest knew the snatches of Scripture that were embedded in the liturgy, the mass, and choral music, and he would have known it in Latin.

    What I most want to challenge is the view that Tyndale was an ally of what I call modernizing and colloquializing English Bibles that have proliferated since the middle of the twentieth century.  Whatever we conclude about Tyndale's preferred style in an English translation is something we need to deduce from his actual translation, not from his statement about the plowboy.

    Conclusion

    Tyndale's plowboy statement is a virtual Rorschach inkblot [interpretation] in which modern translators sees what they themselves believe about English Bible translation.  In turn, Tyndale is such a towering figure that if one can claim him for one's side in the translation wars, it is in fact a victory.  I submit that Tyndale's plowboy statement should not be allowed to lend any support whatever to dynamic equivalent and colloquial translations.  Exactly where Tyndale stood on questions of essentially literal vs. dynamic equivalence and dignified vs. colloquial style needs to rest on his actual translation of the Bible.



    [1] colloquial [kə lṓkwee əl] informal: appropriate to, used in, or characteristic of spoken language or of writing that is used to create the effect of conversation

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    Jerome—The Forerunner in Bible Translation

    Monday, June 11, 2012, 9:54 AM [General]
    Posted By: Apologist

    The Catholic Church Sacred Tradition in support of the Vulgate's magisterial authority:

    Moreover, this sacred and holy Synod,—considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,—ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.[1]

    ON April 8, 1546, the Latin Vulgate was given an approved capacity by the Council of Trent (1545–1563) as the standard of the Biblical canon regarding which parts of books are canonical. The Vulgate had been completed for over a thousand years, yet Jerome and his translation had been the center of debate throughout. Who was Jerome? Why was his translation of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures into Latin, as well as himself debated? What impact has this work had on the field of Bible translation?

    Jerome Becomes a Scholar

    Jerome ([c. 346–420 C.E.] Latin: Eusebius Hieronymus) was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia. His parents were reasonably well-off, and he felt the benefits of money at an early age, receiving an education in Rome under the well-known grammarian Donatus. Jerome demonstrated himself to be a exceptional student of grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. Throughout this period he also began to study Greek. He is most famously known for his translation of the Bible from the original languages of Hebrew (OT) and Greek) (NT) into Latin (the Vulgate), and his list of writings is extensive.

    Jerome was born at Stridon about 346 C.E. However, he was not baptized until sometime after close to 366 C.E, and shortly thereafter, he and his friend Bonosus headed for Rome. However, they became wanderers for a time, and then finally ended up in Aquileia, Italy, where Jerome was introduced to the idea of asceticism.[2] He became attracted to this extreme way of life, se he and a group of his friends spent a number of years cultivating an ascetic way of life.

    In 373 C.E., some unnamed trouble contributed to the groups going their separate ways. Let down, Jerome traveled without a purpose and without a known destination eastward across Bithynia, Galatia, and Cilicia and eventually arrived in Antioch, Syria.

    Even though he was only in his late 20’s at this point, Jerome’s health was damaged by a fever and he grew very ill during his journey.  “Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you,” he said, writing to a friend, Rufinus. “My poor body, weak even when well, has been shattered by frequent illnesses.”[3]

    Jerome had already coped with sickness, seclusion, and inner turmoil; he was now thrust into a spiritual crisis. In a dream, he was …

    Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the judgment seat of the Judge; and here the light was so bright, and those who stood around were so radiant, that I cast myself upon the ground and did not dare to look up. Asked who and what I was I replied ‘I am a Christian.’ But He who presided said: ‘Thou liest; thou art a follower of Cicero and not of Christ. For where thy treasure is there will thy heart be also.’ Instantly I became dumb, and amid the strokes of the lash—for He had ordered me to be scourged—I was tortured more severely still by the fire of conscience, considering with myself that verse ‘In the grave, who shall give thee thanks?’ Yet for all that I began to cry and to bewail myself saying: ‘Have mercy upon me, O Lord; have mercy upon me.’ Amid the sound of the scourges this cry still made itself heard. At last the bystanders, falling down before the knees of Him who presided, prayed that He would have pity on my youth, and that He would give me space to repent of my error. He might still, they urged, inflict torture upon me, should I ever again read the works of the Gentiles. Under the stress of that awful moment I should have been ready to make even still larger promises than these. Accordingly I made oath and called upon His name, saying ‘Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied thee.’ On taking this oath, I was dismissed, and returned to the upper world.[4]

    Sometime later would sidestep his pledge that he had made in the dream, and said that he should not be held answerable for a solemn promise made in a dream. However, Jerome felt somewhat obligated to his vow, so he left Antioch and searched for solitude in Chalcis in the Syrian Desert. Living as a recluse, he submerged himself in a study of the Bible and theological literature. Jerome said, “I read the books of God with a zeal greater than I had previously given to the books of men.”[5] He likewise learned the local Syriac tongue and started studying Hebrew with the help of a Jew who had become a Christian.

    Jerome Receives an Assignment from the Pope

    After about five years of living an ascetic life, Jerome returned to Antioch in 378 or 379 C.E. His return to civilization was met with disappointment, as the church was profoundly divided. While he had still been in the desert, Jerome had written to the Pope, saying “The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own.”[6]

    Jerome eventually decided that he would take the side of Bishop Paulinus, one of three men that claimed that title of Antioch. Jerome unwilling accepted his being ordained, but demanded (1) that he not be held back from being able to continue his ascetic life, and (2) he would remain freed from any priestly duties to minister to a specific church.

    Jerome went with Paulinus to the Council of Constantinople and afterward continued on with him to Rome in 381 C.E. Pope Damasus swiftly appreciated Jerome’s learning and linguistic expertise. Inside of a year Jerome was raised to the important position of personal secretary to Damasus.

    Once in the position of personal secretary, Jerome seemed to attract controversy at every turn. For example, even though he lived in a luxurious papal court, he continued in his ascetic lifestyle. This was not only frowned upon, but he even went a step further and spoke out against the excessive lifestyle of the worldly clergy, creating numerous enemies. 

    Regardless of those who despised him, Jerome had the complete backing of Pope Damasus. Of course, the pope had very good reasons for seeing that Jerome continued in his Bible research. The Latin Bible version, were really in numerous forms; as many of them had been carelessly translated, filled with errors. Another problem that Damasus faced was the division of his church, the East and the West. Few in the Eastern portion of the church knew Latin, and fewer still in the Western portion knew Greek.

    Therefore, it was Pope Damasus’ intention to have Jerome create a standard Latin text of the Gospels. Damasus desired a translation that would me a mirror image of the original language Greek texts, yet at the same time, be moving, stirring and powerful, as well as clear in the Latin. Jerome and only a handful of other scholar were up to such a task. He was fluent in Greek, Latin, and Syriac and possessed a fundamental knowledge of Hebrew, making him well suited for the job. Therefore, Jerome was commissioned into a project by Damasus that would not be completed for the next 20 years of his life.

    Greater Controversies Lie Ahead

    Jerome was a translator with a mission, and it showed with the speed for which he was accomplishing his task. Jerome exhibited a clear, technique that would be used by translator and textual scholars over a millennium later. One of the leading textual scholars of the 20th century, the late Dr. Bruce M. Metzger had this to say about Jerome’s method:

    Within a year or so Jerome was able to present Damasus with the first-fruits of his work―a revision of the text of the four Gospels, where the variations had been extreme. In a covering letter he explained the principles which he followed: he used a relatively good Latin text as the basis for his revision, and compared it with some old Greek manuscripts. He emphasized that he treated the current Latin text [of his day] as conservatively as possible, and changed it only where the meaning was distorted. Though we do not have the Latin manuscripts which Jerome chose as the basis of his work, it appears that they belonged to the European form of the Old Latin (perhaps they were similar to manuscript b). The Greek manuscripts apparently belonged to the Alexandrian type of text. (Metzger 1964, 1968, 1992, 76)

    Initially the Jerome Latin translation was well received. However, the critics came out of the woodwork to complain about the supposed liberties that he took in making his translation.

    After I had written my former letter, containing a few remarks on some Hebrew words, a report suddenly reached me that certain contemptible creatures were deliberately assailing me with the charge that I had endeavored to correct passages in the gospels, against the authority of the ancients and the opinion of the whole world.[7]

    These condemnations only grew in intensity after the death of Pope Damasus in 384 C.E. The new pope and Jerome did not have a working relationship like he had shared with Damasus, so he made the decision to leave Rome. One again, Jerome was wandering toward the east.

    Jerome Becomes a Hebrew Scholar

    In 386 C.E. Jerome had found his way to Bethlehem, where he would spend the rest of his life. He was traveling with a few of those who had remained loyal to him, as well as Paula, a well-off woman of nobility from Rome. Paula had grown attracted to the plain and simple way of life without luxury, as a result of Jerome’s influence. However, here financial wealth was used to establish a monastery under the direction of Jerome. It would be here that he would take his scholarly pursuits to a whole new level, completing the ultimate work of his life.

    As you likely remember, Jerome’s understanding of Hebrew was only functional, so this new life in Bethlehem was going to offer him the opportunity at become an extraordinary Hebrew scholar. Here again, Paula was able to help him afford several different Jewish tutors, who helped him fully grasp a number of the more difficult characteristics of the language. Concerning one teacher, Jerome said;

    What trouble and expense it cost me to get Baraninas to teach me under cover of night. For by his fear of the Jews he presented to me in his own person a second edition of Nicodemus.[8]

    The Jews of Jerome’s day were not too receptive to Gentiles for their failure to pronounce the guttural sounds properly. This did not dissuade Jerome though, as he simply put more effort into his studies, and was eventually able to master these sounds. In addition, Jerome transliterated numerous Hebrew words into Latin.[9] This method not only assisted him in remembering the words but also preserved the Hebrew pronunciation of that time.

    The Greatest Controversy of Jerome

    We are not sure how much of the Bible that Damasus wanted Jerome to translate. However, we are well aware of how much Jerome intended to accomplish. Jerome was very attentive and resolute. Jerome was determined to make available a revised Latin translation of the whole Bible.

    Therefore, I beseech you, Paula and Eustochium, to pour out your supplications for me to the Lord, that so long as I am in this poor body, I may write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, worthy of posterity. As for my contemporaries, I am indifferent to their opinions, for they pass from side to side as they are moved by love or hatred.[10]

    The basis for the Old Testament was the Greek Septuagint (LXX).[11] The Septuagint was viewed by the Christians of the time as though it too were inspired by God.[12] It functioned as Scripture for the Greek-speaking Jews and was used by a large amount of Christians down to the time of Jesus and his apostles, as well up unto the time of Jerome. In the Greek New Testament, most of the 320 direct quotations and the collective total of perhaps 890 quotations and references to the Hebrew Old Testament are from the Septuagint.

    As Jerome got involved in the work of translating the Old Testament, he was again met with discrepancies, like had been the case with the different Latin manuscripts, and now between the different Greek manuscripts he was using. One can only imagine the feeling of disappointment, exasperation, or weariness of this man as he realized the work that would be involved in translating, as well as making textual decisions too. In the end, Jerome simply decided that it would be more practical to scrap his plan of using the Greek manuscripts, and even the revered Septuagint, and to go with the Hebrew text as his basis for the translation.

    Here is where Jerome finds himself being falsely accused as a forger of the text, a man who was disrespectful of God, deserting the traditions of the church in favor of the Jews. Even the leading theologian of Jerome’s day, Augustine, begged him to drop the Hebrew text and return to the use of the Septuagint as the basis for his Latin translation, saying: “If your translation begins to be more generally read in many churches, it will be a grievous thing that, in the reading of Scripture, differences must arise between the Latin Churches and the Greek Churches.”[13]

    As you can see the fear that dwelled within Augustine, was the church to become even further divided? He feared that the Western churches would be using Jerome’s Latin text based on the Hebrew text, while the Eastern Greek churches would be using the Greek Septuagint. Moreover, Augustine was concerned about setting aside the Greek Septuagint, for a translation that only Jerome would be able to defend.

    What was Jerome’s reaction to all of these critics? He chose to stay true to himself, he simply ignored them. He stayed with the Hebrew text as the basis for his Latin translation of the Old Testament, and brought the whole Latin Bible to complete in 405 C.E. It would be labeled the Vulgate some years later, which is a reference to a commonly received version (the Latin vulgatus meaning “common, that which is popular”).

    The Accomplishment of Jerome

    The Old Testament portion of the Latin translation that Jerome produced was not just a revision of the current Latin texts. It was the beginning of something far greater, a course change in the way the Bible was studied and translated. “The Vulgate,” said historian Will Durant, “remains as the greatest and most influential literary accomplishment of the fourth century.” (Durant 1950, 54)

    Granted Jerome possessed a bitter or critical manner of speaking and a combative temperament, he by himself transmitted Bible research back to the inspired Hebrew text. With a sharp eye, he pored over and compared ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible that are no longer accessible to us today. Jerome’s monumental work was also accomplished before that of the Jewish Masoretes.[14] Therefore, the Vulgate is a treasured reference tool for comparing alternate renderings of Bible texts. Hence, it would seem that his and his fellow assistant’s petitions were heard:

    Therefore, I beseech you, Paula and Eustochium, to pour out your supplications for me to the Lord, that so long as I am in this poor body, I may write something pleasing to you, useful to the Church, worthy of posterity. As for my contemporaries, I am indifferent to their opinions, for they pass from side to side as they are moved by love or hatred.[15]



    [1] Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, The Fourth Session, 1546.

    [2] self-denying way of life: austerity and self-denial, especially as a principled way of life

    [3] Jerome, "The Letters of St. Jerome", Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 4.

    [4] Rufinus of Aquileia, "The Apology of Rufinus", trans. William Henry Fremantle In , in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume III: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historial Writings, Etc., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 462-63.

    [5] Jerome, "The Letters of St. Jerome", Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 36.

    [6] Jerome, "The Letters of St. Jerome", Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 20.

    [7] Jerome, "The Letters of St. Jerome", Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 43-44.

    [8] John 3:2; Ibid, Volume VI, 176.

    [9] Transliterated means to represent letters or words written in one alphabet using the corresponding letters of another.

    [10] Jerome, "Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate Version of the Old Testament", Second Series, Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 493.

    [11] A Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made 280 and 150 B.C.E. to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine. The Septuagint contains some books not in the Hebrew canon. The roman numerals LXX stand for seventy, and according to tradition, The Septuagint was made by 72 Jewish scholars of Alexandria, Egypt. Later, the number 70 somehow came to be used, and thus the version was called the Septuagint.

    [12] We need to offer a word of caution here, because the Greek Septuagint was not inspired. Moreover, there were a number of Greek translations made, which was not a carefully guard text, nor unified. Thus, there are considerable differences between the Greek and the Hebrew Old Testament.

    [13] Augustine of Hippo, "Letters of St. Augustin", trans. J. G. Cunningham In , in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume I: The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin With a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 327.

    [14] The Masoretes were early Jewish scholars: any of the scholars who produced the Masoretic Text. The Masoretic Text was the Hebrew Bible: revised and annotated by Jewish scholars between the 6th and 10th centuries C.E.

    [15] Jerome, "Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate Version of the Old Testament", trans. W. H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W. G. Martley In , in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume VI: St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 493.

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