« AnteriorContinuar »
defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.
There are infinite arguments of this right christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue ; Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.
And now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our labours, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty to offer it to Your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work : humbly craving of your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of illmeaning and discontented persons, it may receive approbation and patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as Your Highness is, whose allowance and acceptance of our labours shall more honour and encourage us, than all the calumniations and hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God's holy truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil ; we may rest secure, supported within by the truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; and sustained without by the powerful protection of Your Majesty's grace and favour, which will ever give countenance to honest and christian endeavours against bitter censures and uncharitable imputations.
The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days, that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces, so you may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great GOD, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.
THE BIBLE is the only authentick source, from which we can derive instruction
concerning the various dispensations of God to mankind, and the duties required of men by their Creator. The word • Bible’ literally signifies book; and the word ' Scriptures,' writings : but these words are now, by way of eminence and distinction, applied exclusively to those sacred compositions, which contain the revealed will of God. The words 'Scriptures' and 'Scripture' occur in this sense in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles; whence it is evident, that, in the time of our Saviour, they denoted the books received by the Jews as the rule of their faith. To these books have been added the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, which complete the collection of books acknowledged by Christians to be divinely inspired. The Bible, or the Book, The Book of books, was used in its present sense by the early Christians, as we learn from St. Chrysostom.
The Bible is divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testament. The Apostle St. Paul, at 2 Cor. iii. 6 and 14, calls the dispensation of Moses “the Old Testament,” and the dispensation of Christ " the New Testament;" and these distinguishing appellations were applied by the early ecclesiastical authors to the writings which contain these dispensations. The Greek word translated 'testament, occurs in Scripture both in the sense of a testament or will, and in that of a covenant, Heb. ix. 16; Gal. iii. 15. It seems less properly applied to the ancient Scriptures in the former sense, since the death of Moses had no concern whatever in the establishment or efficacy of the Jewish religion; but, in the latter sense, it very properly signifies the covenant between God and his chosen people. The same word, when applied in the sense of a testament to the books which contain the Christian dispensation, may refer to the death of Christ, which forms an essential part of his religion; but even in this case it would perhaps have been better translated by the word 'covenant,' as referring to the conditions on which God is pleased to offer salvation to his sinful creatures, through the mediation of his only Son, Jesus Christ. Bp. Tomline.
The books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew, those of the New Testament in Greek.
The principal translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language, is that which is called the Septuagint. This name is derived from the Latin word Septuaginta, Seventy, the version being related to have been made by seventy or seventy
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE.
two interpreters. It is recorded that, about the year before Christ 277, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being intent on forming a great library at Alexandria in Egypt, sent to Eleazar the high priest of the Jews, to request a copy of the Law of Moses; and as he was ignorant of the Hebrew tongue, he further desired that some men of sufficient capacity might be sent to translate it into Greek. The messengers who went upon this errand, and carried with them many rich presents for the Temple, were received with great honour and respect, both by the high priest, and all the people: and having received a copy of the Law of Moses, and six elders having been assigned out of each tribe (seventy-two in all) to translate it, returned to Alexandria. Upon their arrival, the elders betook themselves to the work, and first translated the Pentateuch, afterwards the rest of the Old Testament into Greek. Whatever may be thought of the truth of this story, it is certain that the translation, called the Septuagint, was held in esteem and veneration almost equal to the original, and was not only used by the Jews in their dispersion through the Grecian cities, but approved by the great Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and quoted and referred to by our blessed Saviour and his Apostles.
The Latin translations of the Bible were, in early times, extremely numerous, but they were chiefly made from the Septuagint, and not from the original Hebrew, until St. Jerome, who was well versed in the Hebrew language, observing the errours of the many Latin translations, and their frequent disagreement with the original, undertook an entirely new translation, and with great care and exactness translated from the Hebrew all the Old Testament, except the Psalms. This translation of St. Jerome was not universally received in the Church; and at length another, which was composed of this and some former translations, and which is called by the Romanists the Ancient Vulgate, came into general use. The Romanists pretend that this Vulgate translation is the very same with St. Jerome's, and that whatever variations may be found, they were occasioned by the negligence of transcribers. However this may be, it cannot be denied that it has considerable faults, that it abounds with barbarous words, and that in many passages the sense of the original is corrupted, and in some entirely lost. Still the Council of Trent thought fit to declare that “the same ancient and vulgate Version which has been approved and used in the Church for many ages past, shall be considered as the authentick Version in all publick lectures, sermons, and expositions, which no one shall presume to reject, under any pretence whatever.”
It is impossible to ascertain with any exactness how soon there was a translation of the Holy Scriptures into the language of the inhabitants of Britain. The earliest, of which we have any account, is a translation of the Psalms into the Saxon tongue by Adhelm, the first bishop of Sherbourne, about the year 706. Egbert, Bishop of Lindisfern, who died in the year 721, made a Saxon version of the Four Gospels; and not long after, Bede translated the whole Bible into that language. There were other Saxon versions of the whole or parts of the Bible of a later date; and it appears, indeed, that new translations were made from time to time, as the language of the country varied; but when the popes of Rome had established their spiritual tyranny in this as well as in other countries of Europe, they forbade the reading of these translations; and in the fourteenth century the common people had been so long deprived of the use of the Scriptures, that the latest of the translations were become unintelligible. Wickliff therefore, who was a strenuous opposer of the corruptions and usurpations of the Church of Rome, and from whom we are to date the dawn of
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE.
the Reformation in this kingdom, published a translation of the whole Bible in the English language then spoken; but not being sufficiently acquainted with the Hebrew and Greek languages to translate from the originals, he made his translation from the Latin Bibles which were at that time read in the churches.. So offensive was this translation of the Bible to those who were for taking away the key of knowledge, and means of better information, that a bill, we are told, was brought into the House of Lords, in the 13th year of Richard the Second, and in the year of our Lord 1390, for the purpose of suppressing it; on which the Duke of Lancaster, the king's uncle, is reported to have spoken to this effect: “We will not be the dregs of all, seeing other nations have the law of God, which is the law of our faith, written in their own language. At the same time he declared, in a very solemn manner, “That he would maintain our having this law in our own tongue against those, whoever they should be, who brought in this bill. The bill, through the influence of the Duke, was rejected; and this success gave encouragement to some of Wickliff's followers to publish another, and more correct, translation of the Bible. But in the year 1408, in a convocation held at Oxford by Archbishop Arundel, it was decreed by a constitution, " That no one should thereafter translate any text of holy Scripture into English, by way of a book, or little book, or tract; and that no book of this kind should be read, that was composed lately in the time of John Wickliff, or since his death." This constitution led the way to great persecution; and many persons were punished severely, and some even with death, for reading the Scriptures in English.
In the reign of Henry the Eighth, William Tyndal, a favourer of the reformed doctrines, which were then making a rapid progress, was compelled by the Romish priests to leave England. After travelling for some time in Germany, where he became acquainted with Luther and other learned men, he settled at Antwerp; and with the assistance of John Fry or Fryth and William Roye, he translated the New Testament from the original Greek, and printed it, with some short glosses, or comments, without a name, at Hamburgh or Antwerp, about the year 1526. This was the first printed edition of any part of the Holy Scriptures in the English language. The impression was sent over to England; and the eagerness, which was generally shewn by the people, to read the Gospel in the vulgar tongue, quickly excited alarm among those who were devoted to the Romish church. Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor, and Tonstall, Bishop of London, caused all the copies they could purchase or procure, to be burnt at St. Paul's Cross; and the selling or dispersion of them was prohibited under heavy penalties. In the mean time Tyndal, with the assistance of Miles Coverdale, undertook the translation of the Old Testament, and published the Pentateuch at Hamburgh, in the year 1530, with prefaces reflecting upon the English bishops and clergy; and in the same year he published a more correct translation of the New Testament. In 1531, he published an English version of the Prophet Jonah. He was proceeding in the translation of the other books, when he was seized and imprisoned by the Emperour, through the influence of King Henry the Eighth and his ministers; and in the year 1536, he was put to death at Villefont near Brussels in consequence of a decree made in an asse bly at Augsbourg
In the year 1531, George Joye, an English refugee, published at Strasburgh, a translation of Isaiah; and in the year 1534, he published at Antwerp a translation of the Prophecies of Jeremiah, and of the Psalms, and of the Song of Moses.
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE.
In the year 1535, Miles Coverdale published in folio the first English translation of the whole Bible, and dedicated it to King Henry the Eighth. It was probably printed at Zurich; and though it passed under the name of Coverdale only, it is generally supposed that great part of the work was performed by Tyndal, before he was imprisoned, and that his name was not mentioned because he was then under confinement.
Those who were adverse to any translation of the Scriptures, not daring openly to avow their principles, complained of the inaccuracy of Wickliff's and Tyndal's translations; and on that ground objected to the use of them: but, on the other hand, it was contended by the friends of the Reformation, that, if these translations were erroneous, care should be taken to publish one more faithful. In the year 1535, Cranmer, who had been advanced to the see of Canterbury two years before, and whose endeavours to promote the cause of the Reformation were unremitted, had sufficient interest to procure a petition from both houses of convocation to the King, requesting that he would allow a new translation of the Scriptures to be made. Henry consented; and Cranmer, dividing an old English translation of the New Testament into nine or ten parts, distributed them among the most learned bishops and others, requiring that they should return their respective portions, corrected and amended, by a certain day. Every one sent his part at the time appointed, except Stokesly, Bishop of London, and his positive refusal to have any concern in the business seems to have put a stop to the work for the present. However, early in the year 1536, Lord Cromwell, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and the King's Vicargeneral, and Vicegerent in Ecclesiastical Matters, published injunctions to the clergy, by the King's authority, of which the seventh was, “ that every parson or proprietary of any parish church within the realm, before August the first, should provide a book of the whole Bible, both in Latin, and also in English, and lay it in the choir, for every man that would to look and read therein; and should discourage no man from reading any part of the Bible, either in Latin or English, but rather comfort, exhort, and admonish every man to read it as the very word of God, and the spiritual food of man's soul.”
In the year 1537, a folio edition of the Bible was printed by Grafton and Whitchurch, at Hamburgh or at Paris, more probably at Hamburgh: it varied but little from Tyndals and Coverdale's translation, and the few emendations and additions it contained were supplied by John Rogers, who superintended the publication, and assumed the name of Matthews: hence this is always called Matthews's Bible. A copy of this book was presented by Cranmer to Lord Cromwell, with a request that he would obtain the King's permission for the free use of it among his subjects; and it appears that the royal licence was granted through the application of Cromwell.
In the year 1538, an injunction was published by the Vicar-general, “ ordering the clergy to provide, before a certain festival, one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume in English, and to set it up in some convenient place within their churches, where their parishioners might most commodiously resort and read it;" and in the same year a royal declaration was also published, which the curates were commanded to read in their several churches, informing the people, " that it had pleased the King's Majesty to permit and command the Bible, being translated into their mother tongue, to be sincerely taught by them, and to be openly laid forth in