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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, 13 Richard the Second, A. D. 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’(e).” 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
(e) Lewis's History of the Translations of the Bible.
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 (f), 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 (8) and William Roye (h), 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; (f) He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and became Canon of Christ Church soon after it was founded.
(g) He was educated at Cambridge. He was burnt Smithfield as a heretic, in July 1552. (h) He suffered death in Portugal as a heretic.
England; and the eagerness which was generally shown by the people, to read the Gospel in the vulgar tongue, quickly excited alarm
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(i) 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(k), 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 elergy; 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, with a preface full of invective against the church of Rome, proving himself, as Lord Herbert calls him, “ a witty, but violent, and sometimes
railing (i)“ A copy of this translation, supposed to be the only one remaining, was purchased for Lord Oxford, who settled 20l. a year on the person who procured it. Out of Lord Oxford's collection it was purchased by Mr. Ames for 151. at whose sale (1760) it was purchased for 141. 14s. 6 d.”—Gilpin's Cranmer.
(k) He was made Bishop of Exeter by Edward the Sixth ; but going to Geneva in queen Mary's reign, he imbibed the principles of Calvin, and refused to return to his bishopric in queen Elizabeth's reign.
railing disputant(1).” He was proceeding in the translation of the other books, when he was seized and imprisoned by the emperor, 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 assembly at Augsbourg.
In the year 1531, George Joye, an English refugee, published at Strasburg 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.
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 (m), 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, (1) Life of Henry the Eighth, page 406.
(m) It is said that he had advanced as far as Nehemiah inclusive, when he was apprehended. The rest of the books were probably translated by Coverdale himself.
principles (n), 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, (n) Even Sir Thomas More acknowledges, " Holy doctors never meant, as I suppose, the forbidding of the Bible to be read in any vulgar tongue; for I never yet heard any reason laid, why it were not convenient to have the Bible translated into the English tongue." Such is the testimony of this great man and professed papist, upon the general question of the right and expediency of a translation of the Scriptures, although he did every thing in his power to suppress the translations which were actually made.