"To refute once more the common fallacy that John Wycliff was the first to place an English translation of the Scriptures in the hands of the English people in 1382. To anyone that has investigated the real facts of the case, this fondly-cherished notion must seem truly ridiculous...

To begin far back, we have a copy of the work of

**Caedmon, a monk of Whitby, in the end of the 600's seventh century, consisting of great portions of the Bible in the common tongue.

**Venerable Bede, In the next century, 700's, we have the well-known translations of a monk of Jarrow, who died whilst busy with the Gospel of St. John.

**Eadhelm, Bishop of Sherborne; LAO In the same (eighth) century we have the copies of Saxon Scriptures

**Guthlac, a hermit near Peterborough; and of copies of Saxon Scriptures

**Egbert, Bishop of Holy Island; these were all in Saxon, the language understood and spoken by the Christians of that time.

Coming down a little later, we have the free translations of

** King Alfred the Great who was working at the Psalms when he died, and of

** Aelfric, Archbishop of Canterbury; as well as

** popular renderings of Holy Scripture like the Book of Durham, and the

** Rushworth Gloss and others that have survived the wreck of ages.

After the Norman conquest in 1066,

Anglo-Norman or Middle-English became the language of England, and consequently the next translations of the Bible we meet with are in that tongue. There are several specimens still known, such as

** The paraphrase of Orm (About 1150) and

** the Salus Animae (1250),

** the translations of William Shoreham and

** Richard Rolle, hermit of Hampole (died 1349).

I say advisedly ‘specimens' for those that have come down to us are merely indications of a much greater number that once existed, but afterwards perished."

(Where we got the Bible 1911, )

preface of The Coverdale Bible

the world was told that "much about the time (1360), even in

** King Richard the Second's days, John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen that divers translated..., so that to have the Scriptures in the mother tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up and out in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation."

Anglican dignitary, Dean Hook, tells us that "Long before Wycliff’s time there had been translator’s of the Holy Writ."(Where we got the Bible 1911, )

The Protestant scholar Mr. Karl Pearson, says: "The Catholic Church has quite enough to answer for, but in the 15th century it certainly did not hold back the Bible from the folk: and it gave them in the vernacular (i.e. their own tongue) a long series of devotional works which for language and religious sentiment have never been surpassed.

Indeed, we are inclined to think it made a mistake in allowing the masses such ready access to the Bible. It ought to have recognized the Bible once for all as a work absolutely unintelligible without a long course of historical study, and, so far as it was supposed to be inspired, very dangerous in the hands of the ignorant." (Academy, August, 1885)

The Encyclopedia Britannica declares

** "(In) Eadwine's Psalterium triplex,(A.D. 1180) which contained the Latin version accompanied by Anglo-Norman and Anglo-Saxon renderings, appeared...

** By 1361 a translation of most of Scripture in this dialect (Anglo-Norman) had been executed."(© 1999-2000 Britannica) This was 20 years before Wycliffe "translated" his version

** "From August 1380 until the summer of 1381, Wycliffe was in his rooms at Queen's College, busy with his plans for a translation of the Bible" (© 1999-2000 Britannica)

** St. Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, said in his "Dialogue" (p.138), that: "the whole Bible was long before Wycliff's day (who lived during the century before Tyndale) by virtuous and well learned men translated into the English tongue and by good and godly people with devotion and soberness, well and reverendly read . . ."

** Even Cranner, Henry Viii's Archbishop of Canterbury, said in the preface of the "Great Bible," that the. Holy Bible: "was translated and read in the Saxon tongue, which at that time was the mother tongue, whereof there remaineth yet divers copies. ..;

** and when this language waxed old and out of common use, it was translated into the (English) language, whereof yet also many copies remain and be daily found."

The very Preface of the 1611 Authorized Version says:

** "Bede by Cistertiensis, to have turned a great part of them (the books of scripure) into Saxon:

** Efnard by Trithemius, to have abridged the French Psalter, as Bede had done the Hebrew, about the year 800:

** King Alfred by the said Cistertien- sis, to have turned the Psalter into Saxon: [Polydor. Virg. 5 histor.] ...even in our King Richard the second's days , John Trevisa translated them into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen with divers, translated as it is very probable, in that age".

** Even Foxe, the martyologist, makes the same acknowledgment: "If history be well examined we shall find both before the conquest and after, as well before John Wickliffe was born as since, the whole body of the scriptures was by Sundry men translated into our country tongue." (This was in 1571, in the declaration to Queen Elizabeth, written by Foxe).

** "In England there were current from early times(A.D. 800) vernacular versions of the Bible, especially of the Gospels, since the Gospel was often read at Mass in the vernacular after its recitation in Latin" (The Columbia Encyclopedia, copyright 1958, p. 197)

Archbishop Ussher of Armagh quotes a fragment from the Worcester Cathedral library, "The Venerable Bede translated the Bible, at least the greater part of it, into English, in many copies of his version are sill found in English monasteries." (Historia Dogmatica, 1763, XII, page 356)

"The Latin Vulgate (q.v.), from which a considerable number of versions were made into that form of English commonly called Anglo-Saxon, the most noted translators being

** Alfred (6th c.);

** Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborn, (7th)

** Bede (8th c.); and

** Aelfric (10th c.)."

(The Imperial Encyclopedia and Dictionary, volume 4, copyright 1902)

“The English scriptures had been passed down through the hands and hearts of faithful men. He and his associates merely ‘polished’ the spelling and idiom and Anglicized the word order of the scriptures already existing in his time (i.e. Bede, Alfred, Athelstane, Richard Rolle et al.). In the last half of the 1300s, others, like John Trevisa, produced an English edition of ‘the entire Bible,” through the patronage of Lord Thomas de Berkeley…

“Wycliffe’s Epistles, Acts, and Revelation were ‘polished’ versions of already existing texts…

“There is no doubt that Wycliffe was involved with ‘polishing’ the English Bible…

“…actual examination of the 200 or so extant editions makes it evident that the polishing was progressive, with mixed texts seen in numerous editions.” (Awe, p. 774, 776-7)

COPYRIGHT (c) 1977 Cambridge Theological Seminary


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