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CHAPTER THE FIRST:

OF THE

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE.

THAT it was the practice, in the early ages of the Gospel, to translate the Scriptures into the language of every country in which they were received, is evident from a variety of testimonies; but the following passage in Theodoret, who lived in the beginning of the fifth century, may be considered as alone decisive: “ We Christians are enabled to show the powers of apostolic and prophetic doctrines, which have filled all countries under heaven; for that which was formerly uttered in Hebrew is not only translated into the language of the Greeks, but also of the Romans, the Indians, Persians, Armenians, Scythians, Samaritans, Egyptians, and, in a word, into all the languages that are used by any nation (a).”—“ For the sacred Writ being the

foundation (a) Theod. ad. Græc. Infid. Serm.5. Vide Euseb. Dem. Evan. lib. 3. cap. ult. and Usser Hist. Dogm. Both the Old and New Testaments were very accuVOL. II. в ,

rately

foundation of the Christian religion, upon which they built the whole system of their morality and doctrine, and which the Christians were obliged to read both in public and private, the several churches of the world could not be long without such translations as might be understood by every body (b).” It is impossible to ascertain the exact time at which Christianity was introduced into this Island *; nor do we know how soon there was a translation of the Scriptures into the language of its inhabitants. The earliest of which we have any account, is a translation of the Psalms into the Saxon tongue by Adhelm, the first bishop of Sherborne, about the year 706. Egbert, bishop of Landisfern, who died in the

year rately translated immediately from the Hebrew and Greek originals into the Syriac language, before the end of the first century. This antient version is held in very high esteem by the Learned, and is still used by many of the Christians in the East. In some of the villages near Mount Libanus, Syriac is still the vulgar tongue. There is another Syriac version of the Old Testament made from Origen's Hexapla, about 600 years after Christ, but that is not much esteemed.

(6) Johnson's Hist. Account of the English Translations of the Bible.

* I desire to refer the Reader to a work upon this subject, published by the Bishop of St. David's since the last edition of this book, in which he states strong reasons for the opinion that a Christian church was planted in Britain by the Apostle St. Paul.

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 (C): 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 forbad 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 (d) 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 the Reformation in this kingdom, published a translation of the whole Bible in the English

language (c) King Alfred, who died A.D.goo, translated the Psalms. This translation was published by Spelman, A. D. 1640, with the Latin interlineary text.

(d) He was born in 1324, and died in 1384. “Some writers have conceived that an English translation was made before the time of Wickliff; and there are some copies of an English translation at Oxford, Cambridge, and at Lambeth, which Usher assigns to an earlier period; but it is probable that these may be genuine, or corrected copies of Wickliff's translation.”-Gray.

Iu. 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

holy (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 (g) 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 in Smithfield as a heretic, in July 1552. (h) He suffered death in Portugal as a heretic.

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