A Sixteenth century philosopher translates Christian books into the common vernacular so that everyday people could know from their own understanding, without any gatekeepers. He meets resistance.
“I defy the pope and all his laws; and if God gives me life, ere many years the ploughboys in England shall know more of the Scriptures than you do.”
William Tyndale. 1477—1536.
NO subject is more interesting and instructive than the history of Biblical Literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We have before spoken of the claims of John Wiclif to our lasting gratitude, for having given us the first English version of the Bible. But-that was made, not from the originals, but from the Latin Vulgate. Wiclif died 1384. About twenty-four years after his death, Archbishop Arundel, in a convocation of the clergy of his province assembled at Oxford, published a constitution, by which it was decreed, “that no one should thereafter translate any text of Holy Scripture into English, by way of a book, a little book, or tract; and that no book of this kind should be read that was composed lately in the time of John Wiclif, or since his death.”
The Latin Bible, or Vulgate, was first printed on the continent in 1462; the Old Testament in Hebrew, 1488, and the New Testament in Greek about 1518. When these sacred oracles were brought into England, with the introduction of printing, the illiterate and terrified monks declaimed from their pulpits, that there was now a new language discovered, called Greek, of which people should beware, since it was that which produced all the heresies: that in this language was come forth a book called the New Testament, which was now in everybody’s hands, and was full of thorns and briers: that there was also another language now started up, which they called Hebrew, and that they who learned it, were termed Hebrews. One of the priests declared, with a most prophetic wisdom, “We must root out printing, or printing will root out us.” But, notwithstanding the clamors of the monks, and the persecutions of the secular clergy, William Tyndale, in the reign of Henry VIII., undertook to translate the Scriptures from the original Hebrew and Greek into English, though he knew it would be done at the hazard of his life.