Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bible translation: a real need?

I continue to study the issues raised by my correspondent who questioned the validity of Dave & Neta Jackson's Hero Tales account of William Tyndale. The more I have dug into the subject, the more disturbed I have become . . . by (what seems to me to be) the massive misdirection under which it appears so many of us--Protestants and Catholics--seem to labor.

And so, while seeking to dig down to the truth, I am afraid I must first dispense with the misdirections.

I shared the content of my original post with my correspondent. Among other things (which I must yet deal with), she replied,

[Quoting John:]

"At that time [i.e., when Tyndale was alive], it was illegal to translate the Scriptures into English without official approval," the Jacksons write. And that is correct. It had been illegal since 1408 when, as the Catholic Encyclopedia says (last sentence in section C.(2)), the Synod of Oxford "forbade the publication and reading of unauthorized vernacular versions of the Scriptures, restricting the permission to read the Bible in the vernacular to versions approved by the ordinary of the place, or . . . by the provincial council."

I know this and knew it and don't dispute it. I'm unsure why this is a problem. The emphasis is on "unauthorized" vernacular versions. These councils have charge over their flocks' souls. They were to be obeyed. To our modern ears, we think "Well why shouldn't you have the right to read any version you want?" but I think that is imposing a modern day construct of rights on the time. The Church is the guardian of the Scriptures and is the foundation and pillar of the Truth and, just as today we do not want a gender inclusive Bible, they did not want a Bible which would lead their flock astray needlessly. Since it was possible to have an authorized vernacular Bible, then why did Tyndale need to be lauded for his disobedience?

Let me break there.

I think her comment about "laud[ing Tyndale] for his disobedience" is pertinent. And that is why I wrote what I did about heroes and rebels. As I got thinking about it, it struck me--and struck me, honestly, as rather odd--that so many of the heroes our company (Sonlight) puts in front of children are rebels against the status quo. They (the heroes) are disobedient and/or law-breakers. And so I took--and take--my correspondent's implicit criticism to heart. It certainly causes me pause as I consider the books we have chosen.

And I need to return to this subject of rebellion (legitimate or illegitimate? when?).

But first I want to note the assumption with which my correspondent precedes her final question: "Since it was possible to have an authorized vernacular Bible, then why . . .?"

My question: Was it possible to have an authorized vernacular Bible? And, if so, how possible?

Further questions (related to the "misdirection" I referenced above):
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a vernacular translation of the Bible?
  • When one disagrees with a "constituted authority," what are legitimate--and what are illegitimate--means of lodging one's protest against that authority's claims?
  • At what point is one (minimally) justified in not merely speaking out against, but actually assaulting an authority?

Let me make clear that, at this moment I have no definitive answers to all of these--and corrollary--questions. I have some answers to some questions. . . . But I have the sense that I am on the outer edges of a very fuzzy ball of yarn, a ball I want to begin unrolling, yet whose "beginning thread" I can't identify.

So I intend to pick at it until, God willing, the thread comes loose and the ball can begin to unroll.

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