Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Who owns the Bible? (More on Tyndale and Bible translation)

As I continued to study the sources my correspondent sent me in criticism of William Tyndale and/or the Jackson's retelling of the story of William Tyndale, I realized there is a fundamental difference of viewpoint concerning the Bible and how one should consider the Bible's publication between Protestants and at least some--some officially/magisterially approved--Roman Catholics.

I was first shocked into the realization by a subordinate, parenthetical clause in Chapter 12 of Henry Graham's Where We Got the Bible. Graham refers to the Bible as the Catholic Church's "own book"--as if it were, in essence, "Copyright AD___ by the Roman Catholic Church."

"The Catholic Church certainly could never allow a version of Holy Scripture, (which is her own book) like that of Wycliff to go forth unchallenged, as if it were correct and authoritative, and bore her sanction and approval," Graham writes. [Note: the odd punctuation, including comma immediately preceding the parenthetical remark, is in the original. I have added the bold italics for emphasis --JAH.]

Graham continues:

Rome claims that the Bible is her book; that she has preserved it and perpetuated it, and that she alone knows what it means; that nobody else has any right to it whatsoever, or any authority to declare what the true meaning of it is. She therefore has declared that the work of translating it from the original languages, and of explaining it, and of printing it and publishing it, belongs strictly to her alone; and that, if she cannot nowadays prevent those outside her fold from tampering with it and misusing it, at least she will take care that none of her own children abuse it or take liberties with it; and hence she forbids any private person to attempt to translate it into the common language without authority from ecclesiastical superiors, and also forbids the faithful to read any editions but such as are approved by the Bishops.

All this the Catholic Church does out of reverence for God’s Holy Word. She desires that the pure, uncorrupted Gospel should be put in her people’s hands as it came from the pen of the Apostles and Evangelists. She dreads lest the faithful should draw down upon themselves a curse by believing for Gospel the additions and changes introduced by foolish and sinful men to support some pet theories of their own; just as a mother would fear lest her children should, along with water or milk, drink down some poison that was mixed up with it.

Stated again (actually, immediately preceding the above two quoted paragraphs):

[W]hile the Church approves of the people reading the Scriptures in their own language, she also claims the right to see that they really have a true version of the Scriptures to read, and not a mutilated or false or imperfect or heretical version. She claims that she alone has the right to make translations from the original languages (Hebrew or Greek) in which the Bible was written; the right to superintend and supervise the work of translating; the right of appointing certain priests or scholars to undertake the work; the right of approving or condemning versions and translations which are submitted to her for her judgment. She declares she will not tolerate that her children should be exposed to the danger of reading copies of Scripture which have changed or falsified something of the original Apostolic writing; which have added something or left out something; which have notes and explanations and prefaces and prologues that convey false doctrine or false morals. Her people must have the correct Bible, or no Bible at all.

I guess, based on that last statement, the Church claims not only to "own" the Bible, but to own certain people as well. They are its servants, subject entirely to its laws and decrees, no matter how the magisterium may decide.

I find this entire "line of argument" . . . at least disturbing. I'm not sure what else to say about it. The entire concept is . . . rather shocking, honestly. The bald-faced brazenness of such a claim!

I guess since the Roman Catholic Church "owns the Bible," Jews, the direct descendants of those who wrote it, have no rights to the Tanakh ("Old Testament"--or, as the three primary consonants of the word Tanakh reference: the Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings))?!?

"[The Church] has preserved [the Bible] and perpetuated it, and . . . she alone knows what it means"?!? --God couldn't possibly speak to anyone else?

"[N]obody else has any right to it whatsoever"?!? --It's not a book given by God to mankind as a whole--like the annunciation: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you . . ." (Luke 2:10-11; NIV) or, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14; NIV)?!?

"[N]obody else has . . . any authority to declare what the true meaning of [the Bible] is. [The Roman Catholic Church] therefore has declared that the work of translating it from the original languages, and of explaining it, and of printing it and publishing it, belongs strictly to her alone." --Wow! I appreciate the concern for people's souls, but is it truly better that we follow the model of a command-and-control, top-down economy than the more open policies of the free market? Better that the millions of people for whom the Bible has been made available due to efforts of "unauthorized" translaters . . . --Better that they should have lived and died without the Bible than that they had an imperfect Bible?

I think, maybe, I've been too influenced by my understanding and experience of the modern marketplace to "buy" this kind of mentality.
blog comments powered by Disqus