Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bible translation #5

On November 30th last year I promised to continue the work I began in November seeking to get to the bottom of the controversy concerning William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. To my shame, I have not done what I promised. And, honestly, I had forgotten about my promise.

Last night, "Anonymous" pricked my memory and my conscience by "Commenting" on my November 30th post via a further quote from the article I had referenced in my November 30th post.

By way of retrospect: On November 30th, I began to interact with Newsome's "Tyndale's Heresy," a brief Catholic perspective concerning Tyndale--why, the author believes, Tyndale's work should be abhorred and not prized.

[Note that I have just implicitly reduced what I am willing to grant without examination concerning the validity of the author's viewpoint. I have said the article conveys what the author believes. I have deliberately avoided suggesting that the article conveys, necessarily, either official Church dogma or "the Truth."

I do not claim to know official Church dogma or absolute historical Truth in the matter. Though I want to come as close to both as possible: I want to come as close as possible to understanding Catholic dogma and the Truth as well as to expressing Catholic dogma and the Truth.

(Please note, lest you mistake my meaning. I have spoken as I have of "Catholic dogma and the Truth" in an attempt to avoid presuming that Catholic dogma is the Truth. Yet I wish to avoid the opposite presumption: that Catholic dogma, as it were, "by definition," must not be the Truth. I spoke this way "merely" to note that, in my opinion, Catholic dogma and the Truth may or may not be one and the same. . . .

And while we're on that subject, maybe I should note that, if my understanding is correct, historically, back in the days of John Wycliffe (late 1300s) and William Tyndale (early 1500s), no one--certainly no public figure--in Western Europe could have spoken of "merely" noting such a thing as I just said: that "in my opinion, Catholic dogma and the Truth may or may not be one and the same." To even question such an identity would be to court capital punishment! . . .

But let us get on with our subject.)]

On November 30th, I quoted, and since then I have never moved beyond, the "first" of "several reasons" Newsome suggests for why "[t]he Church denied [Tyndale the right] . . . to make his own English translation of the Bible." (See my post from November 30th for my response to that first reason.)

Anonymous' Comment last night consisted of the following quote from Newsome:
[I]f the Church had decided to provide a new English translation of Scripture, Tyndale would not have been the man chosen to do it. He was known as only a mediocre scholar and had gained a reputation as a priest of unorthodox opinions and a violent temper. He was infamous for insulting the clergy, from the pope down to the friars and monks, and had a genuine contempt for Church authority. In fact, he was first tried for heresy in 1522, three years before his translation of the New Testament was printed. His own bishop in London would not support him in this cause.

Finding no support for his translation from his bishop, he left England and came to Worms, where he fell under the influence of Martin Luther. There in 1525 he produced a translation of the New Testament that was swarming with textual corruption. He willfully mistranslated entire passages of Sacred Scripture in order to condemn orthodox Catholic doctrine and support the new Lutheran ideas. The Bishop of London claimed that he could count over 2,000 errors in the volume (and this was just the New Testament). . . .

When discussing the history of Biblical translations, it is very common for people to toss around names like Tyndale and Wycliff. But the full story is seldom given. [The] case of a [modern,] gender-inclusive edition of the Bible is a wonderful opportunity for Fundamentalists to reflect and realize that the reason they don’t approve of this new translation is the same reason that the Catholic Church did not approve of Tyndale’s or Wycliff’s. These are corrupt translations, made with an agenda, and not accurate renderings of sacred Scripture.
I should note--what Anonymous did not--that this was the "last" (actually, third) reason Newsome listed for why the Church denied Tyndale the right to translate the Bible into English. And Newsome included one last sentence in his article following the section Anonymous quoted and that I have quoted from Anonymous, above:
And here at least Fundamentalists and Catholics are in ready agreement: Don’t mess with the Word of God.
I think this final sentence is important for at least two reasons:

1) Because Newsome shows good grace in recognizing and pointing out for all to see those places where faithful Protestants and Catholics should recognize agreement.

2) Because it is, at root, what I understand the Catholic objection is to what both Wycliffe and Tyndale were all about. At root, if I understand correctly, the Catholic Church objected to what it viewed as these men's "mess[ing] with the Word of God"--their attempts to make a mess of God's holy Word.

It disturbs me, as I know it disturbs Catholics who are in the know (for example, the woman who first brought this issue to my attention), that too many Protestants are unaware of these charges against Tyndale and Wycliffe.

So questions remain: Were Wycliffe and Tyndale messing with God's Word? If so, in what ways? Supposing they were messing, was their messing worthy of a death sentence?

Sadly, I am completely out of time this morning to answer these questions. So I will have to make a promise--and seek more diligently to fulfill it!--to return to these issues at a later date, but sometime much sooner than two months from now.
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