Translators to the Reader

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Now the Church was thus furnished with Greek and Latin translations, even before the faith of Christ was generally embraced in the Empire (for the scholars know that even in Jerome’s time the Consul of Rome and his wife were both pagans, and about the same time the greatest part of the Senate also). However, the godly scholars were not content to have the Scriptures only in the language which they themselves understood (Greek and Latin) but also desired to benefit and edify those unlearned in Greek and Latin who also hungered and thirsted after righteousness, and had souls to be saved as well as they. (Even as the good lepers were not content to fare well themselves, but told their neighbors about the provisions that God had sent, that they also might provide for themselves [2KI 7:9]). Therefore they provided translations into the common language for their countrymen. Most nations under Heaven did shortly after their conversion hear Christ speaking to them in their mother language, not only by the voice of their minister, but also by the written Word translated. If any doubt hereof, he may be satisfied by examples enough, if enough will serve to convince! First, Jerome said, "The Scripture being translated before in the language of many nations does show that those things that were added (by Lucian or Hesychius) are false." The same Jerome elsewhere said that he had set forth the translation of the Seventy [LXX] for his countrymen of Dalmatia. By which words Erasmus did understand to mean that Jerome translated the Scripture into the Dalmatian language. Also Sixtus Senensis, and Alphonsus a Castro, (men not to be objected to by those of Rome) do confess as much. Also Chrysostom, who lived in Jerome’s time, gives like evidence saying: "The doctrine of John did not, like that of the Philosophers’ vanish away; but the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians, and infinite other nations, being barbarous people, translated it into their mother language and have learned to be true Philosophers (he means Christians)." To this may be added the words of Theodoret, as next to him both for antiquity, and for learning, "Every country that is under the sun is full of these words, (of the Apostles and Prophets) and the Hebrew language (he means the Scriptures in the Hebrew language) is turned not only into the language of the Greeks, but also of the Romans, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Armenians, Scythians, Sauromatians and in short, into all the languages that any nation uses." In like manner Ulpilas is reported by Paulus Diaconus and Isidore, and before them by Sozomen, to have translated the Scriptures into the Gothic language. John Bishop of Seville is reported by Vasseus, to have turned them into Arabic about 717 AD. Cistertiensis says that Bede turned a great part of them into Saxon. Trithemius tells us that Efnard abridged the French Psalter (as Bede had done the Hebrew) about the year 800 AD. King Alfred according to Cistertiensis, turned the Psalter into Saxon. Methodius as reported by Aventinus (printed at Ingolstad) is said to have turned the Scriptures into Slavic. Beatus Rhenanus says that Valdo Bishop of Frising caused about that time the Gospels to be translated into Dutch rhyme, and this yet exists in the library of Corbinian. Many say that Valdus translated them himself, or had them translated, into French about the year 1160. Charles the fifth surnamed The Wise caused them to be translated into French, about 200 years after Valdus’ time; of which translation there are many copies yet in existence, as witnesses Beroaldus. About that time, even in our King Richard the second’s days, John Trevisa translated them into English. Many handwritten English Bibles, having various writers and translated, as it is very probable, in that age, are yet to be seen. Widminstadius tells us that the Syrian translation of the New Testament is in most learned men’s libraries. Augustinus Nebiensis’ reports that the Psalter in Arabic is with many others. Postel affirms, that in his travel he saw the Gospels in the Ethiopian language. Ambrose Thesius wrote of the Psalter of the Indians, which he testified to have been set forth by Potken in Syrian characters. So that to have the Scriptures in the mother language is not an unusual concept lately taken up, either by Lord Cromwell in England, or by Lord Radevile in Polony, or by Lord Ungnadius in the Emperor’s dominion, but has been considered, and put in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation. This is so no doubt, because it was considered most profitable to cause faith to grow in men’s hearts the sooner, and to make them to be able to say with the words of the Psalm, As we have heard, so we have seen [PSA 48:8].

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This Page Last Updated: 12/08/98 A. Allison Lewis