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without named authors. For, doubtless, many of them that seem very devout and good works, are full of heresies, and your old English poet says, 'There is no poison so perilous of sharpness as that is that hath of sugar a sweetness.' "1
In a subsequent volume, published in 1541, called Dyvers holy instructions and teachings, Whitford again complains of this device of the teachers of the new doctrines. In the preface he gives the exact titles of the four little tracts which go to make up the volume, in order, as he says, "to give you warning to search well and surely that no other works are put amongst them that might deceive you. For, of a certainty, I found now but very lately a work joined and bound with my poor labours and under the contents of the same volume, and one of my works which was named in the same contents left out. Instead of this, was put this other work that was not mine. For the title of mine was this,' A daily exercise and experience of death,' and the other work has no name of any author. And all such works in this time are ever to be suspected, for so the heretics are used to send forth their poison among the people covered with sugar. For they seem to be good and devout workers, and are in very deed stark heresies."'
Even the smallest points were not deemed too insignificant for the teaching of novel doctrines destructive of the old Catholic spirit. To take an example: John Standish, writing in Mary's reign about the vernacular Scripture, complains of the translation which had been made in the time of Henry VIII. "Who is able," he writes, "to tell at first sight how many hundred faults are even in their best translation (if there is any good). Shall they be suffered still to continue? Shall they still poison more like as they do in a thousand damnable English books set forth within the last twenty-two years? Lord deliver us from them all, and that with all speed! I take God to record (if I may speak only of one fault in the translation and touch no more) my heart did ever abhor to hear this word Domimts . . . translated the Lord, whereas it ought to be translated our Lord, the very Latin phrase so declaring. Is not St. John saying to Peter (John xxi.), Dominus est, 'it is our Lord '? whereas they have falsely translated it as in many other places 'the Lord.' And likewise in the salutation of our Lady, 'Hail, Mary, full of grace, dominus tecum,' does not this word dominus here include noster, and so ought to be translated 'our Lord is with thee?' Would you make the Archangel like a devil call Him the Lord? He is the Lord to every evil spirit, but to us He is our most merciful Lord and ought to be called so. If, perchance, you ask of a husbandman whose ground that is, he will answer, 'the lord's,' who is perhaps no better than a collier. Well, I speak this, not now so much for the translation, seeing that it swarms as full of faults as leaves (I will not say lines) as I do, because I wish that the common speech among people sprung from this fond translation, ' I thank the Lord ;' 'the Lord be praised'; 'the Lord knoweth'; with all such-like phrases might be given up, and that the people might be taught to call Him 'our Lord,' saying,' I thank our Lord'; 'our Lord be praised,'1 &c, &c."
1 The Werke for Householders. London: John Waylande, 1537. 3 Richard Whitford, Dyvers holy instructions. London: W. Mydylton, 1541.
It is very commonly believed that until the influence of Cranmer had made itself felt, the ecclesiastical authorities continued to maintain the traditionally hostile attitude of the English Church towards the English Bible. In proof of this, writers point to the condemnation of the translations issued by Tyndale, and the wholesale destruction of all copies of this, the first printed edition of the English New Testament. It is consequently of importance to examine into the extent of the supposed clerical hostility to the vernacular Scriptures, and into the reasons assigned by those having the conduct of ecclesiastical affairs at that period for the prohibition of Tyndale's Testament.
It may not be without utility to point out that the existence of any determination on the part of the Church to prevent the circulation of vernacular Bibles in the fifteenth century has been hitherto too hastily assumed. Those who were living during that period may be fairly considered the most fitting interpreters of the prohibition of Archbishop Arundel, which has been so frequently adduced as sufficient evidence of this supposed uncompromising hostility to what is now called "the open Bible." The terms of the archbishop's monition do not, on examination, bear the meaning usually put upon them; and should the language be considered by some obscure, there is absolute evidence of the possession of vernacular Bibles by Catholics of undoubted orthodoxy with, at the very least, the tacit consent of the ecclesiastical authorities. When to this is added the fact that texts from the then known English Scriptures were painted on the walls of churches, and portions of the various books were used in authorised manuals of prayer, it is impossible to doubt that the hostility of the English Church to the vernacular Bible has been greatly exaggerated, if indeed its attitude has not altogether been misunderstood. This much may, and indeed must, be conceded, wholly apart from the further question whether the particular version now known as the Wycliffite Scriptures is, or is not, the version used in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century by Catholic Englishmen. That a Catholic version, or some version viewed as Catholic and orthodox by those who lived in the sixteenth century, really existed does not admit of any doubt at all on the distinct testimony of Sir Thomas More. It will be readily admitted that he was no ordinary witness. As one eminent in legal matters, he must be supposed to know the value of evidence, and his uncompromising attitude towards all innovators in matters of religion is a sufficient guarantee that he would be no party to the propagation of any unorthodox or unauthorised translations.
Some quotations from Sir Thomas More's works will illustrate his belief better than any lengthy exposition. It is unnecessary, he says, to defend the law prohibiting any English version of the Bible, " for there is none such, indeed. There is of truth a Constitution which speaks of this matter, but nothing of such fashion. For you shall understand that the great arch-heretic Wycliffe, whereas the whole Bible was long before his days by virtuous and well-learned men translated into the English tongue, and by good and godly people and with devotion and soberness well and reverently read, took upon himself to translate it anew. In this translation he purposely corrupted the holy text, maliciously planting in it such words, as might in the reader's ears serve to prove such heresies as he 'went about' to sow. These he not only set forth with his own translation of the Bible, but also with certain prologues and glosses he made upon it, and he so managed this matter, assigning probable and likely reasons suitable for lay and unlearned people, that he corrupted in his time many folk in this realm. . . .
"After it was seen what harm the people took from the translation, prologues, and glosses of Wycliffe and also of some others, who after him helped to set forth his sect for that cause, and also for as much as it is dangerous to translate the text of Scripture out of one tongue into another, as St. Jerome testifieth, since in translating it is hard to keep the same sentence whole (i.e., the exact meaning): it was, I say, for these causes at a Council held at Oxford, ordered under great penalties that no one might thenceforth translate (the Scripture) into English, or any other language, on his own authority, in a book, booklet, or tract, and that no one might read openly or secretly any such book, booklet, or treatise newly made in the time of the said John Wycliffe, or since, or should be made any time after, till the same translation had been approved by the diocesan, or, if need should require, by a Provincial Council.
"This is the law that so many have so long spoken about, and so few have all this time sought to look whether they say the truth or not. For I hope you see in this law nothing unreasonable, since it neither forbids good translations to be read that were already made of old before Wycliffe's time, nor condemns his because it was new, but because it was 'naught.' Neither does it prohibit new translations to be made, but provides that if they are badly made they shall not be read till they are thoroughly examined and corrected, unless indeed they are such translations as Wycliffe and Tyndale made, which the malicious mind of the translator has handled in such a way that it were labour lost to try and correct them." The " objector," whom Sir Thomas More was engaged