Sivut kuvina

generally assumed the right to free and personal interpretation of its meaning, no sooner was the English Scripture put into circulation than its advocates proclaimed the need of expositions to teach people the meaning they should attach to it. In fact, the marginal notes and glosses, furnished by Tyndale chiefly from Lutheran sources, are evidence that even he had no wish that the people should understand or interpret the sacred text otherwise than according to his peculiar views. Very quickly after the permission of Henry VIII. had allowed the circulation of the printed English Bible, commentators came forward to explain their views. Lancelot Ridley, for example, issued many such explanations of portions of the Sacred Text with the object, as he explains, of enabling "the unlearned to declare the Holy Scriptures now suffered to all people of this realm to read and study at their pleasure." For the Bible, "which is now undeclared {i.e., unexplained) to them, and only had in the bare letter, appears to many rather death than life, rather (calculated) to bring many to errors and heresies than into the truth and verity of God's Word. For this, when unexplained, does not bring the simple, rude, and ignorant people from their ignorant blindness, from their corrupt and backward judgments, false trusts, evil beliefs, vain superstitions, and feigned holiness, in which the people have long been in blindness, for lack of knowledge of Holy Scripture which the man of Rome kept under latch and would not suffer to come to light, that his usurped power should not have been espied, his worldly glory diminished, and his profit decayed."1

and leave theology and Scripture alone, "for when a tailor forsaking his own occupation will be a merchant venturer, or a shoemaker will become a grocer, God send him help. I have known," he says, "many in this town that studying divinity has killed a merchant, and some of other occupations by their busy labours in the Scripture hath shut up the shop windows, and were fain to take sanctuary, or else for mercery and grocery hath been fain to sell godderds, steaves, pitchers, and such other trumpery."

Again, in another exposition made eight years later, the same writer complains that still, for lack of teaching what he considers the true meaning of Scripture, the views of the people are still turned towards the "old superstitions" in spite of "the open Bible." "Although the Bible be in English," he says, "and be suffered to every man and woman to read at their pleasures, and commanded to be read every day at Matins, Mass, and Evensong, yet there remain great ignorance and corrupt judgments . . . and these will remain still, except the Holy Scriptures be made more plain to the lay people who are unlearned by some commentary or annotation, so that lay people may understand the Holy Scripture better."* Commentaries would help much, he says, in another place, "to deliver the people from ignorance, darkness, errors, heresy, superstitions, false trusts, and from evil opinions fixed and rooted in the hearts of many for lack of true knowledge of God's Holy Word, and expel the usurped power of the bishop of Rome and all Romish dregs."'

It is interesting to find that from the first, whilst objecting to the interpretation of the old teachers of the Church, and claiming that the plain text of Scripture was a sufficient antidote and complete answer to them and their traditional deductions, the "new teachers" found that without teaching and exposition on their part, the open Bible was by no means sufficient to wean the popular mind from what they regarded as superstitious and erroneous ways. Their attitude in the matter is at least a confirmation of the contention of Sir Thomas More and other contemporary Catholic writers, that the vernacular Scriptures would be useless without a teaching authority to interpret their meaning.

1 A Commentary in Englyshe upon Sayncte Faule's Epistle to the Ephesians, 154o.

'An Exposition in Englysh upon the Epistle of St. Paule to the Coles stans, 1548.

* An Exposition &c., upon the Philippians, 1545.

A brief word may now be said as a summary of the attitude towards the vernacular Bible taken up by the ecclesiastical authorities on the eve of the Reformation. The passages quoted from Sir Thomas More make it evident that no such hostility on the part of the Church, as writers of all shades of opinion have too hastily assumed, really existed.1 In fact, though those responsible for the conduct of affairs, both ecclesiastical and lay, at this period objected to the circulation of Tyndale's printed New Testament, this objection was based, not on any dread of allowing the English Bible as such, but on the natural objection to an obviously incorrect translation. It is difficult to see how those in authority could have permitted a version with traditional words changed for the hardly concealed purpose of supporting Lutheran tenets, with texts garbled and marginal explanations inserted for the same end. Those who hold that Tyndale's views were right, and even that his attempt to enforce them in this way was justifiable, can hardly, however, blame the authorities at that time in England, secular or lay, who did not think so, from doing all they could to prevent what they regarded as the circulation of a book calculated to do great harm if no means were taken to prevent it. Men's actions must be judged by the circumstances under which they acted, and it would be altogether unjust to regard the prohibition of the Tyndale Scriptures as a final attempt on the part of the English Church to prevent the circulation of the vernacular Scriptures. To the authorities in those days at least, the book in question did not represent the Sacred Text at all. That it was full of errors, to say the least, is confessed by Tyndale himself; and as to the chief points in his translation which he defended and which Sir Thomas More so roundly condemned, posterity has sided with More and not with Tyndale, for not one of these special characteristics of the translation in which so much of Tyndale's Lutheran teaching was allowed to appear, was suffered to remain in subsequent revisions. From this point of view alone, those who examine the question with an unbiassed mind must admit that there was ample justification for the prohibition of Tyndale's printed Testament. If this be so, the further point may equally well be conceded, namely, that the Church on the eve of the Reformation did not prohibit the vernacular Scriptures as such at all, and that many churchmen in common with the king, Sir Thomas More, and other laymen, would under happier circumstances, have been glad to see a properly translated English Bible.

1 As an example of the open way in which the reading of the Bible was advocated, take the following instance. Caxton's translation of the Vila Patrum, published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495, contained an exhortation to all his readers to study the Holy Scripture. "To read them is in part to know the felicity eternal, for in them a man may see what he ought to do in conversation ... oft to read purgeth the soul from sin, it engendereth dread of God, and it keeps the soul from eternal damnation." As food nourishes the body, "in like wise as touching the soul we be nourished by the lecture and reading of Scripture. ... Be diligent and busy to read the Scriptures, for in reading them the natural wit and understanding are augmented in so much that men find that which ought to be left (undone) and take that whereof may ensue profit infinite " (p. 345).




It it very commonly assumed that on the eve of the Reformation, and for a long period before, there was little in the way of popular religious instruction in England. We are asked to believe that the mass of the people were allowed to grow up in ignorance of the meaning of the faith that was in them, and in a studied neglect of their supposed religious practices. So certain has this view of the pre-Reformation Church seemed to those who have not inquired very deeply into the subject, that more than one writer has been led by this assumption to assert that perhaps the most obvious benefit of the religious upheaval of the sixteenth century was the introduction of some general and systematic teaching of the great truths of religion. Preaching is often considered as characterising the reforming movement, as contrasted with the old ecclesiastical system, which it is assumed certainly admitted, even if it did not positively encourage, ignorance as the surest foundation of its authority. It becomes of importance, therefore, to inquire if such a charge is founded upon fact, and to see how far, if at all, the people in Catholic England were instructed in their religion.

At the outset, it should be remembered that the questions at issue in the sixteenth century were not, in the first place at least, connected with the influence of religious teaching on the lives of the people at large. No one contended that the reformed doctrines would be found to make people better,

[ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »