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The Right to Write

Many of us at Maysville, scattered into our separate homes but with a common goal, are writing portions of the Bible with our own hands as the year unfolds.  We have available to us a wide variety of English translations from which to choose. This simple act is a right which cost the blood of many who went before us.  At this moment in time I do not speak regarding the apostles, prophets and the Lord who died for the faith but rather the men many centuries later who faced death to dare translate the scriptures into English.

In the time of Jesus the Old Testament was available in a Greek translation.  The New Testament would be written in Greek during the first century AD.  Shortly after that, all of the letters which make up our New Testament were widely known.  But in a curious twist of world power, Latin took over where Greek once prevailed.  Jerome, a Catholic priest, translated the Bible into Latin in the late fourth century.  Over time it became the defacto Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

For a thousand years Latin ruled.  John Wycliffe was one of the first to dare translate the Bible into English.  Hand copies of his translation were treasured and further copied.    The Roman Catholic Church declared him a heretic in 1415, declaring all of his writings heresy and burned as many as could be found. Since he died in 1384 they could not punish the man, but in 1428 they dug up his remains, burned them and cast the ashes into the River Swift.  But his translation into English was a fire that could not be put out.

William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament reached England in 1526 and was widely sought after, though forbidden.  His complete Bible was finished in the 1530’s and was immediately, though perilously, well received by the people.  Tyndale himself was convicted for heresy and executed in 1536 for his efforts, since both translations and translators were equally burned whenever possible. Soon however a different wind blew.  King Henry VIII allowed an English bible printed in 1537, known as the Matthew Bible, to have on the title page “Set forth with the King’s most gracious license.”  Within twenty years the battle turned and English bibles became common.  Perhaps none more important in the world than the 1611 translation of The King James Bible.

Our right to have the Bible in English came at a high cost.  As you write along verse by verse, remember that this right came to you born along by the life and death of many.

- Tim Orbison


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