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From the Quarterly Review.
Streaneshalch (Whitby) a monk called Cadmon, the father of English poetry. He exercised his poetical powers chiefly in composing a version of the narratives of the creation, the Exodus, and the Incarnation and Passion of our Lord.* The poem has nothing of the character of an accurate translation, though a few detached passages of Scripture are rendered with toleráble fidelity. About the same period, or perhaps a few years later, Guthlac, or Gurthlake, the first Saxon Anchorite, wrote a Version of the "Psalms " in Anglo-Saxon, which, it has been conjectured, is that found between the lines of a very ancient Roman "Psalter" now among the Cottonian Manuscripts
It is not creditable to the scholarship of this country that, until within the last few years, so little was done towards a thorough investigation of the external history of the English Bible, and that its internal history was suffered to remain almost unknown. It could not have been that the subject was devoid of interest or importance. To the Bible we owe most that ennobles us; and the story of our English Version is interwoven with the rise and progress of our civil and religious liberties, and with the establishment and consolidation of our Protestant Constitution. It is intimately associated also with the lives and labours of the great- of the British Museum.† Baber says of est and best of England's worthies. Patriotism, apart from other considerations, ought to have made the history of the Book dear to us; and it is almost a national reproach that it has been so long neglected, and that even yet, in the works of our standard modern historians, such as Hallam and Froude, blunders are perpetuated on points which ought to be familiar to every educated Englishman. We are glad, therefore, to welcome the advent of a new era, and to give our meed of praise to Canon Westcott, and to the learned editors of Wycliffe's Bible, who have so propitiously opened the way for what we trust will eventually prove a complete elucidation of the origin and history of the English translations of the Bible, and a systematic critical examination of the sources, claims, and defects, of our Authorized Version, with a special view to a judicious and scholarly revision.
The earliest notice hitherto discovered of a translation of any portion of the Sacred Scriptures into Anglo-Saxon is in the seventh century. Towards the close of that century there lived in the Convent of
* 1. A General View of the History of the English Bible. By Brooke Foss Westcott, B.D., &c. London and Cambridge, 1868.
2. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, with the Apocryphal Books: in the Earliest English Versions made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and his followers. Edited by the Rev. J. Forshall, F.R S., &c., and Sir Frederick Madden, K.H., F.R.S., &c. Oxford, 1850.
3. On the Authorized Version of the New Testament, in connexion with some recent Proposals for its Revision. By Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D., Dean of Westminster. London, 1859.
the MS. that, "it has well-grounded pretension to be one of the books which Pope Gregory the Great sent to Augustin, first Archbishop of Canterbury, soon after his arrival in England." The fact that it is a Roman "Psalter" confirms this view; for, while the Roman was introduced in Canterbury, the Gallican was used in other parts of England.
About the year 706, Aldhelm, § Bishop of Sherborn, translated the “ Psalter." He was among the first of the Saxon ecclesiastics who was distinguished for learning. In his treatise "De Laudibus Virginitatis " he praises certain nuns for their daily study of the Holy Scriptures, a fact which seems to indicate that there was then extant a vernacular translation of the Bible. “The Anglo-Saxon version, discovered in the Royal Library at Paris about the beginning of the present century, has been supposed to be, at least in part, Aldhelm's production. The first fifty Psalms are in prose, the others in verse.' e." ||
* Bede, "Hist. Ec." xxiv. A manuscript of the poem was given by Archbishop Usher to Francis Junius, a learned Dutchman, who published it at Amsterdam in 1655. A new edition was printed in 1832, under the editorial care of Mr. Benjamin Thorpe.
+ Vesp. A. 1. It was edited for the Surtees Society by Rev. J. Stevenson, in the Anglo-Saxon and Early English Psalter." 1843. Account of the Saxon and English Versions of the Scriptures, prefixed to Wycliffe's "New Testament," p. lviii
§ Also written Adhelm and Ealdhelm. He was educated in Kent, under Adrian, the emissary of the Pontiff Vitalian, and was for a time Abbot of Malmesbury.
Wycliffe's" Bible," Preface, p. i. This interest
portions of Holy Scripture, to which he added glosses and comments for the use of both clergy and people. None of these works, however, are now extant.
In the ninth century Alfred the Great placed an Anglo-Saxon version of the Ten Commandments, "With such of the Mosaic injunctions in the three following chapters of Exodus, as were most to his purpose", at the head of his Code of Laws. His biographer tells us it was the desire of this good monarch that "All the free-born youth of his kingdom should be able to read the English Scriptures." Towards the close of his reign he began a translation of the Psalms, but did not live to complete it.†
Twenty-six years after the death of Ald- and apparently the Psalter, with other select helm the Venerable Bede translated another portion of Scripture into his native language. The story of its completion is told by St. Cuthbert. At that period there stood on the south bank of the Tyne, a little to the west of the modern town of South Shields, a monastery called Jarrow. The surrounding country was then thinly peopled. The river flowed silently between wooded banks and long reaches of moorland, past the towers of the Roman Wall and the cliffs of Tynemouth. On the evening of the 26th of May, 735 — Ascension Day, as St. Cuthbert informs us—an unusual stillness pervaded the sacred retreat. The monks spoke in anxious whispers. On a low bed in one of the cells lay an aged Among the Cotton Manuscripts in the priest. His wasted frame and sunken eye British Museum‡ is a beautiful Latin copy told that death was near. His breathing of the Gospels, called "The Durham Book." was slow and laboured. Near him sat a It is said to have been written by Eadfrid, young scribe, with an open scroll and a pen Bishop of Lindisfarne, in the seventh cenin his hand. Looking with affectionate ten- tury. Two centuries later, Aldred, a priest, derness in the face of the dying man, he of Holy Isle, added an interlinear Anglosaid, "Now, dearest Master, there remains Saxon version. Another translation of the only one chapter; but the exertion is too Gospels, apparently of the same age, and great for you." "It is easy, my son, it is executed in the same way, the Anglo-Saxon easy," he replied; "take your pen, write words being written between the lines of the quickly; I know not how soon my Maker Latin text, is in the Bodleian Library, and will take me." Sentence after sentence was is called the "Rushworth Gloss."§ It is uttered in feeble accents, and written by so named because it was the property of a the scribe. Again there was a long pause. Mr. Rushworth. At the end of the volume Nature seemed exhausted. Again the boy are these words: Pray for Owun that spoke: — "Dear Master, only one sen- this book glossed, and Farmen priest at tence is wanting." It, too, was pronounced Harewood." The authors of the version slowly and painfully. "It is finished," thus give their names, but nothing farther said the scribe. "It is finished," repeated is known of them. the dying saint; and then added: "Lift up my head. Place me in the spot where I have been accustomed to pray." With tender care he was placed as he desired. Then, clasping his hands, and lifting his eyes heavenward, he exclaimed, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:" and with the last word his spirit passed away. Thus died the Venerable Bede; and thus was completed the first Anglo-Saxon translation of the Gospel of St. John.*
Bede also translated the Lord's Prayer,
ing relic of Anglo-Saxon literature was published at Oxford in 1835, by Mr. Thorpe ("Liber Psalmorum Vers. Ant. Lat.," &c.)
"Epistle of St. Cuthbert."
The celebrated Anglo-Saxon scholar Elfric, who became Abbot of Peterborough in 1004, and Archbishop of York in 1023, translated considerable portions of the Bible, and wrote an abridgement of Old and New Testament history. His Biblical trans* Asser, "Life of Alfred"; first published by Archbishop Parker in 1574; reprinted at Oxford, 1722; William of Malmesbury "De Gest. Reg. Angl."
It may be the same which was published, with the Latin interlineary text, in 1640, by John Spel
man, under the title "Psalterium Davidis LatinoSaxon. Vetus." Similar glosses on the Psalter, the Lord's Prayer, the Book of Proverbs, and other portions of Scripture, exist in our public libraries. Some of them were published by the Surtees Society in 1840.
‡ Nero, D. 4.
lations, including the greater part of the Pen- | The MS. is in the Bodleian; and it was tateuch, and the books of Joshua, Judges, edited by Dr. White in 1852. In the same Job, Kings, and Esther, were published by Thwaites, from a MS. in the Bodleian, with the title "Heptateuchus, Liber Job," &c., Oxon. 1698.*
library is a large manuscript in Anglo-Norman, or English,* containing a metrical summary of the leading events of Bible his|tory, under the quaint name of Sowlehele, The existence of so many different trans- In Latyn tonge Salus Animae." Its date lations, made during one. of the darkest is uncertain, but it may be ascribed to the periods of our country's history, shows that 13th century. Towards the close of the there must have been some desire on the same century a metrical version of the part of a section of the English people to Psalms was made by an unknown author, possess the Holy Scriptures in their own and apparently circulated widely, as six tongue; and that learned ecclesiastics were copies of it are still extant. In the early found willing to gratify them. It does not part of the following century (cir. 1320) a appear, however, that any of the above translation of the entire Psalter in Latin works had an extensive circulation. Some and English, was written probably by were evidently prepared for private use; William of Schorham, vicar of Chart-Sutton others, perhaps, for a little circle of friends in Kent. It was intended for church serand associates; others for instruction in the vice, as it contains the usual Canticles, with public service of the church. To the peo- the Te Deum and the Athanasian Creed.‡ ple at large they were little known, and In the middle of the 14th century Richard they had, therefore, little influence on the Rolle, better known as the Hermit of Hamnational mind. It is greatly to be regretted pole, wrote an English translation of the that our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon Book of Psalms with a Commentary. translations should still be so very imper- Many manuscript copies of it are in the fect. No critical examination of the nu- public libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, and merous and interesting Manuscripts con- London; and their state proves that the tained in our public libraries has yet been work had not only been widely circulated, made. The authorship and age of some of but repeatedly and carefully revised.§ In the most important are doubtful. Even the British Museum and Bodleian Libraries over the life of Elfric much obscurity is numerous other fragments of English Psalthrown, owing to his being so generally ters are preserved of the same or an earlier confounded with Alfric, Archbishop of Can- date. At first the Normans, when consoliterbury, who died in 1005. The Preface dating their new conquests, gave little to Wycliffe's Bible is, upon this depart-thought to the Bible. Their invasion ment, far too brief, and, in some respects, checked rather than advanced the progress vague; the notices in the historical account of Scriptural knowledge for a time. But prefixed to Bagster's "Hexapla" are con- after two centuries of stagnation a revival fused, and not always trustworthy; and the took place. A spirit of inquiry began to works edited by Mr. B. Thorpe are very spread among the clergy. Their attention unsatisfactory. A systematic description was turned to the Scriptures, and they of the extant Anglo-Saxon translations, showed their desire to instruct the people accompanied by a critical collation, is still by translating the Lessons ordinarily read a felt want in English Biblical Literature. in the public services of the Church. Portions of the Gospels of Mark and Luke and of Paul's Epistles also exist in manuscript. But, so far as our researches have gone, it would seem that down to the year 1360, the Psalter was the only book of Scripture
Soon after the Conquest an author called Orme wrote a paraphrase of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles in blank verse, which is now known as "The Ormulum."
* Bod. 779.
* His Scripture history was published by L'Isle in 1623, entitled "A Saxon Treatise concerning the Old and New Testament; and his other works, + Preface, Wyc. "Bible," p. iii. note. It was pubwhich illustrate the history of Holy Scripture dur-lished in Stevenson's " Anglo-Saxon and Early Enging the Anglo-Saxon period, were edited by Mr. B. Thorpe for the Elfric Society (2 vols. London, 1843-46)..
lish Psalter" (1843).
Ibid., p. iv.
§ Preface, Wyc. Bible, p. iv.
entirely and literally translated into Eng- of their real state. A favourable opportulish. There are some short lessons from nity offered in the scandalous practices of other parts of the Bible correctly rendered, the order of Mendicant Friars, who then but all the longer works are loose para- overran England, perverting the minds of phrases, poems founded on Bible narra- the populace, exciting their fanaticism, and tives, or abridgments of the Sacred text. robbing them of their property. In public None of them were literal versions, and lectures at Oxford Wycliffe openly attacked none of the versions or paraphrases were them, exposing with unsparing eloquence founded on the Hebrew of Greek originals. and withering sarcasm their immorality, The Vulgate version alone was used, and their lies, and their craft. The truth of his most of the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Nor- charges was too evident to be questioned. man translations of the Psalms follow the The eyes of the people were suddenly opened Gallican Psalter. to a system of delusion and extortion. Stung by a sense of their wrongs, they were ready to listen to a remedy. Wycliffe saw the time had arrived for proclaiming a new and great doctrine. He, therefore, declared that the principles of the order of Friars, and of the whole system on which Popish despotism was based, were opposed to the teaching of God as recorded in the Bible. The appeal to the Bible as the sole standard of truth was the inauguration of a new era in England. At that moment Wycliffe laid the foundation of liberty of conscience. Very soon the eyes of the greatest and best in the country were turned to him. A circumstance which then occurred contributed much to aid his work. The Pope demanded of the King payment of the annual tribute formerly given to the Holy See, with all arrears. This was a noble opportunity for Wycliffe. He urged King and Parliament to resist the claim, mainly upon the ground that there was no authority for it in the Bible.
The 14th century introduced a new era in Biblical translation. At this time the power of Rome in England was all but supreme. The clergy of every rank and class were devoted subjects of the Pope, and their name was legion. The whole country swarmed with them. They were watchful and energetic. The laws of their Church required them to withhold the Word of God from the laity. According to the Papal system the infallible authority of the Church alone is fit to determine the meaning of Scripture. To exercise private judgment upon it is presumption and rebellion. By maintaining these views with an authority stern, cruel, and uncompromising, Rome attempted to rob England of both patriotism and liberty. The people were taught, under pain of the Church's dread anathema, to bow submissive to a foreign potentate, and, not only so, but to commit mind and conscience alike to his keeping. The first man whose eyes were thoroughly opened to the degradation of his country, and who had the courage to resolve upon her emancipation, was JOHN WYCLIFFE.
But the nation as a whole was not yet prepared for such a revolution, because to them the Bible was an unknown book. Wycliffe determined to remedy this evil by giving them the Bible in their own language. He began his work at Oxford in 1356, by translating the book of Revelation, to which he added a brief Commentary. Several copies of it are extant in manuscript, and exhibit remarkable variations both in text and commentary, as if there had been a series of thorough revisions.* It was followed after an interval by a version of the Gospels, with an exposition, made up chiefly of extracts from the exegetical writings of the Fathers.
Wycliffe was born in 1324, in the parish of Wye-cliffe, situated on the banks of the river Wye, in Yorkshire. He was educated at Oxford, having entered Queen's College in 1340, the very year it was founded.* He became Fellow of Merton, and, in 1361, Master of Balliol. In the year 1356 he wrote a tract entitled "Last Age of the Church," in which he laments the decay of religion, the gross ignorance of the people, and the insolence of the clergy. His ardent, thoughtful mind was then turned to the great want of the age- the right means of instructing the masses. He resolved to In 1375 Wycliffe was presented to the supply the want by giving them the Word living of Lutterworth, in Leicestershire. of God in their own tongue. But before There, in the old parish church of St. Mary, doing so the people needed to be roused which still stands, he preached with faithfulfrom the apathy which ignorance had in-ness and power the fundamental doctrines duced; they required to be made conscious
of Christianity. A single sentence from one of his sermons will show his views regarding both Church and State at that period :
* Preface to Wyc. Bible, p. viii. note.
"All truth is contained in Scripture. We | of Rome followed him to the tomb. In the should admit of no conclusion not approved year 1415, the Council of Constance — the decreed there. There is no court besides the court Council that burned John Hussof heaven. Though there were an hundred that the ashes of the English heretic should Popes, and though all the friars in the world be cast out of consecrated ground. It was were turned into Cardinals, yet we could thirteen years later ere the decree could be learn more from the Bible than from that carried into effect. At length, forty-three vast multitude.' In his quiet parish he la- years after his death, all that remained of boured incessantly at the translation of the Wycliffe was gathered up by impious hands Scriptures. He completed the New Testa- from the cemetery of Lutterworth, burned ment in 1380. The version was not per- on the arch of a neighbouring bridge, and fect. It was made from the Latin Vulgate; the ashes thrown into the river Swift, which, yet it set forth substantially the fundamental as Fuller says, conveyed them into the doctrines of Revelation. The printing-press Avon, Avon into the Severn, Severn into the was then unknown. Every copy had to be narrow seas, they to the main ocean. written by hand. Wycliffe appears to have thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem employed a number of scribes, but they of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all were not able to supply the growing de- over the world." mand. Foxe tells us that some of the yeomen were so anxious to obtain the Word of God, that they often gave a load of hay for a few chapters of St. James or St. Paul.
While Wycliffe was engaged in his translation others were prosecuting a similar work in different parts of England. There is a manuscript translation of portions of the Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Gospel of Matthew, in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.' is in the western dialect. In the same library is a complete version of Paul's Epistles.t The authors are unknown, and probably they concealed their names for the purpose of escaping persecution.
Having completed the New Testament, Wycliffe arranged with his friend Nicholas of Hereford to undertake a translation of the Old Testament. It was at once commenced, but ere it was completed the Romish prelates were informed of the design. Nicholas was suddenly summoned before a synod of preaching friars, held in 1382, and on the 1st of July was excommunicated. Wycliffe's translation was revised and He appealed to the Pope; went to Rome; much improved by others who outlived him, was tried and imprisoned, but soon effected the most celebrated of whom was John his escape. He does not seem to have re- Purvey, a clergyman, who officiated as turned to England again during the life of curate at Lutterworth, and lived with Wycliffe. Wycliffe himself, therefore, took Wycliffe during the closing years of his life.‡ up again the work of translation, and had It is an interesting fact that Purvey's copy the satisfaction of finishing it before his of Wycliffe's original translation of the death in 1384. The manuscript of Nicho- New Testament is still preserved in the las's translation is still extant in the Bod-library of Trinity College, Dublin; and leian Library. It ends at Baruch iii. 20, in attached to it is a Prologue, in Purvey's the middle of a sentence.*
Immediately on the issue of his New Testament, Wycliffe was charged with heresy, and cited before an ecclesiastical convention which assembled at Oxford in 1382. The charge in some way failed. It does not appear that any attempt was made to substantiate it. Probably they feared
hand, explaining fully the plan adopted by him in revising the version, and showing that his revision was very thorough.§
Wycliffe's Bible appears to have had a large circulation, considering the character of the times, the difficulty and expense of
* MS. 434.
the effects of such a defence as the bold re- ↑ MS. 32. See Preface, Wyc. "Bible," p. xiii. So far as we have been able to ascertain, Purformer would have made; yet he was ban- vey's is the only complete revision; and any student ished from the University. He was after-can see by consulting the work of Forshall and wards summoned to Rome to answer before Madden that there is no ground for the statement of Mr. Froude that it was "tinted more strongly the Pope for crimes laid against him. He with the peculiar opinions of the Lollards."-"Hist. was physically unable, had he even been of England," iii. 77. willing to go. His health was fast failing, and his Heavenly Master soon took him away from a world that was not worthy of him. He died in 1384. Even then his persecutors were not satisfied. The enmity
* Preface to Wyc. Bible, p. 1.
The Prologue was first printed separately in 1536, with the title," The Dore of Holy Scripture." It is prefixed to the edition of Wycliffe's Bible by Forshall and Madden. It was Purvey's revised edition of the New Testament, and not the original version of Wycliffe, which was published by Lewis in 1731, and again by Baber in 1810, and in Bagster's Hexapla.' Both versions are given complete for the first time in the magnificent work of Forshall and Madden.