The Reformers Reject the Bible of the Papacy

The Papacy, defeated in her hope to control the version of the Bible in the Greek world when the Greek New Testament favored by Constantine was driven into retirement, adopted two measures which kept Europe under its domination. First, the Papacy was against the flow of Greek language and literature to Western Europe. All the treasures of the classical past were held back in the Eastern Roman Empire, whose capital was at Constantinople. For nearly one thousand years, the western part of Europe was a stranger to the Greek tongue. As Doctor Hort says:

"The West became exclusively Latin, as well as estranged from the East; with local exceptions, interesting in themselves and valuable to us but devoid of all extensive influence, the use and knowledge of the Greek language died out in Western Europe."(1)

When the use and knowledge of Greek died out in Western Europe, all the valuable Greek records, history, archaeology, literature, and science remained untranslated and unavailable to western energies. No wonder, then, that this opposition to using the achievements of the past brought on the Dark Ages (476 A.D. to 1453 A.D.).

This darkness prevailed until the half-century preceding 1453 A.D. when refugees, fleeing from the Greek world threatened by the Turks, came west introducing Greek language and literature. After Constantinople fell in 1453, thousands of valuable manuscripts were secured by the cities and centers of learning in Europe.

Europe awoke as from the dead, and sprang forth to newness of life. Columbus discovered America. Erasmus printed the Greek New Testament. Luther assailed the corruptions of the Latin Church. Revival of learning and the Reformation followed swiftly. The second measure adopted by the Pope which held the Latin West in his power was to stretch out his hands to Jerome (about 400 A.D.), the monk of Bethlehem, reputed the greatest scholar of his age, and appeal to him to compose a Bible in Latin similar to the Bible adopted by Constantine in Greek. Jerome, the hermit of Palestine, whose learning was equaled only by his boundless vanity, responded with alacrity. Jerome was furnished with all the funds he needed and was assisted by many scribes and copyists.

The Origenism of Jerome

By the time of Jerome, the barbarians from the north who later founded the kingdoms of modern Europe, such as England, France, Germany, Italy, etc., were overrunning the Roman Empire. They cared nothing for the political monuments of the empire's greatness, for these they leveled to the dust. But they were overawed by the external pomp and ritual of the Roman Church. Giants in physique, they were children in learning. They had been trained from childhood to render full and immediate submission to their pagan gods. This same attitude of mind they bore toward the Papacy, as one by one they substituted the saints, the martyrs, and the images of Rome for their former forest gods. but there was danger that greater light might tear them away from Rome.

If, in Europe, these children fresh from the north were to be held submissive to such doctrines as the papal supremacy, transubstantiation, purgatory, celibacy of the priesthood, vigils, worship of relics, and the burning of daylight candles, the Papacy must offer, as a record of revelation, a Bible in Latin which would be as Origenistic as the Bible in Greek adopted by Constantine. Therefore, the Pope turned to Jerome to bring forth a new version in Latin.

Jerome was devotedly committed to the textual criticism of Origen, "an admirer of Origen's critical principles," as Swete says.(2) To be guided aright in his forthcoming translation, by models accounted standard in the semi-pagan Christianity of his day, Jerome repaired to the famous library of Eusebius and Pamphilus at Caesarea, where the voluminous manuscripts of Origen had been preserved.(3) Among these was a Greek Bible of the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus type.(4) Both these versions retained a number of the seven books which Protestants have rejected as being spurious. This may be seen by examining those manuscripts. These manuscripts of Origen, influenced Jerome more in the New Testament than in the Old, since finally he used the Hebrew text in translating the Old Testament. Moreover, the Hebrew Bible did not have these spurious books. Jerome admitted that these seven books — Tobith, Wisdom, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, 1st and 2nd Maccabees — did not belong with the other writings of the Bible. Nevertheless, the Papacy endorsed them,(5) and they are found in the Latin Vulgate, and in the Douay, its English translation.

The existence of those books in Origen's Bible is sufficient evidence to reveal that tradition and Scripture were on an equal footing in the mind of that Greek theologian. His other doctrines, as purgatory, transubstantiation, etc., had now become as essential to the imperialism of the Papacy as was the teaching that tradition had equal authority with the Scriptures. Doctor Adam Clarke indicates Origen as the first teacher of purgatory.

The Vulgate of Jerome

The Latin Bible of Jerome, commonly known as the Vulgate, held authoritative sway for one thousand years. The services of the Roman Church were held at that time in a language which still is the sacred language of the Catholic clergy, the Latin.

Jerome in his early years had been brought up with an enmity to the Received Text, then universally known as the Greek Vulgate.(6) The word Vulgate means, "commonly used," or "current." This word Vulgate has been appropriated from the Bible to which it rightfully belongs, that is, to the Received Text, and given to the Latin Bible. In fact, it took hundreds of years before the common people would call Jerome's Latin Bible, the Vulgate.(7) The very fact that in Jerome's day the Greek Bible, from which the King James is translated into English, was called the Vulgate, is proof in itself that, in the church of the living God, its authority was supreme. Diocletian (302-312 A.D.), the last in the unbroken line of pagan emperors, had furiously pursued every copy of it, to destroy it. The so-called first Christian emperor, Constantine, chief of heretical Christianity, now joined to the state, had ordered (331 A.D.) and under imperial authority and finances had promulgated a rival Greek Bible. Nevertheless, so powerful was the Received Text that even until Jerome's day (383 A.D.) it was called the Vulgate.(8)

The hostility of Jerome to the Received Text made him necessary to the Papacy. The Papacy in the Latin world opposed the authority of the Greek Vulgate. Did it not see already this hated Greek Vulgate, long ago translated into Latin, read, preached from, and circulated by those Christians in Northern Italy who refused to bow beneath its rule? For this reason it sought the great reputation Jerome enjoyed as a scholar. Moreover, Jerome had been taught the Scriptures by Gregory Nazianzen, who, in turn, had been at great pains with two other scholars of Caesarea to restore the library of Eusebius in that city. With that library Jerome was well acquainted; he describes himself as a great admirer of Eusebius. While studying with Gregory, he had translated from Greek into Latin the Chronicle of Eusebius. And let it be remembered, in turn, that Eusebius in publishing the Bible ordered by Constantine, had incorporated in it the manuscripts of Origen.(9)

In preparing the Latin Bible, Jerome would gladly have gone all the way in transmitting to us the corruptions in the text of Eusebius, but he did not dare. Great scholars of the West were already exposing him and the corrupted Greek manuscripts.(10) Jerome especially mentions Luke 2:33 (where the Received Text read: "And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him," while Jerome's text read: "His father and his mother marvelled," etc.) to say that the great scholar Helvidius, who from the circumstances of the case was probably a Vaudois, accused him of using corrupted Greek manuscripts.(11)

Although endorsed and supported by the power of the Papacy, the Vulgate — which name we will now call Jerome's translation — did not gain everywhere immediate acceptance. It took nine hundred years to bring that about.(12) Purer Latin Bibles than it, had already a deep place in the affections of the West. Yet steadily through the years, the Catholic Church has uniformly rejected the Received Text wherever translated from the Greek into Latin and exalted Jerome's Vulgate. So that for one thousand years, Western Europe, with the exception of the Waldenses, Albigenses, and other bodies pronounced heretics by Rome, knew of no Bible but the Vulgate. As Father Simon, that monk who exercised so powerful an influence on the textual criticism of the last century, says:

"The Latins have had so great esteem for that father (Jerome) that for a thousand years they used no other version."(13)

Therefore, a millennium later, when Greek manuscripts and Greek learning were again general, the corrupt readings of the Vulgate were noted. Even Catholic scholars of repute, before Protestantism was fully under way, pointed out its thousands of errors. As Doctor Fulke in 1583 writing to a Catholic scholar, a Jesuit, says:

"Great friends of it and your doctrine, Lindanus, bishop of Ruremond, and Isidorus Clarius, monk of Casine, and bishop Fulginatensis: of which the former writeth a whole book, discussing how he would have the errors, vices, corruptions, additions, detractions, mutations, uncertainties, obscurities, pollutions, barbarisms, and solecisms of the vulgar Latin translation corrected and reformed; bringing many examples of every kind, in several chapters and sections: the other, Isidorus Clarius, giving a reason of his purpose, in castigation of the said vulgar Latin translation, confesseth that it was full of errors almost innumerable; which if he should have reformed all according to the Hebrew verity, he could not have set forth the vulgar edition, as his purpose was. Therefore in many places he retaineth the accustomed translation, but in his annotations admonisheth the reader, how it is in the Hebrew. And, notwithstanding this moderation, he acknowledgeth that about eight thousand places are by him so noted and corrected." (Italics mine)."(14)

Even Wycliffe's Translation Was From the Vulgate

Wycliffe, that great hero of God, is universally called "The morning star of the Reformation." He did what he could and God greatly blessed. Wycliffe's translation of the Bible into English was two hundred years before the birth of Luther. It was taken from the Vulgate and like its model, contained many errors. Therefore, the Reformation lingered. Wycliffe, himself, nominally a Catholic to the last, had hoped that the needed reform would come within the Catholic Church. Darkness still enshrouded Western Europe and though bright stars shone out brilliantly for a while, only to disappear again into the night, the Reformation still lingered. Then appeared the translation into English of Tyndale from the pure Greek text of Erasmus.

Speaking of Tyndale, Demaus says:
"He was of course aware of the existence of Wycliffe's Version; but this, as a bald translation from the Vulgate into obsolete English, could not be of any assistance (even if he had possessed a copy) to one who was endeavoring, 'simply and faithfully, so far forth as God had given him the gift of knowledge and understanding' to render the New Testament from its original Greek into 'proper English.'"(15)

Again:  "For, as became an accomplished Greek scholar, Tyndale was resolved to translate the New Testament from the original language, and not as Wycliffe had done, from the Latin Vulgate; and the only edition of the Greek text which had yet appeared, the only one at least likely to be in Tyndale's possession, was that issued by Erasmus at Basle."(16)

The Reformers Obliged to Reject Jerome's Vulgate

The Reformation did not make great progress until after the Received Text had been restored to the world. The Reformers were not satisfied with the Latin Vulgate.

The papal leaders did not comprehend the vast departure from the truth they had created when they had rejected the lead of the pure teachings of the Scriptures. The spurious books of the Vulgate opened the door for the mysterious and the dark doctrines which had confused the thinking of the ancients. The corrupt readings of the genuine books decreased the confidence of people in inspiration and increased the power of the priests. All were left in a labyrinth of darkness from which there was no escape. Cartwright, the famous Puritan scholar, described the Vulgate as follows:

"As to the Version adapted by the Rhemists (Cartwright's word for the Jesuits), Mr. Cartwright observed that all the soap and nitre they could collect would be insufficient to cleanse the Vulgate from the filth of blood in which it was originally conceived and had since collected in passing so long through the hands of unlearned monks, from which the Greek copies had altogether escaped."(17)

More than this, the Vulgate was the chief weapon relied upon to combat and destroy the Bible of the Waldenses. I quote from the preface of the New Testament translated by the Jesuits from the Vulgate into English, 1582 A.D.:

"It is almost three hundred years since James Archbishop of Genoa, is said to have translated the Bible into Italian. More than two hundred years ago, in the days of Charles V the French king, was it put forth faithfully in French, the sooner to shake out of the deceived people's hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses."

Such was the darkness and so many were the errors which the Reformers had to encounter as they started on their way. They welcomed the rising spirit of intelligence which shone forth in the new learning, but the priests loudly denounced it. They declared that the study of Greek was of the devil and prepared to destroy all who promoted it.(18) How intrenched was the situation may be seen in the following quotation of a letter written by Erasmus:

"Obedience (writes Erasmus) is so taught as to hide that there is any obedience due to God. Kings are to obey the Pope. Priests are to obey their bishops. Monks are to obey their abbots. Oaths are exacted, that want of submission may be punished as perjury. It may happen, it often does happen, that an abbot is a fool or a drunkard. He issues an order to the brotherhood in the name of holy obedience. And what will such order be? An order to observe chastity? An order to be sober? An order to tell no lies? Not one of these things. It will be that a brother is not to learn Greek; he is not to seek to instruct himself. He may be a sot. He may go with prostitutes. He may be full of hatred and malice. He may never look inside the Scriptures. No matter. He has not broken any oath. He is an excellent member of the community. While if he disobeys such a command as this from an insolent superior there is stake or dungeon for him instantly."(19)

It was impossible, however, to hold back the ripening harvest. Throughout the centuries, the Waldenses and other faithful evangelicals had sown the seed. The fog was rolling away from the plains and hills of Europe. The pure Bible which long had sustained the faith of the Vaudois, was soon to be adopted by others so mighty that they would shake Europe from the Alps to the North Sea.

"The light had been spreading unobserved, and the Reformation was on the point of being anticipated. The demon Innocent III was the first to descry the streaks of day on the crest of the Alps. Horror-stricken, he started up, and began to thunder from his pandemonium against a faith which had already subjugated provinces, and was threatening to dissolve the power of Rome in the very flush of her victory over the empire. In order to save the one-half of Europe from perishing by heresy, it was decreed that the other half should perish by the sword."(20)

It must be remembered that at the time (about 400 A.D.) when the Empire was breaking up into modern kingdoms, the pure Latin was breaking up into the Spanish Latin, the French Latin, the African Latin, and other dialects, the forerunners of many modern languages. Into all those different Latins the Bible had been translated, in whole or in part. Some of these, as the Bible of the Waldenses, had come mediately or immediately from the Received Text and had great influence.

When the one thousand years had gone by, strains of new gladness were heard. Gradually these grew in crescendo until the whole choir of voices broke forth as Erasmus threw his first Greek New Testament at the feet of Europe. Then followed a full century of the greatest scholars of language and literature the world ever saw. Among them were Stephens and Beza, each contributing his part to establishing and fortifying the Received Text. The world stood amazed as these two last mentioned scholars brought forth from hidden recesses, old and valuable Greek manuscripts.

Erasmus Restores the Received Text

The Revival of Learning produced that giant intellect and scholar, Erasmus. It is a common proverb that "Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it." The streams of Grecian learning were again flowing into the European plains, and a man of caliber was needed to draw from them their best and throw it upon the needy nations of the West. Endowed by nature with a mind that could do ten hours work in one, Erasmus, during his mature years in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, was the intellectual dictator of Europe. He was ever at work, visiting libraries, searching in every nook and corner for the profitable. He was ever collecting, comparing, writing and publishing. Europe was rocked from end to end by his books which exposed the ignorance of the monks, the superstitions of the priesthood, the bigotry, and the childish and coarse religion of the day. He classified the Greek MSS, and read the Fathers.

It is customary even to-day with those who are bitter against the pure teachings of the Received Text, to sneer at Erasmus. No perversion of facts is too great to belittle his work. Yet while he lived, Europe was at his feet. Several times the King of England offered him any position in the kingdom, at his own price; the Emperor of Germany did the same. The Pope offered to make him a cardinal. This he steadfastly refused, as he would not compromise his conscience. In fact, had he been so minded, he perhaps could have made himself Pope. France and Spain sought him to become a dweller in their realm, while Holland prepared to claim her most distinguished citizen.

Book after book came from his hand. Faster and faster came the demands for his publications. But his crowning work was the New Testament in Greek. At last after one thousand years, the New Testament was printed (1516 A.D.) in the original tongue. Astonished and confounded, the world, deluged by superstitions, coarse traditions, and monkeries, read the pure story of the Gospels. The effect was marvelous. At once, all recognized the great value of this work which for over four hundred years (1516 to 1930) was to hold the dominant place in an era of Bibles. Translation after translation has been taken from it, such as the German, and the English, and others. Critics have tried to belittle the Greek manuscripts he used, but the enemies of Erasmus, or rather the enemies of the Received Text, have found insuperable difficulties withstanding their attacks. Writing to Peter Baberius August 13, 1521, Erasmus says:

"I did my best with the New Testament, but it provoked endless quarrels. Edward Lee pretended to have discovered 300 errors. They appointed a commission, which professed to have found bushels of them. Every dinner-table rang with the blunders of Erasmus. I required particulars, and could not have them."(21)

There were hundreds of manuscripts for Erasmus to examine, and he did; but he used only a few. What matters? The vast bulk of manuscripts in Greek are practically all the Received Text. If the few Erasmus used were typical, that is, after he had thoroughly balanced the evidence of many and used a few which displayed that balance, did he not, with all the problems before him, arrive at practically the same result which only could be arrived at to-day by a fair and comprehensive investigation? Moreover, the text he chose had such an outstanding history in the Greek, the Syrian, and the Waldensian Churches, that it constituted an irresistible argument of God's providence. God did not write a hundred Bibles; there is only one Bible, the others at best are only approximations. In other words the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, known as the Received Text, is none other than the Greek New Testament which successfully met the rage of its pagan and papal enemies.

We are told that testimony from the ranks of our enemies constitutes the highest kind of evidence. The following statement which I now submit, is taken from the defense of their doings by two members of that body so hostile to the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, — the Revisers of 1870- 1881. This quotation shows that the manuscripts of Erasmus coincide with the great bulk of manuscripts.

"The manuscripts which Erasmus used, differ, for the most part, only in small and insignificant details from the bulk of the cursive manuscripts, — that is to say, the manuscripts which are written in running hand and not in capital or (as they are technically called) uncial letters. The general character of their text is the same. By this observation the pedigree of the Received Text is carried up beyond the individual manuscripts used by Erasmus to a great body of manuscripts of which the earliest are assigned to the ninth century."

Then after quoting Doctor Hort, they draw this conclusion on his statement:
"This remarkable statement completes the pedigree of the Received Text. That pedigree stretches back to a remote antiquity. The first ancestor of the Received Text was, as Dr. Hort is careful to remind us, at least contemporary with the oldest of our extant manuscripts, if not older than any one of them."(22)

Tyndale's Towering Genius is Used to
Translate Erasmus Into English

God who foresaw the coming greatness of the English-speaking world, prepared in advance the agent who early would give direction to the course of its thinking. One man stands out silhouetted against the horizon above all others, as having stamped his genius upon English thought and upon the English language. That man was William Tyndale.

The Received Text in Greek, having through Erasmus reassumed its ascendancy in the West of Europe as it had always maintained it in the East, bequeathed its indispensable heritage to the English. It meant much that the right genius was engaged to clamp the English future within this heavenly mold. Providence never is wanting when the hour strikes. And the world at last is awakening fully to appreciate that William Tyndale is the true hero of the English Reformation.

The Spirit of God presided over Tyndale's calling and training. He early passed through Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He went from Oxford to Cambridge to learn Greek under Erasmus, who was teaching there from 1510 to 1514. Even after Erasmus returned to the Continent, Tyndale kept informed on the revolutionizing productions which fell from that master's pen. Tyndale was not one of those students whose appetite for facts is omnivorous but who is unable to look down through a system. Knowledge to him was an organic whole in which, should discords come, created by illogical articulation, he was able to detect them at once. He had a natural aptitude for languages, but he did not shut himself into an air-tight compartment with his results, to issue forth with some great conclusion which would chill the faith of the world. He had a soul. He felt everywhere the sweetness of the life of God, and he offered himself as a martyr, if only the Word of God might live.

Herman Buschius, a friend of Erasmus and one of the leaders in the revival of letters, spoke of Tyndale as "so skilled in seven languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, French, that whichever he spoke you would suppose it his native tongue."(23) "Modern Catholic Versions are enormously indebted to Tyndale," says Dr. Jacobus. From the standpoint of English, not from the standpoint of doctrine, much work has been done to approximate the Douay to the King James.

When he left Cambridge, he accepted a position as tutor in the home of an influential landowner. Here his attacks upon the superstitions of popery threw him into sharp discussions with a stagnant clergy, and brought down upon his head the wrath of the reactionaries. It was then that in disputing with a learned man who put the Pope's laws above God's laws, that he made his famous vow, "If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth a plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest."

From that moment until he was burnt at the stake, his life was one of continual sacrifice and persecution. The man who was to charm whole continents and bind them together as one in principle and purpose by his translation of God's Word, was compelled to build his masterpiece in a foreign land amid other tongues than his own. As Luther took the Greek New Testament of Erasmus and made the German language, so Tyndale took the same immortal gift of God and made the English language. Across the sea, he translated the New Testament and a large part of the Old. Two thirds of the Bible was translated into English by Tyndale, and what he did not translate was finished by those who worked with him and were under the spell of his genius. The Authorized Bible of the English language is Tyndale's, after his work passed through two or three revisions.

So instant and so powerful was the influence of Tyndale's gift upon England, that Catholicism, through those newly formed papal invincibles, called the Jesuits, sprang to its feet and brought forth, in the form of a Jesuit New Testament, the most effective instrument of learning the Papacy, up to that time, had produced in the English language. This newly invented rival version advanced to the attack, and we are now called to consider how a crisis in the world's history was met when the Jesuit Bible became a challenge to Tyndale's translation.



 (1)  Hort's Introduction,  p. 142
 (2)  Swete, Introduction to the Greek O.T.,  p.86
 (3)  Jacobus, Cath. and Prot. Bibles,  p. 4
 (4)  Price, Ancestry,  pp. 69, 70
 (5)  Jacobus,  p. 6
 (6)  Hort's Introduction,  p. 138
 (7)  Jacobus,  p. 203
 (8)  Swete's Introduction,  pp. 85, 86
 (9)  Price, Ancestry,  p. 70
(10) W.H. Green, The Text of the O.T.,  p. 116,  and  Post-Nicene Fathers,  Vol. 6,  p. 338
(11) Jerome against Helvidius
(12) Jacobus,  p. 4
(13) Quoted in Nolan, Inquiry,  p. 33
(14) Fulke, Defense of Translations of the Bible (1583),  p. 62
(15) Demaus, William Tyndale,  p. 105
(16) Ibid,  p. 73
(17) Brook's Memoir of Life of Cartwright,  p. 276
(18) Froude, Life and Letters of Erasmus,  pp. 232, 233
(19) Ibid,  p. 64
(20) Wylie, The Papacy,  p. 92
(21) Froude, Erasmus,  p. 267
(22) Two Members of the N.T. Company on the Revisers and the Greek Text,  pp. 11, 12
(23) Demaus, Life of  Tyndale,  p. 130

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