Note: I believe the Byzantine Emperor who dismissed Latin as a language of the barbarians was Nicephorus II Phocas, in one of his conversations with Liutprand of Cremona. Of course, I may be wrong. SIG
It was disclosed by Baroness Warsi this week that the Prime Minister sent Pope Benedict XVI a copy of the Authorised Version of the Bible as a gift, which we were told he accepted ‘with grace’. It would have been delicious if David Cameron had selected this gift on purpose, perhaps in order to reiterate a ‘statement of national independence‘; or as a reminder that ‘The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England’; or perhaps a deeper theological riposte to the Pope’s liturgical reforms, in particular to the restoration of the Tridentine Mass which is so irksome to the Roman Catholic Bishops of England & Wales.
But, of course, the Prime Minister is oblivious to such spiritual matters, not to say utterly ignorant. And Baroness Warsi simply wouldn’t have had a clue about the significance of gifting this particular version of the Bible to His Holiness.
Consider these extracts from the Preface and Translators’ Introduction of 1611. Doubtless the Prime Minister gave absolutely no thought at all to the potential offence these might cause:
..that right Occidentall Starre Queene ELIZABETH of most happy memory, some thicke and palpable cloudes of darkenesse would so have overshadowed this land..
..manifesting it selfe abroad in the furthest parts of Christendome, by writing in defence of the Trueth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of Sinne, as will not be healed)..
..since things of this quality have ever bene subject to the censures of ill meaning and discontented persons..
..we shall be traduced by Popish persons at home or abroad..
..whom they desire still to keepe in ignorance and darknesse..
..we are enabled to informe and reforme others, by the light and feeling that we have attained unto our selves: Briefly, by the fourth being brought together to a parle face to face, we sooner compose our differences then by writings, which are endlesse: And lastly, that the Church be sufficiently provided for, is so agreeable to good reason and conscience..
..the learned know that certaine worthy men have bene brought to untimely death for none other fault, but for seeking to reduce their Countrey-men to good order and discipline: and that in some Common-weales it was made a capitall crime, once to motion the making of a new Law for the abrogating of an old, though the same were most pernicious..
..hee had not seene any profit to come by any Synode, or meeting of the Clergie, but rather the contrary..
..it is not unknowen what a fiction or fable (so it is esteemed, and for no better by the reporter himselfe, though superstitious) was devised; Namely, that at such time as the professours and teachers of Christianitie in the Church of Rome, then a true Church, were liberally endowed, a voyce forsooth was heard from heaven, saying; Now is poison poured down into the Church, &c..
..whosoever attempteth any thing for the publike (specially if it pertaine to Religion, and to the opening and clearing of the word of God) the same setteth himselfe upon a stage to be glouted upon by every evil eye, yea, he casteth himselfe headlong upon pikes, to be gored by every sharpe tongue. For he that medleth with mens Religion in any part, medleth with their custome, nay, with their freehold; and though they finde no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to heare of altering..
..But now what pietie without trueth? what trueth (what saving trueth) without the word of God? what word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture?
..But what mention wee three or foure uses of the Scripture, whereas whatsoever is to be beleeved or practised, or hoped for, is contained in them?
..I adore the fulnesse of the Scripture..
..it is not lawfull (or possible) to learne (any thing) of God or of right pietie, save onely out of the Prophets, who teach us by divine inspiration.
..It is a manifest falling away from the Faith, and a fault of presumption, either to reject any of those things that are written, or to bring in (upon the head of them, ) any of those things that are not written.
The Scriptures then being acknowledged to bee so full and so perfect, how can wee excuse our selves of negligence, if we doe not studie them, of curiositie, if we be not content with them?
..Catholicon the drugge..
Well, that which they falsly or vainely attributed to these things for bodily good, wee may justly and with full measure ascribe unto the Scripture, for spirituall. It is not onely an armour, but also a whole armorie of weapons, both offensive, and defensive; whereby we may save our selves and put the enemie to flight. It is not an herbe, but a tree, or rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring foorth fruit every moneth, and the fruit thereof is for meate, and the leaves for medicine. It is not a pot of Manna, or a cruse of oyle, which were for memorie only, or for a meales meate or two, but as it were a showre of heavenly bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great; and as it were a whole cellar full of oyle vessels; whereby all our necessities may be provided for, and our debts discharged. In a word, it is a Panary of holesome foode, against fenowed traditions; a Physions-shop (Saint Basill calleth it) of preservatives against poisoned heresies; a Pandect of profitable lawes, against rebellious spirits; a treasurie of most costly jewels, against beggarly rudiments..
..repentance from dead workes..
..the Emperour of Constantinople calleth the Latine tongue, barbarous, though Pope Nicolas do storme at it..
Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtaine, that we may looke into the most Holy place; that remooveth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which meanes the flockes of Laban were watered. Indeede without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacobs well (which was deepe) without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Esau, to whom when a sealed booke was delivered..
Therefore the word of God being set foorth in Greeke, becommeth hereby like a candle set upon a candlesticke, which giveth light to all that are in the house, or like a proclamation sounded foorth in the market place, which most men presently take knowledge of; and therefore that language was fittest to containe the Scriptures, both for the first Preachers of the Gospel to appeale unto for witnesse, and for the learners also of those times to make search and triall by. It is certaine, that the Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but that it needed in many places correction; and who had bene so sufficient for this worke as the Apostles or Apostolike men? Yet it seemed good to the holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather then by making a new, in that new world and greene age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their owne turne, and therefore bearing witnesse to themselves, their witnesse not to be regarded.
There were also within a few hundreth yeeres after CHRIST, translations many into the Latine tongue: for this tongue also was very fit to convey the Law and the Gospel by, because in those times very many Countreys of the West, yea of the South, East and North, spake or understood Latine, being made Provinces to the Romanes. But now the Latine Translations were too many to be all good, for they were infinite (Latini Interpretes nullo modo numerari possunt, saith S. Augustine.) Againe they were not out of the Hebrew fountaine (wee speake of the Latine Translations of the Old Testament) but out of the Greeke streame, therefore the Greeke being not altogether cleare, the Latine derived from it must needs be muddie.
..they provided Translations into the vulgar for their Countreymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion..
..The Scripture being translated before in the languages of many Nations, doth shew that those things that were added (by Lucian or Hesychius) are false.
..men not to be excepted against by them of Rome..
..the Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians. Ethiopians, and infinite other nations being barbarous people, translated it into their (mother) tongue, and have learned to be (true) Philosophers, he meaneth Christians.
..to have the Scriptures in the mother-tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up, either by the Lord Cromwell in England, or by the Lord Radevil in Polonie, or by the Lord Ungnadius in the Emperours dominion, but hath bene thought upon, and put in practise of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any Nation; no doubt, because it was esteemed most profitable, to cause faith to grown in mens hearts the sooner, and to make them to be able to say with the words of the Psalme, As we have heard, so we have seene.
Now the Church of Rome would seeme at the length to beare a motherly affection towards her children, and to allow them the Scriptures in their mother tongue: but indeed it is a gift, not deserving to be called a gift, an unprofitable gift: they must first get a Licence in writing before they may use them, and to get that, they must approve themselves to their Confessor, that is, to be such as are, if not frozen in the dregs, yet soured with the leaven of their superstition. Howbeit, it seemed too much to Clement the 8. that there should be any Licence granted to have them in the vulgar tongue, and therefore he overruleth and frustrateth the grant of Pius the fourth. So much are they afraid of the light of the Scripture, (Lucifugæ Scripturarum, as Tertullian speaketh) that they will not trust the people with it, no not as it is set foorth by their owne sworne men, no not with the Licence of their owne Bishops and Inquisitors. Yea, so unwilling they are to communicate the Scriptures to the peoples understanding in any sort, that they are not ashamed to confesse, that wee forced them to translate it into English against their wills. This seemeth to argue a bad cause, or a bad conscience, or both. Sure we are, that it is not he that hath good gold, that is afraid to bring it to the touch-stone, but he that hath the counterfeit; neither is it the true man that shunneth the light, but the malefactour, lest his deedes should be reproved: neither is it the plaine dealing Merchant that is unwilling to have the waights, or the meteyard brought in place, but he that useth deceit. But we will let them alone for this fault, and returne to translation.
Hath the Church bene deceived, say they, all this while? Hath her sweet bread bene mingled with leaven, her silver with drosse, her wine with water, her milke with lime? (Lacte gypsum malè miscetur, saith S. Ireney,)..
Yea, why did the Catholicks (meaning Popish Romanists) alwayes goe in jeopardie, for refusing to goe to heare it?
Now what can bee more availeable thereto, then to deliever Gods booke unto Gods people in a tongue which they understand? Since of an hidden treasure, and of a fountaine that is sealed, there is no profit..
A man had rather be with his dog then with a stranger (whose tongue is strange unto him.)
..for the very Historicall trueth is, that upon the importunate petitions of the Puritanes, at this Majesties comming to this Crowne, the Conference at Hampton Court having bene appointed for hearing their complaints: when by force of reason they were put from all other grounds, they had recourse at the last, to this shift, that they could not with good conscience subscribe to the Communion booke, since it maintained the Bible as it was there translated, which was as they said, a most corrupted translation. And although this was judged to be but a very poore and emptie shift; yet even hereupon did his Majestie beginne to bethinke himselfe of the good that might ensue by a new translation, and presently after gave order for this Translation which is now presented unto thee.
..nay wee affirme and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set foorth by men of our profession (for wee have seene none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.
..The Romanistes therefore in refusing to heare, and daring to burne the Word translated, did no lesse then despite the spirit of grace, from whom originally it proceeded, and whose sense and meaning, as well as mans weaknesse would enable, it did expresse.
The translation of the Seventie dissenteth from the Originall in many places, neither doeth it come neere it, for perspicuitie, gratvitie, majestie; yet which of the Apostles did condemne it? Condemne it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Jerome and most learned men doe confesse) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had bene unworthy the appellation and name of the word of God. And whereas they urge for their second defence of their vilifying and abusing of the English Bibles, or some pieces thereof, which they meete with, for that heretikes (forsooth) were the Authours of the translations, (heretikes they call us by the same right that they call themselves Catholikes, both being wrong) wee marveile what divinitie taught them so.
..For what varieties have they, and what alterations have they made, not onely of their Service bookes, Portesses and Breviaries, but also of their Latine Translation?
If we should tell them that Valla, Stapulensis, Erasmus, and Vives found fault with their vulgar Translation, and consequently wished the same to be mended, or a new one to be made, they would answere peradventure, that we produced their enemies for witnesses against them; albeit, they were in no other sort enemies, then as S. Paul was to the Galatians, for telling them the trueth: and it were to be wished, that they had dared to tell it them plainlier and oftner.
If they say, it was one Popes private opinion, and that he consulted onely himselfe; then wee are able to goe further with them, and to averre, that more of their chiefe men of all sorts, even their owne Trent-champions Paiva & Vega, and their owne Inquisitors, Hieronymus ab Oleastro, and their own Bishop Isidorus Clarius, and their owne Cardinall Thomas à Vio Caietan, doe either make new Translations themselves, or follow new ones of other mens making, or note the vulgar Interpretor for halting; none of them feare to dissent from him, nor yet to except against him.
..doth not Sixtus Quintus confesse, that certaine Catholikes (he meaneth certainte of his owne side) were in such an humor of translating the Scriptures into Latine, that Satan taking occasion by them, though they thought of no such matter, did strive what he could, out of so uncertaine and manifold a varietie of Translations, so to mingle all things, that nothing might seeme to be left certaine and firme in them, &c?
Nay, further, did not the same Sixtus ordaine by an inviolable decree, and that with the counsell and consent of his Cardinals, that the Latine edition of the olde and new Testament, which the Councill of Trent would have to be authenticke, is the same without controversie which he then set forth, being diligently corrected and printed in the Printing-house of Vatican? Thus Sixtus in his Preface before his Bible. And yet Clement the eight his immediate successour, publisheth another edition of the Bible, containing in it infinite differences from that of Sixtus, (and many of them waightie and materiall) and yet this must be authenticke by all meanes. What is to have the faith of our glorious Lord JESUS CHRIST with Yea and Nay, if this be not?
..the imputation of Sixtus had bene true in some sort, that our people had bene fed with gall of Dragons in stead of wine, with whey in stead of milke..
..If they were sure that their hie Priest had all lawes shut up in his brest, as Paul the second bragged, and that he were as free from errour by speciall priviledge, as the Dictators of Rome were made by law inviolable, it were an other matter..
..we have shunned the obscuritie of the Papists, in their Azimes, Tunike, Rational, Holocausts, Præpuce, Pasche, and a number of such like, whereof their late Translation is full, and that of purpose to darken the sence, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may bee kept from being understood.
Accepting, of course, that neither the Prime Minister nor Baroness Warsi would have wished to so offend the Pope of Rome, one can only conclude that certain officials in the Foreign Office decided to convey this rather insensitive message. They do, after all, have some form in this.