Dear brother C,
In continuing our correspondence regarding our English Bible, let me call your attention to the fourth point raised in the November letter; namely, INTERPRETATION. This is so vital a point that we shall allow the Word of God expressed in our English Bible to speak: “Now we have received… the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God… The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:13-16}.
The conversion of men from every people and tongue, and the formation of churches in every land, are definite proofs that the Holy Spirit interprets God’s Word in whatsoever language it is translated.
The Bible, unfortunately, has become so common that we forget the price paid to produce it in English. Since we have been discussing this subject, I have thought of some of the devout men God used to provide our Bible. One of the earliest to bring the Word of God within reach of the Anglo-Saxon peoples was the venerable Bede, born in 673. He passed his life in study, teaching others, and in prayers. He believed that man’s chief concern should be to make himself useful to others. Near the end of his life he was deeply anxious about his translation into Saxon of his Gospel according to John. The day before his death his scribe said, “There remains now only one chapter, but it seems difficult for you to speak.” To this he answered, “It is easy, take your pen, mend it, and write quickly.” Late in the evening his scribe again said, “Master, there is but one sentence wanting.” “Write quickly,” said Bede. “Now it is finished,” declared the scribe. “Thou hast said the truth,” said Bede, “Take up my head; I wish to sit opposite the place where I have been accustomed to pray.” The next day while thus seated, he exclaimed, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” and passed away.
A century or so later, we have the endeavours of King Alfred the Great who ascended the throne in 871. He was a man of virtue and piety as well as a man of letters. He not only attracted men of learning to England, but himself translated the Psalms of David into Saxon, and also several Dialogues of St. Gregory.
In the 16th century, God raised up another man in England whose efforts greatly influenced the style and the language of the King James Version, William Tyndale. During the spiritual darkness of that time, when Bibles were forbidden books in England, Tyndale translated the New Testament. While engaged in this work he found, as he himself said, “There is no room in my lord of London’s palace to translate the New Testament; nay no place to do it in all England.” Tyndale had to leave England for the continent, and there had his first edition printed. Many of these Bibles found their way to England where they were prohibited, and where a number of copies were collected and burned at St. Paul’s Cross. Later Tyndale revised his work. In the year 1536, he was arrested and condemned as an heretic. On October 6, at Vilvorde, he was led out to the scene of execution. On being fastened to the stake, he cried in a loud and earnest prayer, “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.” He was immediately strangled, and then burned. The accomplishment and sacrifice of Tyndale must be recognized by all who love and use the King James Version of the Bible, for his translation forms the basis of its New Testament.
Our English Bible has come by way of blood, sweat, and tears. Lives have been offered up to translate it, and lives have been laid down to publish it. May we love and treasure the Holy Volume, and rely more upon its sacred teachings.
Sincerely in Christ,