Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mr. (Dr. Prof.) Daniell's "Bible in English:" Preface of a Must-Read

Daniell, David. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

This volume appears to be poised to become the best purchase of 2013. His handling of the English Reformation, several chapters beyond what we've posted, is superb.


• This volume is about “how important the Bible in English has been in the life of Britain and North America.”

The “Bible has tended to disappear.” To many, it is a “distant oddity.” It seems to have vanished, “often from ignorance, but sometimes from hostility.” We would add: think Medieval England, the 130-year reign of ruthless suppression of Wycliffite Bibles (and the people too by burning) by the Italians and the Archbishop of Canterbury (another one), the strenuous opposition to the English Bible by the Italians down to 1965 [think Pope Pee-on-us, or Pius, IX in his Syllabus of Errors], fashionable English and American Deism, 19th-20th century Protestant liberalism, and the manifold effects of modern American 20th century consumerism, religion, and materialism. Think small-to-little-Bible lections during worship or sermons. We would add ignorance and indifference to be the modern enemies, as well as the Devil--directly and actively--from and in the Parable of the Sower (Mt. 13). Don't forget that the Devil is an excellent corrupter and quite knowledgeable (Mt. 4); he sometimes comes as a theologian; that would be a taboo subject in some religious departments.  But, Matthew 13 is simple and perspicuous.

The large numbers. The Bible is the most translated-into-other-languages book in history. A dozen translations of Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey have been made into French and English. But, to use Mr. Daniell's words of comparison, the English Bible has been done “many, many, many times more.” Since Tyndale’s versions in the 1520s and 1530s, 350 new translations have been made.

Wycliffe’s manuscripts are about 230 whereas Chaucer’s are about 60; this was despite “one hundred and thirty years of the most long-lasting repression ever seen in the life of Britian.” The Act of 1401, De Haeretico Comburendo (a charming law to burn heretics), along with Archbishop (Canterbury) Arundel’s Constitutions in 1409 (orders with specifics in implementing the 1401 Act) remained in force until the 1530s.

• Yet, in the English Reformation 100s of 1000s of printed Bibles were bought; in a nation of 6 million during Elizabeth 1’s time, 500,000 Bibles were purchased.   The 9000 parishes had Bibles.  The Bible was read as well, by law, in those parishes. Mr. Daniell will more fully develop the impact on national life in Britain and North America.

• The English Bible was “involved in—indeed, made—public affairs. The English Civil was, in part, about the implications of marginal notes in the Geneva Bible. After 1660, the King James became an “instrument of government control.” It also made for good Pilgrims to New England too.

• Mr. Daniell gives wise and astute counsel on his use of the word “Puritan.” This word carried “awkward freight.” The term is “impossibly wide”...meaning different things at different times and for different contexts. In the 1570s, Italianates called the Reformers “Puritans.” In 1605, some of them used the term for themselves. Thomas Fuller, the famous English historian, wrote in 1655 that the term should be banished because it was “imprecise.” Further, it meant different things on two sides of the Atlantic. For Americans, it might have meant Pilgrims, early Founding Fathers, and “emotional rigidity” (quite an untruth, in fact). In 1570—1640, it generally referred to those of restless and critical dispositions within the Church of English itself. The majority of Puritans were Anglicans themselves, not separatists from it.

The True Revolution. Mr. Daniell will address the Latin Bibles in England as well as significant translations of it into Anglo-Saxon and Middle English (before the Conquest of William the Conqueror in 1066 and the dominion of the Anglo-French language in cultural, educational, ecclesiastical, legal and governmental spheres). Then, of course, the significant influence of Wycliffe and followers with the “Lollards’” Bible which survived Anti-Christ’s government of theft and repression. William Tyndale (and associated players) initiated “the true revolution in the history of the West.”

• Eamon Duffy summarizes the Italianate, Anti-Christ’s viewpoint:

He [Cardinal Pole in 1553] abhorred religious argument and the spirit of self-sufficiency which he believed indiscriminate Bible-reading by lay people was likely to encourage. Better for the people to absorb the faith through the liturgy; to find in attentive and receptive participation in the ceremonies and sacraments of the Church the grace and instruction on which to found the Christian life. This was the true Catholic way, the spirit of the "parvuli," the “little ones” of Christ, for whom penitence, not knowledge, was the true and only way to salvation. The object of preaching and teaching was not to impart knowledge, but to cause the people to lament their sins, seek the healing of the sacraments, and amend their lives.

• An early 15th century opponent of Wycliff opined that translating and giving the Bible to the laity was giving “the pearl of the Gospel” only “to be trodden underfoot by swine.” On his view, the Gospel was given “to the doctors and clergy of the church.” Ordinary Churchmen didn’t need the Bible.

• Rather, the “swine” were to be instructed by wall paintings, icons, stained glass windows, the Latin liturgy, and Mystery Plays that dramatized Biblical stories which made the circuits at York, Coventry, Chester and elsewhere. The problem: it didn’t deal with the whole Bible (as the later lectionary would direct) and few could travel distances to see the plays.

• Jesus commanded (John 5. 39): “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Luke commended the Bereans in Acts 17: 10-11 "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Jesus chided in the theologians in Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” More could be said.

• William Tyndale understood that the Italian Churchmen had “locked up” the Scriptures “from the common people.” So did the other translators and early printers of the English Bible.

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