A New Testament translation into English was published in 1582 by Roman Catholics in Rheims, France, in self-imposed exile escaping persecution from the Protestant Tudor monarchy. While many readers are familiar with the Protestant opinion on translation into the vernacular, the true attitude of Roman Catholic authorities is almost universally grossly misrepresented. The Roman Catholic Church was not averse to vernacular translations, or even vernacular translations admitting the Greek and Hebrew texts, but was instead strongly outspoken against the tendentious textual manoeuvering and translation practices of Protestants at the time, including Protestant “proof-texting” of Patristic writers. It’s a fascinating first hand account of the controversy during a very traumatic time in European religious history.
In this reworking of the introduction to the Douai-Rheims New Testament, I have adjusted the orthography, spelling, and punctuation, and added a few words [in sqare brackets] to aid in the flow of the text at some points. This reworked introduction is similar in language to that of the Challoner edition of the Douai-Rheims Bible, which dates to the mid-eighteenth century, the edition with which most readers are familiar, as it is still popular among Roman Catholic readers.
Also see my reworking of the Introduction to the Douai-Rheims Old Testament.
The Holy Bible long since translated by us into English, and the Old Testament lying by us for lack of good means to publish the whole in such sort as a work of so great charge and importance requireth: we have yet through God’s goodness at length fully finished for thee, most Christian reader, all the NEW TESTAMENT, which is the principal, most profitable and comfortable piece of Holy Writ: and, as well for all other institution of life and doctrine, as specially for deciding the doubts of these days, more proper and pregnant than the other part not yet printed.
Which translation we do not for all that publish, upon erroneous opinion of necessity, that the Holy Scriptures should always be in our mother tongue, or that they ought, or were ordained by God, to be read impartially by all, or could be easily understood by every one that readeth or heareth them in a known language; or that they were not often through man’s malice or infirmity, pernicious and much hurtful to many; or that we generally and absolutely deemed it more convenient in itself, and more agreeable to God’s Word and honour or edification of the faithful, to have them turned into vulgar tongues, than to be kept and studied only in the Ecclesiastical learned languages. Not for these nor any such like reasons do we translate this sacred book, but upon special consideration of the present time, state, and condition of our country, unto which diverse things are either necessary or profitable and medicinable now that otherwise, in the peace of the Church, were neither much requisite, nor perchance wholly tolerable.
In this matter, to mark only the wisdom and moderation of Holy Church and the governors thereof on the one side, and the indiscrete zeal of the popular, and their factious leaders, on the other, is a high point of prudence. These latter, partly by simplicity, partly by curiosity, and especially by pride and disobedience, have made claim in this case for the common people, with plausible pretences many, but good reasons none at all. The other, to whom Christ hath given charge of our souls, the dispensing of God’s mysteries and treasures (among which Holy Scripture is no small store) and the feeding His family in season with food fit for every sort, have neither of old nor of late, ever wholly condemned all vulgar versions of Scripture, nor have at any time generally forbidden the faithful to read the same; yet they have not by public authority prescribed, commanded, or authentically ever recommended any such interpretation to be impartially used by all men.
The Armenians say they have the Psalter and some other pieces translated by St Chrysostom into their language, when he was banished among them; and George the Patriarch, in writing his life, signifieth no less. The Slavonians affirm they have the Scriptures in their vulgar tongue, turned by St Jerome, and some would gather so much by his own words in his epistle to Sophronius, but the place indeed proveth it not. Wulphilas surely gave the Scriptures to the Goths in their own tongue, and that before he was an Arian. 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 the Fifth, the French king, was it put forth faithfully in French, the sooner to shake out of the deceived peoples’ heads the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses. In our own country, notwithstanding the Latin tongue was ever (to use Venerable Bede’s words) common to all the provinces of the same for meditation or study of Scriptures, and no vulgar translation commonly used or employed by the multitude, yet they were extant in English even before the troubles that Wycliffe and his followers raised in our Church, as appeareth as well by some pieces yet remaining, as by a provincial Constitution of Thomas Arundel Archbishop of Canterbury, in a Council holden at Oxford, where straight provision was made that no heretical version set forth by Wycliffe or his adherents should be suffered, nor any other in or after his time be published or permitted to be read, being not approved and allowed by the Diocesan before, alleging St Jerome for the difficulty and danger of interpreting the Holy Scripture out of one tongue into another, though by learned and Catholic men. So also it is there insinuated that neither the Translations set forth before that Heretic’s time, nor others afterward being approved by the lawful Ordinaries, were ever in our country wholly forbidden, though they were not (to say the truth) in quiet and better times (much less when the people were prone to alteration, heresy, or novelty) either hastily admitted or ordinarily read by the vulgar, but used only or especially by some devout religious and contemplative persons in reverence, secrecy, and silence, for their spiritual comfort.
Now since Luther’s revolt also, diverse learned Catholics, for the more speedy abolishing of a number of false and impious translations put forth by sundry sects, and for the better preservation or reclamation of many good souls endangered thereby, have published the Bible in several languages of almost all the principal provinces of the Latin Church, no other books in the world being so pernicious as heretical translations of the Scriptures, poisoning the people under color of Divine authority, and not many other remedies being more sovereign against the same (if it be used in order, discretion, and humility) than the true, faithful, and sincere interpretation opposed thereunto.
Which causeth the Holy Church not to forbid utterly any Catholic translation, though she allow not the publishing or reading of any absolutely and without exception or limitation, knowing by her Divine and most sincere wisdom, how, where, when, and to whom these her Master’s and Spouse’s gifts are to be bestowed to the most good of the faithful, and therefore neither generally permitteth that which must needs do hurt the unworthy, nor absolutely condemneth that which may do much good to the worthy. Whereupon the order which many a wise man wished for before was taken by the Deputies of the late famous Council of Trent in this behalf, and confirmed by supreme authority that the Holy Scriptures, though truly and Catholically translated into vulgar tongues, yet may not be impartially read by all men, nor by any other than such as have express license thereunto from their lawful Ordinaries, with good testimony from their Curates and Confessors, that they be humble, discrete, and devout persons, and like to take much good, and no harm thereby. Which prescript, though in these days of ours it can not be so precisely observed as in other times and places where there is more due respect of the Church’s authority, rule, and discipline, yet, we trust all wise and godly persons will treat the matter in the meanwhile with such moderation, meekness, and subjection of heart, as the handling of so sacred a Book, the sincere senses of God’s truth therein, and the holy Canons, Councils, reason, and religion do require.
Wherein, though for due preservation of this Divine work from abuse and profanation, and for the better bridling of the intolerable insolence of the proud, curious, and contentious wits, the governors of the Church, guided by God’s Spirit as ever before, so also upon more experience of the malady of this time than before, have taken more exact order both for the readers and translators in these latter ages than of old. Yet we must not imagine that in the primitive Church, either every one that understood the learned tongues wherein the Scriptures were written, or other languages into which they were translated, might without reprehension read, reason, dispute, turn and toss the Scriptures; or that our forefathers suffered every schoolmaster, scholar, or grammarian that had a little Greek or Latin, immediately to take in hand the Holy Testament; or that the translated Bibles into the vulgar tongues were in the hands of every husbandman, craftsman, apprentice, boys, girls, mistress, maid, man; that they were sung, played, quoted by every tinker, taverner, rhymer, minstrel; that they were for table talk, for ale benches, for boats and barges, and for every profane person and company. No, in those better times men were neither so ill, nor so curious by themselves, so to abuse the blessed Book of Christ. Neither was there any such easy means, before printing was invented, to disperse the copies into the hands of every man, as now there is.
They were then in Libraries, Monasteries, Colleges, Churches, in Bishops’, Priests’, and some other devout principal Laymens’ houses and hands, who used them with fear and reverence, and especially such parts as pertained to good life and manners, not meddling, except in pulpit and schools (and that moderately, too) with the hard and high mysteries and places of greater difficulty. The poor ploughman could then, in laboring the ground, sing the hymns and psalms, either in known or unknown languages, as they heard them in the Holy Church, though they could neither read nor know the sense, meaning, and mysteries of the same. Such holy persons of both sexes, to whom St Jerome in diverse Epistles to them commendeth the reading and meditation of Holy Scriptures, were diligent to search all the godly histories and imitable examples of chastity, humility, obedience, clemency, poverty, penance, [and] renouncing the world. They noted especially the places that did breed the hatred of sin, fear of God’s judgment, [and] delight in spiritual cogitations. They referred themselves in all hard places to the judgment of the ancient Fathers and their masters in religion, never presuming to contend, control, teach, or talk from their own sense and fantasy in deep questions of divinity. Then the Virgins did meditate upon the places and examples of chastity, modesty and demureness; the married, on conjugal faith and continency; the parents, how to bring up their children in faith and fear of God; the Prince, how to rule; the subject, how to obey; the Priest, how to teach; the people, how to learn.
Then, the scholar taught not his master, the sheep controlled not the Pastor, the young student set not the Doctor to school, nor reproved their fathers of error and ignorance. Or if any were in those better days (as in all times of heresy such must needs be) that had itching ears, tickling tongues and wits, curious and contentious disputers, hearers and talkers rather than doers of God’s word, such the Fathers did ever sharply rebuke, counting them unworthy and unprofitable readers of the Holy Scriptures. St Jerome in his Epistle to Paulinus, after declaration that no handicraft is so base, nor liberal science so easy, that can be had without a master (which St Augustine also affirmeth (On the Usefullness of Believing, chapter 7)), nor that men presume in any occupation to teach that they never learned, Only (saith he) the art of Scripture is that which every man challengeth; this the chatting old wife, this the doting old man, this the brabbling sophist, this on every hand, men presume to teach before they learn it . Again, Some with poise of lofty words devise from Scripture matters among women. Others, fie upon it, learn from women what to teach men, and lest that be not enough, by facility of tongue, or rather audacity, teach that to others, which they understand never a whit themselves, to say nothing of such as be of my faculty, who, stepping from secular learning to Holy Scriptures, and able to tickle the ears of the multitude with a smooth tale, think all they speak to be the Law of God (Jerome Epist. 103 chapter 6). This he wrote then, when this malady of arrogancy and presumption in divine matters was nothing so outrageous as now it is.
St Gregory Nazianzen made an Oration on the moderation that was to be used in these matters, where he saith that some in his time thought themselves to have all the wisdom in the world, when they could once repeat two or three words, and them ill couched together, out of Scriptures (Oration on Keeping Moderation in Discussion). But he there divinely discourseth on the orders and differences of degrees, how in Christ’s mystical Body, some are ordained to learn, some to teach; that not all are Apostles, all Doctors, all interpreters, all of tongues and knowledge, not all learned in Scriptures and divinity; that the people went not up to talk with God in the mountain, but Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar; nor they neither, but by the difference of their callings; that they that rebel against this ordinance are guilty of the conspiracy of Korah and his accomplices; that in Scripture there is both milk for babes and meat for men, to be dispensed not according to every one’s greediness of appetite or willfulness, but as is most appropriate for each one’s necessity and capacity; that as it is a shame for a Bishop or Priest to be unlearned in God’s mysteries, so for the common people it is oftentimes profitable to salvation not to be curious, but to follow their Pastors in sincerity and simplicity, whereof excellently saith St Augustine, Fidei simplicitate et sinceritate lactati, nutriamur in Christo, et cum parvi sumus, maiorum cibos non appetamus (On Christian Combat, chapter 33), that is, Being fed with the simplicity and sincerity of faith, as it were with milk, so let us be nourished in Christ; and when we are like little ones, let us not covet the meats of the elder sort. Who in another place testifieth (On the Gift of Perseverance, chapter 16), that the word of God cannot be preached nor certain mysteries uttered to all men alike, but are to be delivered according to the capacity of the hearers; as he proveth both by St Paul’s example (1 Corinthians 13), who gave not to every sort strong meat, but milk to many as being not spiritual, but carnal and not capable; and by our Lord’s also, Who spake to some plainly, and to others in parable, and affirmed that He had many things to utter which the hearers were not able to bear.
How much more may we gather that all things that be written are not for the capacity and diet of every of the simple readers, but that very many mysteries of Holy Writ be very far above their reach, and may and ought to be (by as great reason) delivered in measure and manner most appropriate for them? Which indeed can hardly be done, when the whole book of the Bible lieth before every man in his mother tongue, to make choice of what he please. For which reason the said Gregory Nazianzen wisheth the Christians had as good a law as the Hebrews of old had, who (as St Jerome also witnesseth) took order among themselves that none should read the Cantica Canticorum nor certain other pieces of hardest Scriptures, till they were thirty years of age (Oration on Keeping Moderation in Discussion, near the end; Jerome, Preface to the Commentary on Ezekiel).
And truly there is no reason why men should be more loath to be ordered and moderated in this point by God’s Church and their Pastors, than they are in the use of Holy Sacraments. For which, as Christ hath appointed Priests and ministers at whose hands we must receive them and not take by ourselves, so hath He given us doctors, prophets, expounders, interpreters, teachers and preachers (Ephesians 4), to take the law and our faith at their mouths, because our faith and religion cometh not to us properly or principally by reading of Scriptures, but (as the Apostle saith) by hearing of the preachers lawfully sent (Romans 10.17). Therefore, this Holy Book of the Scriptures is called by St Ambrose, Liber sacerdotalis, the book of priests (On Faith, To Gratian, book 2), at whose hands and disposition we must take and use it.
The wise will not here regard what some willful people do mutter, that the Scriptures are made for all men, and that it is out of envy that the Priests do keep the Holy Book from them. Which suggestion cometh from the same serpent that seduced our first parents (Genesis 3), who persuaded them that God had forbidden them that Tree of Knowledge, lest they should be as cunning as Himself and like unto the Highest. No, no, the Church doth it to keep them from blind, ingnorant presumption, and from that which the Apostle calleth falsi nominis scientiam, knowledge falsely so-called (1 Timothy 6.10), and not to exclude them from the true knowledge of Christ. She would have all wise, but usque ad sobrietatem, unto sobriety (Romans 12.3) as the Apostle speaketh. She knoweth the Scriptures be ordained for every state, as meats, elements, fire, water, candle, knives, sword, and the like, which are as needful (most of them) for children as for old folks, for the simple as the wise, but yet would mar all, if they were at the guiding of other than wise men or were in the hands of every one for whose preservation they be profitable. She forbiddeth not the reading of them in any language, envieth no man’s commodity, but giveth order how to do it to edification and not destruction, how to do it without casting the holy to dogs, or pearls to hogs (see St Chrystostom, Homily 24 in Matthew, declaring these hogs and dogs to be carnal men and Heretics, that take no good from the Holy Mysteries, but thereby do both hurt themselves and other), how to do it agreeably to the sovereign sincerity, majesty, and depth of Mystery contained in the same. She would have the presumptuous Heretic, notwithstanding he refer to them ever so fast, flying as it were through the whole Bible, and quoting the Psalms, Prophets, Gospels, Epistles, never so readily for his purpose as Vincent of Lerins saith such mens’ fashion is, yet she would, according to Tertullian’s rule (On the Prescription against Heretics), have such mere usurpers quite discharged of all utilizing and possession of the Holy Testament, which is her old and only right and inheritance, and belongeth not to the Heretics at all, whom Origen calleth Scripturaru fures, thieves of the Scriptures (Origen in the Commentary to Romans, 2). She would have the unworthy repelled, the curious repressed, the simple measured, the learned humbled, and all sorts so to use them or abstain from them, as is most convenient for every one’s salvation, with this general admonition: that none can understand the meaning of God in the Scriptures except Christ open their sense, and make them partakers of His Holy Spirit in the unity of His Mystical Body. And for the rest, she committeth it to the Pastor of every province and people, according to the difference of time, place, and persons, how and in what sort the reading of the Scriptures is more or less to be procured or permitted.
Wherein, the variety of circumstances causeth them to deal diversely, as we see by St Chrysostom’s people of Constantinople, who were so delicate, dull, worldly, and so much given to dice, cards, [and] especially stage plays or theaters (as Gregory Nazianzen witnesseth (On the Life of Athanasius)) that the Scriptures and all holy lections of divine things were loathsome unto them. Whereby their holy Bishop was forced in many of his sermons (Homily 2 on Matthew, and Homily 3 on Lazarus, and Homily 3 on 2 Thessalonians, and often elsewhere) to cry out against their extreme negligence and contempt of God’s word, declaring that not only Eremites and Religious (as they alleged for their excuse) but secular men of all sorts might read the Scriptures, and often have more need thereof in respect of themselves than the other that live in more purity and contemplation. Further insinuating, that though various things be high and hard therein, yet many godly histories, lives, examples, and precepts of life and doctrine be plain; and finally, that when the Gentiles were so cunning and diligent to impugn their faith, it were not good for Christians to be too simple or negligent in the defense thereof, as (in truth) it is more requisite for a Catholic man in these days, when our Adversaries be industrious to impeach our beliefs, to be skillful in Scriptures, than at other times when the Church had no such enemies.
To this sense said St Chrysostom diverse things, not as a teacher in school, making exact and general rules to be observed in all places and times, but as a pulpit man, agreeably to that audience and his peoples’ need, nor making it therefore (as some perversely gather from his words) a thing absolutely needful for every poor craftsman to read or study the Scriptures, nor at all favoring the presumptuous, curious, and contentious jangling and searching of God’s secrets, reproved by the aforesaid Fathers, much less approving the excessive pride and madness of these days, when every man and woman is become not only a reader, but a teacher, controller, and judge of Doctors, Church, Scriptures and all, such as either condemn or easily pass over all the moral parts, good examples, and precepts of life (by which as well the simple as learned might be much edified) and only in a manner occupy themselves in dogmatical, mystical, high, and hidden secrets of God’s counsels, as of Predestination, reprobation, election, prescience, forsaking of the Jews, vocation of the Gentiles, and other incomprehensible mysteries, Languishing about questions (1 Timothy 6.4) of only faith, confidence, new phrases and figures, ever learning, but never coming to knowledge (2 Timothy 3.7), reading and tossing in pride of wit, conceit of their own cunning, and upon presumption of I can tell what spirit, such books especially and Epistles as St Peter foretold (2 Peter 3.16) that the unlearned and instable would deprave to their own damnation.
They delight in none more than in the Epistle to the Romans, the Cantica canticorum, [and] the Apocalypse, which have in them as many mysteries as words. They find no difficulty in the Sacred Books clasped with seven seals (Apocalypse 5.1). They ask for no expositor with the holy Eunuch (Acts 8). They feel no such depth of God’s science in the Scriptures, as St Augustine did when he cried out, Mira profundit as eloquiorum tuorum, mira profundit as (Deus meus) mira profundit as, horror est intendere in eam, horror honoris, et tremor amoris, that is, O wonderful profoundness of Thy words, wonderful profoundness, my God, wonderful profoundness, it maketh a man quake to look on it, to quake for reverence, and to tremble for the love thereof (Confessions, book 12, chapter 14). They regard not that which the same Doctor affirmeth (see Epistle 3), that the depth and profundity of wisdom, not only in the words of Holy Scripture, but also in the matter and sense, is so wonderful that, live a man ever so long, be he never so high a wit, never so studious, never so fervent to attain the knowledge thereof, yet when he endeth, he shall confess he doth but begin. They feel not, with St Jerome, that the text hath a hard shell to be broken before we come to the kernel (Epistle 13, chapter 4). They will not restrain themselves in only reading the Sacred Scriptures thirteen years, with St Basil and St Gregory Nazianzen, before they expound them (Rufinus’ Ecclesiastical History, book 2, chapter 9), nor take the care (as they did) never otherwise to interpret them than by the uniform consent of their forefathers and Tradition Apostolic.
If our new Ministers had had this cogitation and care that these and all other wise men have and ever had, our country had never fallen to this miserable state in religion, and that under pretence, color, and countenance of God’s Word, neither should virtue and good life have been so pitifully corrupted in time of such reading, toiling, tumbling, and translating the Book of our life and salvation, whereof the more precious the right and reverent use is, the more pernicious is the abuse and profanation of the same, which every man of experience by these few years’ proof, and by comparing the former days and manners to these of ours, may easily try.
Look whether your men be more virtuous, your women more chaste, your children more obedient, your servants more trusty, your maidens more modest, your friends more faithful, your laity more just in dealing, your Clergy more devout in praying, whether there be more religion, fear of God, faith and conscience in all states now than of old, when there was not so much reading, chatting, and jangling of God’s Word, but much more sincere dealing, doing, and keeping the same. Look whether through this disorder, women teach not their husbands, children their parents, young fools their old and wise fathers, the scholars their masters, the sheep their pastor, and the People the Priest. Look whether the most chaste and sacred sentences of God’s Holy Word be not turned by many into mirth, mockery, amorous ballets, and detestable letters of love and lewdness, their delicate rhymes, tunes, and translations much increasing the same.
This fall from good life and profaning the Divine Mysteries everybody seeth, but the great corruption and decay of faith hereby none see but wise men, who only know that were the Scriptures never so truly translated, yet Heretics and ill men that follow their own spirit and know nothing but their private fantasy, and not the sense of the Holy Church and Doctors, must needs abuse them to their damnation, and that the curious and simple and sensual men (1 Corinthians 2) which have no taste of things that be of the Spirit of God may from infinite places take occasion of pernicious errors. For though the letter or text have no error, yet (saith St Ambrose (On Faith, to Gratian, book 2, chapter 1)) the Arian or (as we now speak) the Calvinist interpretation hath errors. And Tertullian saith, The sense adulterated is as perilous as the style corrupted (On the Prescription against Heretics). St Hilary also speaketh thus: Heresy riseth about the understanding, not about the writing. The fault is in the sense, not in the word (On the Trinity, book 2, beginning). And St Augustine saith that many hold the Scriptures as they do the Sacraments, ad speciem et non ad salutem, to the outward show, and not to salvation (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, book 3, chapter 19). Finally, all Sect-Masters and ravening wolves (Matthew 4), yea the devils themselves, pretend Scriptures and wholly shroud themselves in Scriptures, as in the wool and fleece of the simple sheep. Whereby the vulgar, in these days of general dispute, cannot but be in extreme danger from error, though their books were truly translated and were truly in themselves God’s own Word indeed.
But the case now is more lamentable, for the Protestants and such as St Paul calleth ambulantes in astutia, walking in deceitfulness (2 Corinthians 4) have so abused the people and many others in the world not unwise, that by their false translations they have instead of God’s Law and Testament, and for Christ’s written will and word, given their own wicked writing and fantasies, most shamefully in all their versions Latin, English, and other tongues, corrupting both the letter and the sense by false translation, adding, detracting, altering, transposing, pointing, and all other guileful means, especially where it serveth for the advantage of their private opinions. For which they are bold also partly to disauthorize completely, partly to make doubtful, various whole books allowed for Canonical Scripture by the universaal Church of God this thousand years and upward; to alter all the authentic and Ecclestiastical words used continuously to now in our Christianity into new profane novelties of speeches agreeable to their doctrine; to change the titles of works; to put out the names of the authors; to charge the very Evangelist with following untrue translation (Beza, Annotations on Luke 1.78), to add whole sentences proper to their sect into their psalms in meter, even unto the very Creed in rhyme. All which the poor deceived people say and sing as though they were God’s own Word, being indeed, through such sacrilegious treachery, made the Devil’s word.
To say nothing of their intolerable liberty and license to change the accustomed callings of God, Angel, men, places, and things used by the Apostles and all antiquity, in Greek, Latin, and all other languages of Christian Nations, into new names, sometimes falsely and always ridiculously and for ostentation taken from the Hebrews, to frame and beautify the phrases of Holy Scriptures after the form of profane writers, hesitating not for the same to supply, add, alter, or diminish as freely as if they translated Livy, Vergil, or Terence. Having no religious respect to keep either the majesty or sincere simplicity of that venerable style of Christ’s Spirit, as St Augustine speaketh, which kind the Holy Ghost did choose by infinite wisdom to have the Divine Mysteries rather uttered in than any other more delicate, much less in that meretricious manner of writing that sundry of these new translators do use, of which sort Calvin himself and his pew-fellows so much complain, that they profess Satan to have gained more by these new interpreters (their number, levity of spirit, and audacity increasing daily) than he did before by keeping the word from the people (Preface to the New Testament of 1567 [Olivetan edition of 1535?]). And for a pattern of this mischief, they give Castalion, adjuring all their churches and scholars to beware of his translation as one that hath made a very sport and mockery of God’s Holy Word. So they charge him themselves (and the Zwinglians of Zurich, whose translations Luther therefore abhorred (Josias Simmler, in The Life of Bullinger)), handling the matter with no more fidelity, gravity, or sincerity than the other, but rather with much more falsification, or (to use the Apostle’s words) peddling and adulteration of God’s Word (2 Corinthians 2.17), than they. Besides many wicked glosses, prayers, confessions of faith containing both blasphemous errors and plain contradictions to themselves and among themselves, all priveleged and authorized to be joined to the Bible and so be said and sung by the the poor people, and to be believed as articles of faith and wholly consonant to God’s Word.
We therefore, having compassion to see our beloved countrymen with extreme danger to their souls to use only such profane translations and erroneous mens’ mere fantasies for the pure and blessed word of truth; much also moved thereunto by the desires of many devout persons, have set forth for you, benign readers, the New Testament to begin withal, trusting that it may give occasion to you, after diligent perusing thereof, to lay away at last such their impure versions as hitherto you have been forced to utilize. How well we have done it, we must not be judges, but refer all to God’s Church and our superiors in the same. To them we submit ourselves, and this, and all our other labors, to be in part or in the whole, reformed, corrected, altered, or quite abolished, most humbly desiring pardon if through our ignorace, temerity, or other human infirmity, we have anywhere mistaken the sense of the Holy Ghost. Further promising that if hereafter we espy any of our own errors, or if any other, either friend of goodwill or adversary for desire of rebuke, shall open unto us the same, we will not (as Protestants do) for defense of our estimation or by pride and contention, by wrangling words wilfully persist in them, but be most glad to hear of them, and in the next edition or otherwise to correct them, for it is truth that we seek for, and God’s honor, which being had either by good intention or by occasion, all is well. This we profess only, that we have done our endeavor with prayer, much fear, and trembling, lest we should dangerously err in so sacred, high, and divine a work; that we have done it with all faith, diligence, and sincerity; that we have used no partiality for the disadvantage of our adversaries, nor no more license than is sufferable in translating of Holy Scriptures, continually keeping ourselves as near as is possible to our text and to the very words and phrases which by long use are made venerable, though to some profane or delicate ears they may seem more hard or barbarous, as the whole style of Scripture doth probably to such at the beginning (See St Augustine, Confessions, book 3, chapter 5), acknowledging with St Jerome that in other writings it is enough to give in translation sense for sense, but that in Scriptures, lest we miss the sense, we must keep the very words (To Pammachius, Epistle 101, chapter 2, beginning). We must, saith St Augustine, speak according to a set rule, lest license of words breed some wicked opinion concerning the things contained under the words (The City of God, book 10, chapter 12). Whereof our holy forefathers and ancient Doctors had such a religious care, that they would not change the very barbarisms or incongruities of speech which by long use had prevailed in the old readings or recitings of Scriptures. As Neque nubent neque nubentur (Matthew 22.30) in Tertullian on Marcion book 4, in St Hilary on Matthew chapter 22, and in all the Fathers. Qui me confusus fuerit, confundur et ego sum (Mark 8.38) in St Cyprian Epistle 63 number 7. Talis enim nobis decebat sacerdos (Hebrews 7.26), which was an elder translation than the vulgar Latin that now is, in St Ambrose, On Fleeing the World chapter 3, and St Jerome himself, who otherwise corrected the Latin translation that was used before his time, yet keepeth religiously, as himself professeth, Preface to the Four Gospels to Damasus, these and the like speeches, Nonne vos magis pluris estis illis? (Matthew 6.20, 22) and, filius hominis non venit ministrari, sed minstrare (Matthew 20.28), and Neque nubent, neque nubentur (Matthew 22.30)in his commentaries upon these places. And Non capit Prophetam perire extra Hierusalem (Luke 13.33)in his Commentaries on Joel, chapter 2, at the end. And St Augustine, who is most religious in all these phrases, counteth it a special pride and infirmity in those that have a little learning in tongues and none in things, that they easily take offense from the simple speeches or solecisms in the Scriptures, On Christian Instruction, book 2, chapter 13. See also the same holy Father, On Christian Instruction, book 3, chapter 3; and Tractate 2 in the Gospel of John. But of the manner of our translation more anon.
Now, though the text thus truly translated might sufficiently, in the sight of the learned and all unbiased men, both control the adversaries’ corruptions and prove that the Holy Scripture whereof they have made so great vaunts, make nothing for their new opinions, but wholly for the Catholic Church’s belief and doctrine, in all the points of difference betwixt us. Yet knowing that the good and simple may easily be seduced by some few obstinate persons of perdition (whom we see given over into a reprobate sense, to whom the Gospel, which in itself is the aroma of life to salvation, is made the odor of death to damnation, over whose eyes for sin and disobedience God suffereth a veil or cover to lie while they read the New Testament, even as the Apostle saith the Jews have til this day in reading from the Old, that as the one sort cannot find Christ in the Scriptures, read they ever so much, so the other cannot find the Catholic Church nor her doctrine there either) and finding by experience this saying of St Augustine to be most true, If the prejudice of any erroneous persuasion preoccupy the mind, whatsoever the Scripture hath to the contrary, men take it for a figurative speech (On Christian Instruction, book 3, chapter 10), for these reasons, and somewhat to help the faithful reader in the difficulties of diverse places, we have also set forth reasonably large ANNOTATIONS, thereby to show the studious reader in most places pertaining to the controversies of this time, both the heretical corruptions and false deductions, and also Apostolic Tradition, the exposition of the holy Fathers, the decrees of the Catholic Church and most ancient Councils, which means whosoever trusteth not for the sense of Holy Scriptures, but had rather follow his private judgment or the arrogant spirit of these Sectarians, he shall worthily through his own willfulness be deceived. Beseeching all men to look with diligence, sincerity, and impartiality, into the case that concerneth no less than every one’s eternal salvation or damnation (2 Corinthians 3).
Which if he do, we doubt not but he shall to his great contentment find the Holy Scriptures most clearly and invincibly to prove the articles of the Catholic doctrine against our adversaries, which perhaps he had thought before this diligent search, either not to be consonant to God’s Word, or at least not contained in the same, and finally he shall prove this saying of St Augustine to be most true: Multi sensus, etc. Many senses of Holy Scriptures lie hidden and known to some few of greater understanding, neither are they at any time announced more commodiously and acceptably than at such times when the care to answer heretics doth force men thereunto. For then even they that be negligent in matters of study and learning, shaking off sluggishness, are stirred up to diligent hearing, that the Adversaries may be refuted. Again, how many senses of Holy Scriptures concerning Christ’s Godhead have been avouched against Photinus; how many of his Manhood against Manichaeus; how many of the Trinity against Sabellius; how many of the unity in Trinity against the Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians; how many of the Catholic Church dispersed throughout the whole world, and of the mixture of good and bad in the same until the end of the world, against the Donatists and Luciferians and others of the like error; how many against all other heretics which it were too long to rehearse? Of which senses and expositions of Holy Scripture the approved authors and acknowledgers should otherwise either not be known at all, or not so well known, as the contradictions of proud heretics have made them (On Psalm 67, near the end).
Thus he saith of such things as not seeming to be in Holy Scriptures to the ignorant or heretics, yet indeed be there. But in other points doubted of, that indeed are not decided by Scripture, he giveth us this goodly rule to be followed in all, as he exemplifieth in one. Then do we hold (saith he) the verity of the Scriptures when we do that which now hath seemed good to the Universal Church, which the authority of the Scriptures themselves doth commend, so that forasmuch as the Holy Scripture cannot deceive, whosoever is afraid to be deceived with the obscurity of questions, let him therein ask counsel of the same CHURCH which the Holy Scripture most certainly and evidently showeth and pointeth unto (Augustine, Against Cresconius, book 1, chapter 13).
Now to give thee also intelligence in particular, most gentle Reader, of such things as it behooveth thee especially to know concerning our Translation. We translate the old vulgar Latin text, not the common Greek text, for these reasons.
1. It is so ancient, that is was used in the Church of God alone above 1300 years ago, as appeareth by the Fathers of those times. 2. It is that (by the common received opinion and by all probability) which St Jerome afterward corrected according to the Greek by the appointment of Damasus, then Pope, as he maketh mention in his preface before the Four Evangelists, unto the said Damasus, and In Catalogo [?] at the end, and Epistle 102. 3. Consequently it is the same which St Augustine so commendeth and alloweth in an Epistle to St Jerome (Epistle 10). 4. It is that which for the most part ever since hath been used in the Church’s service, expounded in sermons, [and] quoted and interpreted in the Commentaries and writings of the ancient Fathers of the Latin Church. 5. The holy Council of Trent (Session 4), for these and many other important considerations, hath declared and defined this only of all other Latin translations to be authentic, and so only to be used and taken in public lessons, disputations, preachings, and expositions, and that no man presume upon any pretence to reject or refuse the same. 6. It is the gravest, sincerest, of greatest majesty, least partiality, as being without all respect of controversies and contentions, especially these of our time, as appeareth by those places which Erasmus and others at this day translate much more to the advantage of the Catholic cause. 7. It is so exact and precise according to the Greek, both the phrase and the word, that delicate Heretics therefore accuse it of rudeness. And that it followeth the Greek far more exactly than the Protestant’s translations, beside infinite other places, we call to witness these: Titus 3.14, Curent bonis operibus praesse, προιστασθαι. English Bible 1577, to maintain good works. And Hebrews 10.20, Vitam nobis initiavit, ενεκαινισεν. English Bible, he prepared. So in these words, Justifications, Traditions, Idola, etc. In all which they come not near to the Greek, but avoid it on purpose. 8. The Adversaries themselves, namely Beza, prefer it before all the rest, Preface to New Testament, 1556. And again he saith that the old Interpreter translated very religiously, Annotations to Luke 1.1. 9. In the rest, there is such diversity and dissension, and no end of reprehending one another, and translating every man according to his fantasy, that Luther said, “If the world should stand any long time, we must receive again (which he thought absurd) the Decrees of the Councils for preserving the unity of faith, because of so diverse interpretation of the Scripture” (Councils [?], chapter 11 On the Authority of the Canonical Scriptures). And Beza, in the place above mentioned, noteth the itching ambition of his fellow translators, that had much rather disagree and dissent from the best than seem themselves to have said or written nothing. And Beza’s translation itself, being so esteemed in our country, that the Geneva English Testaments be translated according to the same, yet sometime goeth so wide from the Greek and from the meaning of the Holy Ghost, that themselves which protest to translate it dare not follow it. For example, Luke 3.36. They have put these words, The son of Cainan, which he wittingly and wilfully left out. And Acts 1.14, they say, With the women, agreeably to the vulgar Latin, where he saith, Cum uxoribus, with their wives. 10. It is not only better than all other Latin translations, but than the Greek text itself, in those places where they disagree.
The proof hereof is evident, because most of the ancient Heretics were Grecians, and therefore the Scriptures in Greek were more corrupted by them, as the ancient Fathers often complain. Tertullian noteth the Greek text which is at this day (1 Corinthians 15.47) to be an old corruption of Marcion the Heretic, and the truth to be as in our vulgar Latin, Secundus homo de caelo coelestis, The second man from heaven heavenly (Against Marcion, book 5). So read other ancient Fathers (Ambrose, Jerome), and Erasmus thinketh it must needs be so, and Calvin himself followeth it, Institutes book 2 chapter 13 paragraph 2. Again, St Jerome noteth that the Greek text (1 Corinthians 7.33) which is at this day is not the Apostolical verity (Against Jovinian, book 1, chapter 7) or the true text of the Apostle, but that which is in the vulgar Latin, Qui cum uxore est, solicitus est quae sunt mundi, quomodo placeat uxori, et divisus est. He that is with a wife is careful of worldly things, how he may please his wife, and is divided or distracted. The Ecclesiastical history called the Tripartite noteth the Greek text that now is (1 John 4.3) to be an old corruption of the ancient Greek copies by the Nestorian Heretics, and the true reading to be as in our vulgar Latin, Omnis spiritus qui solvit IESUM ex Deo non est. Every spirit that dissolveth JESUS is not of God (Book 12.6.4). And Beza confesseth that Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History readeth so in the Greek, παν πνευμα ο λυει τον ιησουν χριστον etc. (Book 7, chapter 32).
But the proof is more pregnant out of the Adversaries themselves. They forsake the Greek text as corrupted, and translate according to the vulgar Latin, namely Beza and his scholars the English translators of the Bible, in these places: Hebrews 9.1, saying, The first covenant, for that which is in the Greek, The first tabernacle (διαθεκη σκηνη), where they put covenant not as in the text, but in another letter, as to be understood according to the vulgar Latin, which most sincerely leaveth it out altogether, saying, Habuit quidem et prius iustificationes etc. The former also indeed had justifications etc. Again, Romans 12.11 they translated not according to the Greek text, Tempori servientes, serving the time (καιρω), which Beza saith must needs be a corruption, but according to the vulgar Latin, Domino servientes, serving our Lord (Κυριω). Again, Apocalypse 11.2, they translate not the Greek text, Atrium quod intra templum est, the court which is within the temple, but clean contrary, according to the vulgar Larin, which Beza saith is the true reading, Atrium quod est foris templum, the court which is without the temple. Only in this last place, one English Bible of the year 1562 followeth the error of the Greek. Again, 2 Timothy 2.14 they add but, more than is in the Greek, to make the sense more commodious and easy, according as it in the vulgar Latin. Again, James 5.12 they leave the Greek and follow the vulgar Latin, saying, lest you fall into condemnation (εις υποκρισιν). I doubt not (saith Beza) that this is the true and sincere reading, and I suspect the corruption in the Greek came thus, etc. It were infinite to set down all such places where the Adversaries (especially Beza) follow the old vulgar Latin and the Greek copy agreeable thereunto, condemning the Greek text that now is, of corruption.
Again, Erasmus, the best translator of all the latter by Beza’s judgment, saith that the Greek sometimes hath superfluities corruptly added to the text of Holy Scripture, as Matthew 6 to the end of the Pater noster, these words, Because thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forevermore. Which he calleth nugas, trifles, rashly added to our Lord’s prayer, and rebuketh Valla for blaming the old vulgar Latin, because it hath it not. Likewise Romans 11.5, these words in the Greek and not in the vulgar Latin: But if of works, it is not now grace, otherwise the work is no more a work. And Mark 10.29, these words, or wife, and such like (See the Greek New Testament of Robert Stephens, in the page, and Crispin’s). Yea, the Greek text in these superfluities condemneth itself, and justifieth the vulgar Latin exceedingly, as being marked thorughout in such a number of places that such and such words or sentences are superfluous. In all which places our vulgar Latin hath no such thing, but is agreeable to the Greek which remaineth after the superfluities be taken away. For example, that before-mentioned in the end of the Pater noster hath a mark of superfluity in the Greek text thus \’. and Mark 6.11 these words, Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. And Matthew 20.22 these words, And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?, which is also superfluously repeated again in verse 23, and such like places exceeding many, which being noted superfluous in the Greek, and being not in the vulgar Latin, prove the Latin in those places to be better, truer and more sincere than the Greek.
Whereupon we conclude from these premises that it is no derogation to the vulgar Latin text, which we translate, to disagree from the Greek text, whereas it may notwithstanding be not only as good, but also better. And this the Adversary hismelf, their greatest and latest translator of the Greek, doth avouch against Erasmus on behalf of the old vulgar Latin translation, in these notorious words: How unworthily without cause (saith he) doth Erasmus blame the old Interpreter as dissenting from the Greek? He dissented, I grant, from those Greek copies which he had gotten. But we have found, not in one place, that the same interpretation which he blameth is grounded upon the authority of other Greek copies, and those most ancient. Yea, in some number of places we have observed that the reading of the Latin text of the old Interpreter, though it agree sometimes with our Greek copies, yet it is much more convenient for that it seemeth he followed some better and truer copy (Beza, Preface to the New Testament of 1556. See him also, Annotations at Acts 13.20). Thus far Beza. In which words he unwittingly, but most truly, justifieth and defendeth the old vulgar Translation against himself and all other cavillers, that accuse the same because it is not always agreeable to the Greek text. Whereas it was translated out of other Greek copies (partly extant, partly not extant at this day) either as good or as ancient, or better and more ancient, such as St Augustine speaketh of, calling them doctiores et diligentiores, the more learned and diligent Greek copies, whereunto the Latin translations that fail in any place must yield, On Christian Instruction, book 2, chapter 15.
And if it were not too long to exemplify and prove this, which would require a treatise by itself, we could show by many and most clear examples throughout the New Testament these sundry means of justifying the old translation.
First, if it agree with the Greek text (as commonly it doth, and in the greatest places concerning the controversies of our time, it doth most certainly) so far as the Adversaries have not to complain, unless they will complain of the Greek also, as they do James 4.2 and 1 Peter 2.21, where the vulgar Latin followeth exactly the Greek text, saying Occiditis and Quod vos similis formae, etc. But Beza in both places correcteth the Greek text also as false. 2. If it disagree here and there from the Greek text, it agreeth with another Greek copy set in the margin, whereof see examples in the aforesaid Greek Testaments of Robert Stevens and Crispin throughout. Namely 2 Peter 1.10, Satagite ut per bona opera certam vestram vocationem faciatis, δια των αγαθων εργων, and Mark 8.7, Et ipsos benedixit, ευλογησας αυτα. 3. If these marginal Greek copies be thought less authentic than the Greek text, the Adversaries themselves tell us the contrary, who in their translations often follow the marginal copies and forsake the Greek text. As in the examples above-mentioned, Romans 11, Apocalypse 11, 2 Timothy 2, James 5, etc, it is evident. 4. If all Erasmus’ Greek copies have not that which is in the vulgar Larin, Beza had copies which have it, and those most ancient (as he saith) and better. And if all Beza’s copies fail in this point and will not help us, Gagneie the French king’s preacher and he that might command in all the king’s libraries, he found Greek copies that have just according to the vulgar Latin, and that in such place as would seem otherwise less probably, as James 3.5, Ecce quantis ignis quam magnam silvam incendit! Behold how much fire what a great wood it kindleth! (Codex Veronensis; ελικονα πυρ παντα). A man would think it must be rather as in the Greek text, A little fire what a great wood it kindleth! But an approved ancient Greek copy quoted by Gagneie hath as it is in the vulgar Latin. And if Gagneie’s copies also fail sometimes, there Beza and Crispin supply Greek copies fully agreeable to the vulgar Latin, as especially the epistle of Jude, verse 5, παντα οτι Ιησους εαυτος. Scientes semel omnia quoniam IESUS, etc, and verse 19, Segregant semetipsos. Likewise, Ephesians 2.11, Quod elegerit vos primitias, απαρχας in some Greek copies. Gagneie and 2 Corinthians 9.2, Vestra amulatio, ο υμων χηλος, so hath one Greek copy, Beza. 5. If all their copies be not sufficient, the ancient Greek Fathers had copies and expounded them agreeable to our vulgar Latin, as 1 Timothy 6.20, Prophanas vocum novitates (καινοφωνιας). So readeth St Chrysostom and expoundeth it against Heretical and erroneous novelties. Yet now we know no Greek copy that readeth so. Likewise, John 10.29, Pater meus quod mihi dedit maius omnibus est. So readeth St Cyril and expoundeth it, in book 7 on John chapter 10. Likewise, 1 John 4.3, Omnis spiritus qui solvit IESUM, ex Deo non est. So readeth St Irenaeus, book 3, chapter 18; St Augustine, tractate 6 on John; St Leo, Epistle 10, chapter 5; besides Socrates in his Ecclesiastical History, book 7 chapter 22; and the Tripartite, book 12, chapter 4, who say plainly that this was the old and the true reading of this place in the Greek. And in what Greek copy extant at this day is there this text, John 5.2, Est aute Hierosolymis probatica piscina? And yet St Chrysostom, St Cyril, and Theophylact read so in the Greek, and Beza saith it is the better reading, and so is the Latin text of the Roman Mass book justified, and eight other Latin copies that read so. For our vulgar Latin here is according to the Greek text, Super probatica (επι προβατικη). And Romans 5.17, Donationis et iustitiae, so readeth Theodoret in Greek; and Luke 2.14, Origen and St Chrysostom read, Hominibus bonae voluntatis, and Beza liketh it better than the Greek text that now is. 6. Where there is no such sign or token of any ancient Greek copy in the Fathers, yet these later Interpreters tell us that the old Interpreter did follow some other Greek copy, as Mark 7.3, Nisi crebro laverint. Erasmus thinketh that he did read in the Greek πυκνη, often, and Beza and others commend his conjecture, yea, and the English Bibles are so translated. Whereas now it is πυγμη, which signifieth the length of the arm up to the elbow. And who would not think that the Evangelist should say, The Pharisees wash often, because otherwise they eat not, rather than thus: Unless they wash up to the elbow, they eat not? 7. If all such conjectures and all the Greek Fathers help us not, yet the Latin Fathers with great consent will easily justify the old vulgar translation, which for the most part they follow and expound, as John 7.39, Nondum erat spiritus datus (See the Annotations of the Lovan New Testament, and the Annotations by Luca Brugensis on the Bible). So readeth St Augustine in On the Trinity, book 4 chapter 20; Questions, question 62; and tractate 52 in John; [and] Leo, On Pentecost, sermon 2; whose authority were sufficient, but indeed Didymus also, a Greek Doctor, readeth so, On the Holy Spirit, translated by St Jerome, and a Greek copy in the Vatican, and the Syriac New Testament. Likewise, John 21.22, Sic enim volo manere, so read St Ambrose, on Psalm 45 and Psalm 118, in the Resh octet, and Augustine and Venerable Bede upon St John’s Gospel. 8. And lastly, if some other Latin Fathers of ancient time read otherwise, either here or in other places, not all agreeing with the text of our vulgar Latin, the reason is the great diversity and multitude that was then of Latin copies (whereof St Jerome complaineth (Preface to the 4 Gospels, to Damasus)), til this one vulgar Latin grew only into use. Neither doth their divers reading make more for the Greek than for the vulgar Latin, differing oftentimes from both, as when St Jerome in this last place readeth, Si sic eum volo manere, Adv. Jovin. book 1; it is according to no Greek copy now extant. And if yet there be some doubt that the readings of some Greek or Latin Fathers, differing from the vulgar Latin, be a check or condemnation to the same, let Beza, that is, let the Adversary himelf, tell us his opinion in this case also: Whosoever, saith he, shall take upon him to correct these things (speaking of the vulgar Latin translation) out of the ancient fathers’ writings, either Greek or Latin, unless he do it very circumspectly and advisedly, he shall surely corrupt all rather than amend it, because it is not to be thought that as often as they cited any place, they did always look into the book or number every word (from the above-cited Preface). As if we should say, We may not by and by think that the vulgar Latin is faulty and to be corrected, when we read otherwise in the Fathers, either Greek or Latin, because they did not always exactly cite the words, but followed some commodious and godly sense thereof.
Thus then we see that by all means the old vulgar Latin translation is approved good and better than the Greek text itself, and that there is no reason why it should give place to any other text, copies, or readings. Mainly, if there be any faults evidently crept in by those that heretofore wrote or copied out the Scriptures (as there be some) them we grant no less than we would grant faults nowadays committed by the Printer, and they are exactly noted by Catholic writers, namely in all Plantin’s Bibles set forth by the Divines of Lovan, and the holy Council of Trent (Session 4) willeth that the vulgar Latin text be in such points thoroughly mended, and so to be most authentic. Such faults are these: in fide, for in fine; praescientiam for praesentiam; suscipiens for suspiciens, and such like, very rare, which are evident corruptions made by the copyists, or grown by the similitude of words. These being taken away, which are no part of those corruptions and differences before talked of, we translate that text which is most sincere, and in our opinion and as we have proved, incorrupt. The Adversaries, [on the] contrary, translate that text which themselves confess, both by their writings and doings, to be corrupt in a number of places, and more corrupt than our vulgar Latin, as is before declared.
And if we would here stand to recite the places in the Greek which Beza pronounceth to be corrupted, we should make the Reader to wonder how they can either so plead otherwise for the Greek text, as though there were no other truth from the New Testament but that; or how they translate only that (to deface, as they think, the old vulgar Latin) which themselves so shamefully disgrace, more than the vulgar Latin, inventing corruptions where none are, nor can be, in such universal consent of all both Greek and Latin copies. For example, Matthew 10.2, The first Simon, who is called Peter. “I think,” saith Beza, “this word πρωτος, first, hath been added to the text of some that would establish Peter’s Primacy” (In Annotations to the New Testament of 1556). Again, Luke 22.20, The Chalice, that is shed for you. “It is most likely,” saith he, “that these words, being sometime but a marginal note, came by corruption out of the margin into the text.” Again, Acts 7, figures which they made to adore them. “It may be suspected,” saith he, “that these words, as many others, have crept by corruption into the text out of the margin.” And 1 Corinthians 15, he thinketh the Apostle said not νικος, victory, as it is in all Greek copies, but νεικος, contention. And Acts 13, he calleth it a manifest error, that in the Greek it is 400 years, for 300. And Acts 7.16, he reckoneth up a whole catalogue of corruptions. Namely, Mark 12.42, ο εστι κοδραντης, which is a farthing; and Acts 8.26, αυτη εστιν ερημος, this is desert; and Acts 7.16, the name of Abraham, and such like. All which he thinketh to have been added or altered into the Greek text by corruption.
But among other places, he laboureth exceedingly to prove a great corruption, Acts 7.14, where it is said (according to the Septuaginta, that is, the Greek text of the Old Testament) that Jacob went down into Egypt with 75 souls. And Luke 3.36, he thinketh these words, του Καιναν, which was of Cainan, to be so false that he leaveth them clean out in both his editions of the New Testament, saying that he is bold to do so by the authority of Moses (A.D. 1556 and 1565), whereby he will signify that it is not in the Hebrew text of Moses or of the Old Testament, and therefore it is false in the Greek of the New Testament. Which consequence of theirs (for it is common among them and concerneth all Scriptures), if it were true, all places of the Greek text of the New Testament cited out of the Old according to the Septuaginta and not according to the Hebrew (which they know are very many) should be false. And so by tying themselves only to the Hebrew in the Old Testament, they are forced to forsake the Greek of the New, or if they will maintain the Greek of the New, they must forsake the Hebrew in the Old. But this argument shall be forced against them elsewhere.
By this little, the Reader may see what gay patrons they are of the Greek text, and how little reason they have in their own judgments to translate it or boast of it, as in derogation of the vulgar Latin translation, and how easily we might answer them in a word why we translate not the Greek: forsooth, because it is so infinitely corrupted. But the truth is, we do by no means grant it so corrupted as they, though in comparison we know it less sincere and incorrupt than the vulgar Latin, and for that reason, and others before alleged, we prefer the said Latin and have translated it.
If yet there remains one thing which perhaps they will say, when they cannot answer our reasons aforesaid, to wit, that we prefer the vulgar Latin before the Greek text, because the Greek maketh more against us, we protest that as for other reasons we prefer the Latin, so in this respect of making for us or against us, we allow the Greek as much as the Latin, yea, in sundry places more than in the Latin, being assured that they have not one, and that we have many advantages in the Greek more than in the Latin, as by the Annotation of this New Testament shall evidently appear: namely, in all such places where they dare not translate the Greek, because it is for us and against them. As when they translate δικαιωματα, ordinances and not justifications, and that on purpose as Beza confesseth, Luke 1.6; παραδοσεις, ordinances or instructions, and not traditions in the better part, 2 Thessalonians 2.15; πρεσβυτερους, Elders, and not Priests; ειδωλα, images rather than idols; and especially when St Luke in the Greek so maketh for us (the vulgar Latin being impartial for them and us) that Beza saith it is a corruption crept out of the margin into the text (Luke 22.20). What need these absurd inventions and false dealings with the Greek text, if it made for them more than for us, yea, if it made not for us against them? But that the Greek maketh more for us, see 1 Corinthians 7. In the Latin, Defraud not one another but for a time, that you give yourselves to prayer; in the Greek, fasting and prayer. Acts 10.30 in the Latin, Cornelius saith, from the fourth day past until this hour I was praying in my house, and behold a man, etc; in the Greek, I was fasting and praying. 1 John 5.18 in the Latin, We know that every one which is born of God sinneth not, but the generation of God preserveth him, etc; in the Greek, but he that is born of God preserveth himself. Apocalypse 22.14 in the Latin, Blessed are they that wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb, etc; in the Greek, Blessed are they that do His commandments. Romans 8.38, Certus sum, etc, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor other creature is able to separate us from the charity of God, as though he were assured, or we might and should assure ourselves of our predestination; in the Greek πεπεισμαι, I am probably persuaded that neither death nor life, etc. In the Evangelists about the Sacrifice and the Blessed Sacrament, in the Latin thus, This is my blood that shall be for you; and in St Paul, This is my body which shall be betrayed or delivered for you; both being referred to the time to come and to the sacrifice on the Cross; in the Greek, This is my blood which is shed for you and my body which is broken for you, both being referred to that present time when Christ gave His body and blood at His supper, then shedding the one and breaking the other, that is, sacrificing it sacramentally and mystically. Lo, these and the like our advantages in the Greek, more than in the Latin.
But is the vulgar translation for all this Papistical, and therefore do we follow it? For some of them so call it, and say it is the worst of all others (Against D. Sand. Rocke [unknown reference], page 147; See Kemnis, in examination, Council of Trent, session 4). If it be, the Greek (as you see) is more, and so both Greek and Latin and consequently the Holy Scripture of the New Testament is Papistical. Again, if the vulgar Latin be Papistical, Papistry is very ancient, and the Church of God for so many hundred years wherein it hath used and allowed this translation hath been Papistical. But wherein is it Papistical? Forsooth, in these phrases and speeches, Poenitentiam agite, Sacramentum hoc magnum est, AVE GRATIA PLENA , Talibus hostiis promeretur Deus, and such like (Matthew 3.2 and 11.20, 21, Ephesians 5.32, Luke 1.28, Hebrews 13.16). First, doth not the Greek say the same? See the Annotations upon these places. Secondly, could he translate these things Papistically or biasedly, or rather prophetically, so long before they were in controversy? Thirdly, don he not say for poenitentiam agite in another place poenitemini, and doth he not translate other mysteries by the word sacramentum, as Apocalypse 17, Sacramentum mulieris, and as he translateth one word (κεχαριτωμενη, Luke 1.28) Gratia plena, so doth he not translate the very like word (ειλκωμενος, Luke 16.20) plenus ulceribus, which themselves do follow also? Is this also Papistry? When he said, Hebrews 10.29, Quanto deteriora merebitur supplicia, etc, and they like it well enough, might he not have said according to the same Greek word, Vigilate ut habeamini fugere ista omnia et stare ante filium hominis, Luke 21.36; and Qui merebuntur saeculum illud et resurrectionem ex mortuis, etc, Luke 20.35; and Tribulationis quas sustinetis, ut habeamini regnum Dei, pro quo et patimini, 2 Thessalonians 1.5. Might he not (we say) if he had biasedly had a liking for the word merit, used it in all these places, according to his and your own translation of the same Greek word, Hebrews 10.29 (Nov. Test. 1580)? Which he doth not, but in all these places saith simply, Ut digni habeamini, and, Qui digni habebuntur. And how can it be judged Papistical or biased when he saith, Talibus hostiis promeretur Deus, Hebrews 13.16? Was Primasius also St Augustine’s scholar, a Papist, for using this text (in the Epistle to the Hebrews), and all the rest that have done the like? Was St Cyprian a Papist, for using so often this speech, promereri Dominum iustis operibus, poenitentia, etc (Ep. 14 and 18), or is there any difference, but that St Cyprian useth it as a deponent more Latinly, the other as a passive less finely? Was it Papistry to say Senior for Presbyter, Ministrantibus for sacrificantibus or liturgiam celebrantibus, simulacris for idolis, fides tuae salvum fecit sometime for sanum fecit? Or shall we think he was a Calvinist for translating thus, as they think he was a Papist when any word soundeth for us.
Again, was he a Papist in these kind of words only, and was he not in whole sentences? As, Tibi dabo claves, etc; Quicquid solveris in terra, erat solutum et in coelis (Matthew 16.19); and, Quorum remiseritis peccata, remittuntur eis (John 20.23); and, Tunc reddet unicuique secundum opera sua (Matthew 16.27); and, Nunquid poterit fides salvare eum? Ex operibus iustificatur homo et non ex fide tantum (James 2.14, 24); and, Nubere volunt, damnationem habentes, quia primam fidem irritam fecerunt (1 Timothy 5.11-12); and, Mandata eius gravia non sunt (1 John 5.3); and, Aspexit in remunerationem (Hebrews 11.26). Are all these and such like Papistical translations because they are most plain for the Catholic faith which they call Papistry? Are they not word for word as in the Greek, and the very words of the Holy Ghost? And if in these there be no accusation of Papistical partiality, why in the others? Lastly are the ancient Fathers, General Councils, the Churches of all the west part that use all these speeches and phrases now so many hundred years, are they all Papistical? Be it so, and let us in the name of God follow them , speak as they spoke, translate as they translated, interpret as they interpreted, because we believe as they believed. And thus far for defense of the old vulgar Latin translation, and why we translated it before all others. Now of the manner of translating the same.
IN THIS OUR TRANSLATION, because we wish it to be most sincere, as becometh a Catholic translation, and have endeavored so to make it, we are very precise and religious in following our copy, the old vulgar approved Latin, not only in sense, which we hope we always do, but sometimes in the very words also and phrases, which may seem to the vulgar Reader, and to common English ears not yet acquainted therewith, rudeness or ignorance. But to the discrete Reader that deeply weigheth and considereth the importance of sacred words and speeches, and how easily the willing Translator may miss the true sense of the Holy Ghost, we doubt not but our consideration and doing therein shall seem reasonable and necessary. Yea, and that all sorts of Catholic Readers will in short time think that familiar which at first may seem strange, and will esteem it more when they shall otherwise be taught to understand it than if it were the common known English.
For example, we translate often thus, Amen, amen, I say unto you. Which as yet seemeth strange but after a while it will be as familiar as Amen in the end of all prayers and Psalms. And even as when we end with Amen it soundeth far better than So be it, so in the beginning Amen, amen must needs by use and custom sound far better than Verily, verily. Which indeed doth not express the asseveration and assurance signified in this Hebrew word. Besides that, it is the solemn and usual word of our Savior to express a vehement asseveration, and therefore is not changed neither in the Syriac, nor Greek, nor vulgar Latin Testament, but is preserved and used by the Evangelists and Apostles themselves (see the annotations at John 8.34 and Apocalypse 19.4), even as Christ spoke it, propter sanctiorem authoritatem, as St Augustin saith of this and of Alleluia: for the more holy and sacred authority thereof, On Christian Instruction book 2, chapter 11. And therefore do we keep the word Alleluia, Apocalypse 19, as it is both in the Greek and Latin, yea, and in all the English translations, though in their Books of Common Prayer they translate it Praise ye the Lord. Again, if Hosanna, Raca, Belial, and such like be yet untranslated in the English Bibles (New Testament of 1580, Bible of 1577), why not, we say, Corbana and Parasceve, especially when they, Englishing the latter thus, the preparation of the Sabbath, put three words more into the text than the Greek word doth signify, Matthew 27.62. And others saying thus, After the day of preparing (Mark 15.42), make a cold translation and short of the sense, as if they should translate Sabbath, the resting. For Parasceve is as solemn a word for the Sabbath eve as Sabbath is for the Jews’ seventh day, and now among Christians much more solemn, taken for Good Friday only. These words then we thought it far better to keep in the text and to tell their meaning in the margin or in a table for that purpose, than to disgrace both the text and them with translating them. Such are also these words, The Pasch, The Feast of Azymes, The Bread of Proposition, which they translate The Passover, The Feast of Sweet Bread, The Shew Bread (Bible of 1577, Matthew 26.17). But if Pentecost, Acts 2, be yet untranslated in their Bibles, and seemeth not strange, why should not Pasch and Azymes remain also, being solemn feasts as Pentecost was? Or why should they English one rather than the other? Especially whereas Passover at the first was as strange as Pasch may seem now, and perhaps as many now understand Pasch as Passover. And as for Azymes, when they English it the feast of sweet bread, it is a false interpretation of the word, and nothing expresseth that which belongeth to the feast, concerning unleavened bread. And as for their term of shew bread, it is very strange and ridiculous. Again, if Proselyte be a received word in the English Bibles, Matthew 23.15 and Acts 6.5, why may not we be bold to say Neophyte, 1 Timothy 3.6? Especially when they, translating it into English, do falsely express the signification of the word thus, a young scholar. Whereas it is a peculiar word to signify them that were lately baptized, as Catechumens signifieth the newly instructed in faith not yet baptized, who is also a young scholar rather than the other, and many that have been old scholars may be Neophytes by deferring [or "differing"] baptism. And if Phylacteries be allowed for English, Matthew 23.5, we hope that Didgragmes also, Prepuce, Paraclete, and such like, will easily grow to be current and familiar. And in good sooth there is in all these such necessity, that they cannot conveniently be translated. As when St Paul saith, concisio, non circumcisio (Philippians 3.2,3), how can we but follow his very words and allusion? And how is it possible to express Evangelizo but as we do, Evangelize? For Evangelium being the Gospel, what is Evangelizo or to Evangelize but to show the glad tidings of the Gospel, of the time of grace, of all Christ’s benefits? All which signification is lost by translating as the English Bibles do, I bring you good tidings, Luke 2.10. Therefore, we say Depositum, 1 Timothy 6.20, and He exinanited himself, Philippians 2.7, and, You have reflorished, Philippians 4.10, and to exhaust, Hebrews 9.28, because we cannot possibly attain to express these words fully in English, and we think much better that the reader stumbling at the difficulty of them should take an occasion to look in the table following, or otherwise to ask the full meaning of them, than by putting some usual English words that express them not, so to deceive the reader. Sometimes also we do it for another reason, as when we say, The advent of our Lord, and, Imposing of hands, because one is a solemn time, the other a solemn action in the Catholic Church, to signify to the people that these and such like names come out of the very Latin text of the Scripture. So did Penance, doing penance, Chalice, Priest, Deacon, Traditions, Altar, Host, and the like (which we exactly keep as Catholic terms) proceed even from the very words of Scripture.
Moreover, we presume not in hard places to mollify the speeches or phrases, but religiously keep them word for word, and point for point, for fear of missing or restraining the sense of the Holy Ghost to our fantasy, as Ephesians 6.12, Against the spirituals of wickedness in the celestials, and, What to me and thee woman? (John 2.4), whereof see the Annotation upon this place, and 1 Peter 2.2, As infants even now born, reasonable, milk without guile desire ye. We do so place reasonable on purpose, that it may be indifferent both to infants going before, as in our Latin text, or to milk that followeth after, as in other Latin copies and in the Greek. John 3.8 we translate, The spirit breatheth where he will, etc, leaving it indifferent to signify either the Holy Ghost, or wind, which the Protestants, translating wind, take away the other sense more common and usual in the ancient Fathers. We translate Luke 8.23, They were filled, not adding on our own with water to mollify the sentence, as the Protestants do, and 22.20, This is the chalice, the new testament, etc, not, This chalice is the new testament. Likewise, Mark 13.19, Those days shall be such tribulation, etc, not as the Adversaries, In those days, both our text and theirs begin otherwise. Likewise, James 4.6, And giveth greater grace, leaving it impartial to the Scripture or to the Holy Ghost, both going before. Whereas the Adversaries too too boldly and presumptuously add, saying, The Scripture giveth, taking away the other sense, which is far more probable. Likewise, Hebrews 12.21 we translate, So terrible was it which was seen, Moses said, etc, neither doth Greek or Latin permit us to add, that Moses said, as the Protestants presume to do. So we say, Men brethren, A widow woman, A woman a sister, James of Alphaeus, and the like. Sometimes also we follow on purpose the Scripture’s phrase, as, The hell of fire (Matthew 5.22), according to the Greek and Latin (Gehenna ignis), which we might say perhaps, the fiery hell, by the Hebrew phrase in such speeches, but not hell fire, as commonly it is translated. Likewise, Luke 4.36. What word is this, that in power and authority commandeth the unclean spirits? As also Luke 2.15, Let us pass over, and see the word that is done, where we might say thing, by the Hebrew phrase, but there is a certain majesty and more signification in these speeches, and therefore both Greek and Latin keep them, although it is no more the Greek or Latin phrase that it is the English. And why should we be squeamish at new words or phrases in the Scripture which are necessary, when we do easily admit and follow new words coined in court and in courtly or other secular writings?
We add the Greek in the margin for diverse reasons. Sometimes when the sense is hard, that the learned reader may consider of it and see if he can help himself better than by our translation, as Luke 11.41, Nolite extolli, μη μετεωριζεσθε, and again, Quod superest date elemosynam, τα ενοντα. Sometimes to take away the ambiguity of the Latin or English, as Luke 11.17, Et domus supra domum cadet, which we must needs English, and house upon house shall fall. By the Greek the sense is not one house shall fall upon another, but if one house rise upon itself, that is, against itself, it shall perish, according as he speaketh of a kingdom divided against itself, in the words before. And Acts 14.12, Sacerdos Iovis qui erat, in the Greek qui is referred to Jupiter. Sometimes to satisfy the reader, that might otherwise conceive the translation to be false. As Philippians 4.6, But in everything by prayer, etc, εν παντι προσευχη, not, in all prayer, as in the Latin it may seem. Sometime when the Latin neither doth, nor can, reach to the signification of the Greek word, we add the Greek also as more significant. Illi soli servies, Him only shalt thou serve, λατρευσεις (Matthew 4.10). And Acts 6.5, Nicolas a stranger of Antioch, προσηλυτος. And Romans 9.4, The service, η λατρεια. And Ephesians 1.10, to perfect, instaurare omnia in Christo, ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι. And, Wherein he hath gratified us, εχαριτωσεν (Ephesians 1.6). And Ephesians 6.11, Put on the armor, πανοπλιαν, and a number [of] the like. Sometimes, when the Greek hath two senses, and the Latin but one, we add the Greek. 2 Corinthians 1.4,6, By the exhortation wherewith we also are exhorted, the Greek signifieth also consolation, etc. And 2 Corinthians 10.15, But having hope of your faith increasing, to be, etc, where the Greek may also signify as or when your faith increaseth. Sometimes for advantage of the Catholic cause, when the Greek maketh for us more than the Latin. As, Seniores, πρεσβυτηρους (Acts 15.6,23); Ut digni habeamini, ινα αξιωθητε (2 Thessalonians 1.5), Qui effundetur, το εκχυννομενον (Luke 22.20); Praeceptis, παραδοσεις (1 Corinthians 11.2). And John 21.16, ποιμαινε, Pasce and rege. And sometimes to show the false translation of the Heretic, as when Beza saith, hoc poculum in meo sanguine qui, το ποτηριον εν τοι εμοι αιματι το εκχυννομενον, Luke 22.20, and, Quae oporte coelo cotinere, ον δει ουρανον δεξασθαι, Acts 3.21. Thus we use the Greek diverse ways, and esteem of it as it is worthy, and take all opportunities thereof for the better understanding of the Latin, which being a translation cannot always attain to the full sense of the principal tongue, as we see in all translations.
Similarly, we add the Latin word sometimes in the margin, when either we cannot fully express it (as Acts 8.2, They took order for Stephen’s funeral, Curaverunt Stephanum, and, All take not his word, Non omnes capiunt (Matthew 19.11)), or when the reader might think it cannot be as we translate, as Luke 8.23, A storm of wind descended into the lake, and they were filled, et complebantur. And John 5.6, when Jesus knew that he had now a long time, quid iam multum tempus haberet, meaning, in his infirmity.
The precise following of our Latin text, in neither adding nor diminishing, is the reason why we say not in the title of books, in the first page, St Matthew, St Paul, because it is so neither in Greek nor Latin, though in the tops of the leaves following, where we may be bolder, we add St Matthew, etc, to satisfy the reader. Much unlike to the Protestants our Adversaries, which make no scruple to leave out the name of Paul in the title of the Epistle to the Hebrews, though it be in every Greek book which they translate (Bibles of years 1579, 1580, 1577, and 1562). And their most authorized English Bibles leave out “Catholic” in the title of St James’ Epistle and the rest, which were famously known in the primitive Church by the name of Catholicae Epistolae, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book 2, chapter 22.
Similarly, we give the Reader in places of some importance another reading in the margin, especially when the Greek is agreeable to the same. As John 5.24, transiet de morte ad vitam. Other Latin copies have transiit, and so it is in the Greek.
We bind not ourselves to the points of any one copy, print, or edition of the vulgar Latin, in places of no controversy, but follow the pointing most agreeable to the Greek and to the Fathers’ commentaries. As Colossians 1.10, Ambulantes digne Deo, per omnia placentes, Walking worthy of God, in all things pleasing, αξιως του Κυριου εισ πασαν αρεσκειαν. Ephesians 1.17, We point thus, Deus Domini nostri Iesu Christi, pater gloriae, as in the Greek, and St Chrysostom, and St Jerome both in text and commentaries. Which the Catholic reader especially must mark, lest he find fault when he seeth our translation disagree in such places from the pointing of his Latin Testament.
We translate sometimes the word that is in the Latin margin, and not that in the text, when by the Greek or the Fathers we see it is a manifest fault of the writers heretofore that mistook one word for another. As In fine, not, in fide, 1 Peter 3.8; praesentiam, not praescientiam, 2 Peter 1.16; Hebrews 13.2, latuerunt, not placuerunt.
Thus we have endeavoured by all means to satisfy the indifferent reader, and to help his understanding every way, both in the text and by Annotations, and withal to deal most sincerely before God and man in translating and expounding the most sacred text of the holy Testament. Fare well good Reader, and if we profit thee any whit by our poor pains let us for God’s sake be partakers of thy devout prayers, and together with humble and contrite heart call upon our Savior Christ to cease these troubles and storms of his dearest spouse, in the meantime comforting ourselves with this saying of St Augustine, That Heretics, when they receive power corporally to afflict the Church, do exercise her patience, but when they attack her only by their evil doctrine or opinions, then they exercise her wisdom (City of God, book 18, chapter 51).
Kevin P. Edgecomb, August 25-30, 2006