Thursday, December 24, 2015

John Wycliffe and the First English Bible

The NRSV (The Oxford Edition) states: "Prior to the sixteenth century, translations of the Bible into English were made from the Latin Vulgate instead of from the Hebrew or Greek, and were recorded only in manuscript copies" (P. 400).

It also affirms that "The first English versions of the entire Bible were the two associated with the work of John Wyclif, made by translation from the Latin Vulgate between 1380 and 1397" (NRSV 401).

Look as hard as you may, you will probably not find any earlier non-manuscript English versions in their entirety prior to Wycliffe.

Some versions that antedated his efforts were:

Whitby's version of the Psalms (670 CE)

The Venerable Bede's Gospel of John

King Alfred's renderings of portions of Exodus and the Acts of the Apostles, as well as some of the Psalms (849-901 CE)

Aelfric's translation of the Heptateuch (Genesis through Judges)

None of these versions were translated in their entirety, and you will not find any evidence of a work comparable to Wycliffe's before the Bible that was credited to him was produced:

"With the activities of Wyclif and the Lollards, as his disciples were called, is associated the vernacular English of the Bible that circulated in manuscript as the only translation of the Bible available in the English tongue till the time of Tyndale and Coverdale" (Geddes MacGregor 77).

As FF Bruce points out:

"The first translation of the whole Bible into English is associated with the name of John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384), the most eminent Oxford theologian of his day" (The English Bible, p. 12).

1 comment:

Duncan said...

The Bede account smacks of the mythic.

Upon completing his task, Bede asked the young scribe Wilbert to help him to raise his head so he could face the holy place where he usually prayed. One last time, Bede wished to "sit and call on my Father." As he chanted "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son," his voice became weaker and weaker and then finally ceased altogether. Bede's life ended in the same manner he had lived it--praising God.

Is this Bede's source text ?