Turn off CNN where you are watching “What is a Christian?” tonight. This is ten times better!!!
Andrew Skinner, dean of religious education at BYU in Provo, in connection to the Ink & Blood exhibit, addressed a full house tonight at the Trinity United Methodist Church next to the Museum of Idaho.
As a distinguished scholar, he lectured on the topic of “A Special Heritage – The Story of the English Bible”. Though I have many questions about his devotion in 2006 presented on the nature of God; tonight, I was spell-bound. Absolutely captivated! He powerfully articulated in vivid color the same story I have been sharing with the groups that I have been bringing to the museum these past two months. Truth is . . . Andrew speaks with scholarly flair.
In the post, I have just tried to capture some of the essence from his lecture. For any inaccuracies, I take full responsibility for not repeating what Skinner clearly shared in riveting accuracy.
Let me share with you a story, not just any story, but a story of high drama, self-sacrifice, intellectual brilliance, a story for highborn and low, a story for faith and for those just interested in western civilization. It is a story like none other, a story of our heritage.
Not to be acute, but it is a story of Ink & Blood. The English Bible tells us of miracles. It is a miracle. For those of us who steer our compass by the Bible, it is 66 inspired books, biblia, a collection of books. It is extraordinary, provocative.
We pay tribute to those who gave everything that they possessed, wealth, health, in making God’s Word available so that all might understand. Their sacrifices were not in vain.
The Bible has more influence for good than any other book.
It was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek St. Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, for the next 700 years, it was the standard.
Benson Bobrick wrote an excellent book, Wide as the Waters. He wrote of how the Bible for centuries was imprisoned. Yet the Bible was redeemed from bondage.
[Skinner then provided a brilliant quote from] Miles Smith, the author of the original preface, who famously walked out of one sermon which bored him, so he went to the pub. While a great translator and scholar, you have got admire a man like that. (laughter)
[Skinner showed a picture drawing of] Johann Hus, being burned at the stake. In medieval times, the books with their owners were burned. The question would be asked, “Do you know any part of the Bible in your own language?” If you did, you were killed. The word, martyr, a loan word from the Greek, means witness. These people were. Scriptures were tied around their necks, mockingly, and they were burned.
The journey through the history of the Bible in specific detail
Skinner showed a slide from a Hebrew page in Genesis. The Hebrew word, toledoth, translated as “generations” means “family or genealogical history.” Indeed we are all apart of that family.
Each added. Many inspired writers, editors, and scribes began to add to the text. Stories began to be set down in writing. Each added to the previous section. Moses is credited with the authorship of the Pentateuch. He took existing records to write the inaugural books. It was probably not Hebrew, but Egyptian.
Here are four milestones in the OT canon
*Ezra’s return in 458 B.C. He brought all the records into one. Ezra is the second Moses, the second lawgiver (Skinner inserted an 8th century illustration)
*The translation of the OT into the Septuagint. There are many legends, but the gist is most families could no longer understand Hebrew; so thus, we have a translation into Greek—Scripture being translated into the common tongue.
*The reinvigorated use of Scripture by Qumran covenanters. These people established a covenant based community along the Northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Every OT book is represented except Esther. Qumran reflected a renewed & restored covenant.
*Jesus’ mentioning of the OT in his day, the three-fold division. He mentions the OT (John 5:39) to validate, to certify He is the Messiah
On the foundation of the OT, we turn to the NT
This begins with the apostles. Paul Wagner wrote an outstanding book, Journey From Texts to Translations! This book tells us the importance of the NT, related back to the apostles and Christ.
The letters of Paul showed up first (A.D. 50, maybe earlier), then the Synoptic gospels, and finally John’s Gospel. None of them were produced very long after the actual events. This is different from almost all other historical records. If you guide your ship by the Gospels, you have good historical reasons. These apostles paid for their witness.
John Ryland’s Papyrus P52 (John 18:38) – This fragment dates to 110 to 125 AD. This gospel was circulating among the people of Egypt. It shows the Codex form was in play by AD 125. This is exciting.
With the OT and the NT completed, when were they combined into a single volume?
The earliest complete Bibles are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, dated around AD 350. Concerning the history of Sinaiticus, this was kept at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It was there for centuries undisturbed. Tischendorf saw a trash heap. He saw these pages with Greek writing. He went over to them. Goodness sakes, the oldest Bible was about ready to be burned. It is amazing by a little nudge the course of history is changed.
St. Jerome (thankfully we know him by this name – laughter) translated from the Hebrew and Greek in to Latin. There is little chapel right by where Jesus was born. If you visit Bethlehem, it is a two for one ticket. Great deal. Jerome writes to the pope and says we need a new addition. His text becomes the standard. He did his work night and day, pouring over the manuscripts.
The first biblical English is 10th century . . . English glosses with the Latin. The Lindisfarne Gospels are the earliest forms.
The first man to sponsor the Bible into English was John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation. His claim to fame is his program of church reform in doctrine and practice. His centerpiece is the Bible. He’s popular—crowded lecture halls, three parish appointments, etc. In 1337, he launches a series of attacks, teaching later picked up by Luther and Calvin. He argues for radical measures, doing away with transubstantiation, teaching every believer is a priest. The Bible is the sole authority. The pope is not the voice but the Bible.
Powerful voices sought to undermine him, but he would not give in. The Wycliffe Bible was completed in 1382. Historians today marvel out the tenacity of this man. Some say the Wycliffe Bible is stilted, follows the Latin to closely, and doesn’t give us the word, “to be”. But this Bible really is a magnificent document.
Unfortunately, whole copies of the hand written Bibles were burned. Wycliffe died in 1384. In the Council of Constance, 1415, the Church charged Wycliffe on 260 accounts of heresy. They dug up his bones and burned them. [Skinner then read an official Church charge of condemnation against Wycliffe that talked about how terrible it was for women to read the Bible in their own mother tongue. “I asked my daughter if this statement was referring to her as a swine?” She said, “Yes.”]
Wycliffe was a man of faith, following his convictions, no matter the consequences.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) studied Wycliffe and Romans and came to the conviction, salvation is not by works but by faith alone.
Skinner spoke of the value of Erasmus’ Greek text (one who stayed within the Church).
William Tyndale was born in 1492. Two things contributed to Tyndale’s work: Erasmus’ Greek text and Gutenberg’s printing press.
Gutenberg printed the 42 line Latin Bible. It is the supreme irony that Gutenberg died penniless; but there is this huge museum built in his honor, and people pay thousands of dollars today for a page.
Tyndale felt burdened to get the Bible into the English. Christians must read the NT in their own tongue. Tyndale’s views brought in great difficulty with the established authority, both political and spiritual. Tyndale taught that whether washing dishes or preaching the Word, you are equal in the eyes of God in your service for Him.
The NT’s came off the presses in 1525. Tyndale’s NT immediately became a bestseller, 18,000 copies sold. An incredible hunger for the Scriptures. The churchmen became furious. If you think you know how to hurl insults, you don’t even compare to these early polemics. Skinner read a sizzling quote condemning Tyndale’s work as “ . . . the fuel of death . . . the depravity of morals, . . . . [and about 20 other pointed insults.]
He was a tremendous scholar, knew 8 languages by heart, but he turned over his notes to John Rogers.
Things were not good. He was ultimately betrayed by a friend, just like the master he served. He greatly suffered for 18 months . . . pleading letters . . . “if you could send me my Hebrew Bible and Hebrew grammar.” In 1536, they tied him to the stake, strangled him, and then burned his body. Just before he died, he cried, “Lord, Open the King of England’s eyes.” His prayer was answered.
All that Tyndale and others suffered occurred as they tried to get the Bible to the people. Tyndale was a true hero in the history of the western civilization. None of these later Bibles were as important as Tyndale’s. The figures for seeing Tyndale in the King James Version range from 90 percent to as low as 18 percent. My colleagues say the KJV New Testament carries 84 percent of Tyndale’s work while the Old Testament is 76 percent.
John Rogers is also martyred. He leaves the Catholic church, marries, has 11 children. He is arrested, imprisoned. As he is taken to the stake, a French ambassador saw how the kids were encouraging their father. It was more like a wedding than a funeral.
Skinner now shares, “Oh goodness. We are out of time.” [Todd’s note – what?!!! I look at my watch. The hour passed by in a blink. Come on. Keep going. I can listen to this for hours!]
Several other Bibles appear—Coverdale, Geneva, Bishops, etc.—each presented a different religious viewpoint. In the midst of the controversy, let’s have a Bible that takes a middle approach, not Anglican, not Puritan, etc.
The KJV Bible is an absolutely magnificent capstone. If it were to go out of print today, we would still use many of the expressions.
Four hundred years later, people are quoting this translation. It changed a culture. It is to be honored and treasured.
Regardless of one’s persuasion, this is the story of us. May we always appreciate this story. These translations have changed the world, (Tyndale, Geneva, KJV).
I thank you for your attention.
Questions from the audience following his lecture
Why didn’t they find the book of Esther in Qumran?
1. No one knows for sure
2. Was it these connections, Esther – Ishtar, Mordecai – Marduk? We don’t know the origin of the book, maybe Qumran knew something we didn’t
3. Probably, the biggest reason– they just haven’t found it, the material just didn’t survive.
What is the correlation between something like the Isaiah scrolls and what Tyndale gave us?
Tyndale – magnificent Hebrew linguist – significant correlation between the two. The Great Isaiah scroll seems to favor a closer text to the Septuagint than MT, but there is a great connection.
Was Latin a common language during Jerome’s time?
It was becoming more common. The Roman Empire was dividing in to two – Greek speaking and Latin speaking (western). Latin is on the increase and Greek decreasing, not in the far eastern but certainly in the West. By the 6th and 7th centuries, Latin is the language of the clergy.
Where there many major contributors to the Bible not barbecued (burned at the stake)?
Wycliffe. Yes, there were others.
Todd’s Note – YOU HAVE GOT TO VISIT “INK & BLOOD” AT THE MUSEUM OF IDAHO!