Translate: Turn from one language into another, express the sense of in another language.
Express in other words, paraphrase, explain, interpret.
Origin: Latin translatus reinforced by Old French translater & Medieval Latin translatare
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Now I have to go back from Shakespeare’s time and report on the English Language’s most brutal and bloody war. For war it was, with no prisoners taken. The English people had been through bloodshed before, mostly wars of their Kings or nobilities making. The language had survived and grown strong notwithstanding.
Had both bent their knee to the language
You would have thought it had no more to do - But. . .
In England, as in most of Europe, there were three entities that controlled the population, that had the power. The Crown, the State and the Church.
Of the three it could be argued the Church had the most power. The Church ruled the rulers as well as the commoners. Excommunication and the thought of eternal hell fires kept everyone in check.
The Church was not about to give up that power easily.
The rebellion, when it came to England, came from within. From the clergy. From men who believed passionately in God’s word and who wanted to share everything glorious with everyone. That could only be done, they reasoned, if the Word was in English, not in Latin.
The power of the Church lay mostly in this last. The common people had no access to religion other than through the clergy, through the ordained, through the dictates of an elite, who dictated the rules for Holy living, dictated who would go to hell, who dictated who would be excommunicated for heresy.
Heresy not only condemned a person to hellfire, but the miscreant was dispatched by fire. This last major battle of the language required rebels of courage, conviction and passion. This was not a battle of a few weeks or years this went on through generations.
The Church reasoned that the Bible was the word of God and as such was a blessing, and too much to be understood by the ordinary folk. Training and ordination would make a priest a true man of God who could not misinterpret the Word and commit heresy. Well Holy Books can of course be open to misinterpretation, can be abused, we all know that. And that old saying about power corrupting? Well it had done that also.
Many strands of The Church by then had fallen into disrepute, Chancer satirizes many members of the Church in his Tales, gently to be sure, he didn’t wish to lose his life. Others were more savage about their denunciations.
In the mid 14th century John Wycliffe entered Merton College, Oxford. He was a dedicated and passionate Christian but there were many aspects of the Church he hated. He launched a very erudite attack on the power and wealth of the Church. Denounced the fabrications of the power base in Rome, declaring if something was not mentioned in the Bible it wasn’t God’s word, no matter what the Pope said.
There is, of course, no mention in the Bible about a Pope!
Wycliffe demanded the Church remained true to the spirit of Christianity. The Church should give away its wealth, give it to the poor. He had much more to say but that was a taster of his first attacks, and defiance of danger.
Not only was he brave enough for the challenge but he found fellow dissenters within the University. The Bible must be written in English so the people could receive the truth in its purity.
Problem. The Church forbade English translations of the Bible, declaring it would be an act of sedition and heretical
This had to be a secret conspiracy, a very high risk task. The translation was made from the Vulgar Latin version,and was a long slow process. After the writing came the distribution. It is not known how many were made but there are approximately 170 surviving copies of this 600 year old Bible, The Wycliffe’s Bible.
Hundreds would be tortured and killed for their part in the process.
Wycliffe went on to form the Lollards, itinerant preachers wandering, the country bringing the Bible to the English in English. A dangerous occupation. The Church could not allow it. A synod examined Wycliffe's works, condemned them as heresy ,outlawed and banned for ever an English Bible.
Nothing is for ever!
Wycliffe himself died from a stroke and it would appear his Bible died with him.
The Lollards continued, these good God fearing Catholics put their lives at stake ,passion for a cause indeed. Twenty years after Wycliffe's death there was a burning of his books, and his bones! They dug him up and burned the remains to deny him any hope of redemption in the next life. They burnt the bones on a bridge and threw his ashes into stream below. Defeated at last!
It it’s as well to remember the power of water:)
In 1521 they were still burning ‘heretical’ books; the Bible was still being circulated.
About this time there enters William Tyndale, also an Oxford University man, an ordained priest. In 1524 he left England,a self appointed exile, met Luther and Erasmus, leading lights in the new Protestantism. Tyndale settled in Europe and undertook a translation of the New Testament from the original Greek and Hebrew. In two years 6,000 copies were ready to be shipped to England, a second English Bible.
The whole of England’s security forces were put on alert to seize this ‘evil’ contraband. The Navy patrolled the shores. Some books were taken, some got through. The Bishop of London then bought up the entire supply and burned them. Tyndale used the money to print more (this time paid for by the enemy)
Tyndale’s translation of the New, and eventually the Old, Testament was more lyrical and richer in language, with more clarity, than the first and, years later, the King James version would be modeled on Tyndale’s.
Eighteen thousand copies were smuggled in, six thousand made it. This time they were printed in pocket editions, so could be concealed more easily.
Tyndale spent the rest of his short life on the run. Constantly moving around Europe to keep ahead of his enemies. He was caught in 1536 and put to death on charges of heresy.
That might have been the end of it, how many courageous men can one country produce, but then Henry the Eighth began his serial disposal of wives! The Pope threatened to excommunicate him. Henry would have his way. Here was a break from Rome and an opening for Protestantism.
In 1537 an English Bible was legally published in England - 1537 the Matthew Bible.
1539 The Great Bible.
1560 The Geneva Bible.
1568 The Bishops Bible
1609 The Douai-Rheims Bible
With the split from Rome and the Roman Catholic Church English was now the official language of Crown, State and most importantly of all the Church. Many more were to perish in the name of religion, after that split, but English was now a force ready to expand.