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September 11, 2011

Page: 27/42

Home > 2011 Issues > September 11, 2011

English translations of Bible

By Brij Kishore Sharma

IT seems that the authors of New Testament followed septuagint—the translation of Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek.

With the spread of christianity in Europe there was a demand for translation of Bible in local languages. The Church initially was opposed to translation in crude vernacular languages. It also held the view that only the clergy be allowed to read the Bible. There was debate over which writings should be included and which be omitted. Passages were to be selected for promoting political agenda.

The earliest translation of scriptures from Hebrew to Greek are called Septuagint. It was translated by Jews in Alexandria during the period 275–100 BC. 70 scholars translated it which gave it the name Septuagint. When Christians started using it and made revisions in it the Jews felt disconcerted and gave up using it in 70BC. By 100AD the old Testament was translated in Syriac spoken in a part of Turkey. In the 4th century it was translated into Coptic, a language of Egypt (now UAR). Around this time Gothic, Ethiopian, Slavonic, Arabic and Armenian versions were prepared.

In 405AD a Roman scholar Esubius, popularly called Jerome, translated it into vulgar Latin (the spoken language of a part of Roman Empire). His translation was based on earlier Greek, Hebrew and Latin sources. The Church did not approve his efforts. He had to flee and move to Palestine where he completed his work. It is known as Vulgate because the language used is Vulgar Latin. Later, it became the accepted Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

John Wycliff translated the Vulgate into English in the year 1382. Wycliff desired to make the Bible readable by the common Englishman. The Church opposed the view. Wycliff was forced to resign from Oxford where he was a teacher. Forty four years after his demise his bones were dug out of his grave and burnt under the order of the Pope. He was declared a heretic for translating the Bible into English.

Martin Luther of Germany was a reformist. In 1517, he criticised the Catholic Church for sale of pardons, called indulgences, for sins. Those who purchased indulgences were assured by the Pope that they would not be punished in hell. In 1522 he published a German translation of the New Testament. He expressed doubts about the authenticity of many of the earlier books. Luther had to run across Europe to save his life from the Church. But he freed the Bible from the Clergy and unknowingly unified the German language.

In the 16th century an Englishman William Tyndale was inspired to translate the Bible in English, even though in his day the nobles spoke French and the language of learned discourse was Latin. Tyndale dare not publish it in England so he published it in Germany. It was secretly under print in 1525 but some how it leaked and the Catholic Church destroyed it. Tyndale took the risk again and his version was printed the next year. His translation was based on the Latin translation made by Erasmus in 1516.

English Church took no time in condemning the English rendering of the New Testament by Tyndale. He was declared a heretic and his arrest was ordered. He went underground and succeeded in publishing English translation of 5 books of Moses in 1530. Ultimately he was caught, tried and ordered to be strangled. His body was not interred but ordered to be burnt. So in 1536 AD Tyndale paid the price for translating the Bible.

Christianity and Science

Copernicus received a copy of his book on 24th May 1543 on his death bed. It was printed in Nuremberg. The title was Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies. (The book and its title were in Latin). It differed from the view of the Church that the Sun and the planets revolve round the earth.

The Church supported the view that earth was the centre of universe. The Sun and the planets revolved around it. This was contained in a book Almagest collected by Ptolemy in 2nd century CE.

Giordino Bruno was born in 1550 at Naples. He was a monk but believed in the Copernican theory that the earth and planets revolve round the Sun. He fled at the age of 24 from his monastery fearing prosecution for heresy. In Venice he was arrested by the Inquisition. For six years he was kept in dungeons and tortured to make him recant. He was a courageous soul who refused to deny the truth. He talked of infinite space and infinite number of worlds. On February 17, 1600 he was burnt at the stake. He preferred a spirited death to a cowardly life.

Galileo looked at the planets and stars through a telescope and supported the views of Bruno. The Church declared telescope as an instrument of devil which created visions to mislead man. It was banned.

Galileo persisted in his experiments and viewing. In 1616, he was condemned by the Church which declared Copernican theory as heresy. He promised not to teach his views but later wrote a dialogue which became the cause for his accusation. He faced the Inquisition. The Church compelled him to recant the truth. Even after that he was kept in prison for 9 years. His condition was pitiful. He had become blind but the Church had no mercy for the heretic.

Newton lost interest in mathematics when he turned 44. In Cambridge he was engrossed in Biblican studies. He wrote studies in Biblical chronology based on the premiss that the world was created in 4004 BC.

When Darwin’s Origin of Species saw the light of the day in the later part of 19th century it was bitterly opposed by the Church. It was through the indomitable efforts of Thomas Huxley in the 1860s that the Church was subdued.

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were dominated by the Church. Until 1854 no dissenter could go to any of them. Till 1878 only those who followed the Church of England could be appointed to a teaching post. A student who had doubts in the creation as stated in Genesis was ordered to confirm to the views of the Church. In 1877 Prussia forbade the teaching of evolution in schools.

Holy Inquisition and Intersect Violence

Pope is the head of the Church and representative of God on earth. Any person who desires to approach God can do so only through Pope. Every Pope was interested in converting and propogating christianity, for this way his area of influence and money power grew. But the people specially those living in far flung villages who were not involved in the pursuit of power and pelf did not care much for christianity. They clung to their ancestral faith. The Pope called them pagans and villains. Pagan now came to mean a follower of polytheistic religion or a person who has no religion or who is given to sensual pleasures. Earlier it meant a civilian or a country dweller. Similarly a villager became a villain. In order to exterminate the pagans Pope innocent in CE 1200 ordered a crusade against Albigensian heretics. Albigensians were a catharistic sect of southern France. This sect had faith in Christ but did not subscribe to the view that he was a human who died.

(To be continued)

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