Part II:  The Translators & Their Enemies


            In 380, Ulifas created the Gothic alphabet.  Then he translated the Bible from the Greek Septuagint, and Greek NT manuscripts.  Goth is the earliest known Germanic language, and the only east Germanic language.  This laid the basis for centuries to come for restoration movements among people who wanted to revert to the simple first-century pattern of the church as opposed to the controlling centralized-government type of church now appearing.


            There had been a Latin translation of the New Testament for some time.  But in 382, Jerome  began correcting that version, and the result was the Vulgate Manuscript which today is stored in Rome.  His translation has undergone several revisions and corrections since that time.  Between 390 and 405, he translated the Old Testament from the original Hebrew and Aramaic rather than from the Septuagint Greek translation.  Sometimes Jerome’s later writings were not popular, possibly because of his intimate knowledge of the scriptures, and once he had to flee for his life for this reason.  He lived much of his life in the Middle East.


            In 422, an Armenian (northeast Turkey) alphabet was developed.  Then the New Testament and Proverbs were translated into Armenian.  Because the people in this area could now read the Bible for themselves, this eventually led to them not agreeing with the Roman church on many things for centuries to come.


            Around 700 in Great Britain, Caedmon, referring to a Latin translation of the Bible, paraphrased the Bible in poetry form in the common language of the British people.  Also near this time, Bede made an actual translation of the Bible based on a Latin translation.


            In the mid-800s, the Bible was translated from the Vulgate into the German language.  The translator is unknown.  About that same time, Cyril and Methodius, missionaries from Constantinople in today’s Turkey to Moravia, invented a Slavic alphabet which was later called the Cyrillic alphabet.  Then the Bible was translated from the Greek Old and New Testaments into the language of the people.  It was called the “Old Church Slavonic Bible.”


            In the late 900s, Aelfric wrote so many homilies on the Old and New Testaments that he ended up quoting most of it in the English language.  He did translate the first six books of the Bible from Latin into English.


            The first part of the 1000s, the four Gospels were translated from Latin into the language of West Saxony which today is the western part of Germany and the Netherlands.


            In 1147 in France, Henry of Toulouse, France, announced that he and his followers would not accept any beliefs regarding religion unless they were from the scriptures themselves.  As a result, he and his followers were named heretics by the pope.  Not long after, Peter Waldo of Lyons, France, picked up this movement, and the believers began to be called Waldenses by their enemies, a name that some still carry today.


            Persecution of those who had the Bible in their own language continued to grow.  A German named Arnold visited Rome preaching against additions that had been made to the New Testament church, and was ordered to leave Rome.  But some royalty in Germany returned Arnold to the pope, and he and some of his friends were burned at the stake. 


            Encenas, a Spaniard raised in Rome, began preaching against those who got away from New Testament teachings.  He was arrested for having a New Testament in Spanish and imprisoned.  He escaped and fled to Germany. 


            Dominicus, a soldier, began teaching the Gospel as it appeared in the Bible.  When arrested and asked, “Will you renounce your doctrines?” he replied, “My doctrines!  I maintain no doctrines of my own; what I preach are the doctrines of Christ, and for those I will forfeit my blood.”  He was then tortured and hanged.


            At the same time, the Roman church ordered that laity not be permitted to read scriptures.  But it backfired, and even more throughout Europe insisted on reading and following the scriptures only.


            In the 1200s, the Bible was translated into Italian, and also into the language of the Dutch in the Netherlands.


            By the 1300s, English had changed from the Old English.  So John Purvey and Nicholas of Hereford translated the Bible into the language of the common person ~ what we today call Middle English.  Language had changed in Germany by this time also.  So, the Bible was translated literally word for word from the Latin into the common language of the people in Germany.  It was this Bible that, a century later, would be the first one reproduced on a printing press.


            Soon after, John Wyclif denied the doctrines that had been declared through the centuries that did not agree with the New Testament.  He trained preachers who traveled all over England preaching in the people’s language, reading directly from the Gospels and Epistles, and teaching the Ten Commandments and other basic tenets of the Bible.  He eventually declared that only elders and deacons were to be officers in the church that Jesus established.  He also said that the elders were the same as presbyters, priests, and bishops.  By 1380 he was saying that all Christians were priests.  At the same time, he translated the Bible into Middle English from the Latin version, almost word for word.  In 1382 papal decrees were enacted against him, formally condemning 267 of his tenets.  He died in 1384.  Later, representatives of the church in Rome exhumed his bones, burned them, and threw his ashes into a river.   Looking back on his accomplishments, he has often since been called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.”


            The Anglo-Norman translation of the Bible was done in part but never completed.  They were of Viking descent and lived mostly in the northern part of France and eastern England.


            In 1401, the King of England ordered all of Wyclif’s followers burned as heretics.  William Santree of Smithfield was the first.  In 1419 Sir John Oldcastle was sentenced to burn.  In 1473 Thomas Grantor was burned at the stake outside London.  In 1499 Badram was burned in Norwich.


            Meanwhile, in 1405, Nicodim translated the four Gospels into the language of the common people.  He was Romanian, located east of the Black Sea near Russia.


            Also about that time, John Huss of Prague continued to follow the examples of Wyclif, preaching and bringing the Bible to the people in their own language.  In 1415 a papal council ordered Huss to be burned at the stake.  When the kindling was piled up to his neck, he was asked to abdicate his teachings.  He replied, “I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.”  When the fire started he sang a hymn “with so loud and cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings of the combustibles, and the noise of the multitude.” 


            In 1436, Huss’s followers merged with some Waldensians from Moravia to form the United Brethren, or sometimes called the Moravian Brethren. 


            By 1449, there were 33 translations of the Bible into various languages of the common people.  And the Bible began to be printed with movable type.  In 1471 the Bible was translated into new Italian.  In 1475 it was translated into the Czech language and into the Finnish language.  In 1477 it was translated into the language of the Dutch.  Also another Italian translation was made by Bonifacio Ferror; it was later destroyed in the inquisition in 1498.  In 1499 the Bible was translated into the Slavonic language.


            In England, persecution of those following Wyclif and his translation of the Bible grew.  In 1506 William Tilfrey was burned at the stake at Amersham.  In 1507 Thomas Norris was burned for telling others the Gospel.  In 1508 Lawrence Guale was burned, in 1511 William Succling and John Bannister were burned at Smithfield, in 1517 John Brown was burned at Ashford, his feet first to the bone, then the rest of him.  Richard Hunn was killed in the palace of Lambeth.


            In 1522 William Tyndale began releasing his more modern translation of the Bible from the original Greek rather than the Latin as his English predecessors had done.  It took him four years.  But his followers and those of translator Wyclif continued to be persecuted for preaching right out of the Bible.  In 1518 John Stilincen was burned at the stake in Smithfield.  In 1519 Thomas Mann was burned at London.  Also James Brewster of Colchester, Christopher of Newbury, and Robert Silks of Coventry ~ all burned alive.


            In the mean time in 1517 Ulrich Zwingli began preaching everything the Bible had to say on various topics.  He realized the church of the New Testament was not the church of his day.  Between 1523 and 1530 Jacques Lefevre translated the Bible into French.  In Turin, France, a Waldense had his bowels taken out and put in a basic for him to look at until he died.  At Revel, Catelin Girard was burned at the stake.  But, rather than hide, the Waldenses began to preach the Gospel from the Bible itself in public places.  In retaliation, those captured were either skinned or burned alive.


            Between 1526 and 1535, Martin Luther translated the Bible into a more modern German. In Strasburg, Switzerland in 1526, Michael Sattler was imprisoned, his tongue torn out of his body, tortured with hot tongs, then burned.  Before his death, he penned this hymn:


Of such a man fear not the will,

The body only he can kill.


            In 1527, Leonart Schiemer was immersed according to the scriptures, then preached in Austria and Bavaria.  He penned this hymn:


Thine holy place they have destroyed

Thine altars overthrown.

And reaching forth their bloody hands,

Have foully slain thine own.

And we alone, thy little flock,

The few who still remain,

Are exiles wandering through the land,

In sorrow and in pain.

We wander in the forests dark

With dogs upon our track;

And like the captive, silent lamb

Men bring us prisoners back.

They point to us amid the throng,

And with their taunts offend;

And long to let the sharpened axe

On heretics descend.


In Tyrol, Bavaria, he was arrested.  On January 14, 1528, he was beheaded and burned.