HOW WE GOT THE BIBLE
Part III: The Translators & their Hymns
In 1526 Hans Schlaffer in Germany was baptized by immersion based on what he read in the Bible for himself, then preached against infant baptism saying it was never commanded in the scriptures. The following year he was arrested. In prison he wrote this hymn in part:
But Jesus Christ has died, and satisfied
The guilt that was mine own.
Early the following year, he and 20 others were beheaded at Schwatz.
John Leopold, a tailor of Augsburg, was arrested for his beliefs in baptism based on the Bible he had been able to read. He wrote this hymn:
My God, thee will I praise
When my last hour shall come,
And then my voice I’ll raise
Within the heavenly home.
O Lord, most merciful and king,
Now strengthen my weak faith,
And give me peace of mind.
On April 25, 1528, he was executed for his beliefs.
In 1528, Christiern Pedersen translated the New Testament from Latin and German into the language of his Danish people. Huldreich Zwingli, translated the Bible into the Swiss language. In 1523 Ludwig Hetzer translated the Old Testament into German. Among several hymns written by him was
Fred not thyself, O pious heart,
Tho evil men surround thee.
Finally in Bischolszell, Switzerland, he was arrested. On February 3, 1529, he was beheaded.
George Blaurock, a former monk, was baptized by immersion according to the Bible, and associated with the Brethren. Amidst his preaching, he wrote this hymn:
Daily renew us and make us steadfast in persecution.
Leave us not, thy children, from now on to the end.
Extend to us thy fatherly hand, that we may finish our course
In Tyrol, Switzerland, he was arrested and burned at the stake in 1529.
In 1531 Martin Maler and six others were arrested in Schwabia, Germany, for preaching the Word, especially about baptism. While imprisoned, he wrote:
In deep distress I cry to thee;
My prayer, O God, attend.
He was tortured on the rack, but refused to recant. Thereupon his was executed.
Englishman, William Tyndale, tried to publish the New Testament into the common English of the people but it was not allowed. So he went to the Continent where he printed his first edition in 1526. He spent the next decade trying to get his Bible to as many people as possible. But he was finally arrested and burned at the stake in Brussels, Belgium, October 1536.
The Dutch translation was completed in 1532, as was a new Italian translation. In 1533, Paul’s Epistles were translated into Hungarian. In 1534 J. Dietenberger translated the Bible into German. In 1535 Olivetan translated the Bible into French. In 1539, the Great Bible was translated into English and later edited by Coverdale. He began printing it in Parish, but was run off by the French inquisition, and finished printing it in Londin in 1539.
The Waldenses, who had always had the New Testament in their language, now got the Old Testament translated. When Rome threatened them, they sent back a message which in part said they valued the King of kings more than any earthly ruler. Thereupon one of their ministers, Jeffery Varnagle, was burned at the stake. Others were hanged, drowned, stabbed, pierced, throw off cliffs, burned, crucified upside down, thrown to mad dogs, or racked to death. Those who could, escaped to caves in the Alps.
At this time, this hymn appeared in the Genevan Psalter:
Out of the depths I cry, Lord. O Lord, please hear my call.
Let your ears be attentive; I beg for mercy, Lord.
O Lord, the enemy pursues me;
My life lies broken where I’ve fallen.
Let God arise and by his might
Put all his enemies to flight
With shame and consternation.
For when the Lord God shall appear,
He will consume, afar and near,
With fire and desolation.
Between 1540 and 1570, nearly one million people who wanted to go just by the Bible ~ mostly French Waldenses ~ were put to death in an effort to exterminate them. In 1540, a man named Kugelmann wrote this hymn:
Do not be silent, Lord God;
The wicked speak against my life….
You see, my Lord, how fearful, how spent I am,
Like mere debris. Tormentors mock my frailty.
In 1541, J. Erdosi translated the New Testament into the Hungarian language. And this hymn appeared in the Genevan Psalter:
Pain and distress o’erwhelm me, I cry all night for mercy.
My bed is wet with tears, my eyes can weep no longer,
My enemies seem stronger, my awful foes and fears.
Finally, in 1543, Enzinas Dryander translated the New Testament into Spanish. In 1546, Peter Chapot brought a number of Bibles in the French language to France and sold them there. He was executed for it. About that time, Frenchman Louis Bourgeois, wrote these hymns:
Protect me from the arrogant and proud;
They scorn and laugh at those who seek your pleasure.
Sometimes I am depressed and sad at heart;
Revive my soul according to your precepts.
Lord, to you my soul is lifted. Let me never be ashamed
That I trust in you to keep me, though I seem to wait in vain.
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
Come now before him and rejoice.
Around 1550 Jan Blahoslav translated the New Testament into Czech. That same year J. Seklucyan published the New Testament in Danish. In 1554 under Queen “Bloody Mary” John Rogers, a close friend of William Tyndal and Miles Coverdale who both had translated the Bible into English, was among them.
In 1553 J. Seklucyan translated the New Testament into Polish. In 1554, the New Testament was translated into Dutch. In 1556 Cranmer who had translated parts of the Bible into English, read it in church and openly sold it. He and probably a hundred other such leaders were burned at the stake.
The Bible was translated into Swiss in 1560. That same year, the Bible was translated into a Romanish Swiss dialect called the Upper Engadine Translation. In 1561 came the Cracow Bible, the first entire Bible published in Polish. Coresi translated the Acts of the Apostles into Romanian. In 1562, this hymn appeared in the Genevan Psalter:
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for he is kind.
Sound again his name abroad,
For of gods he is the God.
In 1567, William Salesbury translated the New Testament into Welsh. The bishops Bible in English was published in 1568 England. In 1569 C. de Reyna translated the Old Testament into Spanish.
In 1560 Nicholas Burton, and Englishman, sailed to Spain where he was illegally imprisoned. There he explained the Word of God to the other prisoners. For this he was burned at the stake. For similar reasons, Mark Brughes, an Englishman visiting Portugal, was burned at the stake. And in 1561, William Kethe, set this poem written by Louis Bourgeois to a tune so all could sing:
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Serve him with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.
For why? The Lord our God is good;
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.
In 1582 the Old Testament was translated into Romanian. In 1588, the Bible was translated by William Morgan into the Welsh language, and is still used today. In 1590, G. Karoli translated the Bible into Hungarian. And in 1592, T. Este wrote this hymn:
While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
An angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
In 1607 Hans Pulsen Resent translated the Bible into Danish, and Giovanni Diodati published the Bible in Italian. In 1611, King James’ fifty-four scholars translated the Bible into modern English.
In 1642 the Bible was translated into Finnish language. The Danish translation came out in 1647, and Simion Stefan’s Four Gospels in parallel with Romanian, Greek, Latin and Slavonic was published. In 1666, Oskan of Yerevan translated the Bible into Armenian. In 1667 Isaac Louis de Sacy translated the Bible into French. In 1574, and Englishman named Thomas Ken, wrote this hymn:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
And Paulus Gerhardt of Saxony, wrote this hymn:
Give to the winds your fears, in hope be undismayed;
God hears your sighs and counts your tears,
God shall lift up your head.
In 1666 Oskan of Yerevan translated the Bible into Armenian, and in 1667 Isaac Louis de Sacy translated it into French. In 1677, an unknown wrote this to perhaps sooth aching Christian hearts:
Fairest Lord Jesus! Ruler of all nature!
O Thou of God and man the Son!
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.
In 1688 a group of Romanian scholars translated the Bible into Romanian. That same year, John Bunyan was imprisoned, during which time he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. And in 1693, Thomas Shepherd wrote this hymn to spread courage to those being persecuted:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
Then the persecutions by imprisonment, torture and death ceased. And this is how we got the Bible.