Good morning! Here we are, heading into the Renaissance!
In 1455, Gutenberg printed his 42-line, Gutenberg Bible. We now begin to see the fruit of this: we are going to notice a change in how the Bible is discussed. This is mostly because the Bible started to be cheaper to buy and was starting to find it’s way into the hands of priests, ministers, the wealthy, the middle class, and even the literate poor as the Renaissance goes on.
The other key reason for the Bible being increasingly well disseminated is that it was finally being translated into vernacular languages. In 1380, John Wycliffe (1329-1384) took it upon himself to translate the Bible into English. It was an exact translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible; exact in the sense that it was clunky and often didn’t make sense in English. In 1388, after Wycliffe’s death, it was revised by John Purvey to read more smoothly. Of course, the Wycliffe Bible was a hand-copied bible that was still far too expensive for the common man (even if he was literate)…and, it was immediately banned in England and by the Church. Wycliffe died of a stroke while saying Mass in 1384. That was fortunate for him. Shortly after that, the Church excommunicated him posthumously and started burning his followers at the stake, often with a copy of the Wycliffe Bible tied around their necks. They even dug up Wycliffe’s bones, burned them and scattered them. Meanwhile, the bans in England just made the Bible a more popular book, and made people want to learn to read so they could see what all the excitement was about. The New Testament of the Wycliffe Bible was printed in 1731, and the whole Bible, with critical commentary, was finally printed in 1850. Of course, by that time it was more of a curiosity than a serious Bible.
Martin Luther released his New Testament in German in 1522, and then released the full Bible in 1534. William Tyndale got a copy of Luther’s New Testament and started translating the Bible around 1522 as well, starting with the New Testament from the Greek and the Latin Vulgate. While on the run from the Church, he managed to print 6,000 copies of the New Testament in 1526. He succeeded in translating 5 books of the Old Testament before his location was betrayed to the Church in 1534, and he was subsequently strangled and burned at the stake for the crime of ‘producing a Bible in the vernacular.’Continue reading