The Bible’s Fight to Live

    No motion picture thriller of modern times could be packed with more dramatic action than what crowds its way into the story of the Bible's fight to live. No stakes of battle hanging in the balance could be higher than the Bible's, yet no other conflict could be surer of the desired happy ending. The irresistible might of Jehovah of hosts is on the Bible's side in the fight, and long ago he infallibly foretold the happy verdict: "The word of the Lord endures for ever." (1 Pet. 1: 25) Nevertheless, the tide of the struggle has surged excitingly down through the centuries, and more than a few times the field of battle has been reddened by the blood of the Bible's champions.

    The birth and growth and death of languages has been the crucial factor in the fight. Religious leaders, with selfish and devilish motives, have venerated certain tongues as holy and sacred; they have venomously withstood the onward march of the people's languages, so far as allowing the Bible to keep pace with common speech. Why? They have no example in Jehovah God for their retarding, delaying action. The speech with which He endowed Adam and Eve in Eden was Hebrew. When He started Moses off on Bible writing twenty-five centuries later, it was still Hebrew that was used. Hebrew persisted as the primary Bible language for some eleven centuries, till the so-called "Old Testament" was completed. Thereafter Hebrew as a language died, being supplanted by Aramaic. Did Jehovah blindly cling to the dead tongue? No; not even if the Jewish religious leaders were loathe to record translations of the Hebrew Scriptures in Aramaic for the common people. Jehovah took practical view of matters, and when he took up Bible-writing again it was no longer in Hebrew. Matthew's Gospel was recorded first in Aramaic. By this time koine Greek had risen to become the international language, replacing Aramaic in this respect. Hence, keeping pace with changing language, Jehovah God caused Matthew to translate that first Gospel into koine Greek, and He inspired the Bible-writers that followed to pen the record in Greek. The Bible was purposed to be understood, to live, not to be enshrouded in dead tongues.

    As time marched on Latin became the everyday speech of a large proportion of the common people. Latin versions of the Scriptures appeared, climaxed by the production of Jerome's Latin Vulgate. About this same time the Roman Catholic Hierarchy religious organization came into existence and grew to tremendous power. It embraced Latin as a sacred language, venerated it, made it the speech of the religious organization. Political power increased, and went to the head of the Catholic Church. More and more she be-came corrupt, ungodly, and transgressed the Scripture teachings. Though the Latin Vulgate was in the language of the people, what matter? Few could then read. But more were learning and this was not to Hierarchy liking. Hence as time passed and Latin ceased to be the language of the people and they understood less and less of the Vulgate Bible, the cunning Hierarchy rejoiced. In the eleventh century Pope Gregory VII expressly thanked God for this circumstance. The Bible must not be translated to meet the progressing changes in language. Latin was the Bible language; let the people come to the priests of the Catholic organization for Bible information. So they argued.

    But Jehovah God differed with the Hierarchy policy; He had not changed in his purpose to keep the Bible alive in the language of the meek and teachable common people. Toward the end of the seventh century and beginning of the eighth century Old-English paraphrases of small portions of the Bible were made, but these were not put into the hands of the people. During the ninth to the thirteenth century a few more brief paraphrases filtered into the common speech, both in Old "English and in French. But the fact is that no real enlightening reformation movement began before the days of John Wycliffe. He lived from about 1320 to 1384. He was used by Jehovah God to keep the Bible alive for the people generally.

    Wycliffe was a scholarly Roman Catholic priest and for a time was dean of an English college. The more Wycliffe studied the Scriptures, the more his eyes opened to discern the Hierarchy's corruption. Bible truth imbued him with courage and he defied Rome's spiritual tyranny, the pope's temporal authority, the Church's image-worship, and her doctrines of transubstantiation, the mass, and other unscriptural teachings. He gave force to his defiance by the circulation of many fearless tracts. With him in the work of witnessing to Bible truth were many other faithful servants of God, contemptuously called "Lollards", which means "idle babblers". Companies of these pioneer preachers went up and down the land distributing Wycliffe's tracts.

    Next came the heavy blow to the Hierarchy. Wycliffe decided to open wide the Bible to his countrymen. He would release it from the tomb of a dead language to which it had been consigned by the iniquitous Hierarchy; as if by a resurrection it would live again for the people in their own language. Then all would discern that his tracts had told the truth as to the unscriptural practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic religious organization. Wycliffe began this work in 1378, but did not complete it before his death, in 1384, producing only the translation of the entire Christian Scriptures and about half of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. In his work he used the Latin Vulgate Bible of Jerome. Nicholas of Hereford stepped into the breach left by Wycliffe's death, and completed the work of translation. About eight years thereafter the entire translation was revised by Wycliffe's friend, Richard Purvey. John Wycliffe and his associates were the first to give us the complete English Bible.

    Now that the Holy Bible had burst its bonds of dead Latin and its light was no longer hid as. Though under a bushel basket, did the Hierarchy accept defeat gracefully? Far from it. Printing from movable type had not yet been invented, and the multiplying of manuscript copies of Wycliffe's translation proceeded slowly; nevertheless, the English version circulated, despite fierce opposition. Archbishop Arundel, of Canterbury, in bewailing matters to the pope, assailed the translator as "that pestilent wretch, John Wycliffe, the son of the old Serpent, the forerunner of antichrist, who had completed his iniquity by inventing a new translation of the Scriptures". In 1408 the Roman Catholic Hierarchy proscribed the translation; transgressors were under penalty of major excommunication. In 1414 a Hierarchy-inspired law decreed that all who read the Scriptures in English should "forfeit land, cattle, life, and goods from their heirs forever". The henchmen of this vile religious gang hunted down possessors of Wycliffe's translation as if they were wild beasts. Readers of the Bible were burned at the stake with copies of it around their necks; children were forced to light the death-fires of their parents. Frustrated, maddened, the Hierarchy at its Council of Constance, in 1415, condemned Wycliffe's writings, and in 1428 his remains were dug up and burned and his ashes thrown into the river Swift.

    In the fifteenth century the invention of the printing press changed the face of civilization; it also doomed the Hierarchy's evil designs against the Bible. First off inventor Johannes Gutenberg's press was the Latin Vulgate Bible, about 1456. Soon after printed versions appeared in the current languages of the chief countries of Europe. Only England held back. Wycliffe's familiar English translation did not go to press along with other vernacular versions. No part of the English Bible was printed before 1525, no complete English Bible before 1535, and none printed in England itself before 1538. Nonetheless, the Hierarchy had lost its fight against a living Bible for the common people. Though she destroyed copies of God's Word by the unnumbered thousands, the printing press outdid her by producing more copies than she could destroy.
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