Letter: Bible Translations before Luther

Article excerpt

From The Rev Gilbert Markus, OP

Sir: It is exciting to read ("Luther's Bible found after 200 years", 23 November) that Martin Luther's Bible has been discovered. It is a pity, however, that you describe it as "the Bible that broke the monopoly of the Catholic Church and consigned Latin to antiquity". This suggests that old, and rather anti-Catholic, prejudice - that the old Vulgate Latin Bible was part of a Catholic conspiracy to keep the Bible out of the hands of Christians, a conspiracy finally overcome at the "Reformation".

The Vulgate was so called precisely because it was written in the common tongue of all literate people in western Europe. If one could read at all, one could read Latin; so a Latin Bible, far from restricting medieval readers, made it universally legible.

Secondly a great many local vernacular translations of the Bible were made long before Luther produced his own. In the fourth century, Ulfilas made a Gothic translation, a bishop of Seville produced an Arabic bible during the Moorish occupation of Spain, and most countries produced manuscripts of large sections of the Bible in their own tongues - in this country beginning with the seventh century Anglo-Saxon of Caedmon. …