How Our Bible Came to Us: Its Texts and Versions

By H. G. G. Herklots | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
THE DOMINANCE OF LATIN

IN HIS study of Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century,1 Dr. J. R. H. Moorman writes of the knowledge of the Bible possessed by the laity at that time: 'Their ideas were no doubt often muddled, and much of their knowledge of the Bible was confused with apocryphal and legendary stories, but it is questionable whether the average peasant or artisan of the thirteenth century was actually any less familiar with the Bible narratives than his descendant of the present day.' This does not indicate an exalted view of the Thirteenth Century so much as a depressed view of the Twentieth. In a footnote we are told that this statement 'rests upon two suppositions; one that knowledge of Bible stories was more general in the thirteenth century than is sometimes imagined; the other that knowledge of the Bible is extremely limited at the present day. Only an historian can test the first, and only some one who has worked for some time as a parish priest can test the second. The experience of those who have worked in parishes in recent years is that a great many people have only the very slightest acquaintance with the Bible, while a generation is growing up containing a certain number who are ignorant of even the most familiar passages.'

The great difference, of course, is in the widespread availability of the Bible to-day and the widespread ability to read. Yet it is proverbial that a horse may be led to the water without being made to drink. Superabundance of supply can produce a restriction of demand; and there may be some to-day who would like to return to that earlier time when, in John Foxe's words, 'some gave five

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1
Cambridge, 1946, p. 102.

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