Bible availability during middle ages

Discussion in 'Church History' started by TimV, Jan 22, 2010.

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  1. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    How widespread was the Bible (Vulgate or other) in Europe during the period between the 6th and 16th centuries in Europe? How fair would a generalisation be that said in blanket form that owning a Bible in Europe between those dates would have been illegal for the laity?
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Read up on Pope Innocent III. In 1199 he outlawed all versions of the Bible except authorized ones. This, he did, to counter the Cathars and Waldenses I think.

    Bible Possession Once Banned by the Catholic Church!

    1215 - Pope Innocent III:
    “that they shall be seized for trial and penalties, WHO ENGAGE IN THE TRANSLATION OF THE SACRED VOLUMES, or who hold secret conventicles, or who assume the office of preaching without the authority of their superiors; against whom process shall be commenced, without any permission of appeal”
    (J.P. Callender, Illustrations of Popery, 1838, p. 387).

    Also, Innocent “declared that as by the old law, the beast touching the holy mount was to be stoned to death, so simple and uneducated men were not to touch the Bible or venture to preach its doctrines”
    (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VI, p. 723).

    Again; Pope Innocent III stated in 1199:

    "... to be reproved are those who translate into French the Gospels, the letters of Paul, the psalter, etc. They are moved by a certain love of Scripture in order to explain them clandestinely and to preach them to one another. The mysteries of the faith are not to explained rashly to anyone. Usually in fact, they cannot be understood by everyone but only by those who are qualified to understand them with informed intelligence. The depth of the divine Scriptures is such that not only the illiterate and uninitiated have difficulty understanding them, but also the educated and the gifted."
    (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum 770-771)

    See also: Bridging the Gap - Lectio Divina, Religious Education, and the Have-not's by Father John Belmonte, S.J. Which I think is written by a Catholic.

    The Council of Toulouse, 1229 (partial quote):

    Canon 1. We appoint, therefore, that the archbishops and bishops shall swear in one priest, and two or three laymen of good report, or more if they think fit, in every parish, both in and out of cities, who shall diligently, faithfully, and frequently seek out the heretics in those parishes, by searching all houses and subterranean chambers which lie under suspicion. And looking out for appendages or outbuildings, in the roofs themselves, or any other kind of hiding places, all which we direct to be destroyed.

    Canon 6. Directs that the house in which any heretic shall be found shall be destroyed.

    Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.

    Source - Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, Edited with an introduction by Edward Peters, Scolar Press, London, copyright 1980 by Edward Peters, ISBN 0-85967-621-8, pp. 194-195, citing S. R. Maitland, Facts and Documents [illustrative of the history, doctrine and rites, of the ancient Albigenses & Waldenses], London, Rivington, 1832, pp. 192-194.

    Also attested to in:

    Ecclesiastical History of Ancient Churches of the Albigenses, Pierre Allix, published in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in 1821, reprinted in USA in 1989 by Church History Research & Archives, P.O. Box 38, Dayton Ohio, 45449, p. 213 [Canon 14].

    Also, The Council of Tarragona, 1234:

    Second Canon: "No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned lest, be he a cleric or a layman, he be suspected until he is cleared of all suspicion."

    -D. Lortsch, Historie de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14.

    ---------- Post added at 12:32 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:26 AM ----------

    Here's another link: ROME?S PERSECUTION OF THE BIBLE | Roman Catholicism, Bible Versions, Persecution | Way of Life Literature
  3. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    But where and/or when were all versions of the Bible illegal.
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The Bible was never illegal per se in the Middle Ages, only unauthorized versions of it. ALL versions were never illegal. Only unauthorized versions. Rome said that it was trying to prevent spurious multiplications of bad translations.
  5. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    So how would you answer a baptist who's trying to convince a member of my church that paedobaptists made certain that all Bibles were illegal in the middle ages?
  6. dudley

    dudley Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The Roman Catholic Church during the middle ages to the Protestant Reformation did everything she could to keep the Bible out of the hands of the common people. The bible was not banned so to speak but it was illegal to translate the Bible into the common languages, even though most people could not read the official Catholic Bible because it was in Latin, a language known only to the highly educated, not even all the clergy truly understood Latin.

    Pope Leo X (1513-1521), who fought against Luther's efforts to follow the biblical precept of faith alone and Scripture alone, called the fifth Lateran Council (1513-1517), which charged that no books should be printed except those approved by the Roman Catholic Church. “THEREFORE FOREVER THEREAFTER NO ONE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO PRINT ANY BOOK OR WRITING WITHOUT A PREVIOUS EXAMINATION, TO BE TESTIFIED BY MANUAL SUBSCRIPTION, BY THE PAPAL VICAR AND MASTER OF THE SACRED PALACE IN ROME, and in other cities and dioceses by the Inquisition, and the bishop or an expert appointed by him. FOR NEGLECT OF THIS THE PUNISHMENT WAS EXCOMMUNICATION, THE LOSS OF THE EDITION, WHICH WAS TO BE BURNED, a fine of 100 ducats to the fabric of St. Peters, and suspension from business for a year” (Henry Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle Ages).
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yikes! Sounds like a Trail of Blood guy. I guess I would show him all the great Reformed pedobaptists that were at the forefront of Bible Translation.
  8. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    We have to understand the context here: owning a book period was rare. The reason that the Latin Vulgate was used was that it was a language understood across Christendom. Handwritten manuscripts were expensive and painstaking to produce and easily destroyed.

    And actually, the fear of bad translation was well-founded. Early in the period, well-meaning missionaries created "translations" that make paraphrases like The Message look accurate. Even when there wasn't this problem, the translation would have had to have been made from the Vulgate a) because Greek and Hebrew texts were not available except in certain widely-scattered places b) expertise in these languages was rare outside the Eastern Empire until the Renaissance c) the vernacular languages were changing at a fairly rapid pace.
  9. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Does anyone know anything about the Waldensian Bible?
  10. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Prior to the reformation did every parish have a copy of the Vulgate?

    ---------- Post added at 08:58 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:50 PM ----------

    Are you talking about the thirteenth century so call Mediaeval Bible? Some believe this early German translation was Waldensian in authorship. Other scholars believe it was of pietistic monastic origin.
  11. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Translations of the psalter existed in both German and English prior to the Reformation. St. Aldhelm, composed a number of Latin texts; but he also translated a Psalter in Old English.
    The Venerable Bede is said to have translated the Psalter and the Gospel of John into English. King Alfred the Great translated the Psalter along with the Ten Commandments into English.
    Prior to the Norman conquest a number of English translations exist. Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne at the end of the the 7th and beginning of the 8th century wrote an interlinear Latin/Northumbrian translation of the Gospels. This was recoppied into the mid tenth century. A Mercian English interlinear of the Gospel of St. Matthew was done by a priest named Farman. About the same time a Wessex language translation of the Gospels was in circulation.
    Were these and subsequent [pre Wycliffe] translations made for devotional use of monastic houses, or were they also available to those churches attended by the laity?
  12. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    That's the kind of detail I'm looking for. A source for that, Thomas? Thanks.
  13. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    I plugged in English Bible into wiki and followed the links to refresh some things I remembered. I remember a couple of books from which I may have initially got the info. F. F. Bruce wrote a book entitled History of the Bible in English. John P Hentz wrote a book entitled the History of the Lutheran Version of the Bible. I remember that both of these were very helpful.

    ---------- Post added at 11:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:46 PM ----------

    I found this site to be helpful.
  14. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Tim the actual, physical, written bible was very rare. I have a freind that has published on this topic (number of copies of medieval texts that were in existence) & he says that "bestsellers" were only available in less than 300 copies in the entire world.

    In conversation he has posited the possibility that less then 5% of the clergy (let alone the laity!) had access to anything aproaching a compleat bible.

    In that context it is anacronistic to speak of "banning" the bible from the common man.

    the "common bishop" didn't have access to a compleat bible, let alone a local farmer!
  15. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    We seldom think of the blessing we have. As I sit at my computer I have multiple physical Bibles within easy reach; plus a multitude of Bibles available on line.
    The average man in the middle ages, if he knew Latin probably did not have access to so much as a book of the Gospels or a Psalter. The monk might have access to a Psalter. A monk who was employed in copying the Bible would see the portion which he was copying. Most Bishops had a copy of the Vulgate in their Cathedral. They would have only had limited access to it because most of the time a monk or cleric would have been copying it.
    Most laymen in Germany and the British Isles did not know Latin How much of the Bible would they have heard in the vernacular. Very little I suspect. The Sarum Rite, the form of the Mass commonly available in North Europe, was not translated into English. In England, our layman might have heard the priest say [after the Kyrie Eleison which was said in Greek] "Alle ye that traueilen, and ben chargid, come to me and I shal fulfille you." and "that ech man that bileueth in hym, perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf. For God louede so the world, that he yaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but have everlastynge lijf." and "A trewe word and worthi al resseyuyng, for Crist Jhesu cam in to this world to make synful men saaf, of which I am firste." and "I tel you these thingis, that ye synnen not. But if ony man synneth, we han an aduocat anentis the fadir, Jhesu Crist and he is the foryyuenes for oure synnes." Note I say might have heard the priest recite these wiords in English that constitute the heart of the Gospel. This was not formally part of the liturgy but may never the less recited in many a parish. These passages and John 1:1-14 were all that were commonly known in English
  16. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Wow, it is sobering to read how few words of the actual gospel text were known to our fathers. And yet, in spite of this seeming lack, God had called & kept his people for hundreds of years!

    Truely He is a gracious GOD!
  17. ValiantforTruth

    ValiantforTruth Puritan Board Freshman

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