The Hebrews, being agriculturists, used sheep skins, i.e. parchment, as a means of recording their history. And God’s laws were first written in Hebrew on rolls of parchment. In 2nd Kings 22:8 it speaks of these scriptures as the “book.” The Jews were spreading around the shores of the Mediterranean, and they spoke the Greek language, gradually discarding Hebrew. One of the Kings of Egypt, a scholar and a lover of books who had great respect for the Jews, commanded that the “book” should be brought up from Jerusalem to him, and six men from each tribe of Israel were to accompany it. He then had it translated into Greek for the Greek speaking Jews. In this we see the hand of God, for later the Hebrew scriptures were destroyed, the God Jupiter was raised in the Temple, and Holy Worship was forbidden. The scriptures were now in Greek.
Pompeius Magnus, Roman general, took Jerusalem 63 B.C., and at the time of Christ, Greek and Aramaic were the languages spoken, Hebrew being used only by the Priests and Scribes. The superscription on the Cross was in Greek for the general public, Hebrew for the Priests and Latin for the Roman Soldiers.
In the 4th century A.D., the scriptures were translated by Jerome, priest of Bethlehem, from Greek into Latin. This translation was called the Vulgate, and was the property of the Roman Catholic Church. Then followed 1,000 years of terrible darkness, the scriptures were in the hands of monks and friars, who suppressed them.
In the 14th century, John Wycliffe, a Dr. at Oxford and a Roman Catholic clergyman, translated the Vulgate into the English of that time, and with the help of a band of poor preachers, distributed copies throughout England. Wycliffe said he “defied the laws of the Pope and would make every plough-boy in England know more of the Gospel than the Pope himself.” Poor people used to give a load of hay for the privilege of reading these translations for one hour a day. Wycliffe was brought to trial by the Roman Catholic Church, but for political reasons, was allowed to retire to the country to spend his last days. But six years after his death, by direction of the Roman Catholic Church, his bones were exhumed and burnt, the ashes being scattered in the River Swift.
Wycliffe’s bible was in Old English, which we today would find almost impossible to read. But one hundred years later we have William Tyndale’s bible, which is practically identical with our own. From the material he had, which was mainly Wycliffe’s translation, Tyndale endeavoured to give an accurate, unbiased version of the scriptures. He had to flee to Germany and there he had the bibles printed. All ports of England were closed to him and he found it impossible to return. However, in bags of flour, in casks, hidden in goods and merchandise, he managed to get his bibles back to England. While he did not allow his personal feelings to influence his translation, he included in his bible a margin in which he expressed his own opinion, which was definitely anti-papal. A reference to Exodus 32:35 was, “The Pope’s Bull has slain more than Aaron’s calf”. William Tyndale was betrayed by a clergyman in whom he had confided, and after imprisonment he was burned at the stake.
To counter the reformists, the Jesuits had an English translation made of the Vulgate, which was in accordance with the practices of the Church. This is the official bible of the Roman Catholic Church, but we know that Roman Catholics are forbidden to read even that. James I ordered a revision in 1611 and set fifty-four translators to carry out the task. He disliked the marginal notes and the passages that disputed the Divine Right of Kings. This is what is known as the Authorised Version – our bible of today.
The revised version was published in 1870 and differs from the Authorised only in words here and there. In later years there have been other translations, but having read them all, Mr. Carroll turns to the Authorised Version as best of all, preferably with the Revised Version in the margin.