B4r, Matthew 6
The Nevv Testament of Iesus Christ, translated faithfvlly into English, out of the authentical Latin, according to the best corrected copies of the same. Rhemes: John Fogny. 1582.
Quarto. 800 pages (, 745, ), 9 x 6⅝ inches. Roman, single column. Title within ornamental border; head- and tailpieces; text of each chapter opens with a woodcut initial 4 to 9 lines high, including a 7-line "A" of two satyrs in profile. Numerous scriptural citations and comparisons with parallel texts set at the left of the page, divided from the text and verse numbers by a line. References to liturgical usage of the text by the church in margins; annotations at foot of most pages separated from text by a line. Bound in brown calfskin. § DMH 177; STC (2nd ed.) 2884. § CD-ROM: 10.3, title page.
This first translation of the New Testament into English by Catholic scholars was brought into this world most reluctantly and was to suffer incredible abuse. Three distinctive features define circumstances surrounding this volume: (1) its own sponsors, the English scholars-in-exile, did not want to produce it, (2) its bitterest and unrelenting enemy William Fulke (1538–89) in his attempt to crush it gave it an incredible circulation it could never have expected, and (3) it was to make a major contribution to English biblical text in the 1611 King James Version, but credit for this contribution was denied for almost three centuries.
The major work of translation was done by Father Gregory Martin († 1582), with assistance from three other Oxford-in-exile colleagues: Father, later Cardinal, William Allen (1532–94), Father Richard Bristow (1538–81), and Father William Reynolds (1544–94).
The leadership in the production of the Vulgate in English was given by Allen, who never gave up the idea that England was Catholic at heart and would one day return to the fold of the Church. To support that possibility, he concentrated his work on training refugee Englishmen as Roman Catholic priests for the conversion of England. In 1568 he founded the College at Douai, which was removed temporarily in 1578 to Rheims because of the threat of plague. Allen made a political mistake in supporting the plan of Philip II (1527–98) to invade England in 1588. This infuriated many of Allen’s English Catholic supporters.
In The Preface to the Reader the translators’ suspicion of translations is articulated and one of the chief enemies of the time is identified—printing:
... yet we must not imagin that in the primitive Church, either every one that understoode the learned tonges wherein the Scriptures were written, or other languages into which they were translated, might without reprehension reade, reason, dispute, turne and tosse the Scriptures or that our forefathers suffered every schole-maister, scholer, or Grammarian that had a litle Greeke or Latin, straight to take in hand the holy Testament or that translated Bibles into the vulgar tonges, were in the handes of every husbandman, artificer, prentice, boies, girles, mistresse, maide, man: that they were sung, plaied, alleaged, of every tinker, taverner, rimer, minstrel: that they were for table talke or alebenches, for boates, and barges, and for every prophane person and companie. No, in those better times men were neither so ill, nor so curious of themselves, so to abuse the blessed booke of Christ; neither was there any such easy meanes before printing was invented, to disperse the copies into the handes of every man, as now there is(a3r).
It is a sad preface, but it ultimately comes to the conclusion that they have no choice but to provide their own English version for their people, lest they get it from others. As the preface ends, the agony of it all rears its head again. What are the results of having the Bible in the vernacular?
Looke whether your men be more vertuous, your women more chast, your children more obedient, your servants more trustie, your maides more modest, your frendes more faithful, your laitie more just in dealing, your Cleargy more devout in praying; whether there be more religion, feare of God, faith and conscience in al states now, then of old, when there was not so much reading, chatting, and jangling of God’s word, but much more sincere dealing, doing, and keeping the same. Looke whether through this disorder, women teach not their husbands..., the scholers their maisters, the sheepe their pastor, and the People the Priest(b1r–b1v).
Concern for accuracy prompted the translators to carry over into English a number of "Latinisms"—simply because they felt no English equivalent existed to adequately register the meaning. The number of these expressions were highly exaggerated by the enemies of the Rheims translation: commessation, condigne, Dominical Day, donaries, repropitiate, etc. Equally strange neologisms could be found in any English Bible of the sixteenth century. On the positive side, some of the most cherished phrases in the King James Version were taken unacknowledged from the Rheims New Testament: "Bethlehem of Judea;" "rejoiced with exceeding great joy;" "a very great multitude;" "pieces of silver;" "to publish and blaze abroad;" "as sheep not having a shepherd;" "an evil eye;" "behold a multitude;" and "the only begotten of the Father," to cite only a few of the more felicitous phrases.
"Abused but used" would be an apt description of the Rheims New Testament. Its verbal legacy touches our lives daily, but only with the publication of the Revised New Testament (1881) was any acknowledgment made of its contribution. Two hundred and ninety-nine years is a long time to wait!
When Father Martin published his A Discouverie of the Manifold Corruptions of the Holy Scriptures (1582) as a companion handbook to the Rheims New Testament, William Fulke’s rage could not be contained. His A Defense of the sincere and true Translations of the holie Scriptures into the English tong, against the manifolde cavils, frivolus quarrels, and impudent slanders of Gregorie Martin, one of the readers of Popish divinitie in the trayterous Seminarie of Rhemes ... (1583) expressed a venom unexcelled by other controversialists of the period. Fulke accused Martin of every moral and intellectual sin he could think of, and Fulke’s ability to cut his enemies into little bits was highly developed and recognized.
However, this was just the first round. With his 1589 publication of The Text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated out of the vulgar Latine by the Papists of the traiterous Seminarie at Rhemes ... whereunto is added the Translation out of the Original Greeke, communly used in the Church of England [10.5], Fulke hoped to crush and destroy forever the Rheims New Testament by putting the Bishops’ Bible in parallel columns for comparison. He reasoned that if the differences in the texts could be seen, the Rheims would be laughed out of court.
It did not prove so! What Fulke did was to give the Rheims a great circulation and joined two major streams leading to the textual peace of the King James Version. Fulke’s gift to the Rheims was not death but immortality.
In the Rheims New Testament, the annotation on Galatians 1 reads:
We may see that it is a great pitie and shame, that so many folow Luther and Calvin and such other leude fellows, into a new Gospel, which are so farre from Apostles and Angels, that they are not any whit comparable with the old Heretikes in giftes of learning or eloquence, much lesse in good life.
Fulke retorted: "Luther and Calvin taught not a new Gospell . . . For giftes of learning and eloquence, all the Popish Heretickes of Rhemes are not worthy to beare their books behind them." Sixteenth-century word warriors were not reticent!
The epitaph on Fulke’s tomb includes these lines:
His Works will shew him free from all Error
Rome’s foe, Truth’s Champion, and Rhemishes Terror.
Fulke was not the "Rhemishes Terror" he had hoped to be but rather its savior.
Literature: Carleton 1902; Dictionary of National Biography 20:305; Pope 1952, Rhemes 1975.