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"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
. . .  Acts 4:12  . . .

Early Building Blocks Of The English Bible
In The British Isles

Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
February 2000

"The literary history of the English Bible may be said to begin with John Wiclif, to whom is ascribed the honour of having given to his own countrymen, in or about the year 1382, the first complete Bible in their own tongue." (A Brief Sketch of The History of The Transmission of the Bible Down To The Revised English Version of 1881-1895 by Henry Guppy; Published by Manchester University, 1936; p.8) Yet long before Wycliffe's time portions of the Bible had been translated or paraphrased in rhyme, in both Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and in a number of dialects, which were used in various parts of the country. But before we look briefly at some of these "building blocks," we need to discover when and how Christianity was introduced into Britain because it was Christianity that was eventually responsible from introducing the Bible to the British Isles.

The Early Introduction of Christianity to the Britons

Caesar conquered Britain in 55 BC, and for the better part of 500 years after that Rome had a strong presence there. Faded traces of Rome's presence are still evident across the British landscape today. None the least of these is the remains of Hadrians Wall that once divided England from Scotland. Christianity was introduced early into England. "There is evidence that evangelists from the East had penetrated to Britain by the middle of the second century; as not long after Tertullian (197 AD) writes "There are places of the Britons, which were unaccessible to the Romans, but yet subdued to Christ. (The Church History of Britain by Thomas Fuller, D.D.; Volume 1, p. 28). Origen likewise wrote, "The power of God our Saviour is even with them which in Britain are divided from our world." (Ibid.). Despite this early exposure to Christian teaching, the Bible was not available to the people. "Irenaeus (180 AD) refers to the Barbarians (Britons) who have believed without having a knowledge of the letters (New Testament Epistles), through oral teaching merely."(History of The Christian Church; by George Park Fisher; 1907 Charles Schribners Sons; p.46). While God certainly ordained that the Gospel be preached so men might believe on Christ, He also commanded believers to search and study the Bible that they might grow and understand the things of the Lord. When the Bible is not readily available that presents BIG PROBLEM! Acts 17:11 reveals why the absence of the Scriptures is such a problem. It says, "These [the Berean believers] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." When the Bible is not accessible or not able to be understood, people cannot search the scriptures for themselves and therefore cannot ascertain whether the things they are being taught by their pastors and teachers are correct. With the absence of the Holy Scriptures and in the presence of Barbarian invasions, progressively the darkness of Scriptural ignorance resettled on the Britons. The last of the Roman legions left the shores of Britain in 410 AD. They had been the defenders against the barbarian invasions. The result was a series of Saxon invasions of Britain, which took place from the middle of the 5th century and onward, which virtually cut off communication with the rest of the Roman Empire. The Saxons wreaked havoc on the cities and countryside from the east sea to the west. "Public and private edifices were destroyed, priests slain at the altars, and chieftains with their people: some part of the population flying to monasteries, others to the forests and mountains, and many to foreign parts, imply the successful ravagesagainst the unprepared and astonished natives (quote from Bede, lib.1.c.15. p.53 as recorded in The History of the Anglo-Saxon: Comprising The History of England by Sharon Turner; 4th edition printed in London in 1823; Vol. III p.252). The Saxons were pagans and the result was that almost the whole southern part of the island turned to idolatry. "Christianity, such as it was, could only be found in the western edges of South Britain." (An Historical Account of the English Versions of The Scriptures; in the preface to the English Hexapla of 1841; p.1).

The Gothic Versions

At this point, before we look at how and when Christianity was reintroduced into Britain, I want to focus on the Gothic versions of the Bible, particularly the translation of Ulphilas. The great ecclesiastical historian Robert Robinson writes, "Certain it is, they (the Goths) had a translation of the Scriptures into their own language so early as the time of Ulphilas, who lived in the reign of Constantine, many years before they dismembered the empire." (Ecclesiastical Researches by Robert Robinson; Cambridge England, 1792; p. 201).

Perhaps you are wondering why I am including the Gothic translations of the Bible as one of the building blocks in our English Bible. Here is why. "The Gothic is a language of Low German origin, as well as the Anglo-Saxon and English." (The Gospels Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, Wycliffe and Tyndale Versions by Joseph Bosworth; published by Gibbings and Company in London - 1907; p.iii). To put it more clearly, one of the primary roots of the Anglo-Saxon and English language is the Gothic language. This is readily seen when we compare the Gothic with the Anglo-Saxon and the English as we see in the chart below.

Gothic English and Anglo-Saxon Verses Compared

Bible Passage

Gothic

English

Anglo-Saxon

Luke 20:42

In bokom Psalmo

In the book of Pslams

On tham Sealme

John 10:9

Ik im thata daur

I am the door

Ic eom geat

Luke 18:4

Langai wheilai

For a (long) while

Langre tide

John 7:33

Nauh leitila wheila

Now a little while

Gut sume hwile*

Luke 20:28

Whis brothar

Whose brother

Hwaes brother

John 12:24

Kaurno whaiteis

A corn of wheat

Hwaetene corn

Mark 10:5

Hardu-hairtei

Hardness of heart

Heortan heardness

John 6:60

Hardu ist thata waurd

Hard is that word>

Heard is theos spraec^

Luke 20:29

Sibun brothryus

Seven brothers

Seofon gebrothur

Mark 9:3

Wheitos swa snaiws

White as snow

Swa hwite swa snaw

Luke 1:19

Yuke auhsne

Yokes of oxen

An getyme oxena+

Luke 8:30

Wha ist namo thein?

What is thy name?

Hwaet is thin nama?

Luke 6:48

Galeiks ist mann

He is like a man

He ys gelic men

*Yet some while or time; >After the Wiclif not KJV; ^Hard is this speech; +Literally a team of oxen

The heathen Goths settled in Dacia, to the northwest of the Black Sea at an early period. While they lived in that area many were converted to Christianity. Their leader was Bishop Theophilus, who is known to have been present at the Council of Nice in 325 AD according to his signature on records of that council. Ulphilas (also called Ulfilas, Ulfila, Wulfila in various documents) was appointed head of the Gothic Church in that area when he was but 30 years old in 348 AD. "His eminent talents, learning, and benevolence gave him unbounded influence over his countrymen. It, therefore became a proverb among the Goths, 'Whatever is done by Ulphilas, is well done.'" (The Gothic Anglo-Saxon, Wycliffe and Tyndale Gospels by Joseph Bosworth and George Waring; 4th Edition 1907; p.iii). Ulphilas wrote in Latin, Greek and Gothic and "the cherished desire of his heart" (ibid) was to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into the Gothic language "that every one of his countrymen might read the word of God in his own tongue." (Ibid). It is believed that his work was completed before 360 AD. He faithfully preached and taught his people from the Gothic Scriptures. "Ulphilas drew his water of life from the pure fountain, and delivered it to his people uncontaminated. He imbibed the doctrines of the Gospel at the fountainhead, the original Greek, and preached those doctrines to the Goths in their own nervous and expressive tongue." (Ibid.)

The first building block of the English Bible, which was laid upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ being the corner stone, was the Gothic language Bible.

How Was Christianity Reintroduced Into Britain?

Some people would like to attribute the reintroduction of Christianity to Gregory. We are told that one day the Catholic monk saw two fair-haired, blue-eyed boys being sold in the Roman slave market. He promptly asked who they were. "They are Angles" was the reply (because they came from Angleland later called England). Gregory said, "Not Angles, but angels and they ought to be joint-heirs with the angels in heaven." (The Indestructible Book by Ken Connolly; Baker Books; p.53). When Gregory became pope he remembered the boys he had seen in the slave market and in 596 AD he commissioned Augustine and forty monks to take Roman Catholicism Britain. Augustine and company arrived in Kent in 597 AD just a few months before Colum Cille died in Scotland. Shortly after arriving in England, King Ethelbert gave them the use of an old Romano-British church in Canterbury as a mission base. While Augustine did have considerable influence in Britain, he was not the first to reintroduce Christianity into Britain. Thitry-four years before Augustine arrived in Kent, England, Colum Cille or Saint Columba and company established a college and church on a Scottiah isle. It was this man and his companions, not Augustine, that were first responsible for the reintroduction of Christianity to the Scots and Britons. Yet, it is impossible to properly understand the person and work of Colum Cille unless you know a little something about another person who laid the groundwork for biblical Christianity in Ireland. That person was Maewyn Succat.

Who Was Maewyn Succat?

In about 430 A.D. a young man from Britain named Maewyn Succat began to evangelize Ireland. He is more commonly known as Patricius or Saint Patrick. It is believe that he took the Latin name Patricius (Patrick) when he began his missionary work in Ireland. Part of the problem you encounter researching the life of Patrick is that there is very little authentic information available. In spite of that fact, I have confined my research to what scholars consider to be authentic information relating to Patrick. Historians indicate that there two authentic documents composed by Patrick. The first is his Epistle to the Irish more commonly called The Confession of Patrick. It begins, I Patrick, a sinner." It is his testimony, written later in his life, which tells us about his life, his salvation, his beliefs, and his call to missionary service. It also includes a brief accounting of his missionary trials and triumphs. The second authentic document that Patricius authored is his Letter to Coroticus. This is an open letter to British Christians living under the rule of cruel King Coroticus.

There is one hymn that may have originally been authored by Patrick, but most historians believe there have been numerous additions and changes added throughout the years so that it is impossible to distinguish between what is Patrick's and what was added later. It is called The Loric or Hymn of Patrick, but is also known as The Brestplate (or Shield) of St. Patrick and The Deers Cry. I only mention this hymn for the record. I have not used it in this research.

The Life of Patrick

Patrick was born some time between 385 and 415 A.D. No one knows for sure. He was not Irish at all, but was a "free born" son of a Roman-British decurio. A decurio was an area magistrate, a nobleman who was the leader of ten others. His Father Calpurnius or Calpornius had been "chosen the Romans to be a government official for the town of Bannavem Taberniae." (Saint Patrick - Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh; Christian Liberty Press; p. 7) He "also owned a farm nearby in the city of Dumbarton," Pictland, which today is Scotland. At the time this city was under British control (Ibid. p.7). Thus, he was a Roman Brit. His father's primary job was overseeing the collecting taxes for Rome. Calpurnius was also a deacon in their local church. His mothers name was Conchessa. His grandfather, Potitus, was a presbyter, or a pastor. Patrick lived in Britain during a very turbulent time. For 470 years, the Roman legions had held off the foreign barbarians from pillaging the English countryside. But everything changed when the last legion sailed from Britain in 410 AD. Immediately Irish warlords and others raided the once peaceful coastal towns of England. These roving bands of pirates looted, pillaged, raped and captured huge numbers of English citizens to sell as slaves to the highest bidder back in their homeland. When Patrick was about 16 years of age a fleet of 50 currachs (longboats) weaved their way toward the English shore, where Patrick and his family lived. "The warriors quickly demolished the village, and as Patricius darted among the burning houses and screaming women, he was caught." (Christian History Magazine -- Issue 60; Patrick The Saint; p.10). We learn more by reading Patricks Confession. "I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people, and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our pastors, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among the nations" Patrick was sold as a slave to Miliucc, a Druid tribal chieftain and put to work herding pigs and or sheep. He lived like an animal himself, having no shelter and being constantly with the animals day and night, often in hunger and thirst. He felt helpless and hopeless. Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine what it was like to go from being a privileged noblemans son to being a swine-herding slave overnight.

Patrick had ignored the Lord up to this point in his life. In his mind, he had not really needed the Lord. But things were different now, very different. His mind went back to some things that his preacher grandfather had taught him. The despair of slavery and the solitude of his occupation compelled him to see his need for Christ and remember his Christian upbringing. He writes in his confession, "I was about sixteen but did not know the true God, but in a strange land, the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and I was converted." (Patrick of Ireland: The Untold Story by Rev. Roy D. Warren, Jr.). Patrick came to know Christ as his personal Savior and was freed from his slavery to sin, though is would be several more years before he escaped from his captors. But, Patrick grew in the Lord. "His devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ brought upon him a nickname, Holy-Boy" from his fellow slaves. Through the years, he learned to pray whether he was working or resting." (The Real Saint Patrick by H. A. Ironside; FBC Press, Corona, NY; p.11). It is evident by his own testimony he learned to practice 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says, Pray without ceasing. He writes this in his Confession: "After I came to Ireland, every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed. The Love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; I used to get up and pray before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in mebecause the spirit within me was then fervent."

Patrick remained a slave to Miliucc for six years. Then, one night, when he was 22 years old he testifies, "I head a voice while I was sleeping say, soon you will go to your own country. See, your ship is ready." That night he fled. Assured God was leading him, he plunged through the bogs and scaled the mountains that separated him from the sea. In his confession he says he traveled, "perhaps 200 miles." He goes on, "I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.'" It is obvious that Patrick believed the truth of Psalms 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. At first, the sailors would not allow him to come on the ship, but as he turned to walk to the hut where he was staying he began to pray. He says, "before I had ended my prayer, I heard one of them shouting behind me, come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith; make friends with us in whatever way you like. And so on that day Ihoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ because they were pagans."

Three days later they landed on the coast of Gaul (today called France) but found only devastation. "Goths or Vandals had so decimated the land that no food was to be found in this once fertile area." (Christian History Magazine -- Issue 60; Patrick The Saint; p.11). For almost a month they walked searching for food until hunger overcame them. The pagan captain, who had mocked Patricks faith finally came to him and said, "You say your God is great and all-powerful? Then pray for us. We are all starving to death, and we may not survive to see another soul."

Patrick responded, "Be converted from your faith to the Lord my God, to Whom nothing is impossible, that He may send you food in you way, even until you are satisfied; because everywhere there is abundance with Him." (The Real Saint Patrick by H. A. Ironside; FBC Press, Corona, NY; p.11). Patrick believed the truth of Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. Patrick writes in his Confession, "With the help of God, so it came to pass: suddenly a herd of pigs appeared on the road before our eyes, and they killed many of them." God indeed had provided. After quite some time, Patrick made it back to Britain and his family. He was home at last free. But, this is not the end of the narrative.

Patrick's Call To Evangelize Ireland

Acts 16:9 is commonly called Pauls "Macedonian Call." -- And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. Paul responded and went Macedonia to proclaim the Gospel. Patrick received his Ireland Call in a similar fashion. Victoricus urged Patrick in a dream, "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." (Saint Patrick - Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh; Christian Liberty Press; p. 86) The Lord made it clear to Patrick that he was calling him back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. The problem was that his family did not want him to go. It was well known that escaped slaves were woven into giant wicker baskets, suspended over fires, and roasted alive in sacrifice to the Druids gods. But Patrick was called of God and returned to Ireland, beginning his missionary work about 430 AD. "Patrick was really a first the first missionary to barbarians beyond the reach of Roman law." (How The Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill; Doubleday; p.108). Cahill goes on to say, "Patricks gift to the Irish was his Christianity -- the first de-Romanized Christianity in human history, a Christianity without the sociopolitical baggage of the Greco-Roman world... Ireland is unique in religious history for being the only land into which Christianity was introduced without bloodshed." (Ibid.). To be sure, Patrick was not a Catholic, though that did not stop the Roman Catholics from claiming him later and making him over in their own image. In fact, his name is nowhere to be found in Catholic writing until almost two centuries after he had died. (I think it is important to note one important clarification concerning Cahill's remark. The first de-Romanized Christianity in human history was the Christianity of the Apostles which is recorded in the New Testament which was spread throughout the known world for the first 150 or so years after the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.)

Biblical, Apostolic, New Testament Christianity was the message Patrick preached to the Irish pagans. He taught the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, not the spurious works oriented version of salvation propagated by the Roman Church. Likewise, he taught believers baptism. In fact, God so blessed his efforts spreading the Gospel that one source says, "he planted over 200 churches and had over 100,000 truly saved converts." (Patrick of Ireland: The Untold Story by Rev. Roy D. Warren, Jr.). Archbishop Usher says, "We read in Nennius thatSt. Patrick founded 365 churches, and ordained 365 bishops, and 3,000elders." There is no way of determining which figures are correct. But we do know that Patrick was mightily used in reaching Ireland for Christ! He says, "I am greatly a debtor to God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me. The Irish, who never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called the sons of God." (History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff; Volume 4, p.46). Schaff goes on, "He speaks of having baptized many thousands of men" (Ibid.). Patrick died on March 17th somewhere between 465 to 493 A.D.

That brings us back to the man I spoke of at the beginning of this section, Colum Cille. There can be no doubt that Colum Cille was taught, believed and preached the pure, Apostolic, de-Romanized, New Testament Christianity that Patrick had firmly established Ireland. It is also true that Colum Cille, with his twelve companions that reintroduced New Testament Christianity, first to western Pictland (Scotland) and then to Northern England, called Northumbria.

Who Was Colum Cille or Columba?

Historical tradition holds that Crimthann was his Irish name at birth. Crimthann means fox. Anna Ritchie writes in her book Iona, "it is possible that he took the name Columba (Latin for dove) on entering the Church. The Irish name Colum or Colm was relatively common, and thus in later times Columba became known as Colum Cille (church-dove) to distinguish him from the rest." (Ionia by Anna Ritchie; Batsford Book; p.31). Schaff says, "He received in baptism the symbolical name Colum, or in the Latin Columba (Dove, as a symbol of the Holy Ghost), to which afterwards was added cille (or kille), i.e. "of the church," or "the dove of the cells," on account of his frequent attendance at public worship, or, more probably, for his being the founder of many churches." (History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff; Volume 4, p.65).

Colum Cille was born in Gartan, in County Donegal in 521 or 522 A.D. According to Rev. T. V. Moore in his book The Culdee Church, he was "of the family of the Kings of Ulster, and related to a royal family in Scotland." His father, Fedilmid mac Ferguso also known as Phelim was of the U Nill clan and descended from the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages. His mother was Eithne descended from a king of Leinster. Columba had a brother and three sisters. He received a very thorough classical education and also had a sound educated in the Bible and New Testament Christianity. His first teacher was a preacher named Cruithnechan and then he was mentored Bishop Finnio or Finnen. Not much else is known about his early life. More comes to light when he was in his early 40's. He is said to have established his first church and college at Derry, Ireland in 548 AD. Others followed, notably Durrow in County Offaly, Ireland, which became famous for the Celtic artistry of its illuminated manuscripts.

Perhaps you are wondering what any of this has to do with our study on the history of the English Bible. Let me explain. Just as Patrick carried de-Romanized, New Testament, Apostolic Christianity to Ireland, so Colum Cille (Columba) carried the same de-romanized, pure, New Testament, Apostolic Christianity to Scotland and England. Here's how it is said to have happened. During a visit to Moville, Columba is said to have secretly copied a book of Psalms belonging to Finnian. When Finnian discovered this, he insisted the copy belonged to him since it was copied from his Psalter. Colum Cille refused to hand it over, and their dispute was referred to the high king, Diarmuid to settle. He ruled: "To every cow her calf, and to every book its copy. This is perhaps the first copyright case in history, and prototype of our modern day copyright laws.

Battle for the Bible

Colum Cille did not want to give up the book of Psalms he had copied. And, he already resented Diarmuid for slaying a youth whom he had given sanctuary. In 561 AD he persuaded his kinsmen to wage war against King Diarmuid. They defeated the King and his army at Cuildreimhne in County Sligo, Ireland. As a result Colum Cille took possession of the Cathach, the Psalter written on vellum, which he had copied. The word Cathach means Battler. That Psalter still exists today and this is a picture of one of the surviving leaves.

Though he retained possession of the Psalter he had copied, the war he started to keep it was not acceptable to the Culdee church. "Tradition holds that 3001 men died fighting to gain possession of" the Cathach. (Christian History Magazine; Issue 60; p.28). A church council gathered and exiled him from his beloved Ireland. The council called on him to make amends by converting an equal number of pagans to Christianity as had been killed in the battle. In 563 AD he and 12 missionary companions sailed to the little island of Hy, commonly called Iona, which is off the coast of Scotland. "It is an inhospitable island, three miles and a half long and a mile and a half broad, partly cultivated, partly covered with hill pasture, retired dells, morass and rocks." (History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff; Volume 4, p. 66-67). There he established a Christian community, which consisted of a Church and a Christian College. This served as a base for training missionaries who spread the Christian faith to Scotland, the northern part of England and even to the Continent of Europe. Iona was a light-house in the darkness of heathenism. The Picts, who got their name from painting their bodies, were pagans and still painting their bodies and fighting their battles naked. Columba preached the Gospel first among the Picts. Bede writes, "He converted them by example as well as by word." (History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff; Volume 4, p.69)

Before I continue, I must warn you about the tainted material you will find relating to either Columba or Iona. Most all of the modern material will refer to Iona's Christian community as a monastery. But, as Dr. Moore says, "the name (monastery) is calculated to mislead." (The Culdee Church by Rev. T.V. Moore, D.D.; published by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication in 1868). The Christian church and college of Iona, established by Colum Cille, were not in the Roman Catholic tradition. The Catholics have gone to great lengths in their efforts to revise history and claim them. Further, the so-called "monks" need not be celibate either. The missionaries of Iona were allowed to marry, and in fact many did marry. "The institutions of Iona were not designated to cultivate eremites (religious hermits) and solitary ascetics, but to train Christian scholars and missionaries, who would go forth as soldiers of Christ, trained to conquer and occupy the outlying territory of heathenism." (Ibid.) In fact, missionaries trained at Colum Cille's Iona did more to carry the pure Gospel to Great Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland than any other group. It is "not generally known, that it is to this Culdee Church that England owes some of the first efforts to Christianize her people, after the Saxons had restored Paganism there (Ibid.) The reference to the Culdee Church refers to churches made up of those who had been taught and who believed the pure Gospel of the New Testament. It was the de-Romanized New Testament faith taught by Colum Cille and his followers. Colum Cille's high standing, both in secular Celtic society and as a Christian, uniquely qualified him to carry out this mission. In addition to the works he has started in Derry, Darrow and Kells, Ireland, he established missionary outposts in Scotland and England at St. Andrews, Melrose and Lindisfarne on Holy Island, and others.

On June 9th, 597 AD Colum Cille (later called St. Columba) died at the age of 75. From the small island Christian community that Colum Cille established has come an immense outflow of Christian missionary work, culture, art, literature and academic learning. Over 300 manuscript books are said to have been produced personally at his hand. Only one exists that scholars are sure is the work of his hand and that is the Cathach, the Psalter written on velum. Yet, many, including myself, believe the Book of Kells is his work. The Book of Kells, one of the world's most famous illuminated manuscripts, was almost certainly written on Iona and if not by the hand Colum Cille, then it surely was done by one of his missionary-scribes.

Before we move on to the Book of Kells, it should be noted that the Celtic (Keltic) or Culdee faith, that de-Romanized, pure Gospel faith taught by Colum Cille and his followers, flourished until the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD. In 664 Oswy, the King of Northumbria Oswy summoned the Synod of Whitby to decide the dating of Easter and the tonsure (type of haircut) of monks. Oswy 's queen, Enfleda, came from Essex and favored the Roman Catholic Church's practices. The arguments were presented and the King chose in favor of the Roman Catholic position. The old Culdee church, founded by Colum Cille, put up a gallant struggle for the pure Apostolic, New Testament faith for the next 500 years and was finally visibly overthrown with the suppression of the Culdees church and Bible college at St. Andrews in 1297 AD. "As Romish influence advanced it became necessary to silence the continual protest which theses men (the Culdees) maintained against the doctrines and pretensions of the Romish Church." (The Culdee Church by Rev. T.V. Moore, D.D.; published by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication in 1868). From this point on the Culdees worked clandestinely. In fact, principles of the old Culdee Church were never completely eradicated from Great Britain and reappear in the teachings of Wycliffe and the Reformers.

 
  • The Book of Kells

For centuries this beautiful Gospel codex was revered as The Great Gospel Book of Colum Cille. In 1655, Samuel O'Neale, wrote that the belief of the townspeople of Kells was that the manuscript was "written as they say by Columbkill's own hand." The New Testament Gospels continued to be associated with St. Colum Cille for, when the book was shown to Queen Victoria in 1849, it was introduced to the queen as St. Columba's book. But, among so-called scholars, it is doubted that this is the case. They refer to it as The Book of Kells. To my knowledge, Bishop James Ussher was the first to refer to it as The Book of Kells, because it had been kept at the Abby of Kells in Ireland from around 807 to about1650 A.D.

Modern scholarship places the writing of The Book of Kells around the year 800 AD. It is one of the most beautifully illuminated manuscripts in the world. It contains the four gospels, preceded by prefaces, summaries, and canon tables or concordances of gospel passages. It is written on vellum and contains a Latin text of the Gospels in insular majuscule script accompanied by magnificent and intricate whole pages of decoration with smaller painted decorations appearing throughout the text. The Latin text is a combination of the Latin Vulgate intermixed and the old Latin translation. It contains 340 folios (680 pages), which include decorative initials, portraits of the Evangelists, carpet pages (decorative leaves without text) and scenes from the life of Christ are vividly illuminated in rich colors. If it was not written by Colum Cille, it then was wholly written by the missionary scribes of Colum Cille's Church and college on the western Scottish Island of Iona and brought to Kells, County Meath, Ireland to escape Viking raiders, where it was finished. It was stolen in 1006, stripped of its gold cover, which was probably inlaid with precious stones and thrown into a ditch. The outer leaves and margins of the vellum pages were damaged by water before it was found some time afterwards. The book was then kept in Kells until 1654. In that year the governor of the town sent the book to Dublin for safety because Oliver Cromwell's cavalry, was quartered in the church of Kells. Some years later the Bishop of Meath gave it to Trinity College where it resides today. Later in the 19th century, additional damage was done to the manuscript when some of these damaged pages were over trimmed during rebinding. In 1953 it was bound into four volumes.

Colum Cille and his Gospel book (the Book of Kells) are important building blocks in the development of the English Bible. It was Colum Cille who first reintroduced New Testament Christianity to Scotland and England and it was his missionary scribes who meticulously reproduced Psalms, Gospels and other Scripture portions, primarily in Latin, for use in teaching Bible truths and public worship.

The next major building block is getting the Scripture into the English language. As you will see, this was a long slow process. The problem is that the English language was in transition. But, as the language took shape there were many who attempted to translate portions of the Bible into the vulgar (common) language of their time.

  • Caedmons Paraphrase of the Scriptures in Anglo-Saxon -- 650's AD.

"The first attempt, of which we have certain knowledge, at any thing like a paraphrase of Scripture in the Anglo-Saxon tongue to which a date can be assigned, it the poet of Caedmon in the seventh century." (The English Hexapla; Preface: An Historical Account of the English Versions of the Scriptures by Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1841; p.2). Caedmon was a lay monk from Whitby. Caedmon "has been described as the first Saxon poet, and the Milton of our forefathers, whose gifts had been discovered while he was a poor cow-herd on the neighboring downs." (A Brief Sketch of The History of the Transmission of the Bible Down To The Revised English Version of 1881-1895 by Henry Guppy, M.A., Litt.D.; 1934 Manchester University publication; p.9). Caedmon composed a metrical version of large portions of Old Testament history. It opens with the fall of the angels, moves to creation, and then the deluge (flood) and on to the history of the children of Israel in their departure from Egypt and entering into the promised land. To this he adds information about Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Here is a translation of a small portion of his work --

"Now must we praise the author of the heavenly kingdom, the Creator's power and counsel, the deeds fo the Father of glory: how He, the eternal God, was the author of all marvels -- He, who first gave to the sons of men the heaven for a roof, and then, Almighty Guardian of mankind, created the earth." (The Encyclopedia Britannica - 11th Edition; vol.4; p.934)

He also composed material that dealt with the main facts in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the preaching of the Apostles. In addition, many of this other poems dealt with, as Guppy says "the Divine benefits and judgments, by which he endeavoured to turn all men from the love of vice, and to excite in them the love of, and application to, good actions." (Ibid.; p.9). The people learned and sang these religious poems or paraphrases and for a time they were their soul source of Bible knowledge. These poems are the earliest Anglo-Saxon works presenting Scripture in any form, though it must be remembered that they can by no means be considered a translation of the Scripture. Caedmon died in 680 AD.

  • Aldhelm and Guthlac the Hermit - The Earliest Translators of Scripture into Anglo-Saxon -- early 700's AD

"It is impossible to ascertain with any exactness how soon there was a translation of the Holy Scriptures into the language of the inhabitants of Britain." (The Holy Bible - The Authorized Version; Quote from the General Introduction by Rev. DOyly & Rev. Mant; Oxford 1817). The first "English" translators of whom we have any information are Aldhelm and Guthlac both in the early 700s AD. There is no record of when Aldhelm was born, but we do know that he was the Abbot of Malmesbury and Bishop of Sherbome. He made a literal translation of the Psalms into Anglo-Saxon about 706 AD to be used in the daily services of the church. He died in 709 AD.

Guthlac of Crowland, a village near Peterborough, England, was born in 674 AD. According to historians, he was the first Saxon anchorite hermit. He made a translation of the Psalms into Anglo-Saxon in the early 700s AD.

  • Lindisfarne Gospels, St. Cuthberts Gospels or The Book of Durham

The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of the most cherished treasures of the British Library. It is a Latin translation of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John after Jerome's Vulgate with the Anglo-Saxon translation added later. It is named for the monastery of Lindisfarne founded by followers of Colum Cille about 635 AD. It was established on a rocky island off the coast of Northumberland, which is today called Holy Island. "Four men are named in Aldreds colophon as contributors to the making of the Lindisfarne Gospels." The first is Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne. He is said to have written the manuscript in honor of St Cuthbert, who died in 687 AD. His part in this work is believed to have taken place around 698 AD. The second, credited with illuminating and binding it, is Bishop Etherwald of Lindisfarne, who succeeded Eadfrith 724-740 AD. The third is Billfirth the Anchorite, who provided ornaments of gold, silver and jewels for its outer casing.

"The fourth is Aldred himself, who inserted the Anglo-Saxon translation or gloss" sometime after 995 AD. (The Lindisfarne Gospels; by Janet Backhouse; Phaidon Press; p.12). A gloss differs from a translation in that it translates the text word for word between the lines, without much regard to the grammatical arrangement.

In 793 AD, without warning, Lindisfarne was raided and sacked by Vikings. Writing from the court of Charlemagne to King Ethelred of Northumbria, Alcuin of York exclaimed: ... never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Although the community soon returned to the island, it was with an increasing sense of uneasiness as monastery after monastery suffered the same fate. The Gospel volume remained at Lindisfarne (Holy Island) until the Viking (Danish) invasion of Northumbria in 875 AD. At that point Bishop Eardulf took the relics of Saint Cuthbert and other treasures of the monastery, including the Lindisfarne Gospels and the bones of the two men who had made it, his predecessors Eadfrith and Ethelwald, and set off in search of a safer home. He was accompanied by all the inhabitants of the island, seven of whom were given special charge over the relics. Their wanderings, chronicled at the beginning of the twelfth century by Symeon of Durham, lasted about seven years. There was a time when it seemed that their final destination would be Ireland. But we are told that, as the bishop and his party tried to put out to sea a terrible storm arose. Three great waves swept over the ship and the copy of the Four Gospels, richly bound in gold and jewels, was swept overboard and lost. This was taken as a sign of the St. Cuthbert's displeasure. Therefore, the voyage was immediately abandoned. Saint Cuthbert then appeared in a dream to Hunred, one of the seven bearers, and told him where the manuscript could be found. Upon investigation, the Gospel book is said tho have been found washed up, unharmed on the sands at a low tide. According to Symeon of Durham, the manuscript was the Lindisfarne Gospels. Not long after this episode, the party finally settled at Chester-le-Street, in County Durham, where Saint Cuthberts relics remained until 995 AD, and it was there that Aldred the priest added his Anglo-Saxon gloss and colophon to the manuscript. This was probably done during the third quarter of the tenth century. It was subsequently restored to Lindisfarne, where it remained until the dissolution of the monastery in 1534. Sir Robert Cotton purchased it in the seventeenth century, through whom it passed into the keeping of the British Museum, where it is deservedly regarded as one of the nations most treasured possessions. (above paragraph adapted from material in The Lindisfarne Gospels by Janet Backhouse).

  • "The Venerable"

Not long after the Lindisfarne Gospels, "Bede translated the whole Bible" according to notes in the front of an 1817 Bible I purchased in and antique store in England. (The Holy Bible - The Authorized Version; Quote from the General Introduction by Rev. DOyly & Rev. Mant; Oxford 1817). But, most other scholars disagree. However, there is agreement on this much. Bede, a native of Durham, spent the most of his life studying and writing in a monastery in Jerrow (Yerrow). He did write a series of commentaries on the entire Bible as well as an important work entitled, Ecclesiastical History of Britain. But, far and away his most important work was his translation of the Gospel of John into the Anglo-Saxon language, which was completed in the last hours of his life. This is the account of its completion.

"The illness of Bede increased, but he only laboured the more diligently (in the translation of St. John). On the Wednesday, his scribe told him that one chapter alone remained, but feared that it might be painful to him to dictate. It is easy, Bede replied; take your pen and write quickly. The work continued for some time. Then Bede directed Cuthbert to fetch his little treasures from his casket (capsella) that he might distribute them among his friends. And so he passed the remainder of the day till evening in holy and cheerful conversation. His boy scribe at last found an opportunity to remind him, with pious importunity, of his unfinished work. One sentence, dear master, still remains unwritten. He answered, Write quickly. The boy soon said, It is completed now. Well, Bede replied, thou hast said the truth; all is ended. Support my head with thy hands; I would sit in the holy place in which I was wot to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father. Thereupon, resting on the floor of his cell, he chanted the Gloria [Glory be to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit], and his soul immediately passed away, while the name of the Holy Spirit was on his lips." (A General View of the History of the English Bible by Brooke Foss Westcott; 1916 MacMillan)

To my knowledge, there are no extant portions of Bedes Gospel of John. I have been able to find what John 3:16 would have looked like from a 955 A.D. Anglo-Saxon Gospel --

God lufode middan-eard swa', daet he sealde his 'an-cennedan sunu, daet nan ne forweorde de on hine gelyfp, ac haebbe dact 'ece lif.

Remember, the English language was in transition until the King James Bible. It was a mixture of Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and French. I should also point out that Bible portions were not widely available. The only Bible most people were acquainted with were the Psalms they sang in church or portions they had memorized after hearing it by word of mouth.

  • Alcuin of York -- late 700's AD

Sometime around the late 700's or early 800's Alcuin, the schoolmaster of York, translated the first five books of the Old Testament into the prevailing dialect. We can set the date because there are records that indicate that Alcuin died in 804 AD. Guppy quotes a portion of a sermon written by Alcuin, which seems to indicate that the distribution of the Scriptures at this time must have been much more extensive than is generally supposed. The quote reads, "The reading of the Scriptures is the knowledge of everlasting blessedness. In them man may contemplate himself as in some mirror, what sort of person he is. The reading cleanseth the reader's soul, for, when we pray, we speak to God, and when we read the Holy Books, God speaks to us." (A Brief Sketch of The History of the Transmission of the Bible Down to the Revised English Version of 1881-1895; by Henry Guppy; Manchester University, 1934; p.10). If the Scriptures were available and read in this era, it would have been confined to the sons of nobility. The common people would neither have had the money nor the ability to read the manuscripts.

  • Alfred The Great -- mid 800's AD

Alfred the Great lived and ruled in the late 800's AD and died in 901 AD. In the preface to his translation of Gregory's "Pastoral Care," which is considered to be the first of Alfred's literary works, the king gives expression to the wish that "all the free-born youth of my people . . . may persevere in learning . . . until they can perfectly read the English Scriptures." (Ibid. Guppy; p.10). Alfred translated the Decalogue or Ten Commandments, and passages from Exodus 21, 22 and 23. This served as the introduction of his Book of Laws, by which he ruled the country, which was popularly known as "Alfred's Dooms." It is likely that he also translated other portions of the Bible into Anglo-Saxon as well but it is not certain. William of Malmesbury says, "he began a version of the Psalter which was interrupted by his death."

  • Rushworth Gloss Of The Gospels -- 850 AD

The Rushworth Gospels, so called, were written in Latin by an Irish scribe name MacGregol in about 850 AD. The interlinear Anglo-Saxon gloss was added by a scribe named Owun (Owen), and a priest named Faerman. The Gospels of Mark, Luke and John in the Rushworth book are so nearly identical with those of the Lindisfarne manuscript that it suggests that the translation contained may represent a publicly circulated version. It is called the Rushworth Gloss after the man who owned the book before it passed into the Bodleian Library at Oxford. John Rushworth, of Lincoln's Inn, was Deputy Clerk to the House of Commons during the Long Parliament.

  • Aelfric The Grammarian Paraphrase -- late 900's AD

Aelfric the Grammarian was a monk at Winchester and later was the abbot of both Cerne and Eynsham at the same time. While there are no exact records known to exist relating to his birth an death. Historians speculate that he died about 1020 AD. Probably in the late 900's AD he wrote a summary account of both the Old and New Testaments. But, his principle work was the Anglo-Saxon translation or paraphrase of the first seven books of the Bible, known as "AElfric's Heptateuch." Several manuscripts of this work are known, the most famous of which is preserved in the British Museum. The Heptateuch is partly translated literally and partly paraphrased. "He appears to have done this work with the express intention of enabling his countrymen to read the Scriptures for themselves." (An Historical Account of the English Versions of The Scriptures; in the preface to the English Hexapla of 1841). In one of his sermons on the importance of reading the Bible he says, "Happy is he, who reads the Scriptures, if he convert the words into action."

  • Another Anglo-Saxon Version of the Gospels -- 1050's AD

Shortly before the Norman Conquest there was another translation of the Gospels into the Anglo-Saxon language. Historians do not know who the translator was. What is interesting about this Gospel manuscript is that, in large part, it was translated from a Latin version before the time of Jerome.

  • The Anglo-Norman Version of the Gospels

When the Normans, under William the Conqueror, conquered England in 1066 AD, the translation of the Scriptures into the language of the English people (Anglo-Saxon) came to a halt for all practical purposes. The conquerors made every effort to impose their Norman French language upon the conquered nation. Norman French became the language of the schools, the justice system, such as it was. It was the language of the King and his court. But, the Anglo-Saxon language retained its hold, for the most part, on the market-place, in the homes and in the every day proceedings of the common people.

While there was scarcely any translation activity, "there appears to have been an Anglo-Norman version of the Gospels, or at least a transcript of the Gospels into the dialect which was now displacing the genuine Anglo-Saxon: there are at least three such manuscripts known to be in existence, one of which is attributed to the time of William the Conqueror, the other two to the time of Henry the Second. These three manuscripts all exhibit the same translation, although with variations made by the copyists." (Ibid. Bagster's English Hexapla).

The contest for supremacy between the two languages had far-reaching effects. The Anglo-Saxon language spoken in England became so corrupted by its contact with the Norman French that new dialects sprang up all over the country. As time went on, the people in the northern part of the country could not understand the dialect spoken by the people in the South, and vice versa. There was no longer a common English tongue and therefore, it appears that no attempt was made to translate a complete version of the Bible or even a New Testament. Obviously, before there could be a common English Bible, there must be something approaching a common English speech. Some unifying ground had to be found. Slowly but surely a common English language began to take shape. But it will not be till the latter part of the 14th century that the English people get their first complete Bible in their own language called Middle English.

Lets move on to the people who paraphrased or translated portions of the Scriptures in this chaotic time of the development of the English Language.

  • The Ormulum Metric Gospel Portions -- 1100's AD

An Augustinian monk named Orm, Orme or Ormin made a metric paraphrase, in the style of Saxon poetry without rhyme, of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles of each days reading. He then elaborately expounded on his paraphrase, based on the writings of AElfric, Bede, and St. Augustine. His work shows us the development of the English language in its early state. Fragments of this poetic work are preserved in the Bodleian library in Oxford. I was unable to get a first hand look at his work when I visited the library. I plan to make arrangements ahead of time on my next trip. But I do know this. No date is associated with this work, but the language indicates that is likely belongs to the 1100's AD.

  • Genesis, Exodus -- 1250's AD

Another interesting Scripture portion from this time of transition is housed in the British Museum. It is the story of Genesis and Exodus which scholars believe was written in the Suffolk area some time around 1250 AD. The author is unknown.

  • Surtees Psalter, Midlands or Northern (Yorkshire) -- 1250-1300

Around the same time there is a Psalter (book of Psalms) called the Surtees Psalter dated between 1250-1300 AD. What makes this Psalter unique is that it is the first work known attempting a literal translation of the scriptures into Middle English in this early stage. To this point, what we have seen are paraphrased in Middle English, but no actual word for word translations.

- - Instructions For Reading Middle English

While it is not possible for me to duplicate exactly the Middle-English alphabet, I have reproduced it as near as possible to enable you to see and hear what Middle-English sounded like. But before you can read the Psalm 23 from the Surtees Psalter in Middle English, some instruction needs to be given. When you read Middle English, it is almost imperative that you do so out loud. This will help you to make intellectual sense of the strange-looking words; what looks strange to the eye is often more familiar to the ear. In fact, one of the chief delights of reading 700-year-old English is the aha! of understanding that comes with this ongoing revelation: Middle English is a foreign language that you already know. If you have no formal training in Middle English phonology, that's all right. It is believed that medieval English vowel sounds were more or less the same as those in modern European languages." Early Middle English was written before (or in the earliest stages of) the "Great Vowel Shift." Therefore give vowels the sounds they have in Spanish, or especially German: "a" is always pronounced "ah" as in "father." The "e" is always pronounced "ay" as in "break," except when it occurs at the end of a word, in which case it is pronounced like the unaccented schwa "uh" sound as in the German "bitte"); The "i" and "y" are always pronounced "ee" as in "fiend"; "o" is always pronounced "oh" as in "poem." The "u" is always pronounced "oo" as in "fruit"; "ai" or "ay" are diphthongs pronounced "eye." Medieval consonants have more or less their modern values, with a few exceptions: "gh" (whether spelled thus, or sometimes with the archaic yogh) is the guttural sound of the German or Scottish "ch," a sound no longer used by most English speakers. Rolle and some others mainly used the archaic thorn to render the voiced "th" (as in "this" or "that"), as distinct from the unvoiced "th" of "think" or "thorn"; modern writers of English don't seem much impoverished by the lost distinction, and neither will readers of transliterated medieval texts. There are no silent consonants, so pronounce the "k" and the "gh" in "knight" as "kuh-neeght." (Adapted from information located at- www.dutchgirl.com/foxpaws/biographies /Ghostly_Gladness/ rollelyrics.html).

Surtees Psalter -- Psalm 23

1. Lauerd me steres, noght wante sal me:
In stede of fode are me louked he.

2. He fed me ouer watre ofe fode,
Mi saule he tornes in to gode.

3. He led me ouer sties of rightwisenes,
For his name, swa hali es.

4. For, and ife .I. ga in mid schadw ofe dede,
For ou wi me erte iuel sal .i. noght drede;

5. i yherde, and i stafe ofe mighte,
ai ere me roned dai and nighte.

6. ou graied in mi sighte borde to be,
Ogaines as at droued me;

7. ou fatted in oli me heued yhite;
And mi drinke dronkenand while schire es ite!

8. And filigh me sal i mercy
Alle daies ofe mi life for-i;

9. And at .I. wone in hous ofe lauerd isse
In lenge of daies al wi blisse.

  • The Shoreham Psalm -- Early 1300's

"The earliest English version in prose of an entire book of Scripture appears to have been a translation of the Psalter and Canticles (Proverbs), side by side with the Latin, made by William of Shoreham or Scorham, who in 1320 was appointed vicar of Chart Sutton, Sevenoaks, Kent, where he had been a monk." (The Brief Sketch of The History of The Transmission of the Bible Down To The Revised English Edition of 1881-1895; by Henry Guppy; Manchester University; p. 13)

Here is Psalms 23 in the Shoreham Version --

1. Our Lord gouerne me, and noyng shal defailen to me; in e stede of pasture he sett me er.

2. He norissed me vp water of fyllyng; he turned my soule fram e fende.

3. He lad me vp e bisti3es of ri3tfulnes for his name.

4. For 3if at ich haue gon amiddes of e shadowe of de, y shal nou3t douten iuels; for ou art wy me.

5. y discipline and yn amendyng conforted me.

6. ou madest radi grace in my si3t o3ayns hem at trublen me.

7. ou makest fatt myn heued wy mercy; and my drynk makand drunken ys ful clere.

8. And y merci shal folwen me alle daies of mi lif;

9. And at ich wonne in e hous of our Lord in lenge of daies.

(The Earliest Complete English Prose Psalter, Together with Eleven Canticles and a Translation of the Athanasian Creed. Ed. Karl D. Blbring. London, 1891)

  • Translations of Richard Rolle, The Hermit of Hampole -- 1300's

A key person in the history of the English Bible is a man named Richard Rolle. He "was born near the end of the 13th century, at Thorton (now Thornton Dale), near Pickering, Yorkshire." (The Encyclopedia Britannica - 11th Edition; vol.R*; p.466). The following tells us of his early life.

"Richard was a clever lad. His parents were sure he was the brightest lad in Thornton-le-Dale and were prepared to invest in his abilities. Though poor they saw that he had a good education -- the only means he had of making his way in the world. The readiness of Thomas Neville, of the greatest family in the North and Archdeacon of Durham, to sponsor him through Oxford must have convinced them that their faith in their son was justified. For the devout scholar with a good brain and a powerful patron a career in the Church in the fourteenth century held the promise of immense prestige, power and even wealth. The new and very successful University of Oxford was the gateway to all that. They knew their Richard would do well. He would become a priest and great preferments would follow. Archdeacon -- perhaps Bishop! He would not be the first from as poor a home as theirs to achieve such eminence. And he would not forget that it was his parents' sacrifices that had made it all possible.

Then wholly unexpectedly, he was back home at Thornton. Suddenly he had left Oxford. There had been no scandal. He hadn't been expelled. He hadn't failed his exams. Indeed, for some years 'he made great progress in his study'. And then he knew that that for him was not the progress that mattered. He feared 'to be caught in the snare of sinners'. The best explanation of his decision comes from a sentence in his greatest book 'The Fire of Love'. He writes, 'An old wife is more expert in God's love than the great divine who studies for vanity that he may appear glorious and so be known and may get rents and dignities.' The north-country puritan was outraged by the worldliness of Christian and ecclesiastical Oxford." (A Saint for South Yorkshire: A Brief History of Richard of Hampoke; at -- www.dutchgirl. com/foxpaws/biographies/Ghostly_Gladness/ rollebylunn.html; p.2)

So, at age 19 he returned home intending to become a hermit. "At first he dwelt in a woods near his home, but fearing his family would put him under restraint, he fled from Thornton and wandered about till he was recognized by John de Dalton, who had been his fellow student at Oxford, and who now provided him with a cell and the necessaries for a hermits life." (The Catholic Encyclopedia; Richard Rolle de Hampole; by Edwin Burton; online edition). After a time "he left the Daltons, and wandered from place to place, resting when he found friends to provide for his wants. After some years of wandering he gave up his more energetic propaganda (preaching), contenting himself with advising those who sought him out. He began also to write songs and treatises by which he was to exert his widest influence. He settled in Richmondshire." (The Encyclopedia Britannica - 11th Edition; vol.R*; p.466). Carl McColman says his writings were "intensely personal, somewhat dramatic, and passionate both in describing the depths of his faith and experiences of God, and in attacking his detractors." (Richard Rolle, Hermit of Hampole by Carl McColman; online article). Many of his works are in Latin. His English works were written later in his life, probably between 1340 and his death. Rolle translated many parts of the Scripture into the northern dialect of English, which include a Psalter together with a commentary, the Lord's Prayer, the Seven Penitential Psalms, and portions of the Book of Job. Here is his translation of

Psalm 23

Lord gouerns me and nathyng sall me want; in sted of pasture thare he me sett.
On the watere of rehetynge forth he me broght; my saule he turnyd.
He led me on the stretis of rightwisnes; for his name.
ffor whi, if i had gane in myddis of the shadow of ded; i. sall noght dred illes, for thou ert with me.
Thi wand and thi staf; thai haf confortyd me.
Thou has grayid (vr. ordand) in my syght the bord; agayns thaim that angirs me.
Thou fattid my heued in oyle; and my chalice drunkynand what it is bright.
And thi mercy sall folow me; all the dayes of my lif.
And that i. won in the hows of lord; in lenght of dayes.

Some consider his greatest work to be "The Pricke of Conscience," a lengthy poem of 9624 lines in the old Northern English dialect. While I am not knowledgeable enough of his works to give my opinion one way or the other, I can say this with confidence: Richard Rolls outrage with the worldliness of the Church and ecclesiastical education, his preaching and writing against sin, his calling others to a holy life, his exaltation of the spiritual side of religion its dead rituals, his enthusiastic love of Christ and his declaration of individual soul liberty led to the foundation of the Lollard movement that taught that the Scripture was the final authority for faith and practice, above the Church.

When he was nearly 50 he moved to Hampole, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire England. He died September 29th, 1349 AD in the Black Death, which killed perhaps 1/3 of the total population of England. He had a great influence on his own and the next generation, laying the foundation for the first complete translation of the Bible, John Wycliffes translation, and its distribution by the Lollards.


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