[From ws15/12 for Feb. 1-7]
“Please listen, and I will speak.”—Job 42:4
This week’s study discusses the role language and translation have played in bringing the Bible to us. It sets the stage for next week’s study which discusses the many virtues the Organization believes its latest Bible translation has over all others. It would seem to be appropriate to leave a discussion of that topic for next week. However, there is something interesting in this week’s study that shows up the fallacy of David Splane’s discourse on tv.jw.org to the effect that the faithful and discreet slave of Matthew 24:45 only came into existence in 1919. (See video: The “Slave” is not 1900 years old.)
In his discourse, Splane states that there was no one from the time of Christ right down to 1919 who filled the role of the slave that provided food at the proper time to the domestics of Christ. He does not dispute the nature of that food. It is the Word of God, the Bible. The partial parable in Matthew 24:45-47 and the complete one in Luke 12:41-48 depict the slave in the role of waiter, one who distributes the food handed out to him. Splane also accepts this analogy, in fact he came up with it at the 2012 Annual Meeting.
During the Middle Ages, those taking the lead in the Christian congregation, aka the Catholic Church, blocked the distribution of the food by prohibiting its publication in English. Latin, a language dead to the common man, was the only acceptable tongue for communicating God’s Word, both from the pulpit and on the printed page.
Paragraph 12 refers very briefly to events in history wherein that food was once again being distributed to the Lord’s domestics.
As one historian relates:
“Before long England was ablaze for Tyndale’s Bible, this time on fire to read it. Thousands of copies were smuggled in. In Tyndale’s own happy phrase, “the noise of the new Bible echoed throughout the country.” Produced in a small pocket-sized edition that was easily concealed, it passed through cities and universities into the hands of even the humblest men and women. The authorities, especially Sir Thomas More, still railed at him for “putting the fire of scripture into the language of ploughboys” but the damage was done. The English now had their Bible, legal or not. Eighteen thousand were printed: six thousand got through.” (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-04-01). The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language (Kindle Locations 1720-1724). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
But even before Tyndale and his supporters were busy feeding the domestics with the pure food of God in their own tongue, a courageous band of young Oxford students were imitating Jesus by despising shame and risking everything to spread the word of God in English. (He 12:2; Mt 10:38)
“Wycliffe and his Oxford scholars challenged that and their English manuscripts were distributed all over the kingdom by the scholars themselves. Oxford bred a revolutionary cell right inside an ostensibly safe breeding ground of the Catholic Church. We are talking about a degree of centralised regulation in medieval Christian Europe which had a great deal in common with Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China and with much of Hitler’s Germany.” (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-09-01). The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (p. 15). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.)
What was the effect of this food distribution at the proper time?
“So when the translation of Tyndale was printed abroad and smuggled in (often unbound in bales of cloth) there was hunger for it. William Malden recollected reading Tyndale’s New Testament in the late 1520s: ‘Divers poor men in the town of Chelmsford . . . where my father dwelt and I born and with him grew up, the said poor men bought the New Testament of Jesus Christ and on Sundays did sit reading in the lower end of the church and many would flock to hear their reading.’” (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-09-01). The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (p. 122). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.)
What a difference it made to ‘ordinary’ people, to be able, as they did, to dispute with Oxford-educated priests and, it is reported, often better them! What an illumination it must have given to minds blanketed for centuries, deliberately excluded from the knowledge said to govern their lives and promise their eternal salvation, minds deliberately stunted! There was, we read, ‘a hunger’ for the English Bible, for the words of Christ and Moses, of Paul and David, of the Apostles and the prophets. God had come down to earth in English and they were now earthed in Him. It was the discovery of a new world. (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-09-01). The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (p. 85). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.)
What incredible cheek David Splane (speaking for the Governing Body) demonstrates in suggesting that these courageous men did not serve as part of that 1900-year-old faithful and discreet slave. They risked their reputation, their livelihood, their very lives, to carry the food of God’s word to the masses. What has the Governing Body done that comes even close? Yet they would presume to exclude such men from Jesus’ consideration when he returns, placing themselves alone on that pedestal.
It is said that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Please read the following quotes, but when reference is made to the Catholic Church or the Vatican, in your mind, substitute “The Organization”; when reference is made to the Pope, priests, or Church authorities, substitute “Governing Body”; and when torture and murder or other punishment are referenced, substitute “disfellowshipping”. See if under those terms, these statements still hold true.
“The Roman Church, rich, its tentacles in every niche of society…. Above all, it had a monopoly on eternal life. Eternal life was the deep and guiding passion of the time. The Vatican said you could only gain everlasting life – the majestic promise of the Christian Church – if you did what the Church told you to do. That obedience included forced attendance at church and the payment of taxes to support battalions of clergy….Daily life was subject to scrutiny in every town and village; your sex life was monitored. All rebellious thoughts were to be confessed and were punished, any opinions not in line with the Church’s teaching were censored. Torture and murder were the enforcers. Those suspected of even doubting the workings of this monumental monotheistic machine were forced into humiliating public trials and told to ‘abjure or burn’ – to offer a grovelling and public apology or be eaten by fire.” (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-09-01). The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (p. 15). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.)
“More was fighting for the rights of the Roman Catholic position to be infallible and to be whatever it decided it wanted to be. He saw it as sanctified by time and service. Any change, he thought, would inevitably destroy the sacrament of Holy Truth, the papacy and the monarchy. Everything must be accepted as it had been. To dislodge one pebble would be to set off the avalanche. The vitriol against Tyndale’s translation and the burning and murdering of anyone offering the slightest disagreement to the Old Church’s view show what was at stake. Power was to be taken from those who had held it for so long that they believed that it belonged to them by right. Their authority had been exercised for so many centuries that the prospect of its being diminished in any way was felt to be fatal. They wanted the populace to be subservient, silent and grateful. Anything else was unacceptable. Tyndale’s print-popular New Testament had breached the fortifications of a privilege so deeply founded in the past that it seemed God-given and unchallengeable. It was not to be tolerated.” (Bragg, Melvyn (2011-09-01). The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 (pp. 27-28). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.)
In Wycliffe’s and Tyndale’s day, it was the Bible in modern English that freed people from centuries of servitude to men claiming to speak for God. Today, it is the internet that makes it possible for anyone to check the validity of almost any statement or doctrine in a question of minutes and from the privacy of one’s own home, or even while sitting at the Kingdom hall.
As in their day, so it is today. This freedom is undermining the power of men over other men. Of course, it is up to each one of us to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, for many, they prefer to be enslaved.
“For YOU gladly put up with the unreasonable persons, seeing YOU are reasonable. 20 In fact, YOU put up with whoever enslaves YOU, whoever devours [what YOU have], whoever grabs [what YOU have], whoever exalts himself over [YOU], whoever strikes YOU in the face.” (2Co 11:19, 20)