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April 26, 2007

Wonderful words of life

Tyndale Can you imagine life without a Bible? 

I just took a quick inventory in my house. I own ten different Bibles (complete texts or portions of Scripture) in five different translations. When writing or researching, I am just as apt to click on over to Bible Gateway or Blue Letter Bible, where I can find dozens of translations in as many languages, each helping me better understand the nuances of God's written revelation.

PBS's series Secrets of the Dead featured a vivid reminder last night of the sacrifices that were made some five hundred years ago so that you and I can read the Bible for ourselves. We take this so much for granted that it is difficult to imagine a time when only priests were allowed to read Scripture, when the words of God were purposely kept locked away in the vault of archaic, scholarly languages that so few could understand.

In the "Battle for the Bible" episode, Secrets of the Dead explores the history of early Bible translators, with particular attention to John Wycliffe and William Tyndale. Like their German counterpart, Martin Luther, both were convinced that God's Word should be available to the common people in the common language.

Wycliffe managed to die a natural death, only to be declared a heretic some years later and have his body dug up and burned. Tyndale faced the pyre while still in full possession of his earthly life. Thanks to their sacrifices, we have the Scriptures today in our own language.

The next time you open the pages of your Bible, give a thought to the lives that were spent and the blood that was spilled so that you could have such precious words at your fingertips.

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Very difficult to imagine indeed, because it isn't true.

The Bible was available to be read in a number of languages.

But not many people knew how to read, it just wasn't important for daily life. Those that did, often knew Latin and Greek anyway.

And the missels had significant tracts of Scripture in them.

But before the printing press, books were extremely expensive. Only a university could afford to own one, much like mainframe computers in the 1970s. It wasn't censorship, it was cost. The printing press was like the microcomputer revolution that lets us talk to each other this way.

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