Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I gotta wonder.

A few Protestant apologists will try to convince you that the Church tried to keep the Bible out of the hands of the people, and in failing to do that, made sure all the Bibles were printed in Latin instead of the local tongue. I wonder how they can keep a straight face.

Well, the Bible would have been written, not printed, which did keep the number of copies low by modern standards, but I may be splitting hairs.

In the middle ages, literacy wasn't terribly high, so keeping books away from the populace wouldn't be a high priority for someone trying to control the information within. By the same token, publishing it in the local tongues isn't going to help people who can't read anything.

If information control really was the Church's goal, you'd think they could have done a better job than to preserve the book and read from various parts of it (properly translated or not) every day. If you don't want someone to find out what's in a book, you burn all the copies; you don't just keep the existence of any hidden volumes a secret that any relatively literate and nosy peasant could stumble upon. He'd have to hook up with some underground Bible-readers to make sure he followed the path of Luther and Zwingli, anyway, instead of committing the errors of Eutyches or Donatus.

Latin was a widely known language. It's hard to understand for most people in modern America, since most of us grow up only learning, speaking, and hearing English, but think of it like how so many people everywhere else in the world today know English. If you want to convey information to the widest group of people, your best bet is to put it in English (or maybe Cantonese or Hindi). Putting it in every local dialect is nice too, but a lot less efficient, more time consuming.

If the Church wanted to restrict access to the Bible, but couldn't succeed in controlling all the copies, how could it possibly get all of them translated into Latin to make sure the people who didn't know Latin (but apparently were otherwise literate) couldn't read it? All the pre-Latin copies would have to be replaced, which means confiscation and reissuing of manuscripts in Latin only. Why not just issue nothing, or some non-Bible book that only tells what the Church wants you to believe? Don't say the Catechism--unless you count the Didache and other patristic epistles and apologies, the first official digest of teachings was published in the 16th century. Like I already said, though, Latin was the common language, so translating it from Greek (the previous common language) is only going to make it more accessible.

Still skeptical? Still think some underground ecclesial confederation had to do without if they didn't have their own manuscripts in Phrygian or Old Norse? Try to find me a non-Latin translation that wasn't approved by the Church, or one that was condemned but wasn't clearly written to support some heresy that any reasonable Protestant would recognize the distastefulness of.

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