The power of words

Tonight on Channel Four, Rod Liddle, examines the impact upon the British people and culture as well as the English speaking worlds of the translation of the Bible into the English language. He examines the work of John Wycliffe and work and sacrifice of William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer to ensure the people had direct access to God’s word and the religious, political and social consequences of this egalitarian vision.

  • Great Britain<b> and</b> Northern Ireland

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

    RTE has ’30 Bliain AG’ revisiting thr ‘Survey’ series from 30 years ago.

  • kensei

    This is hardly new, surely? I seem to remember Melvyn Bragg doing a show on the History of English recently that covered this extensively.

  • Mordechai

    Lots of burnings and treachery and stuff. Convulsive viewing. Got me away from the cricket.

  • ben

    I think the Bible should be better known by everyone, so that normal people can better understand how perverse and hateful its adherents actually are. Here’s my favourite snippet from god’s holy egalitarian word:

    “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

    But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”

    Anyone who believes that all that filth underlies some laudable and sacrosanct truth has a serious brain disorder. There is a physical problem in your brain that causes you to think lies are true, evil is good, up is down, night is day, and Ian Paisley is human.

  • Go Ben! It’s ironic that so much store is placed on a document that is both repellant and has provided such a rich source of material for the language. That the source material is often taken from other texts, has been the subject of so much poor translations (mesoptamia, ancient aramaic, Greek, Latin and English) is remarkable when some regard it as the literal truth without even considering that the authorised King James version was arrived at by committee – we in a Northern Ireland ruled by civil service committees know how rare a committee can come up with anything!

  • “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with in it. They will be yours for food.”
    Genesis 1:29
    Go vegetarian!

  • abucs

    I wonder why you chose that as your favourite saying ben ? :o)

    With the different language translations within Europe, and printing of the bible in Central Europe, i wonder, from an historical viewpoint, if it gave an impetus to the level of literacy levels of the common man, and thus helped in the subsequant development of Europe ?

  • ben

    What’s worst is I *love* the English of the KJV, and I think I understand part of what Fair Deal is saying — I love the idea of knowledge being free and open and shared and people thinking, instead of being told what to think. I just wish that the Reformation hadn’t been a reformation, but a conquest — I wish we had taken the opportunity to actually break free of all the lies and superstion and poison, instead of just repackaging it.

    I might be naive here, but I’m really with Queen Elizabeth in all of this. She said that she never wanted to put a window in men’s souls, but, sadly, her hand was forced. Elizabeth had a lot of no-nonsense sceptic to her, which I like.

    I’d prefer no burnings and no windows in men’s souls and no Bible, and I think that if you start by having no Bible, there are a lot fewer burnings and I don’t feel Fair Deal’s judgemental gaze into my deepest parts. I think Fair Deal likes to judge people, spitefully, and wave Moses at them.

  • ben

    I don’t see “manfarang” eating any laburnum or yew. There just might be some duplicitous, lying, credulous hypocrisy involved here. Either that or “manfarang” is chowing down on yew right now. Or god lied or something. Whatever you loonies go for.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Good programme tracing the development of the modern Bible. Interesting to see how William Tyndale’s intepretation and opinion has somewhat shaped the holy book, and how we perceive Christianity. Yet, it’s further evidence that religion is merely people’s personal beliefs and of how one individually perceive god. Hence, all the wars when such opinions conflict publically.
    Read Richard Dawkins ‘The God Delusion’ or Friedrich Nietzsche ‘The Anti-Christ’

    Religion is for Slaves.

  • I had shanghai noodles for lunch,Ben.Maybe I will have mangoes and sticky rice tomorrow.
    No need to kill any animal for food.Cruel men have cruel gods.

  • FAP

    Literacy rates in Germany at the time of the Reformation were less than 5%, roughly similar to those who admire The God Delusion and similar screeds.
    Thomas Paine and others attacked Leviticus long before Dawkins and Ben did.
    There is, in any event, only one true Church. Hint: Pope Bebedict XV1 is currently at the helm.

  • One true Chutch? The one that was at Jerusalem!

  • Fulbert

    ben

    It seems rather arrogant of those speaking so negatively about the bible. They sound like the people who think they know all, yet know nothing. Humility seems to have been replaced with arrogance for them; something some posters would de well to take note of!

    Whether it’s the bible or another “good book”, without an acknowledgement of some eternal truths, we are forced to endure a self-serving chaotic relativism. And I won’t believe anybody says otherwise!

  • Greenflag

    ben ,

    ‘I love the idea of knowledge being free and open and shared and people thinking, instead of being told what to think. I just wish that the Reformation hadn’t been a reformation, but a conquest—I wish we had taken the opportunity to actually break free of all the lies and superstion and poison, instead of just repackaging it.”

    Wycliffe/Cranmer / Tyndale should be honoured for the role they played in helping to free not just England but a large part of Europe from Roman Catholic dogmatism . It’s regrettable that some of their theological descendants have ended up aping the RC Church in similar ‘virtues’ .

    Such is the way of the world .

    abucs ,

    ‘ i wonder, from an historical viewpoint, if it gave an impetus to the level of literacy levels of the common man, and thus helped in the subsequant development of Europe ? ‘

    I would’nt doubt it .

    The first ‘crack’ on the road to what we now call secular democracy which is the norm now across most of Europe apart of course from NI and the Balkans .

  • Ben, you speak sarcastically about God’s holy egalitarian word, as though you belive equality is a good thing. Where do you get this belief from, or is it just a different example of irrational faith at work?

    Paul

  • Greenflag

    And now lets give thanks to the English for the use and abuse of the language 🙂

    When the English robbed our language
    And gave us theirs instead ,
    They gave us leave to cheat them
    In the things we left unsaid ;
    When they robbed us of our claymores
    And thought our pikes absurd
    We fashioned brand new weapons
    With each odd ,new fangled word
    For we took the ould King’s English
    And turned it right around
    And perfected darlin phrases
    The invader to confound

    When they asked us fortright questions
    We responded with a rhyme
    And we circumnavigated
    Until a better time
    When they grew exasperated
    With all this faddle fiddle
    We donned our funny faces
    And we posed for them a riddle
    And by the time they’d worked it out
    We had drifted far away
    To polish up our proverbs
    For to fight another day

    We promptly paid the price they asked
    Though convincing them indeed
    That it was only half the sum
    That we first of all agreed
    We vowed we’d neither rob nor cheat
    But nothin said of diddlin
    For nothing’s really black or white
    But rather ‘fair to middlin’
    And when they roared and ranted
    And said ‘that isn’t fair ‘
    We nodded and we answered
    But thats nayther here nor there

    And when they tried to fathom out
    If this was right or wrong
    We’d divert them with a little dance
    And regale them with a song
    Or educate them to the fact
    That words are all a game
    And certain things are better called
    By a rather different name
    That just because we use a term
    It need not signify
    Exactly what it seems to mean
    Though it’s neither truth nor lie .

    “You’re right Milord we’d loyally cry
    ‘Though it’s also truth to tell “
    That he who says you’re wrong Milord
    Is also right as well
    For God would never close one door
    Without opening up another
    And everything is something else
    Nayther one thing nor the other!
    For God is good St Patrick said
    And the Pope he is (was?) our leader
    But then upon the other hand
    The Dhivil (Paisley ?)’s not bad either

    So you see the way it has to be
    If we must live together
    You must vow to lower taxes
    And we’ll pray for harvest weather
    And by the time the Norman Lord
    Had reckoned we were right
    We’d married off our daughters fair
    To his reeves and to his knight
    And he was left to ponder
    ‘Shure what was all the fuss’?
    When all is said and done
    Aren’t they just the same as us .

    And then we urged the Norman Lord
    To build a monastery
    For we told him that the Saviour
    Would protect his progeny
    And when we had him on his knees
    Convinced he was a sinner
    We gently whispered in his ear :
    “Now I ask eh -who’s the winner ?”

    Paisley may yet turn out to be the most practised and professional maestro of the art of ‘faddle fiddle ‘ in Irish history bar none .

    The above is from Dubliner Vinnie Caprani’s

    Rowdy Rhymes and Recimitations ‘
    ‘Doggerel for a Departed Dublin’

  • Greenflag

    ben,

    ‘Anyone who believes that all that filth underlies some laudable and sacrosanct truth has a serious brain disorder.’

    So how about JC’s Sermon on the Mount? then .

    Mind you I think JC went a bit overboard with his showing kindness to tax collectors 🙁

    Gregoir O Frainclin

    ‘Religion is for Slaves.’

    In that case the USA has approx 200 million slaves and Ireland (North & South ) about 3 million . England has about 5 million with Germany /France /Italy having about the same . The Islamic world has about a billion slaves while Israel can muster about 5 million IIRC .

    So now I have a better appreciation why the USA is in Iraq -It’s nothing to do with oil -it’s all about the American ‘slaves’ freeing the Iraqi ‘slaves ‘?

    Dawkins is a good read and makes a lot of sense . Remind me again how Nietzsche ended his days ?

  • Greg, evidence that someone like Tyndale shaped future perceptions of Christianity is hardly evidence that religion is merely, and no more than a personal belief or individual perception. It seems that “non-believers” too are liable to illogical belief.

    You seem to blame war on religion, but I suspect it has as much to do with our tribal human nature — the same human nature that often looks for external causes to blame for our failings.

    Religion is for slaves? Of course. But faith is also for the free!

    Paul

  • merrie

    > Paisley may yet turn out to be the most practised and professional maestro of the art of ‘faddle fiddle ‘ in Irish history bar none .

    Sometimes when I think of Paisley’s recent turnaround I am reminded of Miler Magrath

  • merrie

    Greenflag:

    Forgot to mention I really like your poems. Keep them coming!

    Merrie

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Green Flag

    Re: Your criticism of “Religion is for Slaves” ~ What exactly is your point? And how do you imagine you have refutred Gregoir’s point with your sarcasm?

  • Greenflag

    Merrie ,

    ‘Sometimes when I think of Paisley’s recent turnaround I am reminded of Miler Magrath’

    Nah Paisley has’nt a patch on Miler Magrath . Anyway Miler made it to 100 while playing both sides of the religious and political divide -A class act in an uncertain age .

    On the other hand this is also an ‘uncertain ‘ age if only in the main politically uncertain – so if Paisley manages to be even a half Miler (pun intended) he’ll do well and might even make the 100 with his head still attached to the rest of his frame .

    The pub ‘pome ‘ by the way was not mine . And I’ve no idea where Vinnie Caprani got it from . I considered ‘adapting ‘ it to the present times that are in it -perhaps later . For in it’s own way this ‘pome’ tells us a truth which we all know anyway – i.e that life is simply black and white nor orange and green !

    BTW – This kind of ‘pome’ reflects something of the interests and humour of the ‘Dub’ in the pre TV age and maintains a lnk with the older tradition of street balladry , come all yes , and penny broadsheets . Alas this world is now just history 🙁

    It has been said of such plebian ballads that they are often more direct and realistic and more acutely aware of their social enviroment than the literary verse of ‘true’ poetry . It was sufficient if the ‘pome’ told the story and if the final word of each line rhymed with the preceding one – As Caprani writes
    ‘God help us , but sure what did we know of metrical feet , iambic pentameters , quatrains or the all encompassing ‘metaphysical themes projected in the unfillable interior spaces of self consciousness – now I ask yeh !

    Here’s another ‘sample ‘ on the ‘black and white theme or nayther one thing nor the other ethos ?

    And Who are We to Judge

    There are those whom all the world extols
    And those whom we despise
    The first we credit with the truth
    The rest we deem them liars
    The first are on the side of Right
    They’re noble and they’re pure
    The others on the side of wrong
    The criminal and the whore
    And so we draw a simple line
    Betwixt what’s wrong and right
    And we learn to make a simple choice
    Between the Black and White

    The barons of the Daily Press
    And the pulpit thumping priest
    All help our ready reckoning
    Of the mighty and the least
    But the printed page may tell a lie
    In it’s haste to hang a man
    And I’ve seen the bulge of belly greed
    Beneath the black soutane
    For silken gowns are splendid things
    To shroud the vice within
    While a poor man’s tattered shirt
    Can scare conceal his sin

    And I’ve seen a hint of holiness
    In a harlot’s helpless guile
    And I’ve spied the glint of lust
    In a Pharasaic smile
    So I do not wish to be a judge
    For I’ve troubles of my own
    And Jaysus knows I’d never wish
    To cast the sharpest stone
    I’m colour blind twixt black and white
    Don’t know where to draw the lines
    Between the good -between the bad
    When Christ himself declines .

  • Greenflag

    Chris Eastwood,

    ‘Your criticism of “Religion is for Slaves” ~ What exactly is your point? ‘

    Religion was/is practised not just by slaves but also by slave owners . The Hindu caste system is highly developed in this regard as was the former Southern USA States not to mention England during the early colonial period .

    ‘And how do you imagine you have refuted Gregoir’s point with your sarcasm?

    It did’nt need refuting -It was so obviously incorrect . Even as a skeptic of religion I would not castigate ‘believers’ as slaves .

  • Greenflag

    Correction above i.e that life is NOT simply black and white nor orange and green !

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Bear with me a second, lest I have missed something crucial here. Green Flag, I have always admired your intelectual contribution to this web log, but perhaps this time I have too much faith in you.

    Surely you are aware that the “slavery” Gregoir spoke of was of a very different sort than that you have referred to? Perghaps I am wrong, but when someone makes that cliched argument to me (namely, that religion is for slaves) I immediately recognise what they mean. they mean “slavery of the soul” or “slavery of the slef” or “slavery of the mind”…. nothing whatsoever to do with the historical phenomenon you have in mind.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Apologies for the atrocious spelling and grammar; i’m in a rush out the door! 😉

  • Greenflag

    ‘Surely you are aware that the “slavery” Gregoir spoke of was of a very different sort than that you have referred to? ‘

    So one is slavery of the mind and the other is slavery of the body .

    Question : Where is the mind ?
    Answer : In the body- reputedly located in and around the frontal cortex .Perhaps not in all cases 🙂

    The very concept of religion ultimately came out of the ‘mind’ of Homo Sapiens at some point in his evolutionary past . Are we to deduce therefrom that we are as human beings neurologically wired to be ‘slave minded ?. If we accept Gregoir’s description then we must be ! He may be right . There are some doubts now being cast by the cognoscenti as to whether or no our free will is really all that free anyway or merely a delusion which aids our survival and thus enables our DNA to replicate itself into the next generation . Gregoir might want to expand his generalisation from ‘religion is for slaves’ to ‘ to be human is to be a slave’ ! Not an inspiring thought no doubt but then some truths are like that

  • Fulbert

    ”The very concept of religion ultimately came out of the ‘mind’ of Homo Sapiens at some point in his evolutionary past.

    But from where did it originate? Is it enough to say that because of our current understanding of our biological make-up, we know all there is to know? Based on what we “know” now, is it all the proof we need? If this is the case then surely we are no different who made the same assumptions based on what they “knew”. Religion has been guilty of arrogance in the past, (and that’s putting it mildly!), assuming to have had all the answers. Now it appears that science has adopted the same role. However each is concerned with “belief”, science focusing on physics and religion focusing on metaphysics. Some are comfortable “believing” that we are the bi-product of a random event, others “believe” we are here by design but “belief” it is and the bible helps with this belief. Despite subsequent revisions, I think it is remarkable how it has stood the test of time. I didn’t get chance to see this program though I wish I had as it sounds like another program I remember the BBC doing a while ago now, a documentary hosted by Bamber Gasgoine, called something like “Jesus Without The Christ”. It too attempted to separate the physics from the meta-physics, the fact from the fiction and look at the bigger questions.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Greenflag

    The slavery I believe Gregoir had in mind was slavery in a metaphorical sense, perhaps some sort of voluntarily adopted metaphysical prison, demarcated by “bars of fear”; or the chains of a moral code, which restrict potential range of action, etc…. What’s more, I think you know that he meant this sort of slavery, a kind of “spiritual slavery” if you will…

    You mentioned in an earlier post that you think Dawkins “speaks a lot of sense”. Do you not see that he has shed these metaphorical chains and survived very well? Have I not? Have you not? If so, why dangle Nietzsche’s late-life mental trauma in a suggestive attempt to demonstrate the inevitability of a faith-bound humanity? To be human is not necessarily to be a slave…

    p.s~ Please don’t impute some sort of Cartesian dualism onto my argument. There is no contradiction between your point on mind/body and the type of slavery in question, and this should be obsious to a man of your intelligence.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Ok, i’ll concede that it shouldn’t be obsious, but it should be obvious! 😉

  • abucs

    Greenflag,

    i’d be a bit cautious in claiming everything comes down to ‘errors in the reproductive system’ acting in an environment that just luckily supports life and whose origin is scientifically unclear.

    I think we have come a long way in genetics since its founding by the Austrian monk Mendel. But in many ways we are still on the cusp of discovery and at the start of this science. As such it is a bit like the start of astronomy/astrology in that you can make a lot of arguements which support the outcome you favour yourself.

    At the start of astronomy/astrology we knew that the sun gave us warmth, energy, light, position, seasons. We knew that the moon gave us light during the night, controls the tides to clean and re-nourish the shorelines (and to cause some old people to act crazy – but thats another story).
    So why not say that Mars gives us agression/war and that Venus gives us desire/love ? We knew what the sun and moon gave us so it was not all that unreasonable to think that the planest gave us stuff too.

    Of course as the science progressed we understood that kind of thinking was crap. (Apoliges to all astrologers out there).

    In the same way i think genetics is a science more at the beginning than at the end and it can be used in similar ways. We know that there are many genetic characteristics we have from our evolutionary past, so why not religion too ?

    If you want, you could make a similar case for why genetics would preclude the idea of religion : A group sacrificing their first born or offering 10% of their harvests as sacrifice or wasting their time talking to an imaginary someone would have a distinct disadvantage. Being creatures of sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing it would be very un-likely that we would develop a world wide belief in something beyond the senses we can measure. And so it goes.

    Have your own ideas and use genetics to say why. I think we have to recognise that a lot of the genetic arguement is interesting, undoubtedly correct and needs research. But equally a lot of it is guesswork and like saying “wars occur because Mars was in a certain spot in the sky”.

    Before we know more about the science it’s hard to say – ‘that’s crap because A, B and C etc’.

    It is interesting that man is the only animal that thinks in terms of God, eternity and truth. Seeing that we are so closely related to other animals genetically, but this is a distinctly different characteristic and there are few genetic differences between us – if it is all genetics then this is a prime candidate for what has made us ourselves.

    Of course you could just publish a book and call is a virus as well. War, Mars anyone ?

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Beautiful post, Abucs… may I humbly recommend to you a recently released book that I think you will love. It’s called…

    The Music of Life – by Denis Noble

  • Greenflag

    Fulbert,

    ‘Some are comfortable “believing” that we are the bi-product of a random event, others “believe” we are here by design but “belief” it is and the bible helps with this belief.’

    Not quite the comparison I’d make . For those who choose the here by design thesis belief in an ultimate designer is a requirement . I accept that the bible helps with such belief. For those who choose the random event scenario there is more than enough scientific evidence out there at this point in time .

    ‘Is it enough to say that because of our current understanding of our biological make-up, we know all there is to know?

    I’m not making that claim . As I said I remain more than skeptical about the supernatural claims of ‘religion’ all religion while at the same time accepting that for many people their ‘religion’ provides purpose and comfort in life .

  • Greenflag

    Abucs ;

    Thanks for your post -some interesting points but I would’nt apologise to astrologers 🙂

    BTW -the fact that genetics is a science at it’s beginning is one that I’m aware of .

    ‘We know that there are many genetic characteristics we have from our evolutionary past, so why not religion too” ?

    At some point man acquired the gene for or had the gene ‘switched ‘ on through random mutation – which enabled ‘abstract thought . It would not be surprising if ‘religion’ was ‘born’ at the same time. The capacity for abstract thought gave man a huge advantage over the rest of the animal kingdom and competing Homonid species.

    ‘It is interesting that man is the only animal that thinks in terms of God , eternity and truth.

    Because he’s the only animal who can by reason of the ‘mutation’ referred to above .

    The genome for man’s closest ‘genetic ‘ cousin Homo Neanderthalensis is being ‘written’ up and this will enable researchers to hone in on the small differences in DNA areas between the two species and help to explain why Homo Neanderthalensis is no longer around .

  • Greenflag

    Addendum :

    Perhaps Homo Neanderthalensis missed out on the random mutation which would have led to ‘abstract thought’ and thus ultimately in a ‘belief in a God ‘ culture ?

    Imagination can take one only so far and perhaps ‘religion’ as we know it has reached the end of it’s ‘survival’ value in western and far eastern societies at least ?

  • Religion has far from reached the end of its ‘survival’ value in eastern societies.In fact in the part of the East where I am, the locals cannot imagine a person not having a religion!

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Ah Freud summed it all up when he said that god was a result of human invention. Humans dreamed up an idea of god because they needed a father figure to whom to look for protection.

    As Nietzsche said…’Is Man God’s mistake, or is God Man’s mistake’.

    I think the latter is the case.

  • Then who invented Kali?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Methinks the Reformation was a valid protest about the Catolic Church, but to place such an historically inaccurate and contradictory book at the centre of a faith, claiming it was written by devine guidance, the ideology falls down flat.

    People can be gullible!

  • Then try the Upanishads instead!

  • Christopher Eastwood

    lol… ok , ok…

    No one is doubting the value of myths… but myths they remain. It is as the Joseph Campbell said:

    [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKR90Y_hjpc[/url]

  • Fulbert

    Greenflag,

    “…there is more than enough scientific evidence out there at this point in time… “

    Is that what you believe? I have some sympathy with the points you are making. I too am skeptical of the supernatural claims by various belief systems. One concern I have is in the same way that many appear to have a blind, unquestioning acceptance of their particular religion, there appears to be a similar acceptance by many of what science tells us. Science does not have all the questions. At times it may seem as though it does but then something comes along to blow previously held knowledge out of the water. How many years did we believe the world was flat? What is the purpose of “Science”? In searching to answer the question “how”, is it looking for the “truth” (a metaphysical question)?

    Religion is certainly able to provide purpose and comfort, but it is far more than that. It provides guidance; a sense of right and wrong. In our increasingly secular society, being told what we are doing is wrong may not be popular but that’s was religion offers. It is about the bigger questions of right and wrong. In a society where “relativism” rules, each person is left to make up their own mind what is right and what is wrong and look at the state of the world! I can’t help but feel what a better place the world would be if more people who followed the big world faiths, were to actually practice what the same beliefs systems teach.

  • abucs

    Thanks Christopher, i’ll make a note of the title. I always like a good read.

    Greenflag,
    Yeah, i can understand your thoughts even if i don’t share all of them. Would be good to have a few pints with you and we’d sort it all out. :o)

    You make a valid point about lots of people in the west thinking they have ‘moved on’ from religion. You may be right about parts of the East too but i am in the Philippines now and at the basilica in Cebu the week before last celebrating passover and they had a mass at the basilica every hour with 8000 people in attendance at each service. They’ve built grandstands outside of the basilica to fit everyone in. It actually felt good to not have ‘moved on’. :o)