LETTER: Early versions of the Bible

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From Mr Arthur Hammond

Sir: I notice that, in attempting to portray the medieval church as making Bible study by lay people its foremost concern, the Rev Gilbert Marcus OP (Letters, 1 December) is eloquently and wisely silent about the situation in England. Here it was the particular concern of the clerical and lay authorities to eradicate unofficial translations while refusing to provide an official one.

John Wycliffe's unofficial translation of the Vulgate was suppressed and those who owned a copy were persecuted. William Tyndale was not allowed to make an official translation so he went to the European mainland to make an unofficial one. Cuthbert Tunstall, the unreformed Bishop of London, burnt as many copies of Tyndale's work as he could lay his hands on - one reason why copies are so rare today. Yet the English church authorities would sanction no authorised translation - until they were reformed (and we do not need inverted commas around that word, thank you Fr Marcus).

Yours faithfully,

Arthur Hammond


East Sussex

1 December