LETTER: In the vernacular

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From Mr Gregory Paul Morris

Sir: In response to R. V. Wells (letter, 6 December), the Roman church actively sponsored Latin translations of the "original" Hebrew scriptures in the 16th century, as the translation of Santes Pagninus and the Alcala and Complutensian Polyglot Bibles testify. We owe a great debt to Sebastian Muenster, another early Roman Catholic Hebraist, whose Latin translation was one of the favoured cribs of those who produced the Authorised Version.

The Church was increasingly suspicious of Judaising influences, however, and became rabidly hostile to the concept of a Bible that mediated the sacred writings to the ploughboy and the artisan without the help of an unlearned and superstitious clergy. Nowhere was the Roman church more zealous in trying to quash the vernacular Bible than in England: Sir Thomas More claimed that Tyndale's New Testament had thousands of errors, whereas modern scholars can appreciate how advanced it was in its day.

Yours faithfully,

Gregory P. Morris

St Mary's College

St Andrews, Fife