Did the pope forbid English translations of the Bible?


Can someone help me or steer me in the right direction to research this? A local Protestant station had a guest who claimed that (and he qualified it by saying he wasn’t trying to be “anti-Catholic” but just wanted to state history as we know it) the pope - don’t know which one - came out against the first English translation of the Bible which he was maintaining had such an impact in the spread of Christianity. When the host, who was being sincere, asked ‘do we really know and have statements from the pope saying that he was against this?’ the guest said he did. When asked why it was the pope would be against this, his response was that if English translations fell into the hands of regular people, they’d see through the man made traditions and see the true Gospel. :eek:

What is the real history here? I am sure the pope, if he was against anything, was against heretical translations of the Bible. When were the first English, Catholic approved translations done? Anyone know anything about this?


Well, it is hard to refute something without the supposed “facts” (particular popes, dates, bible editions, et cetera), but hopefully someone here will back up your hypothesis of *particular *heretical translations being denounced (sounds familiar to me too, I just don’t keep those facts in my head).

That said: The whole thing sounds like so much ethnocentric claptrap to me. :twocents:

Oooooooh, a dangerous *English *bible! It will influence the spread of Christianity through all of…England…? When was this supposed to have happened? I’m pretty sure that until the colonial era started up English was pretty much confined to England. It surely did not become the *lingua franca *of the world until the last century (prior to that was French or Latin, yeah?). :ehh:



If I’ve time today or tomorrow I’ll look through my notes. (Drat, I should have saved them.) But suffice it to say that the Church commissioned several translations even before the printing press. Some that were done outside of Church guidance were done by those who did not even know the original languages and tended to confuse rather than clarify. When it was a rare thing for a parish even to have one full copy of the all of the texts and most of the people could not read is it any wonder that the numbers of volumes weren’t plentiful. The numbers of copies of Bibles did not increase exponentially until two things began to happen. First, an increasing number of persons could read. Second, the printing press was invented.

It is very wearisome to have to defend against so many lies and half truths and conspiracy theories from those who have an agenda of destroying the Church. It really began with the Enlightenment when it became clear that several cynical power hungry men knew that the only way that they could have unbridaled power was to destroy the Church. It continues today. Take comfort in Jesus’ words from John 16 “In the world you have trouble or tribulation. But take heart I have overcome the world already.”



Well, the existence of the Douay-Reims refutes that allegation.

In fact, there were many vernacular bibles in use throughout all of the history of the Church.

Various Popes have certainly censured inaccurate translations that could mislead people-- that is his job.

Here’s an article on the subject:



There were certain vernacular translations that were denounced at certain points in history, but as others have pointed out, there were other vernacular translations in existence. It has never been forbidden to render a vernacular translation.

Not only is this ethnocentric, but it is also elitist. Think about the actual impact of keeping an English translation under wraps in the middle-ages. First off, English was only spoken in England, and the overwhelming majority of people alive couldn’t read anyway. Those who WERE fortunate enough to be educated and literate could ALL read and write in Latin anyway, so the whole point becomes quite silly from a logical approach in a great big hurry.


One other thing I forgot to mention. As Catholics the Bible is read to us at every mass. Even if you are completely illiterate, and do nothing more than attend mass, the Bible will have been pretty much read to you in about 3 years. How can anyone keep the Word of God from people while at the same time reading it to them on a regular basis ? The more you think about this, the more absurd it becomes really !


The Pope did not forbid the English translation of the Bible. However, the Church did not support any Bible translation that contain errors. During the advent of the printing prints early translation of the Bible into the Vulgar language contain many errors. The Church guidelines states that it must have footnotes and explanations.

Early Translation like the Wycliff Bible contain errors. The Church love the Bible so much that they want the Bible to be as accurate and without error when it is translated into the native language of the people.


Would you want your children to read a bible that mistranslates John 1:1c as the “word was a god” or would you want them to read an authoritised translation which correctly translates John 1:1c as the “Word was God”? In the mind of the church, it was reading an unauthorized translation that taught things contray to what they viewed to be sound doctrine or reading a bible that is authorized, and inaccordance with authorized doctrine.


My firends,

We’ve probably given all of the techinal and accurate answers to the charges that are necessary. What do you want to bet that these evangelists will stick with Jack Chic and the other anti-Catholic propagandists rather than even consider these historical truths. After all, opinion is the engine of both Protestantism and Capitalism.

The Church stands on one side of a great chasm. We believe that truth is, and is knowable, and will set us free.

Our enemies consider truth to be a metaphor for whatever opinion sells at any given time.

'tis a shame.



that doesn’t sound right at all. there are probably three reasons why everyone did not have a bible of their own

Most people in those days did not know how to read, so they relied on their Priests to teach them scripture

the printing machines did not exist yet so it was harder to have the bible available for everyone.

Bibles were probably more expensive because they were hand written.


Yeah, I’ve heard the hysterical accusation that, “Under the Papists, there was only one complete Bible in all of Europe!” Do you know how heavy a vellum book is? To have just the Gospels in one volume would’ve been pretty hefty. And paper would be right out; it doesn’t hold up well enough to make the hand-copying labor worthwhile.

Have you ever tried to copy in calligraphy with a dip pen (not a modern one with the ink already inside) even something short? Plus, everything had to be checked and rechecked for copying mistakes. Bibles were VERY expensive because of both the time and the materials it took to create one. It was a very generous gift (and only affordable to the nobility, generally) to commission the creation of a new copy of the Bible for the local parish.

A good modern comparison would be the creation of a new Torah scroll for a synagogue. The local paper had an article about this a while back. Everything was checked and rechecked. If an error was made in a name of God, the entire page had to be ritually burned and started over (other errors can be sanded off the vellum). The copyists prayed before beginning work each day. It took five men nine years to finish it!

Harder to give everyone their own? It was impossible! And pointless; almost nobody could read. Until the establishment of the cathedral schools, most of the nobles couldn’t even read.

And plenty of translations were suppressed (even under Protestant kings) for errors.
“Thou shalt commit adultery.” oops…
the evils of “publishers and powers”… instead of “principalities”

Excellent article from This Rock on Wycliff and Tyndale’s lousy Bible translations.

I can’t find it right now, but I read an article on this subject that ended up by pointing out that Guttenberg’s first commission for his new invention was for a German translation of the Gospels… for the local Catholic bishop!


Point of personal privilege here? Only with the new lectionary is the Bible read through in one year. In the good ol’ days it was a one year cycle, and the OT was virtually omitted.


Everyone here has given good responses. The facts are that several Popes objected to versions of the Bible that were basically bad translations. Some even had additions and/or deletions unilaterally done by the translators.

This was mostly prior to the printing press. At the time bibles were copied by Monks. It took a monk 6 months to a year to produce one bible. That is full time work. Paper in those days as expensive. The good paper used for Bibles was extremely expensive. I read recently that one of those old hand made Bibles would have cost a minimum of $8,000 in today’s money. I think that $8,000 is very low in today’s money if we are taking into consideration that it took a man one year of full-time labor. In my estimation it would have even $20,000 to $40,000 to cover a man’s labor and material. The book had to hand written. The copies did a hash-check on each page by counting every continent (I think that each continent has a different values… So an A might have been the number 1 and a z the number 26 for example) … the hash count on each page had to be the same.
This is the practice that was used throughout Jewish and Christian history to ensure the accuracy of every page copied.

Apparently it worked since the Dead Sea Scrolls verify the accuracy of modern copies of scripture. This, by the way, is the same method we use today to verify the accuracy of computer file content. When we pass around packets of info or entire files, we generally pass the hash value with it. The receiver verifies the hash by recounting the data. It is an extremely accurate method of checking data. And the Bible copyists did this for ever page.
Another distortion you will hear about the CC and the Bible in those days was that the CC wanted to prevent people from having the Bible so they allowed only one copy per parish and it was chained down so that no one could read it. The tail goes on to say that only the priest was allowed to read the bible.
Remember that a good lie always has a kernel of truth in it. Then the mistruth is spun off the truth. Thus the lie is harder to separate from the fantasy.

The truth is that the CC did used to chain copies of the bible to the church wall. It is also true that every parish usually had only one copy of the Bible. While it sounds terrible in today’s environment it made perfect sense in those days.

Bibles were extremely expensive and hard to come by as I showed above. So most small parishes could only afford one copy. That copy was a prime target for thieves because they could get a good price for it form a fence. So to protect their very valuable, rare, only copy the parishes would chain them to the Church wall. Perhaps, with the expense and rarity of a Parish Bible, a priest was careful who he allowed to touch the bible. I don’t know, but I would be if I were a priest in those days. It had to be handled delicately to ensure that it lasted decades in a parish where there were hundreds of members.

Now about only the priest being allowed to read the bible. As others have stated here, most people in those days were not educated. They could not read. Those who could read were usually educated in schools and monasteries run by the CC. So they not only spoke and read Latin, the language of the Vulgate, but the Vulgate was one of the books required in the education of every student. So every educated person was raised reading the bible from the first year of their education.

Education in Europe was not only the province of the wealthy. Early on the CC (meaning the popes) ordered that all monasteries make a free education available to every young boy/man who requested it. They were not allowed to ask for anything from the boy’s family, not one chicken or gold piece… most of the parents hardly had that to spare anyway. So many hundreds of thousands of young men who would have never learned to read received a free education from the Catholic Church… this changed the fact of Europe in many ways. And every one of these young me read and studied the bible and theology from day one.

As soon as the printing press was invented…. The church started printing out copies of the bible in many languages. These were available to anyone who could afford them. Churches then had many copies for people to use.

I’ve even had non-Catholics try to tell me that the CC does not allow Catholics to own bibles today. I tell them that my family has had copies of the bible for generations that I know. I’ve seen the bibles owned and used by my great grand parents. Their response is to usually call me a liar. Some people are not interested in the truth about the CC. They lies help feed a hate they seem to need.


Another point about the English Bible. It was King Henry VIII who banned the English bible. Why?

Because at first he encouraged everyone to own one and read it. But after a time it was causing street and bar brawls as people with little theological background were fighting over their personal interpretations of the bible. To stop the brawls and the blasphemy that were occurring… King Henry banned private ownership of the bible.

After hanging out in forums like these, King Henry may have had a point. :hmmm: :smiley:


Well said Gardening Mommy, well said:thumbsup: The Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota commissioned the very first completely illuminated calligraphed Bible in modern times and it took five years for one Bible.


Long before the Douay-Rheims, long before Wycliff, way way back before 1066, the Anglo-Saxons had a full translation of the Gospels into Old English before 1000 AD.

But as we all know the Bible in English didn’t exist before King James or did it?




The Heritage Edition is now available for subscription in prepublication at $115,000.00 through April 31, 2008.

That’s a bit costly.


Actually though there were portions of the Bible in English before the Wycliff Bible it was the first. It is doubtful if Wycliff himself actually did any of the translation. It actually was a good translation. What the Church found offensive was the introduction. Copies with the introduction remove were permitted. The King James Bible was far from the first in English. There was the Coverdale/Tyndale Bible, the Matthew Bible, the Bishops Bible, trhe Great Bible, the Geneva Bible and the Douhay-Rheims.


Catholics shouldn’t own/read a Bible?

Funny… my copy of the Bible (St. Joseph’s Edition of the NAB) has a citation from Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 1968 edition, no. 50 saying, “A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who use Sacred Scripture for spiritual reading with the veneration due the word of God. A plenary indulgence is granted if the reading continues for at least one half hour.”


I know I was very surprised when Prodestants started telling me that the CC would not allow me to read the bible. I ‘love’ it when Prodestants tell me what we believe and do. :shrug:


Quite frankly, I’m 33 years old, and I’m fed up with Protestants.

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