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Ansty Church in summer

As is the habit of my tribe, as Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees said when queried about attending Trinity College Chapel, to the village church on a warm December day, the valley lazily misted, the cars parked in the adjoining field sufficient to judge the size of the congregation: a village affair, with no visiting musicians. The Saxon way up the valley has known settlements since the Iron Ages, with the hill fort of Castle Ditches visible on the Northern horizon. The Knights Hospitaller started building in 1211, forming a Commandery with a Preceptor, two Knights, a Chaplain, three minor clerics, an Esquire and six servants. Fast forward to 1898 and the first Vicar appointed after the Reformation, Quartus Bacon, served for 38 years. Now there is one visiting vicar, who circulates round the remaining village congregations, and tours of priestly duty seem to last no more than 3 years. The church was completed in 1230, speedy work, because that was 25 years sooner than the completion of Salisbury cathedral, which had lately moved from Sarum, though admittedly that is a somewhat larger building. A fishpond provided carp, a useful innovation for an ancient settlement. Change can bring advantages.

The Hospice was also an advantage, tending pilgrims on their way through the Forest of Selwood to the Abbey of Shaftesbury, a Saxon redoubt, and giving them a night’s food and lodging in exchange for hearing their news. Such were the high costs of wanting to keep in touch in an age when knowledge traveled slowly by foot. These were the real tales which Chaucer picked up and embellished a century and a half later, and wrote down in a book, another innovation.

By common agreement, after the difficulties of last Christmas, the carols had been chosen to be familiar, and within the range of the average singer. As a consequence, the finer points of theology were cast aside, and the emphasis was on the words being well-connected to the music. A congregation is a frail thing in these parts, apt to be embarrassed and easily browbeaten into bemused silence by novel rhythms, strained tonal ranges, and complex compositions of any sort. Religion is seen as a quietly personal matter, best addressed by avoiding church on all but high occasions, at which times the familiar Christmas numbers are to be belted out, in expiation of general laxity, and in propitiation of such gods as may be listening.

In contrast, the lessons were in the flat tones of the required modern everyday English, and not the King James version, which is the real bible for most Anglo-Saxons, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that Jesus spoke English that way, as any decent person should. God’s secretaries, as the King James version scholars were later called, made sure their prose was read out loud, choosing language which was already archaic, on the basis that, when talking about olden times, the best time-transporter was olden language itself. Anything that did not stir the soul on being read out was dropped for something more sonorous. It was very meet, right and their bounden duty so to do.

Was it because of the bland words of ordinary language that the birth story being recounted to us became thoroughly perplexing? It sounded like an overheard conversation on a bus: A woman of advancing age finds herself pregnant and her husband, doubtful as to how this transpired, is about to eject her. She is said to be a virgin, but (hard to be sure, because some text seems to be missing here) another woman of her age who was said to be barren is now well advanced in her own pregnancy, so this must be borne in mind. After a dream, all is resolved, because the woman is especially favoured.

Perhaps the story, shorn of the beauty and authority of the King James Bible, had become more English and had even ascended to being Very English, thus: somewhere in the provinces something odd had been going on with an old couple’s sexual relationships, and it was best not to ask too many questions, but just to celebrate their good fortune in having a child. Least said, soonest mended.

The manifest improbability of the account, and the surviving text’s clear doubts about the whole convoluted matter, plus the assorted search for exonerating circumstances, and the undoubted but hardly relevant fact that some elderly mothers go on to confound those who have told them they cannot bear children, seemed a slim basis for the spectacular claims attached to the midwinter event. In psychological terms, these absurdities are a great advantage. Anyone crude enough to speculate that the elderly woman had consorted with a young assistant carpenter behind her husband’s back could be told off for their lack of understanding. Indeed, anyone pointing out that the story was odd could be silenced by condemnation and ostracism. “Just you dare to give the obvious explanation” the lessons seemed to threaten. It reminded me of another topic: the faux innocent demand to explain why different people have different successes in life, but asked in a way which strongly suggests that it would be improper to suggest it is because they differ in ability and character.

One feature of religious and political conviction is to set tests of belief as selection devices, the odder the better. Improbable creation myths, promises about the facilities available in the after-life, and miracles of one sort or another. The psychological account is that when prophesy fails the doubters leave and the believers are fired up with renewed conviction, if only to assuage lurking doubts, and in order to resolve their internal contradictions they go out to proselytize. If they manage to hook another believer into their church their own doubts are temporarily assuaged. Does anyone believe in cognitive dissonance anymore? I always found Festinger’s theories about self-justification very useful, but am ready to be told that they no longer replicate. Is nothing sacred?

Without the previous year’s influx of unknown parents beaming at their children as they stumbled through the readings, the sole local girl reader mastered the text with aplomb. As usual, the oldest readers did best, the language of their own parents shining through their renditions. “The Messi-ahh”, the male reader enunciated, in received pronunciation, and all was well, as the waters cover the sea. The Vicar, sensing that this fair-weather congregation had come for a sing-song and not a sermon was sparing with her religiosity, but asked us to pray for our Bishops, which she did on a first name basis only, so I cannot tell you who they are, and where each stands on contentious ecumenical matters. They sounded as if they were men, but of unknown provenance.

In contrast, on the wall by the entrance the surnames were painted on a commemorative wooden scroll. A mere century ago the young men of the village went off to the first of the world wars, and many of the families still survive in the locality today: Alford, Bailey, Baker, Brain, Butt, Clarke, Cox, Edwards, Feltham, Gray, Gurd, Jay, Jenkins, Kerley, Lever, Macey, Moxham, Mounty, Munday, Parsons, Pike, Randell, Rixon, Shepherd, Stainer, Tucker. 9 died out of the 44 who signed up, a death rate of 20%. The overall death rate for British troops was 10% so they either bravely volunteered for front line operations or just had very bad luck.

Incidentally, perhaps one should not get too wrapped up in history. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols dates back to only 1918, when it was hoped it would bring in a more imaginative approach to worship. In terms of English Christianity, it is a recent innovation.

At the end the Vicar paused, beamed at us, and prepared to give us our Christmas blessing, at which point the organist launched into the cheerful tunes of dismissal. I commiserated with her over a drink later. “I was only going to say Merry Christmas” she lamented. I assured her that her intentions had been sensed by the congregation, but that our services moved in a mysterious way.

In terms of demographics, the congregation of about 45 souls had the one young girl who read the lesson, her 19 year old brother, one 30 year old, but was otherwise skewed in the 45 to 93 years old direction, with a peak towards the latter years. There was one farming couple, one neighbour whose grandfather served in the Great War, but few of the rest had been born in the Parish. All congregants were Anglo-Saxon.

Leaving the church, a celebrant said it felt as if this was one of the last village services, and the end of an age.

In Church Going Philip Larkin worried:

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was.


Larkin well understood that he should make sure that “nothing was going on inside” before entering any church, furtive and hatless, and removing his bicycle clips in reverence. However, he wrote his gloomy reflections in 1954, so the candle of Christianity in the British Isles has taken its time in flickering out, and illuminates still.

At the very end of the Carol Service, Hark the Herald Angels Sing was given such a lusty rendition that it must have blasted through the oak door, across the carp pond and then up the valley. The confidence of the music banished theological doubts, and for an instant on that misty Sunday the congregation was fixed in the spirit of place, and in history.


Merry Christmas

• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Christianity, Christmas 
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  1. Anonymous [AKA "Sam Schulman"] says: • Website

    Jews sensitive to language, including many scholars, have long judged the King James Version to be the best English translation of the Hebrew Bible, which is far more difficult to translate. If it’s good enough for us, it should be good enough for the Church of England, dammit!

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
    , @pyrrhus
  2. A powerful endorsement. The Church of England have decided to drop majesty and adopt matiness.

  3. TheJester says:

    The Church of England has more sins on its shoulders than disputes over the “proper” translation of the Old testament. It’s governing principle appears to be, “God wants me to be happy … therefore, whatever makes me happy is what God wants me to do.”

    This is perhaps a bit too general and generous to be the governing principle of a church presuming to distribute moral guidance. What guidance? Indeed, it is equivalent to the universal: “Only I can know what makes me happy. Therefore, if I sense happiness in this rather than that, it is what God wants me to do. The will to power: I AM the arbitrator of my/the moral universe.”

    Hence, as a point of logic, the guidance based on this principle is not the empty set; it is not the convergence of sets; it is infinity that captures the range of all possible human behaviors — radical solipsism, relativism. Within that range, where is there room for discrimination and guidance?

    Posturing Man elevated to the status of God afflicts the modern Protestant churches, to include the English, the overseas Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Methodist, etc., churches. However, it is Nietzsche’s caution that if YOU are God (and that other God is functionally dead in your life), there are logical and moral implications and consequences for you and everyone else in society, most of which, as we have learned from experience — the Nazis being a personification of this principle, are unlikely to make you or anyone else happy or moral.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  4. Anonymous [AKA "HappyAcres"] says:

    You’re going to be a fine addition here, James. Bravo!

  5. @Anonymous

    King James is a horrific collection of mistranslations by-what else–a committee. Except of course what they stole from Tyndale, whi ch wasn’t half bad.

    The best translations of the Old and New Testaments into the verncular are Jerome’s in Latin and Luther’s into German, hands down.

    If your interested merely in translations, get cracking now on the hic haec hoc and Die daz rehte singen stoerent, y’hear?

  6. Ah, Philip Larkin–the clandestinely randy, misanthropic librarian. His Aubade, by the way, cannot hold a candle for liveliness to Empson’s of the same name, which Larkin no doubt knew and which may even be part of the joke, poor chap.

    Yes, Aubades are a type but some are matched sets, before and after.

    Having fast forwarded to 1898, cut to 2008 and a sterling interview with Michelle Goldberg about the Megachurch in the new hemisiphere where she found Christian Nationalism:

  7. dearieme says:

    “1898 and the first Vicar appointed after the Reformation”: my God that’s a leisurely pace. Thomas Cromwell should hang his head in shame. If only he still had one.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas, doc, and please do pass that sentiment on to Bishops Billie, Bobbie, and Bertie.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  8. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    It was very meet, right and their bounden duty so to do.

    The Internet allows easy comparison of all the main versions, and when I had a look at them it took me no time to prefer the King James version.

    I wonder if it is only coincidence Dr. James Thompson writes a little like the King James was written.

    • Replies: @another fred
  9. As dearieme says–Merry Christmas, doc, and keep up the good work.

  10. pyrrhus says:

    The great mystery (to me at least) is how the solemn group that produced the King James Bible could have could have found so much wonderful poetry springing from their translation.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  11. @dearieme

    The Arundels followed the old faith.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  12. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    “The Arundels followed the old faith.” Ah, Jews? Or at least Orthodox? Or mere Johnny-come-lately Roman Catholics?

    Come to think of it, here’s some arithmetic. Assuming that Christianity first came to what is now England sometime before 400 A.D., then England was (in part) Catholic – in the old sense of Catholic Christianity vs Arian Christianity – from 400 (or earlier) to 1054, when the Roman Catholic Church broke away from the old Catholicism, leaving the latter to be renamed as Orthodox. So the old Catholic church lasted let’s say about 650 years in England.

    That may seem to be an overestimate to people who like to draw a distinction between one or more forms of Celtic Christianity and Catholicism: they might like to work the year of the Synod of Whitby (664 A.D.) into the calculation. No doubt followers of various paganisms were more numerous than the devotees of any flavour of Christianity until some time in the Dark Ages. Still, it would seem reasonable to say that the dominant form of Christianity in (what is now) England was old Catholicism, in one flavour or another, for 650 years or more.

    Then Roman Catholicism lasted until the Act of Supremacy of 1534 when it was transformed into a sort of English Catholicism. You might reasonably date the transformation of that into an idiosyncratic form of Protestantism to the accession of Edward VI in 1547, so that English Catholicism lasted not much more than a decade. There was a reversion to Roman Catholicism under Bloody Mary 1553-58. So Roman Catholicism was in the saddle for (1534 – 1054) + 5 = 485 years. Anglicanism might reasonably be attributed to Edward VI’s reign (6 years) plus the years since Elizabeth I’s accession, giving (2016 – 1558) + 6 = 464 years in the saddle. Something ought to be subtracted, I suppose, for the spell of rule by Cromwell’s unmerry men.

    Anyway, at some point in the present century – unless the C of E is disestablished to be replaced by the Umma – it will have been in the saddle for longer than Roman Catholicism was. Put another way, somewhere around 450-650 years seems so far to be about the lifespan of long-lasting dominance by any one form of Abrahamic religion in England, so the Umma may not be long delayed.

    Do you know, I’ve never seen that calculation done before. How odd.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Rich
    , @SFG
    , @Philip Owen
  13. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Do you know, I’ve never seen that calculation done before. How odd.

    Because few share your assumptions.

    I’d also wonder to what extent the C of E is still in the saddle; having no longer any real connection to the government, aren’t CoEs in the same boat with RCs and the rest of us?

    May she* never founder, though!

    *The boat in the previous sentence.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  14. dearieme says:

    “Because few share your assumptions.” Which assumptions do you have in mind?

    By “in the saddle” I meant, as I thought might be obvious, being “the dominant form of Christianity” or, to generalise, of Abrahamic religion.

    • Replies: @Anon
  15. @E. A. Costa

    Tyndale was indeed the source for much of the KJV translation committee’s work. But it wasn’t exactly stolen. The KJV was developed using the “Matthew’s Bible” (and others) which is, itself, taken from Tyndale’s work. The Matthew’s Bible contains a giant, showy, “W.T.” in the flyleaf. A picture of it is available on Google images. I’ve read (somewhere, once upon a time) that the same thing appeared in certain versions of original KJV Bibles, but I have not personally seen that and couldn’t find any images of it. Consider that highly doubtful.

    Here’s a link to an image of Tyndale’s initials in Matthew’s Bible.

  16. jtgw says:

    It is an ancient Christian tradition to refer to individuals by the given, i.e. “Christian”, name only, so I would not expect e.g. bishops to be called by anything other than their first names. However, what offends me is the current fashion of referring to individuals by diminutives or nicknames, even in prayers of commemoration where the unabridged form of the name should be used.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  17. Anon • Disclaimer says:


    I’m not going to say it is incorrect, not being a theologian, but you must agree that your dating scheme is unusual, to say the least!

    I appreciate the clarification in re saddles. For a laugh on that topic, see this: .

    I originally wrote a longer reply, but my browser ate it and I took the fact as a sign that this is not a time for controversy, so, without further ado, Merry Christmas!


    • Replies: @dearieme
  18. @Anon

    I wonder if it is only coincidence Dr. James Thompson writes a little like the King James was written.

    That line is from the Book of Common Prayer.

  19. @E. A. Costa

    The best translations of the Old and New Testaments into the vernacular are Jerome’s in Latin and Luther’s into German, hands down.

    I find the New English Bible to be both readable and pretty good prose, well footnoted as to the various possible translations and the difference in the early sources. Not that my high school Latin enables me to read Jerome – German is right out.

    And Merry Christmas, Dr. Thompson.

    • Replies: @utu
  20. dearieme says:

    And Joyeux Noël to you too, old horse.

  21. FKA Max says:

    Religion is seen as a quietly personal matter, best addressed by avoiding church on all but high occasions, at which times the familiar Christmas numbers are to be belted out, in expiation of general laxity, and in propitiation of such gods as may be listening.

    Barcelona (1994) protestant church

    Anyone crude enough to speculate that the elderly woman had consorted with a young assistant carpenter behind her husband’s back could be told off for their lack of understanding. Indeed, anyone pointing out that the story was odd could be silenced by condemnation and ostracism. “Just you dare to give the obvious explanation” the lessons seemed to threaten. It reminded me of another topic: the faux innocent demand to explain why different people have different successes in life, but asked in a way which strongly suggests that it would be improper to suggest it is because they differ in ability and character.

    barcelona (1994) – perfect scores

    Merry Christmas!

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    , @Dave Pinsen
  22. Rich says:

    Roman Catholicism broke away from old Catholicism? Sorry my friend, you have the story backwards. But I wonder if that’s how our cousins from the East see their schismatic break from the One True Faith.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    , @Anonymous
  23. utu says:
    @another fred

    “The best translations”

    From what? What have been translated?

    The best in terms of accuracy or language?

    • Replies: @another fred
  24. Dan Hayes says:
    @FKA Max

    FKA Max:

    I don’t understand your reference to an “elderly” woman consorting with an assistant carpenter
    behind her husband’s back. Are you referring to Elizabeth? Surely not the Virgin Mary who has always been represented as a young maidan.

    • Replies: @SLM
  25. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @FKA Max

    That’s my favorite of Whit Stillman’s films, by far.

  26. polistra says:

    I’ve been kvetching about Unz pieces being too long and verbose. This one is too brief. The bit about 1898 and Reformation is confusing, and “the difficulties of last Christmas” deserves more explanation.

    Maybe we need a new acronym for “too brief; wanted more” …. or maybe I shouldn’t have kvetched about length in the first place.

    • Replies: @iffen
  27. Members of this congregation may not agree with the author’s super-sophisticated religious rant.

  28. dearieme says:

    One patriarchate (Rome) broke away from the other four (Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Constantinople, the latter being the home of Christianity as a state religion). So, yeah, the Roman Catholics flounced out.

    But if you insist on seeing it the other way round, it’s no skin off my nose. You probably believe all that rubbish about Peter and Paul founding the Roman church too, and being martyred for it.

    • Agree: Che Guava, RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @Rich
  29. I told the vicar at my mother’s funeral that he wouldn’t have my funeral unless he guaranteed to use only the 1662 (or earlier – say Cranmer 1549) Book of Common Prayer and the KJV, and had the sound system fixed so telecoil would work on my hearing aids. But that was 16 years ago so he may have forgotten or be a she by now. (I have kept the sheet music I found for the organist so we could sing Psalm 23 to Brother James’s Air including soprano descant and the Triumphal March from Aida to see her out. Didn’t I get the Battle Hymn of the Republic in somewhere too?).

  30. SFG says:

    Would your average English peasant have had any idea what went on in the Great Schism? The Eastern Roman Empire was very, very far away. I doubt anyone in most villages would have even seen France in person.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  31. @jtgw

    The bishops are the successors to the Apostles. They are wedded to the Church, and traditionally deemed to lose their surnames upon enthronement.

    • Replies: @jtgw
    , @Alden
  32. Excellent commentary. It is good to feel moved like this. Thank you.

  33. @utu

    There are a lot of old fragments and letters that have different words in some places, these are footnoted. Also some of the words in Koine have variant or unsure meanings.

    The Introduction to the New Testament reads “In assessing the evidence, the translators have taken into account (a) ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in Greek, (b) manuscripts of early translations into other languages, and (c) quotations from the New Testament by early Christian writers.”

    E. A. Costa used the word “best” , maybe you should ask him about that.

  34. Damn I hate this style of writing : fifty disjointed facts and subjects crammed into one sentence.
    Sort of like musicians who try and pack as many notes into one measure without saying anything whatsoever.
    Golden rule of communication : One subject, one thought pattern at a time.

    Authenticjazzman, “Mensa” society member of forty-plus years and pro jazz artist.

  35. Sam Shama says:

    [ …]King James version, which is the real bible for most Anglo-Saxons, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that Jesus spoke English that way, as any decent person should.

    Is it really reasonable a claim that Jesus spoke English that way? I think not; not so even the vernacular of the halls of Holywell Manor, Balliol, for that matter.

    Think of Lamb, Johnson, Chaucer and Dickens. Better yet, think of the English saints; one need not recite the splendid catalogue of saints who have written their names on the noble old city churches, does one?

    Dr Thompson, they were all Cockney; so we need a Bible in Cockney.

    Happy Christmas!

    • Replies: @iffen
  36. SLM says:
    @Dan Hayes

    I was similarly confused. An elderly woman isn’t part of the story, unless we’re talking about Elizabeth, but the remarks seem to be about Jesus’ mother.

    • Agree: Dan Hayes
  37. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    A true American.

    • Replies: @Anonymous Nephew
  38. jtgw says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    Well, I’m not sure if that’s the case in the Anglican tradition. In the “traditionalist” churches (Catholic and Orthodox) bishops may have taken new names if they come from a monastic order (always the case for Orthodox bishops, sometimes the case for Catholic bishops); Catholic popes have for centuries also taken a new name at consecration.

    But I’m saying that, even in the Anglican Church, where monasticism and the tradition of replacing one’s baptismal name long ago died out (until the 19th century traditionalist revival at any rate), bishops who still possess surnames would not be referred to by surname when commemorated in the services, since the services retain the ancient custom of praying for people by their first names only.

  39. Rich says:

    Rubbish? Man, there’s millions of people who believe it Maybe over a billion. Wars have been fought over it. It’s not as crazy as Jack Chick told you it was. Read a couple history books, please.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  40. Don’t have much to say here apart from voicing my opinion that this was a beautiful article.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  41. Agent76 says:

    The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.

    Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  42. Agent76 says:

    Aug 30, 2016 Hannelie

    When Hannelie and her family left their comfortable home in South Africa to serve on the front lines in Afghanistan, they knew the risks. But they wouldn’t deny God’s call. This year’s IDOP video retells her family’s story of faithfulness and sacrifice amid those hostile to Christ.

  43. dearieme says:

    “Would your average English peasant have had any idea what went on in the Great Schism?” It would seem unlikely, but so what? Churches of those types constitute part of the ruling classes, not of the peasantry. Many Protestants and secular people still see in the Roman Church plenty of evidence of the attitudes that they guess stem from the ruling classes of Late Antiquity.

  44. dearieme says:

    It’s childish to argue that something must be true because a millions of people have been indoctrinated to believe in it. On such grounds Islam must be true. Or Chinese Communism.

    • Agree: Stephen R. Diamond
    • Replies: @Rich
  45. Rich says:

    You’ve missed my point. The point is, that your argument that the Roman Catholic Church “broke away” is ass backwards, and there are millions, and possibly billions, of people who would make that argument. You create a far-fetched idea that the Roman Church is younger than the Byzantine, that Peter and Paul weren’t martyred there, even implying that the other Churches didn’t recognize Rome’s supremacy. Your argument is with Saint Augustine, not with me.

    Just because you write something, doesn’t make it so and even if there was some dispute as to the supremacy of the Roman Church, you can’t state, as if it’s a fact, that your opinion, shared by very few, is correct. Too many historians, theologians, and lay people would strongly disagree with you.

  46. @Anon

    Fair play. May we all be as brave and positive when our end comes.

  47. iffen says:

    “the difficulties of last Christmas” deserves more explanation.

    I think you can find what you want in Dr. Thompson’s archives. IIRC the music director came out with new hymns and other innovations which negated one of the main reasons that the congregation had for attending services. One of our eternal struggles, holding dear to what is known and comforting while fending off changes that others wish to inflict upon us.

  48. iffen says:
    @Sam Shama

    so we need a Bible in Cockney.

    This reminded me of a humorous tidbit from Carlos Eire’s Reformations. He said that Wales escaped much of the turmoil and strife of the times. He thought that maybe it was because the Welsh didn’t understand the Latin Mass so when the change was made to English it was not alarming because they didn’t understand English all that well either.

  49. dearieme says:

    Whereas the historians’ account is usually that the Tudors were very fly to get a Welsh bible into circulation reasonably quickly. Have the swine been misleading me?

  50. Anonymous [AKA "Trutherator.wordpress"] says: • Website

    A wordy view of the state of worship in this microcosm, apparently meant to be representative of a bigger region.

    The most edifying part of this writing is the commentary on the KJB.

    It’s true that the translators paid close attention to the cadence, the sound. With the Holy Scriptures, it is that much more important than in music, that the tone and tune should match the telling.

    As to the language of the KJB, it is fitting that they did not revert to “street talk” as in some modern perversions of Scripture. With almost all of these, we cannot know whether an instance of the second person pronoun refers to just one person (thou) or more (ye). I read one preface to one of them that had the ignorance to say that they had banned the second person singular and replaced it with the ambiguous form for accuracy!!

    Or maybe they’re just insulting us, to continue with another tenth revision, all the better to collect filthy lucre royalties on the best selling book of all time. The children of this world are wiser than the children of light, after while. That’s why it’s important to stay into the word of God.

  51. Sam Shama says:

    Hahahahaaa. Reminded me of another little item which appeared in the papers – I forget the exact date but during days near the Brexit vote – where a man was accosted in a bus by a group of over-zealous English lads for apparently speaking with someone in Arabic on his mobile. Turned out the poor man was talking to his wife in Welsh.

  52. Alden says:

    Who is this woman of advancing age with a husband who finds herself pregnant? Whoever she was, she was not the mother of Jesus.

    The mother of John the Baptist was married and not young when she became pregnant with him.

  53. @dearieme

    Following the Elizabethan Settlement, the Church of England was a Reformed Catholic church rather than a Protestant church. As such it enjoyed very good relations with the Orthodox churches, particularly the Russian Orthodox church, for similar reasons (loot, amplification of state power) another state sponsored breakaway, this time from the Constantinople Patriarchy. Both saw relations with the other as a way to claim additional legitimacy.

    I have never seen it on the internet but only read it in a book, a long time ago, that three English priests were consecrated as Bishops by three Russian orthodox bishops in Sweden. The Roman Catholics maintained that the Nag’s Head consecration of Archbishop Mathew Parker was irregular. (Mary had killed so many Bishops that age and disease of the remainder meant that Parker’s consecration was a touch and go affair. So he was consecrated in a pub in a hurry). The Russian consecrations (and England and Russia were very friendly at the time – Ivan Grozny proposed to Elizabeth) were meant to kill that criticism.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  54. @iffen

    Yes and No. The Welsh Marches on both sides were a hot bed of religious dissension before and after the Reformation. Lollards, Tyndall himself and in later times 5th Monarchists and Presbyterians were all active there. Deeper into Wales, things were much more conservative with a slow change to Reform. William Morgan’s translation of the Bible into Welsh was early but he deliberately chose archaic literary constructions rather than they language of the common people. To take a trival example a complete “Yr wyf i yn x” for “I am xing” rather than Rwf’in or Rwyn. Where x is the verb needing the present or continuous tense. So immediate popular access to the Bible was not as easy as it could have been.

    • Replies: @iffen
  55. iffen says:
    @Philip Owen

    Eire did not ignore the precursors such as the Lollards, Hussites or Waldesians. His point about the Welsh was that when the participants in the Reformations cut to the chase, heated the pliers and started removing the skins, Wales was spared much of it. Once Mass was conducted in a vernacular, congregations became fully invested in the controversy. The change from Latin to English did not energize the Welsh one way or the other.

    Interesting that you mention the Presbyterians. Another statement by Eire is to the effect that the Spanish Inquisition is the victim of a “bad press.” That in fact, the Spanish were rather mild compared to the Northern Europeans, and that on a per capita basis, the Scots burned more heretics than anyone else.

    William Morgan’s translation of the Bible into Welsh was early but he deliberately chose archaic literary constructions rather than the language of the common people.

    As a devoted son and partisan of the common people, I take note of the learned men throughout history who thought that it was safer and wiser to stair-step the commoners into “The Truth.” I would be less than honest if I did not admit that the idea has given me reason to pause on more than one occasion and think that they may have been on to something.

    • Replies: @Alden
    , @dearieme
  56. Alden says:

    There really was no such thing as the Spanish Inquisition The inquisition was a church agency that operated all over Europe. It began in 1100 and ended in 1820.
    During those 700 years, contrary to Jewish and holy roller evangelical propaganda, the inquisition only executed 607, people, less than one a year.

    Contrast that to Henry 8 who personally signed 72,000, seventy two thousand execution warrants in the 38 years of his reign. That of course doesn’t count the mass executions committed by the army after they put down the northern Pilgramage of Grace rebellion. Among the 72,000 executed were almost all his relatives on his mother’s side, the entire Plantagenet clan.
    Henry’s divorces were a mere sideline to the reformation. The real purpose was a massive property grab whereby the property of the church was transferred to the crown and the great Lords. By making the sovereign the supreme ruler of the church the reformation totally ended the separation of church and state.

    The CofE ended the charity health and education activities of the Roman church and plunged the common people into a state of poverty not alleviated until the socialist government of 1945.

    Contrast that to the German Lutherans and their offshoots who preserved the health, education, welfare arts and cultural efforts of the Catholic Church The Lutherans even preserved the idea of nursing nuns, just renaming them Deaconesses.

    • Agree: Dan Hayes
    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Dan Hayes
  57. Alden says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    Is that just in the CofE? I never knew that. In America bishops of all the Christian churches are known as Bishop last name.

    • Replies: @Anon
  58. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Not in the Churches themselves, certainly not in the RCC, where the intentions of “X our Bishop” are prayed for at each mass. When I was in Rochester the Bishop was always known as Salvatore, some parishes did strange things but I can’t remember him ever being called Bishop Matano. I imagine the secular press does this and probably also the religious press occasionally.

    The same (bishops being called by last names) is true of the Anglican Church, look up “Bishop Tomlinson” for an instance, or Archbishop Laud for a much better and certainly older reference. Archbishops of Canterbury are generally known by their last names while Popes are never so known.

  59. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    The inquisition was a church agency that operated all over Europe. It began in 1100 and ended in 1820.

    No, the Spanish inquisition was a government agency employing priests, quite a different animal than the medieval inquisition (which was as you say), though iirc tribunals of this kind existed, and were almost certainly employed by Philip the Fair, among others, in the medieval period.

    Incidentally the Inquisition in Spain was far more well-liked than the system which succeeded it.

    Otherwise I largely agree.

  60. Dan Hayes says:


    I believe that one of the “excuses” for church property confiscation was that the ensuing income stream would ensure the end of taxation. Of course it didn’t quite work out that way (surprise, surprise!).

  61. dearieme says:

    “on a per capita basis, the Scots burned more heretics than anyone else”. I didn’t know that. At first blush it makes it all the more remarkable that the Scottish reformation was rather bloodless compared to many others. The Roman Catholic church in Scotland proved to be just a husk.

    On second thoughts maybe that’s why it burned lots of heretics: it knew itself to be terribly weak and took brutal measures in its own defence.

    Two reservations: someone had to guess at the populations of Spain, Scotland etc to be able to calculate per capita figures, and to trust the records for burnings.

  62. dearieme says:
    @Philip Owen

    “Following the Elizabethan Settlement, the Church of England was a Reformed Catholic church rather than a Protestant church.” Yes, I know that many people prefer that view, which has always seemed to me to be reasonable, as is the view that it is essentially Protestant. I don’t think that anything in my calculation depends much on which label should be preferred.

  63. Anonymous [AKA "sadsak"] says:

    Unfortunatly for you ,your opinion is just that, and not the truth.

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