Friday, 14 June 2013


This morning's ramblings on language were actually caused by the reading Hnaef chose this morning for Pouring-out of Beakers.

Now we often have Bible reading in languages other than modern English. Gives us that feeling Peter Gabriel must get when playing authentic World Music with authentic worldlings. You know, I often feel really envious of people who don't speak English. It must be great, always having the Bible sound so exotic like that.
But as you may know, Hnaef is an expert in Old English and other archaic Germanic tongues. And today, though he was reading from something comprehensible and in a form of Modern English, the Bible from which he was reading 1 Corinthians 15 was Wycliffe's version.

It's the chapter in which Paul lists the witnesses to the resurrection. Except Wycliffe didn't say "resurrection", did he? Wycliffe and his mates translated it into English as  "again-rising". (I think it's written " ayenrisyng", but Hnaef was kind).

Hit me right between the eyes, did that. That the concept of Jesus's again-rising has hidden itself behind a Latin word all my life has kind of made it a technical term. I believe in the Resurrection, but that use of Latin kind of distances it a bit. Makes it a subject of study, rather than the earthy,  English "again-rising". That suddenly roots it in my world - in the everyday English in which I express the things that matter most, because they're closest to me. And I know that we talk about Jesus' "rising again" but having it the other way round, as a compound noun, just made it so new - and yet familiar.

And if that one unexpected compound word hit me like that, then imagine the shock that a whole Bible in English must have given its readers. The whole lot - originally written in the everyday languages of its world - rendered into the language that English people dug while speaking, asked for their dinner in, haggled over the price of a coat in, expressed their love in - swore in. What a shock - and what a discovery. The Word becomes flesh, and lives among us, and we can hear the Word's earthly story in our own words.

When Wycliffe receives his own again-rising, it will be from the clay and lime of the Swift - not from the marble of Rome, nor even the dust of Jerusalem. And he'll find that people all over the world have heard God speaking to them in their own language, too. That's the thing about having good ideas. They catch on.


  1. I suddenly understood 'redemption' when I read Wycliffe's translation 'ayenbiyng.' The manumission of a slave to sin.

  2. I love Wycliffe's New Testament. Many of the translation choices he made were criticized by King James' men (especially congregation' rather than 'church' for 'ekklesia'), but I think he was mainly in the right. And despite the fact that his book is nearly five hundred years old, it's still surprisingly understandable and even vivid today.

  3. Hah! Ignore that comment - I was of course confusing Wycliffe with Tyndale...!

    1. As to church vs congregation, turns out you were, Tim. And if you'd just keep quiet, we'd all have nodded safely and said "I've always thought that as well."

      Wycliffe was the one who was dug up and then burnt. Tyndale was strangled and then burnt. Some people really hated hearing the Bible in English, I reckon.

    2. That should have been "kept", it was a flight of fancy not a rude instruction.

  4. Tim confused about a bible translation? I am shocked.

    Lovely post, Eileen. Is there a proper address for an archdruid, such as "Your Grace" for an archbishop that I should use rather than your given name alone?


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