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Blog Posted in avatar   Steve Hayes's Blog


By Steve Hayes
Posted Jul 4, 2012 in Religion
Many people greatly admire a can-do attitude. See it as virtue to emulate. Some, in these materialistic and entrepreneurial days, even represent it as the zenith of human qualities. Speaking for myself, I cannot say I am convinced. Let us consider the case of Myles Coverdale. A man with a can-do attitude, as no one could deny.
A hundred years before the English Bible, popularly known as the King James Version, was created, Myles set to work to create a Bible in the English language. He was not daunted, or perturbed, or in the least concerned, by his lack of knowledge of Hebrew, Greek or Latin. Such obstacles may have put off lesser men, but, as I said, Myles had a can-do attitude - in spades. Moreover, he knew some German. And, as the Germanic peoples had embraced Protestantism before the English, they were already creating the Bible in their vernacular. Thus, he set to work to translate the German version of the Bible into an English Bible. With such a can-do spirit, needless to say Myles soon achieved success and the Bible was published in 1537.
However, pedants tending to be of a nit-picking, stick in the mud, and overly literal nature have over the centuries been all too often heard to question the accuracy and faithfulness of Master Coverdale's Bible. This seems to some to rather miss the point. More substantially, it has left the pedants open to the criticism of philistinism. For, the defenders of Coverdale's work point to its originality, it spiritual qualities, and, most of all, to the beauty of its language. Whilst it is difficult to see how anyone could doubt the first point, it is equally difficult to think of how one could prove the second. However, as for the third point: that is easily demonstrated. Consider, if you will, the line:
'The strange children shall fail: and be afraid out of their prisons.'
Is it not wondrously mysterious, elegiac and beautiful? Who could care what it means? Surely its beauty is sufficient?
Moreover, as a bonus, it demonstrates Coverdale's originality. For the line should read:
'The foreign born shall obey: and come trembling from their strongholds.'
Only the pedant could quibble. For when one blazes a new horizon, especially when one is as lamentably equipped as poor Myles, error will like the lion savage whomsoever it may. And, I fear, error was rather savage to Master Coverdale. Nevertheless, the muses smiled upon his can-do attitude and granted his errors would become so memorable as to be repeated down ages. Such felix menda are manifest over and over. We see it, for instance, in his translation of Psalm 105 when he renders Joseph's neck being bound in iron as:
'The iron entered his soul.' Is that not truly beautiful?

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