Posts by Herbert Samworth

J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   We are going to take a break from reviews of books that deal with the history of the Reformation and the Bible. Rather we will review a book edited by Timothy George entitled J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: the Impact of His Life and Thought and published by Baker Academic in 2009. The book consists of a series of essays analyzing the life and impact of J. I. Packer on the Evangelical resurgence of the last sixty years. The occasion was the celebration of his eightieth birthday in 2006. In some ways it must be considered a different, if not a strange, book because books of this type are usually not written during the individual’s lifetime in order that a more balanced perspective of the person and his work can be given. The book itself is a series of essays by contributors who have been associated closely with Dr. Packer and his career. They include Charles Colson, Richard Neuhaus, Alister McGrath, Mark Dever, and others. When the name of J. I. Packer is mentioned, most people would recognize him as the author of one of the best selling book in recent years. That book is Knowing God and it is nearly impossible to gauge fully its impact since it was published in 1973. It has been used to introduce many to a rare combination of theology and practical application to their understanding. Packer has always striven in his books to write theology for lay people. Although he is certainly capable of writing academic theology, he has been led to write primarily for the non-specialist. However, to understand the purpose of the book, it is necessary to know somewhat of the life of J. I. Packer. Born in 1926 and educated at Oxford University (DPhil for his work on Richard Baxter) Packer has taught at a number of schools and universities both in England and Canada. There were three formative influences on his life. The first was his education at Oxford where he studied the classical curriculum majoring in Latin and Greek studies. During that time, although nominally a member of the Anglican Church, Packer came to faith in Christ. In addition, it was at Oxford that Packer came to discover the Puritans through the writings of John Owen, the second major influence on his life. A third influence was...

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Editio Regia

Editio Regia

The Greek New Testament of 1550   “The finest Greek text ever printed” is indeed high praise for any book. It is a book contained in the Van Kampen Collection and behind it is a fascinating story that merits telling. The book, also called the Editio Regia, was printed by Robert Stephanus in 1550 in Paris. However, some historical background is necessary to realize the importance of this book. The Stephanus family (Stephanus is the Latinized version of the French name Estienne) was famous for its printing. The patriarch, Henri, was the royal printer to the King of France. In 1509 he printed a five fold version of the Psalms called the Quincuplex Psalter. It contained five versions of the Psalms in Latin including the Vulgate, the Gallic version, Old Latin and two others. The significance of this book was that it was edited by Faber Stapulensus or LeFevre and is considered by some to be the first book printed in support of the Reformation in France. At that time the movement for reform in France was called Evangelicalism. This movement received support from no less a person than Margaret of Navarre, the sister of King Frances I. So from the very beginning of this movement, the Stephanus family was involved. Over the course of years, Robert succeeded his father as Royal Printer. In 1528 he printed his first version of the Vulgate that was considered to be the most accurate ever published. He soon acquired a reputation not only for the quality of printing but for the accuracy of the text itself. It appears that he expertly combined the roles of both printer and textual critic. Prior to this time the Greek New Testament had been printed primarily by Johannes Froben of Basle. A total of five editions had been printed, all edited by Erasmus, the final edition appearing in 1535. Erasmus died the following year and his work was carried on by others. The person who primarily assumed his role was Robert Stephanus. 1546 saw the printing of Stephanus’ first Greek New Testament. It was a small duodecimal edition that became known as the O Mirificam edition from the preface to the work. A second edition, nearly the same as the first, came out in 1549. At this time the textual study of the Greek New Testament was still in its infancy. The first edition of Erasmus’...

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The Writings of J. F. Mozley – John Foxe and his Book

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   This is the third book written by J. F. Mozley that we are reviewing. However, it was the second that he wrote. It is entitled John Foxe and His Book. The name of the book itself is a clue to the manner in which Mozley writes. The book of course is Acts and Monuments or more popularly known as The Book of Martyrs. Undoubtedly there are few persons who have never heard of the book. However, the opposite would be true regarding the life of the person who compiled it. Perhaps some would know that it was compiled by John Foxe. But who is John Foxe? What do we know about his life? It is probably true to say that very little is known about Foxe himself. To rescue Foxe from this undeserved anonymity is the purpose of Mozley’s book. Certainly he does not neglect the book itself. Rather he gives us a very clear account of its origin, its publication and subsequent editions. There is probably no other book that accomplished the repudiation of the Roman Church in England as did the Acts and Monuments. However, I believe that a strong case can be made that this was not the original intent of the work. Certainly it possesses an anti-Roman bias but this was because of the intolerance and cruelty imposed on those who disagreed with its teachings. However, Foxe did not limit his disagreement against temporal forms of punishing heresy to the Roman Church. He was totally opposed to any form of temporal punishment against false teaching whether it was practiced by the Roman Church or the Protestant Church. However, if we are to understand this we must know something of the man himself. Foxe matriculated in 1534 and graduated from Oxford University around four years later because he became master in 1539. There was always one consistent thing about John Foxe and it was his pronounced Protestantism. Indeed, his faithfulness to its teaching cost him his fellowship because it required ordination to hold it. However, to be ordained meant to take the vow of celibacy and Foxe remained unconvinced that this was what the Word of God taught even though the Church had made it a sacrament. Not only was Foxe a person of integrity he was also known for his unwillingness to seek preferment in the church...

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The Writings of J. F. Mozley – Coverdale and his Bibles

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   This is the second of the three books written by J. F. Mozley. The first, the Life of William Tyndale, was reviewed previously. The title of the second book is Coverdale and His Bibles. While it is quite different from the life of Tyndale it is very valuable. Before we begin our review of this book, it would be good to state that taken together, these two books give us the history of the translation and printing of the English Bible until the year 1560. It was in that year that the Geneva Bible was first printed. Coverdale and His Bibles takes up the account in 1535, the year that Tyndale was imprisoned. Even the title of the book Coverdale and His Bibles is somewhat of a misnomer because the work of Coverdale was built on the foundation that Tyndale laid. So the person and work of William Tyndale is never far from the situation. But what about the work itself? Let us first look at the basic outline of the book. Mozley begins with a biographical sketch of Coverdale’s life and work. In contrast with Tyndale, we could say that the life of Coverdale was rather prosaic. However, that would be unfair to the man because he was willing to endure exile and hardship for the sake of the Gospel. Although he did not die as a martyr as did Tyndale, had it not been for the intervention of the King of Denmark, Coverdale’s life would have ended in the fires of Smithfield during the reign of Mary Tudor. There were certainly highlights to his life. He has the honor of the first one to print a complete edition of the Bible in English. The fact that it is known as the Coverdale Bible is testimony to his work. There is also good reason to believe that he made some contribution to the Geneva Bible although how important we are unable to say. Certainly he had a high reputation among his peers and was unwilling to capitalize on his record of having printed the complete Bible. He sided with the Puritan faction and refused positions of honor in the English Church under Elizabeth because of his conviction. Perhaps the fact that in later life he was referred to as “Father Coverdale” bears testimony to the respect that he had earned...

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The Writings of J. F. Mozley – William Tyndale

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   This is the review of the first of the three books authored by J. F. Mozley and deals with the life of William Tyndale. When the Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) published the book in 1937 it was the first major biography of Tyndale that appeared since the work of Robert Demaus in the late 19th century. It was not until 1994 that another major biography of Tyndale was issued. This was the biography written by David Daniell in commemoration of the five hundredth year of his birth. Thus in the span of about a hundred years three major lives of Tyndale were written. Therefore it has been more than seventy years since Mozley’s life of William Tyndale first saw the light of day. What value is there in reviewing a book of that age? I would submit there are a number of reasons for so doing. The first is found in the statement of Mozley himself. In the preface to the book, we note the following words: It is full time that a new life of Tyndale were written. Demaus laid a good and true foundation sixty-six years ago, but much knowledge has been gained since then… When I began to study Tyndale for myself two and a half years ago, I speedily discovered the state of the matter. Here is a man who has never yet received his due, whose reputation has been at the mercy of ignorance and partisanship: and so I determined to enter the field. It is not our intention to review the book chapter by chapter as to duplicate his life. That aim can be better achieved by reading the book itself. Suffice to say that Mozley does a superb job in laying before us the life and labors of Tyndale. The book reads more like a mystery novel except that the individuals are real persons, who make real decisions, and are influenced by real circumstances. It is the reviewer’s opinion that the value of this biography lies in the words that are quoted above. Mozley, after beginning his study of Tyndale, came to the conclusion that he had never received his due. Just exactly what that does that mean? Certainly Tyndale had been recognized as the primary translator of the English Bible for a period of time. Of that there was no...

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Can I Know the Bible is the Word of God? Part 2

By Dr. Herbert Samworth   In the first article of this series, we sought to answer the question regarding the question of how we can know the Bible is the Word of God. In this article we will attempt to show the evidence that the Bible speaks of itself regarding this question. The question deals with our belief that the Bible is the Word of God. In others words, we have faith that the Scriptures are the Word of God. It is important that we understand the nature of faith. Faith is always based on evidence and is directed toward an object. In theological terms we say that faith is always extraspective or outside of ourselves. We do not have faith in our faith but in the ground of faith that is always outside of ourselves. The ground of faith that the Scriptures are the Word of God is the evidence or testimony that the Bible gives about itself. So the question really resolves itself into this: does the Bible contain evidence or testimony that it is the Word of God? Or putting it yet another way, how does the Bible view itself? We can begin with the Old Testament. It is important to keep in mind that the Bible or the revelation of Scripture was not given as a single unit. There is good evidence to believe that the Old Testament Scriptures were written over a period of nearly one thousand years. In the Old Testament books, it is common to read such words as the “Word of the Lord” came to an individual. We note this in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets. There was a consciousness that the words they were writing, albeit in human language, were the Words of God Himself. In the book of Joshua, after the death of Moses, God commanded him to follow the book of the Law. He was not to depart from it but to mediate on it day and night. Note Joshua 1:8. By so doing, he was to have good success. This is a direct statement that the Law of God or the Book of the Law, as written by Moses, was to be the guide of the people of Israel because it was divine in its nature. In the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi written about the year four hundred...

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Can I Know the Bible is the Word of God? Part 1

By Dr. Herbert Samworth   There is often great stress placed on the importance of reading and studying the Bible. People are exhorted to make daily Bible reading a priority in their lives. All of this is good and we would join in the encouragement of such a practice. However, a person, when beginning a course of Bible reading, is often faced with the question of how can he know that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. Are there not other religions with their writings which make similar claims? Why should such an exclusive place be accorded to the Scriptures? Is truth limited to just one book? These are very good and practical questions and merit a response. And certainly these questions have been asked before in the history of man. It is a question that deals with certainty that ultimately resolves itself into one of authority. A brief review of history tells us that various responses to that question have typically been given. And even within the responses, there are often times additional sub points and strata of reasonings. However, we will note that the responses can be reduced to three basic ones: the authoritative, the subjective, and what we will call, for purpose of clarification, the self-attesting. Let us give a brief review of each of these three responses. The first we have called the authoritative or the response from above. Most times this response comes from the church itself that make the pronouncement that the Bible is the Word of God. This response views the church as possessing power or authority over the Scriptures and is thus in the position of giving definitive pronouncements. The Roman Catholic Church considers herself to be God’s authoritative voice in settling any theological controversy and thus has been placed in the position of declaring the Bible to be the Word of God. However, the effect is to place the Church over the Bible so that the final authority is not the Scripture itself but the Church. To supplement this view of the Bible, the Roman Catholic Church has also declared that the church alone has the God-given authority to interpret the Bible through the Magisterium or official teaching office of the Church. The second we can call the subjective or the response from man himself. Because man is endowed with reasoning capability, he is qualified to gather and...

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The Writings of J. F. Mozley

By Dr. Herbert Samworth   J. F. Mozley was the author of three books that are foundational to the history and translation of the English Bible. The first was entitled William Tyndale and was written and published in 1937. This was followed in 1940 by his vindication of John Foxe and his book Acts and Monuments. The third and final book dealt with the work of Miles Coverdale, called Coverdale and His Bibles, and was originally published in 1953. As a result Mozley’s writings basically cover the period from the birth of Tyndale until well into the reign of Elizabeth with the death of John Foxe in April 1587. Students of the English Reformation will notice that the publication of his books were not in chronological order as Foxe published his great book in its first edition in 1563 well after the translation work of Miles Coverdale was completed although Coverdale himself did not die until 1569 at the advanced age of eighty-one. It is the purpose of this article to comment on these books. However there are several things that we can note about each of them. The first deals with the author himself: James F. Mozley. Despite the efforts of the writer of this article, he has been unable to find any additional information regarding Mozley, except what is contained in the books themselves. An internet search has proven to be fruitless in adding to knowledge of his life. The first two books add the degree of Master of Arts to his name on the title pages and his volume on Coverdale adds that he had received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. This would lead to the assumption that he was a clergyman and probably from the Church of England. If any person who reads this article would have additional information about Mozley and his life, the writer would be appreciative if that information would be forwarded to him. Although the outward details of Mozley’s life and career are hidden from us, there is more than one hint regarding his personality. Although Mozley was an historian, and a very accurate one at that, from time to time he revealed something about himself. For example in the introduction to his work on Tyndale, he remarked that he started his study of his life around two years ago, i.e. 1935. In his book on Foxe he confessed that...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 7

TYNDALE AND HIS TRACTS – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Before Tyndale departed from Worms, he issued his first tract, exclusive of his translations of the Word of God. It was entitled a Compendious introduction, prologue or preface of Paul to the Romans. This is the first tract that Tyndale authored and although he did not attach his name to it, it was quickly recognized as his work. It was primarily based on a tract of Martin Luther that he placed before the book of Romans in his September Testament. An enlarged edition of this prologue was also included in his revised New Testament of 1534. The importance of this tract was not only that it served as an introduction to the book of Romans which of all the New Testament books gives the clearest and most logical explanation of the Gospel and the doctrine of justification, but that it was a fulfillment of Tyndales’s vow to make the ploughboy know what the Scripture meant. We will never truly understand the life of William Tyndale until we recognize that the translation and printing of the Scriptures in the English language was but the prelude to instructing people to understand the Word of God. We will have reason to return to this theme a bit later, but for the present, we merely wish to make the point that Tyndale was intent on providing a key to the understanding of the Word of God as well as providing the text. In our last lesson on Tyndale, we conjectured that after he left Worms and the printing of the first complete New Testament in English, Tyndale parted from Roye and went to Antwerp in the Low Countries. Finding that the situation was dangerous, we believe that he left Antwerp and spent time in Hamburg at the home of Mrs. Von Emerson. It was undoubtedly at that time he worked on his translation of the five books of Moses. However before we speak of Tyndale and his return to Antwerp, we must make mention of the first theological book that Tyndale authored. It was entitled The Parable of the Wicked Mammon and is based on the parable taught by the Lord in Luke 16. However, it is not a Biblical exposition of the parable as much as it is a tract dealing with the doctrine of justification by faith. One might wonder why Tyndale...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 6

TYNDALE IN WORMS – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   After their effort to have the New Testament printed in Cologne was frustrated, William Tyndale and William Roye fled up the Rhine River to the city the Worms. Just five years before, Martin Luther had taken his noble stand for the Reformation in that very city. Like much of William Tyndale’s life and deeds, there is a paucity of information about his activities. However, we can surmise that he continued on his work of translating the New Testament and made arrangements with Peter Schoeffer to have the work printed in his establishment. Finally, about March 1526 the New Testament was completed. It was the first printing of the complete New Testament in the English language. Unlike the Cologne fragment Tyndale did not add editorial notes. Basically it was the Greek of the New Testament rendered into the English language. It was printed in a neat octavo in Gothic type. Even today it is quite easy to read and one can imagine the excitement of an Englishman reading the Word of God for the first time in his native language. The translation is accurate and lively. There are a number of unanswered questions about this edition. One question concerns the fate of the initial printing of the New Testament that began in Cologne. It was in quarto as the lone surviving fragment indicates. Did Tyndale finish that edition and also have an edition printed in the octavo size? There are some who believe that is exactly what happened. They are convinced that the quarto New Testament was completed in three thousand copies and an octavo edition was also printed in the same number of copies. If this were true, then a total of six thousand copies of the New Testament were printed by Schoeffer. However, most experts believe that Tyndale abandoned his plan to have the New Testament printed in quarto and switched to the octavo size. What may have been the reasons for the switch are impossible to determine at the present time. However, it is a know fact that the three surviving copies are octavo and only the Cologne fragment survives in the quarto size. The result would be that three thousand copies of the New Testament were printed, all in octavo. Whatever may have been the actual case, there remained no uncertainty that the printed English New Testament...

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Sir Thomas More – A Man for All Seasons

A Review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   I recently had the opportunity to see a film on the life of Sir Thomas More. It was subtitled “A Man for all Seasons.” The film swept the Academy Awards when it was first released over forty years ago. It would be interesting to consider exactly why that subtitle was chosen. It may have been because of More’s varied career as a humanist and social critic, after all he was the author of Utopia, an idealized place that unfortunately does not exist as the word itself implies. Perhaps he was because of his role as a lawyer or a member of the English Parliament. Or even because he served as Lord Chancellor after the fall of Thomas Wolsey from King Henry’s favor because Wolsey failed to secure the Papal annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Certainly there is much to admire in the character of Sir Thomas More. From what we can learn from history, only Cardinal John Fisher and he were the only prominent persons who refused to consent that Henry’s divorce from Catherine was permissible. Both men paid with their lives for their convictions. When an individual is prepared to pay the ultimate price for his convictions, he certainly merits our respect. This is especially true in the case of More because other prominent individuals including Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer and others demonstrated a less pleasing moral flexibility on the issue. However, there is another aspect to the character of Sir Thomas More that we wish to discuss in this short essay on his life. It is not for the purpose of denigrating his character but to show another, and unfortunately less attractive, side to his personality. To do this, we must begin with the religious convictions that More held. At the time of his rise to influence, Henry VIII was King of England and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey combined the offices of Papal Legate and Lord Chancellor. The Church of England was in full communion with the Church of Roman and Popes Leo X, Adrian, and Clement VII were firmly in control. Thomas More was raised in the church and remained a faithful member of it all throughout his life. He was faithful in attending Mass at his parish church and sang in the choir according to some reports. He was even reported to wear a hair...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 5

TYNDALE IN GERMANY – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   If the earlier events of Tyndale’s life can only be sketched in outline, the years after his departure from England in late 1523 or early 1524 provide even more of a puzzle. We know that Tyndale came to the conclusion that he could not translate the Scriptures into English in London or even in England itself. Consequently he left his native country, never to return. But where did he go and what did he do in the period before his first attempt to print the New Testament in Cologne, Germany? Some have speculated that he went to the city of Hamburg where he was hosted by a widow, Mrs. Margaret Van Emerson until he went to Cologne. However, J. F. Mozley in his magisterial life of Tyndale has given strong evidence that he first went to Wittenberg where Luther and Melanchthon were teaching. In proof of his thesis, Mozley examined the matriculation registers of the University and found under the date of May 27, 1524 the name, in Latin, Guillelmus Daltici ex Anglia or William Deltici from England. What is the significance of the name William Daltici? Mozley demonstrated that if the syllables, dal and tin, were switched, it would be Tyndal. Mozley’s work is a fine piece of investigation and it would be charming to think of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon conversing together about the events of the day and the work that God was doing in reforming His church. Doubtless, they would also have conversed about the remaining work to be done including the translation of the Scriptures. If the above is correct, it would give us a clue to where Tyndale learned the Hebrew tongue because we are quite certain that he left England ignorant of the Old Testament source language. It would also give us a clue as to his activities from the time that he departed England. But whether or not such was the case, we can place William Tyndale and William Roye, another English priest, in Cologne later that year. Roye’s name does appear on the matriculation list of Wittenberg University so there does not appear any doubt of his presence there at the same time as Guillelmus Daltici. This would also give us a clue as to where Tyndale and Roye made their acquaintance. Roye was not a linguist but...

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