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feature — 3 By Bob Peters In 1545, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, declared that the first Sunday in December was to be called Bible Sunday. Today, the Church of England continues this tradition although it is usually described as being on the second Sunday of Advent, which this year falls on 5 December. However, many CofE churches and those of other Christian denominations have adopted <strong>The</strong> Bible Society's choice of celebrating Bible Sunday in <strong>October</strong> thus avoiding the busyness of Advent. This year the Bible Society's Bible Sunday is on 24 <strong>October</strong>. Whether by coincidence or deliberate choice, <strong>October</strong> is an ideal month to hold Bible Sunday because at least two other notable anniversaries in the history of the Bible fall in this month — the death in 1536 of William Tyndale and St Felix of Thibiuca who, with four other martyrs, share a feast day. William Tyndale is remembered on 6 <strong>October</strong> for his life-long passion to translate the original Biblical scriptures from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic so that 'English men and women could read it for themselves'. Born near Gloucester in c1494, he studied at Oxford and Cambridge and spoke seven languages, including ancient Hebrew and Greek. In 1526, Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament became the first to be published in English, the first to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to be printed. <strong>The</strong> first complete reprint using Tyndale's original words and spellings was published by the British Library in 2000. I was given a copy when I was licensed as a lay minister on 28 <strong>October</strong> 2000 — <strong>October</strong> being a timely coincidence! However, Tyndale's remarkable achievements were to cost him his life because his work was deemed to be a direct challenge to the power of the Roman Catholic Church and the laws of England. When the authorities tried to stop his translation from being printed, Tyndale fled first to Hamburg, then Wittenberg, Cologne, and the Lutheran city of Worms. It was there, in 1525, his New Testament emerged and it was smuggled into England where Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and other leaders, were furious. Tyndale moved on to Antwerp, where for 9 years he continued his work until May 1535 when he was betrayed, arrested, and jailed in a castle near Brussels. Tied to the stake for strangulation and burning, his dying prayer was that the King of England’s eyes would be opened. And, sure enough, a few years later they were. In 1529 Henry VIII authorised the Great Bible for the Church of England. It relied largely on Tyndale’s work. In 1611, the 54 scholars who produced the King James Bible also used Tyndale's work. This Bible became known as the standard English version from the mid-17th to the early 20th century. I also have an early edition of the King James Bible, printed 1613, but sadly its poor condition means it cannot be restored. Nonetheless I value it. Do you value your Bible? If so, Felix of Thibiuca (247 – 303), whose feast day is on 24 <strong>October</strong>, is a good patron saint for you. In 303, Diocletian, the Roman emperor, decided Christians were not a good thing, so he issued an edict that all copies of their scriptures and liturgical books were to be surrendered and burnt. He had decided to ‘wind up’ this upstart religion. <strong>The</strong> persecution began in Rome. By June 303, the edict had reached North Africa, and in Thibiuca — modern day Tunisia — Bishop Felix, was arrested because he would not hand them over. Being highly respected, the authorities were loath to take action and gave him three days grace to see sense. Felix prayed and became only more certain that this was a conflict between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. He was referred to the proconsul, but he still refused to hand over his scriptures. His last words were memorable: 'God, I thank you. I have passed 56 years in this world. I have preserved my chastity; I have observed the Gospels; I have preached the faith and <strong>The</strong> <strong>Parish</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> - <strong>October</strong> <strong>2021</strong> 19 <strong>October</strong> celebrations for the most popular book ever PASSION CHALLENGE VALUE <strong>The</strong> Bible, the world's most popular book in print or online. Usrush, dreamstime.com the truth. Lord God of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ, I bend my neck as a sacrifice for you, who abides for ever.' He was beheaded at Carthage, and became one of the first martyrs to die under Diocletian. FIVE BILLION Needless to say, Diocletian did not succeed in destroying the scriptures. <strong>The</strong> Guinness Book of World Records estimates that more than 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed. This compares with 800 million copies of the Quran and 120 million for the Book of Mormon. Today, these billions of printed copies of the Bible are not the only way to read the world's most popular book. <strong>The</strong>re are several online services, for example, Biblegateway.com where you can read 200 versions in 70 languages. DISRESPECT? Among the different English language versions on my shelves are some that people may find a little less than holy, such as a Cockney Bible, one written in tabloid newspaper format, and others in 'rap', emails and so on. While I accept that some people may find these disrespectful or even ungodly, the important thing is that they tell the Gospel message in a way that some readers can relate to. And that, hopefully, will lead them on to read the fuller versions that the Bible Society asks us to celebrate on 24 <strong>October</strong>. <strong>The</strong> Society works in over 200 countries and is a charity that aims to bring the Bible to life for every man, woman and child because it changes lives for good.