The Parish Magazine October 2021


Serving Charvil, Sonning and Sonning Eye since 1869

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 The Bible

Society's choice of celebrating Bible Sunday in October thus avoiding the busyness

of Advent. This year the Bible Society's Bible Sunday is on 24 October.

Whether by coincidence or deliberate

choice, October 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 October 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.

The 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 October

2000 — October being a timely


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


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 October, 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.

The 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

The Parish Magazine - October 2021 19

October celebrations for the most popular book ever




The Bible, the world's most popular book in

print or online. Usrush,

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.


Needless to say, Diocletian did not

succeed in destroying the scriptures.

The 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.

There are several online services, for

example, where you

can read 200 versions in 70 languages.


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

October. The 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.

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