Press Gleanings

Press Gleanings compiled by Valerie Offord

Romany Bible

As we all know the tradition of William Tyndale, namely as a translator of the Bible into the vernacular, is alive and well in the 21st century.

In August 2004 the Times reported that the Romanian Government's Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations is to publish what it claims is the first translation of the Bible into Romany,the Gipsy language. Romania has about 1.5 million Gypsies so the market will not be that huge for this particular edition. However, this only represents about 13% of the total of the Romany people as there are more than 12 million of them dispersed throughout the world and the bad news is that that they do not speak a uniform language - there are several Roma and dialects involved which, until relatively recently, were not written. This presents translators with an immense challenge.

At a Conference for Roma Bible Translators held in Bucharest in 2003, the problems of producing Romany Bibles was discussed in depth. The mission statement issued by the participants on that occasion read:

By the grace of God we will contribute to the establishment of Christ's Church among the Roma (gypsy) peoples by promoting and facilitating the translation of the Holy Scriptures in every Roma language group for which there is a definite need.
We view ourselves as a fellowship of Roma and Gaje, individuals and organizations, who pursue the above stated goal, as well as the dissemination and use of the translated scriptures in a culturally sensitive and relevant way.

The participants studied in depth all aspects of translation from the phi- losophy of language development and translation to the actual translation process and to how to present a publication to a largely oral society.

Their remarks and observations about the tools in translation make us realise how far we have progressed mechanically since the time of William Tyndale. He was working in isolation and danger in a variety of places; the group of distinguished scholars in Geneva conversed and pooled resources not only amongst themselves but also with Calvin and other refugees from European countries; and the King James version was produced by intellectual committees. The latter years of the 20th century have seen every Bible translator working with a personal computer and having access to an ever-growing mass of software (programmes such as Paratext, Translators Work- place, Carla, Bible Works and so on). Nonetheless there are still the major

issues to solve. What type of translation should be produced for the potential readers of this Roma Bible, the modern ploughboys, whose language until recently was unwritten and in which many are still unable to read and write? This surely presents a challenge even greater than the one Tyndale faced in the 16th century.


Press release Romany Bible Times 12 August 2004.

Summary of the proceedings of the International Conference for Roma Bible Translators Bucharest May 2003

Ed. note: link no longer valid (2015):
Team Romany

Fire at Weimar Library

A fire on 2 September 2004 at Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library tore through the roof and the top floor of the 16th century rococo palace destroying or damaging beyond repair some 50,000 works. During the fire, workers managed to pass 6,000 books, including a 1534 Martin Luther Bible, hand to hand to safety.

The library was established in 1691 and holds several rare works spanning from the 16th to the 18th century. Its total collection — distributed around several sites in Weimar — numbers some one million volumes but unfortunately the majority were housed in the building affected by the fire.

A spokesman said that many of the books were impossible to replace and therefore had not been insured. Incidents such as this do call into question the wisdom of concentrating precious works under the same roof. Perhaps scattering is a good thing as some, at least, will survive by good luck! We need look no further than the survival of the Tyndale Bible which until very recently had been housed in a provincial library in Bristol, the Macclesfield Psalter* happily residing in Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire until 2003 and Caxton's Polychronicon* in the care of Tenterden town council until the summer of 2004.


BBC News Rare Books in German Library Fire 3 September 2004

Associated Press Release Fire in Historic Library in Weimar destroyed more books than previously thought 21 September 2004

*see Tyndale Society Journal Press Gleanings no 27 July 2004 pp 79/80.

The Life of Sir Thomas More

Desert Island Book

I found it quite difficult to think of a book that has really influenced me throughout my life, apart from the Bible and Shakespeare, but then I remembered Roper's Life of Thomas More. Just after leaving Oxford, I acquired a copy of the Early English Text Society edition of Roper's Life and read it right through. I was tremendously taken with More for all kinds of reasons. He was an English historical figure whom you could actually recognize as being like yourself. He was a professional man, a lawyer, a civil servant, a sort of politician and also a private person. And he was able to combine all that with being a man of prayer and a very reluctant martyr. Then there is the wit, of course - for example, those remarks from the scaffold: ‘See me up safe. For my coming down I'll see for myself.’ For all those reasons, I think of him as somebody one could really identify with; indeed, that is the first thing that attracted me to the book. As well as this, the rhetoric in it is simply splendid: the drama of a life, very simply told, but told in that rather quaint English language that heightens the effect.

More was of course a diplomat: he went to several embassies. But when Wolsey tried to get him sent as ambassador to Spain, More produced a marvellous series of excuses: he wanted to do everything as the King wanted, but actually there were about 25 good reasons why he would not be the right man to go Spain. I thought that was the perfect model for someone from the FCO going before the personnel department to explain ‘Why I don't want to go to Timbuctoo’. More became, therefore, the patron saint of diplomatists!

He believed in making settlements that were acceptable to both sides. In that way he was a diplomatist in the deepest sense.The attitude of mind that he brought to the question of the supremacy that he wasn't personally going to accept it, but he didn't have to confront the question head on - is a very diplomatic one. Diplomats look for solutions that will either stop short of or end confrontations. That's why Mrs Thatcher found us so unsatisfactory - she thought we were always looking for a premature compromise.

More's is one of the great trial scenes in history. Finding the right words at such a time is an astonishing facility. His speeches have always had a great influence on me. And another recognisable aspect of him is the kind of law that he absorbed. It is very much the English Common Law. He argued that it is the word ‘maliciously’ in the framing of the statute which makes the offence, just as it is the forcible entry, not the entry itself, that is the offence.

It is not the denial, but the ‘malicious’ denial, and, since his conversation with Richard Rich was a private one, ‘nothing affirming, and only putting of cases’, it couldn't have been malicious. Now that is a very modern argument. You could imagine any modern Silk making the same points. So much so that the Lord Chancellor himself is worried and says to the Lord Chief Justice ‘Well, what do you think? Is the indictment all right?’ Very satisfactory!

This book is full of riches, and I find it an absolutely fascinating treasure house. Moreover, it is also a very, very good story.

This article based on Sir David Goodall, former High Commissioner to India talking to Nancy Kenny about his choice for a desert island book, first appeared in Oxford Today Michaelmas Issue 2004 and is reproduced here with permission.