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A Proposed Modern-Spelling Matthew Bible. And By the Way, What Did William Tyndale Really Think about Christmas?

A news item for subscribers to the New Matthew Bible Project, February 20, 2014.

I thank subscriber Robert T. for bringing to my attention a work-in-progress to publish a modern spelling Matthew Bible by Mr. Nathan Harding, also known as Brother Harding. Mr. Harding is founder and pastor of an independent Church called Richwood Chapel, declared to be non-denominational and Spirit-led. Biographical information on the Chapel website states that Brother Harding received an ecclesiastical endorsement in November 2001 from Pastor G. William Harding, who is his father. Mr. Harding says that after many distractions were presented to us by the devil, then, in 2009, God very clearly spoke to me and told me that this [Richwood] is where he wanted me. Mr. Harding has written several books, including one about the history of Christmas, in which he describes that celebration as heathenism that ought to be rejected. One full chapter of his book is entitled It is Wrong to Observe Traditional Holy Days. (a) This review of Mr. Hardings Modern-Spelling Matthew Bible project is based on information from the Richwood Chapel website. I should mention that while I speak critically here (not what I first intended), I do approve in principle of a modern-spelling Matthew Bible. It would increase peoples awareness and access to that precious work. Which Matthew Bible are they working from? We learn from the Richwood Chapel website that Mr. Harding is working with the 2nd (1549) edition of the Matthew Bible (the 1st edition being that of 1537). However, it is unclear if he is using the genuine 2nd edition or Edmund Beckes unauthorized version. Becke used slightly different scriptures, and, more significantly, he greatly changed the notes and commentaries. His notes reveal a strident temper and a different theology, and also contain the infamous wife beating note. (More information is on my website at Mr. Harding indicates he is aware of two 1549 versions of the Matthew Bible, but refers to one as having updated notes. Since the real 2nd edition did not update any notes, he must mean Beckes pirated version. However, Beckes commentaries are not updated, they are altered. John Rogers more catholic (ie universal) commentaries are greatly to be preferred. The website does not say if Mr. Harding plans to reproduce the notes and commentaries. If so, hopefully they are not Beckes, which would cast an unpleasant and false light upon the truer, sweeter, and more Christian nature of the real Matthew Bible. The scope of the work The scope of Mr. Hardings project is defined as follows:
The Matthew Bible: Modern Spelling Edition means that the Early Modern British English spelling has been updated to Modern American English. It does not mean that archaic (old and no longer used) or British words have been replaced. This is an orthographic translation. The vocabulary will read much like The King James Version that you are used to reading, (especially since the KJV incorporates nearly 77% of The Matthew Bible. Words like thee and thou (and such like) have not been taken out. The goal is not to update the language or grammar (in the Modern Spelling Edition) but to update the

spelling and font so that The Matthew Bible can be read by the average English speaking person of today. This is truly more of a revision then it is a new edition. The goal is to make corrections that reflect today's American spelling and not to replace any words from the original.

It appears therefore that Pastor Harding does not intend to update minimally, as David Daniell did in his modern spelling edition of Tyndales 1534 New Testament, for example to change words like other where we would now say or. If updating is limited to spelling only, as promised, then Brother Harding ought also to retain Tyndales words Easter and bishop, despite his antipathy to traditional Christian celebrations and to episcopacy. Misunderstanding The following comments are not intended so much to defend the Church of England (though I consider myself a Reformation Anglican) as to provide information about William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale, the men who gave us the Matthew Bible scriptures. Mr. Harding writes:
William Tyndale made great effort not to use the word church or other such words that had come to represent the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.

It is true that Tyndale, for good reasons, did not use the word church in the New Testament to translate the Greek ecclesia. He did use it elsewhere, however, and Rogers used it in his notes. But in any case: (1) When Tyndale first published his New Testament in 1526, the Church of England did not exist. He died in 1536, before the nascent Church had taken form under the direction of Thomas Cranmer, whose Book of Common Prayer setting forth liturgy and ceremonies was first published in 1549, revised in 1552, and has defined the traditional Church of England ever since. In the BCP, Cranmer addressed a great majority of Tyndales concerns liturgy and scripture readings in English, ceremonies simplified, meaning restored in the Lords Supper, no prayers to saints, no prayers to Mary, no adoration of the host, etc. To paint the reformed English Church with the same brush as the 16th century Roman Church reveals several levels of serious error, possibly fuelled by a bias against episcopacy. Can it really be said that Tyndale was avoiding a word that represented a Church he never knew? or a Church that was to be overseen and directed in its first crucial stages by a man he admired (Tyndale called Cranmer a godly man.), and who corrected so many of his complaints? Tyndale, had he lived to see it, would probably not have agreed with everything Cranmer did. But overall I believe he would have hailed his work. (2) Tyndale did not restrict his concerns about church to Roman (or English) Catholicism. He prophesied in his book Parable of the Wicked Mammon that when the spirit of Antichrist was exposed in the Roman Church, that same spirit would rise up under new names and raiment (i.e. clerical disguises) in new Churches:
his nature is (when he is revealed and overcome with the word of God) to go out of play for a season, and to disguise himself, and then to come in again with new raimentThere is a difference in the names between a pope, a cardinal, a bishop, and so forth, and to say a scribe, a Pharisee, a senior [elder] and so forth; but the thing is all one. Even so now, when we have exposed him, he will change himself (b) once more, and turn himself into an angel of light.

New names and raiment that have arisen since Tyndale wrote may include Reverend, Pastor, and Brother.(c) Whatever the appellation, The thing is all one.

(3) In complete contrast to Mr. Harding, Tyndale observed and valued traditional Church holy days, as he called them. These the Church of England has struggled to maintain over the years since the Reformation. Tyndale would lament that holy days are now discredited by so many, with disdain and even fear of them fostered by people like Mr. Harding, the Jehovah Witnesses, and others. Tyndale called Christian festivals not heathenism, but holy, and also sacramental because they stir up our weak faith. Further, Tyndale did not hesitate to call Christmas Christmas,(d) though he was a learned and critical scholar of Church history. Rather, he warned frequently against striving about words (2 Timothy 2:14). He also translated his own beautiful set of Old Testament scripture readings for more than 35 traditional holy days, including Advent, Trinity, the Ember days, Good Friday, the Conception of Our Lady, Lent, St John the Baptists day, and Ash Wednesday. These readings are there for anyone to find at the end of his 1534 New Testament.(e) Tyndale longed for the people to attend Church on traditional holy days and hear Gods word read aloud. There can be no doubt that Tyndale observed Christmas, as important a day as Easter. It is the once-annual day and occasion to remember the Lords miraculous birth, the visitations of angels, the fulfilment of thousands of years of prophecy: God incarnate, come to save man from sin, death, and hell. To suppress the knowledge of these things could never be the leading of the Holy Spirit, but is the work and craftiness of that deceiving spirit that we are ever warned to beware of, lest we make shipwreck of the faith. (4) To disparage the Church of England also goes against Miles Coverdale, who gave us about half of Old Testament in the Matthew Bible. Mr. Coverdale became a bishop in, and devoted most of his working life to, the young Church. Perhaps that is why Mr. Harding on his website refuses even to acknowledge Coverdale as one of the co-authors of the Matthew Bible. Amazingly, with brazen inaccuracy, he writes, This Bible was the combined work of William Tyndale and John Rogers. Coverdale, who gave us about half the Old Testament, is not once mentioned.(f) I feel some regret that a man who is in important matters so opposed to Tyndale and Coverdale, and who in effect misrepresents them, will be working with their translations. But if he confines himself to simply updating the spelling, and if he does it well, it will be a service to students of the scriptures. You can learn more about the project and see a photo of Mr. Harding and his wife at (This article was minimally revised March 16, 2014)

R M Davis New Matthew Bible Project: True to His Ways: Endnotes:
(a) Quotations from the Richwood Chapel website were extracted February 19-20, 2014 except as noted at endnote (f). Information about Mr. Hardings book Christmas is from the Look Inside feature on (b) My quotations from Tyndale and certain other matters are discussed, and my sources identified, in my paper at . (c) Pastor Harding calls himself and others, including his father, Brother. By this he shows a concern to acknowledge the equality of all believers. However, he also writes on his website:

What if I am not right with God? That is why we are here. No one begins with a complete understanding of the word of God. There is no greater joy then [sic] to show the wonderfulness of God to someone who wants to crawl above the bondage of life and find freedom. This demonstrates Brother Hardings view of himself as a teacher who shows the way and makes other people right with God. His role in the congregation is reinforced by the admonitions on the website that We raise our hand in agreement, support [Pastor Hardings] sermon by saying "amen" and "true," and, We trust the pastor to be attentive to the working of the Holy Spirit among the saints. All this gives one man spiritual authority over others, notwithstanding what he says. I hope his congregation feels free to withhold their amens if conscience so requires. (d) Perhaps Mr. Harding should distinguish between Christian and worldly celebrations of Christmas. I happen to agree that Santa Claus should not be part of Christmas, but this does not mean that we should abolish the day ( ). (e) Tyndales 1534 New Testament is available in David Daniells popular modern spelling edition. (f) Extracted from the website on March 16, 2014. ~~~~~~~~