A Reformation Fact: Protestantism Helped Local Languages to Survive

It was the study of the Latin version of the Bible, the Vulgate, used by the Roman Catholic Church that alerted scholars to errors that had led to possible false teachings, such as the belief that Christ was physically present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, or the concept of penance, rather than repentance. Although theologically subtle and complex, they mattered. The reformers also thought that people should read the Bible in their own language so they could understand the primary source of their faith.

This led to translations that preserved and spread languages that were in danger of disappearing such as Welsh. Until the mid-16th century there were no printed books in Welsh: it was an oral culture and the language was regarded as one only peasants spoke. The necessity to produce a Bible and other religious texts the native speakers could understand actually led to its preservation in a literary form, rather than a number of local dialects. Cornish did not get its own Bible until 2011, more than 200 years after it had been lost as a mother tongue.

The Bible is today the most translated book in the world. As Protestant missionaries moved into Asia, Africa and Australia, many translated the Bible, or parts of it, into local languages, which promoted interest in them and, in some cases, preserved them because they were the only record of a previously oral culture, as Welsh had been.

Note: Every month, the Epistle will highlight a fact about the Reform ation. The information is taken from the article, 10 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know about the Reformation, published on www.historyextra.com, August 17, 2016.