THE SPANISH BIBLE: ITS INCEPTION AND THOSE COURAGEOUS MEN BEHIND ITS TRANSLATION
by Robert Breaker III
* The following online book has been designed to be "printer friendly." However, be advised that there are many pictures. If you desire to print the entire thing and read it through at your leisure, or read it here online. I hope to have it soon available in printed book form.
Of all the nations on earth, perhaps Spain holds claim to the richest heritage and most diverse culture. Known as the Iberian Peninsula, Spain borders three seas: The Bay of Biscay on the North, The Atlantic Ocean on the West, and the Mediterranean on the South and East.
Over the years, this costal access led to the influx of many different peoples settling in Spain, including the: Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Iberians, Celts and the Basques, Europe’s oldest surviving group.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths conquered the land from the North, establishing their kingdom in 419, where they governed for several hundred years.
In 711, the armies of the Muslim Moors crossed the Straight of Gibraltar and defeated Roderic, the last Visigoth King, and set up their kingdom in Southern Spain, calling it Al-Andalus.
For the next 700 years independent Muslims states were established throughout central and Southern Spain, while small Catholic kingdoms governed in the North. The history of Muslim Spain is usually divided into three distinct time periods.
1.711 – 756 A.D. The Emirate rule.
2. 756 – 1031 A.D. The Caliphate kingdom.
3. 1031 – 1492 A.D. The Taifas or many small kingdoms.
Eventually, the Spaniards, through what is now called the Reconquest, took back the entire nation from the Arab Muslims, and in 1492 three notable events took place:
1. Spain gained complete victory against the Moors with the fall of Granada. (Expulsing them all from their country).
2. Spain forced Jews to either convert to Catholicism or flee.
3. Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Historians mark the unification of all of Spain in the year 1469 with the marriage of Queen Isabella of Castile with King Ferdinand II of Aragon. Together they made Catholicism the national religion, and in 1478, they petitioned the Pope in Rome to bring his Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition to their borders, to try for heresy anyone who did not practice Roman Catholicism. This led to the bloody Spanish Inquisition, which took the lives of countless millions, especially those who committed no crime, desiring only to read and study the Bible in their own language.
THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
The Spanish Language has a long history of uniting Spain and even Latin America. According to the I.C.S. Reference Library textbook of Spanish Grammar, copyright 1903, we read:
“Among Spanish-speaking people, Spanish grammar is usually called gramática castellana, (Castilian grammar); and the Spanish language itself, lengua castellana, (Castilian language), or simply Castellano, (Castilian). The reason for this being that the language was first spoken in the old kingdom of Castile, the center of Spanish power and influence at the time; but a law was enforced later on by which the dialects spoken in some of the provinces should be totally discarded from the public schools, and in their place, the Castilian language should exclusively be taught and used in all official documents, becoming therefore the national language. Accordingly, the general prevailing tendency is to the call the Castilian language “el idioma español” or simply “el español,” (Spanish).
The entire population of Spanish America speak and write the language of Castile, with only some slight deviations in pronouncing certain letters…
The language spoken in all Spanish America from Mexico down to the Argentine, is the same as spoken in Spain, except with some slight deviations, the most important being the pronunciation of the c before e and i, and the z, which are given the sound of Spanish s instead of that of th, given by the Castilians. This pronunciation is also heard in the Southern part of Spain.”
Not only is Castilian Spanish by law the national language in Spain, but it is also the national language in Central and South America, and mandated by governmental decrees of each country, it must be protected.
Let us read from the Constitution of the country of Honduras as an example:
“El idioma oficial de Honduras es el español. El estado protegerá su pureza e incrementará.”
Translated this means:
“The official language of Honduras is Spanish. The state will protect its purity and will increment its use.”
It is important to realize, that until recently, the Spanish Bible has always been translated into Castilian Spanish. And, any Spanish Bible translation work should always be done in that same style, as that is true Spanish.
Just as in English we praise our King James Bible for its old Elizabethan English, which was the height of the English language, so to, the old Spanish Reina-Valera Bible was given to us in the height of the beauty of the old Castilian Spanish language.
Both of these languages prospered under the Reformation, the height of enlightenment and learning.
Sadly, there are some who would call the King James Bible, archaic, and the language of it out of date.
There are those too who would make the same claim of the Spanish Bible and the Castilian language.
But it must be realized that both English and Castilian Spanish are not archaic and not only understood today, but used on a regular basis.
Above: The modern flag of the nation of Spain.
A Bible translated into the Spanish language had long been the desire of many Spaniards. However, they were three things that greatly hindered this work:
1. The Catholic Prohibitions of translating the Bible to vernacular languages.
2. The Spanish Inquisition.
3. The lack of Pure Texts available to translators.
The translation of the entire Bible into the language of the common man to read for himself is something that the Roman Catholic Church strictly prohibited, allowing reading and studying of the word of God only to the priestly class, and then only in Latin.
In the Council of Tarragona of 1234, in its second canon, we read:
The Council of Trent (1545-1564) also prohibited the Bible with the following words:
"No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned lest, be he a cleric or a layman, he be suspected until he is cleared of all suspicion."
[of sins] till he has given it up to his ordinary."
"That if any one shall dare to read or keep in his possession that book, without such a license, he shall not receive absolution
And the Index of 1551 of the Spanish Inquisition expressly prohibited, “The Bible in Castilian Romance or any other vulgar tongue.”
Even Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) declared the reading of the Bible as harmful in the following words:
"It is evidence from experience, that the Holy Scriptures, when circulated in the vulgar tongue, have, through the temerity of men, produced more harm than benefit."
With such adamant religious opposition to translating the word of God, many because of fear and intimidation shied away from such a task. Those who took up the project, did so at their own peril.
With the onset of the Spanish Inquisition, those who disobeyed church law in translating the Holy Scriptures to other languages were often quickly apprehended, brought before the Inquisitors, tried, and burned at the stake. Their Bibles often joined them in the fire.
But not all translators and their translations were burned. There were many courageous men who chose to jeopardize their own lives to get the word of God to the common man. In England, we fondly remember men like William Tyndale, and John Wycliffe, for their English translations. It is the hope of this author, that through this book, we will also honor and remember those Spaniards who with the same zealous desire fought valiantly to give the Spanish-speaking people the word of God in their own tongue.
Sadly, when it comes to translating the Spanish Bible, we find the biggest problem is locating and utilizing the pure texts of the original languages. For the Catholic Church had a monopoly on Bible manuscripts, and often times their copies were riddled with many additions and subtractions to the text itself.
Those few translations condoned by the Catholic Church were done only by church theologians, and were diligently checked and revised by them, as the church would only allow translations from the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, a version which contained many errors (as we shall see later).
Thus, we find the translation of the Scriptures into the Spanish language was a slow and tedious process. And, for the Spanish-Speaking world to have a pure Spanish Bible, it took many, many years and a very great sacrifice.
EARLY SPANISH BIBLES
THE ALFONSO BIBLE
King Alfonso X of Castile (1221-1284) commissioned the earliest known translation of the scriptures into the Spanish tongue, with an entire Old Testament produced in 1240 A.D. This version today is known as La Biblia Alfonsina or The Alfonsine Bible.
As a scholar, poet, and writer, King Alfonso believed in preserving knowledge. Tolerating Christians, Jews, and Muslims in his reign, he translated many of their works into Spanish and Latin. His library consisted of well over 32,000 volumes, most of which he made available in a public library for peoples of all faith.
King Alfonso today is known as “Alfonso the Wise” for his great knowledge, and desire to see it dispersed to others. With his “School of Translators” in Toledo, a group of Christian, Moslem, and Jewish scholars, he made many Arab works available to Europeans in Latin and Spanish translations. His main interests were astronomy, astrology, and of course the Bible.
In his own work, “General e grande Estoria.” King Alfonso ties the history of the modern world of his day into the history given in the Hebrew Bible, showing he believed in the veracity of the Hebrew Old Testament.
Although his Old Testament used Hebrew texts in its translation, it also followed many readings from the corrupt Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate. It also did not see much publication, as Juan I of Aragon, in 1233, prohibited vernacular versions of the Scripture, and ordered any such work to be burned. Thus, the Alfonsine Bible was locked up in the Royal Library for countless centuries, unviewed and unavailable to the common man.
THE BIBLE OF ALBA
The first Jewish translation of the scriptures into Spanish was commissioned by Luis de Guzman, the grand master of the military-religious Order of Calatrava, and for this reason is known by some as the Guzman Bible.
The work was painstakingly done by rabbi Moses Arragel and carefully revised by Arias de Enzinas. It was first printed in 1430 in a place called Casa de Alba. For this, many call it the Alba Bible.
This version, consisting only of the Old Testament, was made directly from Hebrew into Medieval Castilian.
Luis de Guzman desired a Spanish Old Testament accompanied by commentary from Jewish scholars interpreting the text of their own holy book, hoping such a work would bridge the gap of anti-semitism in Spain.
On April 5, 1422, Luis de Guzmán initiated the project of translation by sending a letter to rabbi Moses Arragel inviting him to compose "vna biblia en romançe, glosada e ystoriada." The rabbi accepted, and completed the work eight years later. It consists of 513 pages and contains many highly decorated artistic illustrations, the work of Franciscan monks in Toledo.
The Bible is also full of commentary by both Jewish and Catholic theologians.
Also contained in the Bible are 25 pages of correspondence between Rabbi Arragel and Luis Guzman.
Facsimiles of this version are available today, but only at a very high price for the delicately detailed art contained therein. In 2011, reprints were selling for $49,950 American dollars each.
Example of some of the amazing artwork in the Alba Bible.
THE COMPLUTENSIAN POLYGLOT
Although this version was not translated into Spanish, it must be mentioned, as it shows the Spanish scholarship of the time. This version was commissioned by the catholic Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros, who was archbishop of Toledo and personal confessor to queen Isabella of Spain. After having obtained many various manuscripts and preserving them, he invited many scholars of his day to meet at the notable University of Alcala de Henares in Madrid, in order to compare these codices and produce a complete Bible. They worked for 15 years on the project, translating into three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
Their New Testament was printed in 1514, and their Old Testament in 1517.
It is interesting to note that the famous Erasmus journeyed to this University and had access to this notable version. There are many who believe this was a good translation but not without error. Today there still exist many questions about its translators, their source texts, and its textual purity.
THE WORK OF BONIFACIO FERRAR
A Catholic priest named Bonifacio Ferrar produced his own Catalonian or Valencian dialect translation, in 1478. In it he followed the Old Testament version from the French and the Latin by Romeu de Sabruguera. His work was again reprinted in 1480, under the title of “The Catalan Psalter.”
Later, his Gospels and the Epistles were printed in Saragossa in 1485 and Salamanca in 1493.
All copies obtained by the Catholic church of this work were burned before 1500, and only a single leaf of this version exists in the Hispanic Society of America’s Library.
THE WORK OF MONTESINO
Another who translated parts of the scriptures into Spanish was a man named Montesino, who printed his work in Alcala, Spain in 1502, and again in Toledo in 1512. His work seems to have found favor among Catholics as it was not condemned nor destroyed, but rather printed on Catholic presses.
Some of Montesino’s translation was revised and corrected in the seventeenth century, but saw very little circulation.
THE WORK OF QUIROGA
Little is known about this version by Quiroga, a Catholic convert from Judaism, and also a cardinal Inquisitor. His version has been called The Bible of Quiroga. Obviously, it was a Catholic translation.
THE FERRARA BIBLE
This complete Old Testament, published in 1553, was the work of two Spanish–Speaking Jews: Jeronimo de Vargas and Duarte Pinel. Having been expelled from their native Spain, they worked in Italy translating the Hebrew Bible into their native Spanish.
Their work is called the Ferrara Bible, because they dedicated it to the Duke of Ferrara on March 1st, 1553.
That the Ferrara Bible was allowed by the Catholic church can easily be seen from the title page of that version, in which it states before printing, it was: “examined by the office of the Inquisition.”
Looking at the Title page of the Biblia de Ferrara, we plainly see a ship with a broken mast, most likely signifying the Jewish nation in exile, aimlessly traveling the globe fleeing persecution, as both Jeronimo de Vargas and Duarte Pinel had to do in fleeing from Spain.
As we look at the preface of the Ferrara Bible, we find the translators used not only the Hebrew text of the Jews, but also the Roman Catholic texts. For there we read:
“...this our Bible to be in the Castilian tongue the closest to the truth of the Hebrew as possible, making it follow as much as possible the translation of PAGNINO and his thesaurus of the Sacred tongue, following word for word as conforming to the Hebrew letter and is very accepted and esteemed by the Roman priesthood, yet that for this we did not lack all the old and modern Hebrew translations that we could get our hands on...”
According to this confession, they used the catholic text of SANTES PAGNINO, but they also compared many other Hebrew texts.
What they produced was a relatively good work, but it was more of a word for word translation, which made for poor syntax. It did prove useful, however, in the translation work of Cassidoro de Reina in his 1569 translation of the entire Bible into Spanish.
An interesting note about the Ferrara Bible is the Jewish men who produced it would not translate the Hebrew name for God as “Jehovah.” Instead they used the word “Adonai” (Adonay in Spanish).
Cassidoro de Reina ridicules them for this stand and calls their reverence in not translating the holy name of God, “supersticious.” For this reason, he used “Jehová ” in his version of the Old Testament, of which we shall speak more later.
THE REFORMATION IN SPAINOn October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany in protest to the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences, which is nothing short of selling licenses to sin. His actions led to what many now call the “Protestant Reformation,” in which hundreds of thousands of Catholics sought to stamp out the corruption within their church. Some remained Romanists, while others separated themselves completely from the Catholic Church, and became known as Protestants.
The Catholic Church did not like the teachings of the reformation, especially the doctrine of justification by faith without works, and the Inquisition went to work even more vehemently to root out and put to death those who adopted this teaching. They were immediately labeled Lutherans and those who were caught reading, teaching, or even listening to the doctrines of Luther, were tried before Inquisitor priests for heresy, and oftentimes burned at the stake.
In Spain, the light of the scriptures and the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, entered quickly and gained much ground. So much so that Cipriano de Valera tells us:
“...There was no city, village, or place in Spain in which there had not been some to whom God by his infinite wisdom had not illuminated the light of the Gospel; and though the adversaries had done everything possible to put out that light, dishonoring with loss of goods, of life, and of honor to many, they did not achieve anything, because, it is said, the more they tried to stop it, the more they whipped them...the more they cast them into stocks and perpetual prisons or burned them, the more they multiplied.”
A Catholic historian of the time named Gonzales de Illescas in his work, Historia Pontifical, even states:
“In those days the jails, the stocks, and the bonfires were populated by many illustrious people unsurpassed in letters and virtue, and there were so many as such that it was believed that if [the Inquisitors] had waited two or three months more in remedying the damage done [by the reformation doctrines] all of Spain would have embraced it.”
This is some confession! For had the Inquisition done nothing, the whole of Spain most likely would have turned to God and the scriptures instead of a corrupt, religious church which engaged in nothing short of outright murder towards those who didn’t agree with their doctrinal positions.
Among those who were captured by the Spanish Inquisition were many valiant Spaniards who stood up for what they believed in, in spite of the consequences. We shall briefly look at some of these courageous Christians, for their stories intertwine with those who translated the Scriptures into the Castilian language.Francisco San Roman belonged to a long line of rich business men from Burgos. As he travelled in Flanders on business, he discovered many Fleming shop keepers who closed their doors at set times in order to read prohibited books in secret. He also learned they would meet at sites outside of the city to listen to the preaching of a new doctrine (that of justification by faith). He later witnessed many studying and adopting this teaching.
In the city of Brema, he visited a church and listened to the teaching of Pastor Jacob Spreng. At the end of the service everyone left, but Francisco stayed seated with tears in his eyes. The Pastor took him home with him, where for three days they spoke of nothing but the scriptures and Jesus Christ. It is there that Francisco received Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
Francisco later returned to Antwerp where he obtained a copy of the New Testament in Spanish (quite possibly that of Juan Perez de Pineda). He then dedicated his life to evangelizing Spaniards in that city. And, it wasn’t long until he was taken captive by the Inquisition, and all his books and tracts were burned. Miraculously, he escaped imprisonment and made his way to Lovaina where he encountered his friend Francisco de Enzinas (of whom much shall be mentioned later). He was, however, eventually recaptured, judged, and condemned to burn at the stake.
As they lit the firewood at his feet, Francisco San Roman looked up with a radiant face of joy and asked the monks whether or not they were jealous of his happiness to die in the service of the Lord.
This great Spanish hero died for the sake of the Gospel in 1545.
Rodrigo de Valer was a resident of Seville, being born in Lebrija. As a youth he lived a wicked, ungodly life. But after a long time of anguish and repentance for his past sins, he came to Christ and chose to serve him zealously.
This consisted of him daily traveling through the streets of Seville disputing and debating with the priests and clergy, blaming them for the cause of all the corruption in the church and rebuking them, calling them, “Scribes” and “Pharisees,” whom he claimed were entirely given over to “superstition” and “idolatry.”
At first the priests ignored him thinking him only to be crazy and a fool. But the more he persisted the more violent they become, demanding of him, just as the religious leaders did of Jesus in his day, “Who gave you the authority to talk about us like that?”
Rodrigo answered back, “My authority is from the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit of God!”
As can be expected, Rodrigo eventually was called before the Spanish Inquisitors where he courageously spoke of the true Church, justification by faith, and other such things. The priests chose to let him go, but only after taking away all his earthly belongings, leaving him on the street, penniless. Still he persisted, and was later imprisoned in a religious jail, where he died of sickness around the year 1550, the victim of an intolerant religious organization.
Dr. Juan Gil, also known as Egidio, was a priest and celebrated speaker in Seville. Listening to the counsel of the “crazy” Rodrigo de Valer, who suggested he preach the Bible in church services rather than the dry catholic liturgical rites, Egidio began teaching and preaching the word of God in the grand Cathedral and many commoners came to hear him.
But, the Inquisitors would have nothing of it and they locked him up in prison where he died of illness related to the humidity of the dark, dank dungeon. His only crime, allowing the masses to hear God’s word.
Constantine Ponce de la Fuente, was born in the small village of San Clemente de la Mancha, possibly of Jewish ancestry. He studied in the famous University of Alcala, where he was a contemporary of Egidio. Around the year 1535 he began preaching, and common people heard him gladly. Often, his sermons would last over eight hours, as he would begin at eight in the morning and not close until after four in the afternoon!
After accepting the teachings of the Reformation, he was captured by the Inquisition and diligently questioned about what he believed. According to the register of the Inquisition:
“He spoke of the true Church and of the principles of the Lutherans, and proved that the [real] Church was not that of the Papists; also he discussed with them many different points in which Lutherans differed from Catholics.”
For this heinous crime of daring to believe differently than the doctrines of Catholicism, he was again locked up, where he eventually died after two years with dysentery.
So hated was he by the Papists, that on Dec. 22, 1560, his bones were dug up and burned by the Inquisition leaders.
His religious writings were also added to the list of forbidden books by the Catholic Church.
Cristobal Lozada, was a medical doctor that pastored a small congregation of Reformers that secretly met in the house of Mrs. Isabel de Baena in Seville. When the Inquisition discovered the vast amount of secret Protestants in Seville, a strong persecution arose against them, and the Inquisitors threw 800 people into jail at the famous castle of Triana. After being judged and condemned to death, this great protestant leader Cristobal Lozado was burned at the stake with twenty other of his brothers in the faith.
Mary Bohorques, was a genius and somewhat of a child prodigy. She was a disciple of Dr. Juan Gil (Egidio), and at the age of 11, she began studying Greek, which allowed her to quickly read the early writings of the apostles in their own language. She also studied the word of God diligently and found the dogmas of popery to be very much against the Bible.
According to historical accounts she was always busy learning and speaking about the things of God. Dr. Juan Gil said of her, “I feel very elevated each time I speak with her.”
For her faith, she was arrested and submitted to cruel interrogations. One Adolfo de Fort tells us: “She disputed with various Jesuits and Dominicans, who tried to make her recant her beliefs in vain, which they upon seeing were confused that a maiden of such a young age should know so much theology and have such a thorough knowledge of the divine Scripture.”
She died at the tender age of 15 under the barbarous torture of her Spanish Inquisitors.
Juan Diaz, a Spaniard who, after becoming converted through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, fled Spain and joined himself with the Reformers in Strasburg. It is from here he said the famous words, “I declare to believe in the Redeemer, the only head of the Church, the only mediator between God and men, and I separate myself forever from the Roman Church in which the pure doctrine of Christ is not found, nor the faithful administration of the sacraments nor of the glorious liberty of the sons of God.”
Juan had a papist brother, who diligently sought to change his mind. When he saw he could not, he had him assassinated, which lead to the Reformer Melanchthon’s famous comment, “Cain has once again killed his brother!”
Dr. Blanco Garcia Arias was the superior of the monastery of San Isidro del Campo in Seville, Spain. (Where both Reina and Valera resided as monks). He was influenced by the Old Latin Bible of the Waldenses and their preaching. After becoming a Believer, he embraced the teachings of the Reformers and began to spread them with his colleagues in his monastery. When the Inquisition General heard of this, he immediately dispatched soldiers to arrest all of the monks. Many of them fled for their lives, while some were captured. Dr. Arias was among those apprehended. He died in prison after many years of incarceration.
Juan Valdez was born with his twin brother Alfonso in the city of Cuenca. Both studied in the famous University of Alcala, and through correspondence with Erasmus, they realized the great need for profound reformation in the Catholic church.
Both wrote works which spoke against the papacy and the corruption among the clerics. Because of this they were labeled by the Inquisitors as “dangerous and infected with heresy.”
Living in Germany, they found it prudent not to return to Spain, for they would have most certainly fallen into the hands of the Inquisition.
Juan died in Naples, Italy in May of 1541, having left behind part of the Psalms translated into Spanish, (specifically chapters 1-41).
Antonio del Corro was born in 1526. Although he is not well known today, his name is very important in the history of the Spanish Bible, for he had a great impact in the printing of the first entire Spanish Bible. His character is also indicative of those valiant Spaniards of his time.
Antonio was one of twelve monks in the monastery of San Isidro del Campo en Seville that left Spain in 1557, fleeing the persecution of the Romanists, staying for a short time in Geneva, Switzerland with the noted Spaniard Juan Peréz de Pineda.
Back in Spain, a close family member of Antonio was an Inquisitor in Seville, and in this profession, he obtained many pieces of Protestant literature. Even though he was a Inquisitor priest, he was not in favor of the senseless slaughter of the “heretics” by the Catholic Church, and he spoke with Antonio about this on many occasions, even stating of the martyred Dr. Juan Gil, “I esteem him to be a Christian of better life than any one of his adversaries that stood against him.” Further he said of Dr. Juan Gil, “If he is, as it is stated, a heretic, then I am too!” (This statement caused a great scandal among his fellow Inquisitors.)
Having access to the confiscated Protestant works of his close family member, Antonio read the books of Luther, as well as other protestant books from Germany. And in 1574, he wrote a letter to Zurich, proclaiming to a certain Protestant author: “I am one of those that with the help of your writings, most wise sir, I have acquired a more pure knowledge of the Christian doctrine. For, more than twenty years ago, by the divine providence of God, I obtained an opportunity to study your books, that the Spanish Inquisitors had obtained. From them I was able to derive abundant fruit, and gratitude obliges me to give thanks, since I am not able to return the favor…I pray you, most vigilant Pastor, that you might consider me in the number of those who for your labor and vigilance you have brought me to the knowledge of Christ.”
The Inquisitors were very surprised when Antonio left Spain, and cordially asked him to return in order to go on trail for heresy, but when he turned down their petition, they became enraged, labeling him a heretic, and a fugitive Lutheran from Papal justice. In the 26th of April 1562, the papists burned him in effigy.
Antonio was not well received by John Calvin, who denied him many opportunities to preach. It’s recorded that one time Antonio arrived in a certain city to preach the Gospel, but Calvin put his soldiers in front of the main gates to keep him from entering. Perceiving that he would never be able to enter the city, Antonio told others to enter and tell the inhabitants that he would be without the walls ready with his Bible. Many people gladly left the city and came into the country to hear his sermon, as he preached to them in the forest. For this reason, Antonio said that even the Spanish Inquisitors were nicer to him than John Calvin!
Fearing both Catholic and Protestant persecution, Antonio wrote a letter to both and to all those who named themselves “Christians,” that they should not fight, nor mistreat one another. He exhorted them in the following words:
“It would be against the common feeling to leave the Papal tyrrany to experiment itself against another tyrrany which is almost equal to it …We have not been baptized in the name of Martin, nor Zwingli, nor Calvin, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and for such we detest and call it an abomination all these names of such sects such as “Martinistas,” “Zwinglians,” Calvinists,” and more. If those learned men that have taught up until now, and today preach the Gospel, were more wise and more strictly dedicated to look to the glory of God and not at themselves, then the people would have more liberty of conscience, and be devoted to the one and only God, and not to men who are mortal, ignorant, and blind, who desire to lift themselves up as idols to be followed and held in admiration. We need to be diligent to make our preaching point people to Jesus Christ, our sovereign doctor, and not to follow the Augsburg Confession, nor the catechism of Martin, nor the interpretations of John or Peter. In the issue of the Romanists, in exposing their abuses, we should do so with modesty, sobriety, and gravity, that they might understand that we are not excited by hatred of their person, rather for a spiritual zeal for the glory of God… Being they are hungry wolves, yet they call themselves pastors of the multitude of God…in conclusion, we should try to live in peace one with another, being we Romanists or the Reformed Religion. We should love all, help all, and support the ignorance and infirmities of all. For it is preferable to err on that side, if that indeed be in error, than to put ourselves above others like Judges of conscience and pass judgment of condemnation against those that are not in agreement with us. For the knowledge of our ignorance we are desirous to learn, and not to be Inquisitors and Censors of the beliefs of others. (His epistle dated the 2nd of January 1567).
From Geneva, Antonio went to Lausanne, where he became friends with the great Scholar Theodore Beza, remembered today for his edition of the Greek New Testament (Textus Receptus).
Antonio then traveled around often, and in 1563, he wrote to his friend Cassidoro de Reina, who had recently questioned him about the printing of the Spanish Bible, informing him that he had made arrangements with the queen of Navarre who would permit the printing of the Bible in her castle. We know very little of what happened next. Some say a New Testament was printed in Bern in 1563. (Until today no one has seen a copy of this. Could it have been the N.T. of Juan Perez de Pineda? Or could it have been the N.T. of Reina's translation?).
In 1556, Antonio went to Paris to visit Juan Peréz de Pineda, who was sick nigh unto death. Antonio arrived to speak with him just before he died. They spoke about making arrangement to sell all that Juan Peréz de Pineda had and to use that money for the printing of de Pineda’s N.T.
Antonio stood by his bedside when Juan Perez de Pineda passed away, promising him that he would do all possible to use the sale of his possessions that he left behind for the printing of the Spanish Bible.
But Antonio was unable to so. For at Juan Peréz de Pineda’s death, the state authorities confiscated everything. Antonio fought valiantly in court, and gave testimony of Juan's desire to see his worldly goods sold and used to print the Bible. From this, the state finally ruled turned over the money from the sales of Juan's goods to Cassidoro de Reina for the printing of the entire Bible in Castilian Spanish, which was eventually accomplished in 1569.
Julianillo Hernandez is one of the important Spaniards of his time. Although he is little remembered today, he had probably the greatest impact of all Protestants in getting the word of God into Spain.
Born in Villaverde, he moved to Germany at an early age with his parents where he learned the office of a printer’s apprentice. Working with moveable type, Julianillo eventually came in contact with many of the Reformation works, and it didn’t take long until he read them and embraced salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
With a burden for his native land and his own countrymen, he traveled to see other Spanish believers. In Geneva, he encountered Juan Perez de Pineda, who had recently translated the entire New Testament.
Julianillo was very short in stature, and for this he was called by the French Le Pettit. Yet, he was very long on courage, as he chose to serve the Lord in a risky manner.
Julianillo is best known for his method of distribution of the scriptures. With no fear for his own life, he smuggled Bibles and Reformation literature into Spain (it is believed he took with him the recently printed N.T. of Juan Perez de Pineda), by hiding them in the bottom of barrels. He reached all classes on his journeys, reaching even the nobility, the laity, and the clergy.
He frequented the monastery of San Isidro del Campo in Seville, where many of his “forbidden books” by Luther, and his New Testaments were readily received.
Sadly, as Christ had his Judas, so did Julianillo. As a man who claimed to be his friend turned him over to the Inquisitors, who then condemned him to be burned at the stake, labeling him a “heretic, apostate, stubborn, and dogmatic.”
Julianillo died triumphantly full of peace, and it is said he exhorted those who burned at the stake with him with the following words: “Be firm in your resolution, my companions. This is the hour when it most becomes us to show ourselves valiant soldiers of Jesus Christ. Let us render, in the sight of men, a faithful testimony to Him, and to His truth; then, after a few short hours, in like faithfulness to us, we shall receive of Him the prize of his approval and triumph, everlastingly with Him in heaven.”
Alfonso de Castro says of Julianillo Hernandez:
“He was one of the most notable Protestantes in Spain, not only for the service that he did for the cause, but also for the sharpness of his ingenuity, for his scholarship in the sacred letters, and for his valiant death.”
PROTESTANT BIBLE TRANSLATORS
The Spanish Inquisition killed countless thousands of Spaniards who were guilty of no crime other than desiring to study the scriptures to decide for themselves what to believe.
Yet, even with the cruel hatred and persecution from the Papists, we find those with a great love for the Bible who were willing to hazard their own lives to translate the Bible into Spanish so that their fellow Spaniards might be able to read the word of God in their own language. Let us look at these valiant men.
THE NEW TESTAMENT OF FRANCISCO DE ENZINAS
The first complete New Testament translation of the Holy Scriptures into Spanish was the work of Francisco de Enzinas, published in 1543.
Enzinas was born in Burgos in 1520. He studied with his brother Jaime at the University of Alcala where the noted scholar Pedro de Leemes taught them in the studies of the Holy Scriptures.
In 1540 he moved to the university of Lovaina, where he ended his studies, and where it appears he was influenced by the ideas of the Reformers. His Protestant brother Jaime moved to Paris in 1541 and then to Rome in 1546 where he was arrested by the Inquisition and burned at the stake as one of the first martyrs of the Reformation in Italy.
Not in agreement with the doctrines of Roman Catholicism, and fearing for his life, Francisco de Enzinas moved to Wittemberg, Germany, and enrolled in the University there on October 27, 1541.
Theodore Vitus, a preacher in Nuremburg said of Enzinas, “a Spaniard...a wise man, serious and gifted with a rare virtue, who shows a philosophical zeal in every task…”
In Wittenburg, Enzinas stayed in the home of the famous Melanchton, who encouraged him to translate the New Testament into Castilian. Enzinas agreed to undertake the job, and using Greek manuscripts for his project, he finished after just 18 months of tedious work.
Having completed his goal, he went to Lovaina, where he presented his work to the theologians of the city. They counseled him not to publish the work, stating, “...From the Bible has been born all the heresies in Germany and the Low Countries[of Spanish domain] being a pretext for the simple and idiotic people to give themselves to vain interpretations and dreams, rejecting the canons and decrees of the [Catholic] Church.”
Unswayed by their warning, Enzinas traveled to Antwerp to print his version. On the title page, he desired it should read: “El Nuevo Testamento, o La Nueva Alianza de Nuestro Redemptor y solo Salvador Jesucristo.” (Translation: “The New Testament, or the New Alliance of our Redeemer and only Saviour Jesus Christ.”).
However, a Dominican priest, who wasn’t against the translation of the scriptures into Spanish, warned him that the words “alianza” and “solo Salvador” sounded too Lutheran and would make his version suspect to the Inquisition. For this reason he changed it to read only: “El Nuevo Testamento de nuestro Redemptor y Salvador Jesu Christo.”
After publication, the count of Antwerp received an order from Emperor Carlos V to put a stop to the circulation of all Protestant printed materials, including Enzinas’ New Testament.
Enzinas in his zeal then went directly before the Emperor in Brussels to defend his work, and asked if he could distribute it if he included a dedication in the work to the Emperor himself. Intrigued the Emperor asked, “What book do you want to dedicate to me?”
Enzinas responded, “Lord, a part of the Sacred Scriptures we call the New Testament, faithfully translated by me into Castilian: in which is contained the principal of the Gospel history and the writings of the apostles. I desire your majesty as defender of religion, to judge and carefully examine my work, and I humbly entreat that the work, approved by your Majesty, would be recommended to the Christian people by your Imperial Authority.”
The Emperor retorted, “Are you the author of this work?”
Enzinas replied, “The Holy Spirit is the author: inspired by Him, some holy men wrote with common intelligence these oracles of salvation and redemption in the Greek language; I am only a faithful servant and weak organ, that has translated this work into the Castilian tongue.”
The Emperor questioned, “In Castilian?”
To the which Enzinas answered, “In our Castilian tongue, and I again entreat you that you be its patron and defender, according to your clemency. Be it as you please, that nothing suspicious [be found] in this book. Nothing that proceeds from the word of God should be suspicious to Christians. May your will be done, if the work is such as you and the Bishop affirm.”
The Emperor didn’t seem too interested in the work, as he gave it to his confessor Pedro de Soto for examination, who demanded Enzinas to abandon the project and cut off all ties to the Lutheran “heretics” in Germany.
Enzinas was then immediately led in chains directly to jail where he passed fourteen months in the company of other accused Lutherans.
In February of 1545 Enzinas escaped, and fled to Antwerp, where he lodged with Melanchton once again.
In 1546, he traveled to Strasburg, Zurich, and then Basel, where he settled down and published his History of the Death of Juan Diaz, and a critique of the Council of Trent.
Enzinas later married in Strasburg to Margaret Elter, and together they moved to England, where he was well received by archbishop Cranmer, who put him to work at the University of Cambridge as a Greek professor. His alias there was Francisco Dryander.
In 1552, he went to Geneva to meet with John Calvin, with whom he corresponded for many years. On his journey back to England, he died from the plague on the 30th of December of the same year.
An interesting note about the Enzinas version is that it does not read “Verbo” in John 1:1, rather “Palabra” as all Protestant versions do. This will be important to note later on.
THE NEW TESTAMENT OF JUAN PEREZ DE PINEDA
Juan Perez de Pineda is the translator of the second complete Spanish New Testament. He was born in the city of Montilla, in Andalusia around the year 1500, and little is known of his childhood.
Juan worked for Emperor Carlos V in Rome (circa the years 1527-1530), and eventually quit to go back to his homeland of Spain.
In Seville, Juan acted as the director of el Colegio de la Doctrina, (School of Doctrine), in which he educated the rich and noble young people of the city.
While there he fellowshipped regularly with notable Spaniards like Egidio (Dr. Juan Gil), Constantine Ponce de la Fuente, Reina and Valera, and more, adopting the teachings of the Reformation.
Fearing the Inquisition, he fled to Geneva, where he finished translating the entire New Testament to the Castilian tongue, and saw its publication in 1556 (a culmination of five years work). The next year he printed the book of Psalms. (In which he translates the name of God as “Señor” instead of “Jehová.” An important note which will be mentioned later.)
Juan had a great desire to see his native Spaniards saved. In the preface of his Bible we read:
“I feel very much obliged to do service to those of my nation, according to the vocation that the Lord hath called me to the annunciation of the Gospel, it seemed to me there was no other means to complete this [task] if not in all, at least in part, with my desire and obligation to give [the New Testament] in my own language.”
Juan felt the scriptures were necessary in order to make one wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15), and viewed the scriptures as completely essential to finding absolute truth.
His translation work was not for fame, nor fortune, but only to please his Lord and Saviour. He did not dedicate his work to an earthly king, rather to the King of Kings, for in his preface we read:
“My intention of translating your Testament, King of Glory, has been to serve you and help those that are redeemed by your precious Blood, as you, Lord, well know, are the author of it! And may they help others of the power of the greatness to give security of your books, for this to be yours, I have wanted, Lord, to devote myself in dedicating it to you, for you only are the Great and Powerful one, for those that you redeemed might rejoice and receive the fruit of your labour. For this being as it is, all yours, and your own thing to know and glorify your name, may it go out and be published under the title and care of your Majesty, for you are the beginning, the growth, and perfection of all that is good … For this, Lord, I have run to thee, taking you as Patron, so that in this (according to your commandment) might be found glory. For as you are the author of this work that you love so, you might also be the tutor.”
Still fearing the deadly Inquisition, Juan did not dare put his name on the title page of his work, nor did he state where it was printed. Instead he listed the location and publisher as: “In Venice, in the house of John Philadelpho.”
Many scholars agree that no such man and no such house existed in Venice, and that this was simply a pseudonym for Juan Perez de Pineda himself. The word Phildephia, of course means brotherly love, and it’s been theorized that Juan Philadelpho, was Juan’s way of saying he loved his Spanish brethren greatly, enough to give them the word of God anonymously.
The truth is his version was printed by Jean Crispin in Geneva. On the title page of Juan Perez de Pineda’s N.T., we see a “Y” which represents the two paths a sinner can take, one to eternal perdition, and the other to everlasting, celestial glory.
Matthew 7:13 is also given, showing the damned taking the broad way, while the righteous take the narrow. And interestingly enough, the arms on the “Y” are purposely made with one wide and one narrow.
Further symbolism is seen in the sinner on the left falling into the fires of hell, while the redeemed looks to receive a crown of glory in heaven, probably insinuating that he thought to receive a crown for his service to Christ in getting Castilian-speaking people the word of God in their own language.
The entire New Testament was not Juan’s only work. He also reprinted Commentaries by Juan Valdes on the book of Romans and the book of First Corinthians, in 1556 and 1557 respectfully.
In 1558 Juan organized a church in Geneva consisting of fugitive Spaniards, which elected him as Pastor. (The same church in which Cassidoro de Reina served as pastor later).
Juan wrote many wonderful and evangelical works in his lifetime, many of which were doctrinal in nature and having to do with the vicarious sacrificial blood atonement of Jesus Christ.
He died in 1567.
It is important to note that it is his New Testament that Julianillo Hernandez smuggled into Spain to distribute, and it was this version that both Cassidoro de Reina and Cipriano de Valera read in their own language which led to their salvation.
Some claim that Juan Perez de Pineda didn’t do much of the translation work himself, instead copying greatly from the work of Francisco de Enzinas and his 1543 New Testament. But we know this is not the case, as his title page even tells us his version was “Newly and faithfully translated from the original Greek into romance Castilian.”
However, it is known that Juan would have had access to the Enzinas, and he most likely would have referenced it in his work. Both Cassidoro de Reina and Cipriano de Valera also used Juan Perez de Pineda’s N.T. in their translation work.
Thus, it’s important to note that the history of the Spanish Bible is tightly interconnected among the many Reformer Spaniards who jeopardized their lives for the goal of getting their own people a Castilian Bible in their own language.
THE FIRST ENTIRE BIBLE TRANSLATION INTO SPANISH
Although the Old Testament and New Testament had been translated into Spanish on several occasions by various different Spaniards, no one had undertaken the task to do both at the same time in order to print them in one volume.
The first to do this was Cassidoro de Reina, who published his entire version of the Bible in Basil, Switzerland in 1569.
Born in 1520 in the South of Spain, Reina attended the university of Seville, where he was ordained a priest, and eventually joined the Monastery of San Isidoro del Campo as a monk of the Hieronymite order, a group of hermits that followed the rules of St. Augustine, and the writings of St. Jerome.
During the years 1550 to 1557 this monastery was profoundly influenced by the Reformation doctrines and the teachings of Martin Luther. It is to this monastery that Julianillo Hernandez smuggled in Reformation literature, as well as New Testaments of Juan Perez de Pineda, and the entire monastery accepted these gladly, immersing themselves in the study of the scriptures.
Once the Catholic church learned of this, they quickly branded these studious disciples as “dogmatists,” worthy of judgment and execution. Thus, being warned by friends, Cassiodro de Reina, along with a dozen of his fellow monks, fled Spain to escape the dreaded Spanish Inquisition.
Reina arrived first in Geneva, where he served as pastor to a small group of Spaniards, once pastored by Juan Perez de Pineda. For his leadership abilities Reina was quickly given the title of “MOSES of the Spaniards.”
But, seeing the critical spirit of John Calvin, and greatly loathing his condemnation and burning of Servetus at the stake, Reina became disillusioned with Calvin’s brand of Protestantism, going so far as to call Geneva, “A New Rome.”
In secret, Reina even wrote a book against Calvin, entitled: “Concerning Heretics, Should they be Persecuted,” in which he condemned all religious executions for any reason.
Scared, not only of harassment from the Spanish Inquisition, but also persecution from those who called themselves “Protestants,” Reina moved to Frankfurt in 1558, and then on to England in 1559, where the Queen gladly harbored and protected him, giving him the church of St. Mary’s Axe, and allowing him to serve as Pastor to a group of Spanish-Speaking refugees. It was here he wrote his Confession of the Christian Faith, in which he begins:
“This declaration, or confession of faith of certain faithful Spaniards, who fleeing the abuses of the Roman Church and the cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition, do constitute a church of the faithful to be received in her as brothers in Christ…congregated in London in the name of the same Lord, the Spanish brethren, fleeing the abominations of the Papacy, rejoice in grace and peace through our only Redeemer.”
Spanish Inquisition agents in England harassed Reina, and falsely accused him of: “deceit, heresy, adultery, and sodomy.” (Interestingly enough, Catholics too falsely accused King James of England of homosexuality).
Fleeing from Catholic agents became a common occurrence for Reina who traveled frequently, and narrowly missed being captured by the Spanish Inquisitors time and again. During his travels he worked on his translation of the Old and New Testament, translating quickly, fearing he would be caught and his work would go unfinished.
In 1563 he went in Antwerp, and in 1564 he settled down with his family in Frankfurt, where he wrote a book against the Inquisition entitled, “Sanctae Inquisitionis hispanicae artes aliquot detectae, ac palam traductae.” It was published in 1567 in Heidelberg.
In 1565, Reina pastored a congregation of French-speaking people in Strasburg for a short time, but meddling papists led to that door being closed, and him having to move once more.
He eventually landed in Switzerland again, and it was there in 1569 he completed his twelve years of translation work, of which he confesses to have taken advantage of the works of the Ferrara Bible, the Enzinas, and others, copying from them word for word in some places.
Reina used many different texts in his translation. In his preface we read:
“First, we declare that we have not followed completely or in all the old Latin translation, that is in common use: for although its ancient authority is mighty, neither one or the other should excuse the many ERRORS that it has, departing so many innumerable times from the truth of the Hebrew text; others adding; others transposing from one place to another, all of which though could well be prevented, it cannot be denied.”
According to this confession, Reina says he did follow the Latin Vulgate (the official Bible of the Catholic church), but not in all, for according to him, it was full of errors and deviations, and not faithful to the pure Hebrew Masoretic text.
That Cassidoro could not follow the Hebrew text completely, we know because he further states in his preface:
“...we came as close as we could to the fountain of the Hebrew Text whenever it was possible, (though without any controversy it is the very first authority) which we did commonly following the translation of Santes Pagnino, who of the vote of all the wise men [learned] in the Hebrew tongue, is taken as the most purest up to date.”
Here, Cassidoro mentions the Santes Pagnino text, a pro-catholic Old Testament, which many priests of that time period viewed as a faithful Old Testament translation.
Because of this, Reina’s Bible was not perfect, as it contained many corrupt, pro-catholic readings, and therefore it needed revision.
Reina’s version today is known as La Biblia del Oso or The Bear Bible, for its drawing of a bear on the title page. There is much symbolism contained therein.
The hammer and the honey represents the word of God, and the bees are those faithful men who worked diligently to translate it to the words of the common man. The bear or beast represents the Catholic Church which sought to destroy the work, and the birds symbolize those Inquisitor agents who sought to catch the translators so they could not finish their work.
Above: Title Page of the 1569 Bear Bible by Reina
The money for the printing of Reina’s Bear Bible came from Juan Perez de Pineda who upon his death left all he had to go towards a fund for printing Spanish Bibles. But, this money was tied up in probate court, and not easy to obtain. After a long wait, it was eventually given to Cassiodoro de Reina for use in publishing his version, of which only 2,600 were ever printed.
It is no secret that Reina’s Bible was not perfect. Although it was very good, it did need revision.
Reina tells us in his preface what he thought should have been done:
“...there should be an order to make a version not the work of a few, but of ten or eleven of the most learned and pious men chosen from the Universities and Churches of the kingdom, who will diligently consult the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament with the Greek of the New, and all version that they have, and of these make a Latin version for the schools and a vulgar version that will serve for the common people, of which by a public council of the nation, and with the favor of the supreme public Magistrate be the supreme authority...of the Scripture canon…”
Interestingly enough, the King James version in English of 1611 does exactly that, being the commandment of the King of England to give the common people not only a pure Bible, but an authorized translation in their own language, done by the most scholarly men of their time.
Would to God the King of England would have also mandated an “authorized” Spanish Version! But Spain and England were not friends.
Thus, this led to the sad history of the Spanish Bible, that of many revisions being done later, each one often making it worse instead of better.
CIPRIANO DE VALERA AND HIS REVISION OF
THE 1569 BIBLE OF THE BEAR
Cipriano de Valera was born near Seville, Spain. During his lifetime he would have known many of those Spaniards who were captured and condemned by the Inquisition, men like Ponce de la Fuente, Dr. Juan Gil, Julianillo Hernandez, and others. In his schooling, he was personally taught by Arias Montano, a well-known Catholic scholar, known for producing his own Polyglot Bible, later printed in Antwerp.
Valera later joined the monastery of San Isidro del Campo, in which Cassiodoro de Reina also resided.
By divine providence Valera escaped the bloody Inquisition and in 1557 fled to Geneva for safety. After his departure, the Inquisition burned him in effigy, branding him a “Lutheran heretic.”
In 1558 he journeyed to England and later joined the University of Cambridge in 1559, obtaining a Master of Arts there in 1563.
That same year he became tutor to an Irish man named Nicholas Walsh. Valera’s desire to see the common man have a Bible to read in their own language can plainly be seen in his encouraging his student to translate the Bible into his native tongue of Gaelic. Mr. Walsh started the project, but suffered a violent death before completion.
This led to Valera being out of a job. Eventually, he became a Schoolmaster, teaching children in London, and during this time, he thought to do something about the Spanish Bible.
Since only 2,600 copies of Reina’s Bear Bible were printed in 1569, and none were published thereafter for at least another 400 years, these versions quickly became hard to find.
For this reason, Valera decided to undertake the job of revising Reina’s Bible before reprinting it for his Spanish-Speaking countrymen to read.
Valera started his work in 1582, (thirteen years after the publication of Reina’s Bear Bible), and worked twenty years, right up until the date of its publication in 1602, (also the year of his death).
From the preface of Valera’s work, we read: “I being 50 years old began this work, and in this year of 1602, it has been pleasing to my God to bring it to light, as I am now 70 years old (this is the age that my strength is weakened, the memory is obstructed, and my eyes are dimmed), having spent 20 years in [revising] it.”
Valera did not claim to have translated another Bible version all by himself. (He did not call it “Valera’s Bible.”). Rather, he looked at himself as nothing more than a Reviser, and his revision he called a “Second Edition,” on the title page.
The artwork he chose for his version contained profound symbolism, which also showed his humility. Two men are shown planting and watering a tree. It is supposed this scene illustrates 1 Cor. 3:6, in which Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” In Valera’s mind, the planter of the seed was Reina, while he was simply the one who watered that version through revision.
Valera gives us his reason for revising the 1569 Bear Bible in the preface of his 1602 revision:
“So that our nation of Spain will not lack so great a treasure, as the Bible in its own tongue, we have taken pains to read and reread it and many times we have enriched it with new notes, and even sometimes we have altered the text. Which we have done with mature counsel and deliberation, and not confiding in ourselves, (for our conscience’s testify of how small we are), we have conferred with many pious and learned men, and diverse translations, that by the mercy of God there are diverse translations [available] in our day. As to the rest, this version according to my judgment…is excellent, as thus we have followed as much as we were able, word for word.
According to this statement, Valera did the best he could, and he truly believed his revision was an excellent translation of the scriptures. However, he must not have had access to the pure texts, or else he didn’t do a thorough revision, as his version still contained many corrupt Latin Vulgate readings. (A brief list will be given later).Valera’s edition was not widely printed, and instead of it becoming the standard Spanish version, like our authorized King James in English, sadly it was later revised many times by many different Bible Societies, who either mixed it with the catholic or the critical texts.
It should be noted, the original 1569 Bear Bible also had the apocrypha intermingled in its texts, which all versions of the Bible by law in those days had to have in order to be printed. Wisely, Valera took the apocrypha out of the Old Testament text, and put it by itself in the middle of his revision, (as did the King James Translators who did not believe it to be inspired), discussing in his preface the reasons why he refused to view it as part of the scriptural canon.
Cipriano de Valera is certainly worthy of further mention, as he was an amazing Spaniard, full of courage and dogmatic zeal, writing many books, tracts, and doctrinal works against the corruption and false teachings of the Catholic church, often times using strong language to make his point.
In 1588, he published his now famous tract, “Del Papa i de la Misa,” a work of over 600 pages, in which he gives the entire history of the Catholic Church, and the lives of the Popes, including: the Murderer Pope, the Woman Pope, the Homosexual Pope, the Pope that had a harem, the Pope that spoke to demons, and more.
In that work, we see how much he loved his countrymen and how much of a burden he had to see them loosed from the spiritual darkness, idolatry, religious slavery, and deception:
“It pains me so much that my nation, of which the Lord God hath given so much genius, ability, and understanding for the things of the world, (of which the other nations are not able to deny), in the things of God, in the things of the salvation of souls, or of going to heaven or to hell, should be so stupid and blind...in letting themselves be governed, knocked down, and tyrannized by the Pope, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the Anti-Christ, that sitting in the temple of God as God, makes himself appear to be God...They believe the Pope to be the successor of St. Peter, to be the Vicar of Christ...but this tract will serve to undeceive you, it will show very palpably that the Pope is not the successor of St. Peter, but of Judas, not the Vicar of Christ, but of Satan (of which the Scriptures call Prince of this world and god of this age)...And if the Pope should fall, then at that moment would fall the Mass, and all of the idolatry, that the Pope has invented.”
Valera’s righteous indignation against the Romanist Church showed through in his writing, and as expected, the Catholic Church quickly added his books to their list of forbidden books.
But this did not stop Valera from writing other works against what he viewed as anti-biblical practices of Roman Catholicism. In 1594, he wrote another tract with the rather lengthy title of: “Tract to confirm the poor captives in Bavaria, in the universal and ancient faith and Christian religion to comfort them with the word of God in the affliction that they suffer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He also spent time translating Calvin’s Institutes into Spanish.
For his vehement defense of Protestant teachings, and his scholarly exposition of the embarrassing details of the history of Catholicism, he was branded “The Spanish Heretic” by the Catholic Church.
Valera also published his own version of the New Testament in London, England in 1596. There is symbolism on its title page as well. There we see a double-edged sword and an anchor, representing the sword of the scripture, the anchor of man’s soul.
But today, perhaps, Valera is best known for his revision of the 1569 Bear Bible published in 1602.
In the preface of his revision of 1602, it’s easy to see that he, like Reina, truly believed in the importance of the common people having the word of God in their own language, for we read:
“Our good God and Father, that so much desires our salvation, that none of us be lost through ignorance, but that all come to the knowledge of the truth, and that thus we be saved, commands us very explicitly, and not in only one place, but in many places that we should read the Holy Scriptures, meditate in them, study them, mull them over, and thus in Deut. 6:6-7, speaking to the people in general, and to all of them in particular, says: ‘And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up, and etc.’”
Both Valera and Reina believed in the importance of the reading the scriptures, for it is only through them that man may find salvation, and freedom from spiritual darkness.Cassidoro de Reina said it well in the preface of his 1569 Bear Bible:
“It is an intolerable thing to Satan the father of lies and darkness that the truth of God and his light be made manifest in the world, because it is only through this that deceit can be undone, darkness can be dispelled, and all vanity on which his kingdom is founded may be discovered, of where then will his ruin be certain, and the miserable men that he has tied in prisons of death and ignorance, taught with the divine light break free from their prisons to eternal life and liberty as Sons of God.”
Both Reina and Valera wanted their own people to have a PURE version of the scriptures, and not a corrupt one like the Latin Vulgate. Valera sums it up nicely in the last sentence of his preface of his 1602 revision:
“Because it is not right to conform the certain with the uncertain, the word of God with the word of men...I again plead to our good merciful God and Father that He give you grace to hear Him and to know His will and that knowing it you will conform to it. And so be saved through the blood of the Lamb without blemish that sacrificed himself on the altar of the cross to forgive our sins before God. Amen. So be it.”
Clearly both Reina and Valera were evangelistic, like many others of their Spanish protestant brethren, and had a great desire to see people saved.
Sadly, they did not have access to all the pure texts underlying the King James Bible, and for this reason their versions still contained corrupted Latin Vulgate readings. Just a few examples are as follows.
SOME PLACES THE ORIGINAL 1602
READS WITH THE CORRUPT LATIN VULGATE:
Mt. 24:2 Omits the word Jesus
Luke 9:43 Removes the word Jesus
John 14:28 Changes “mi padre” to “el padre.”
Acts 8:16 Omits “Señor.”
Acts 8:25 Changes “Señor” (Lord) to “Dios” (God).
Acts 16:10 Changes “Señor” to “Dios.”
Acts 17:27 Changes “Señor” to Dios.
Acts 22:16 Removes the words “El Señor.”
2 Cor. 10:18 Changes “Señor” to “Dios.”
1 Tim. 6:1 Changes “Dios” to “Señor.”
2 Tim. 4:14 Changes “Señor” to “Dios.”
James 1:12 Changes “Señor” to “Dios.”
An interesting note which must be commented on is the Spanish word “Jehová” used in both the 1569 and 1602 Bibles. As briefly stated before, Reina decided to use that word in his version calling the Jews “superstitious” for reverently not wanting to pronounce the sacred name of God in their own language. Yet, he was not altogether against using the word Señor (Lord), stating in his preface of the 1569 Bible, “We are not determined to take into question here with anyone this business, nor force anyone to pronounce this name, if the superstition of the Jews seems better...you may pass over this word when you read it, or in place of it pronounce Lord, as the Jews do.”
It must be remembered that both Reina and Valera were Catholics before their conversion to Jesus Christ, and Catholics, especially Spanish ones, were very Anti-Semitic. It is possible for this reason that both Reina and Valera chose to use the word “Jehovah” in their version instead of the word “SEÑOR,” or LORD as our King James Bible does. (Note: Even Juan Valdes and Juan Perez de Pineda chose “Señor” in their Spanish translations of the Psalms).
Valera had much to say about “Jehová” in the preface of his 1602 revision:
“Touching the holy name of Jehovah...we have retained for the learned and pious reasons of the first Translator...I will only add here two reasons, ...to refute the superstitious obstinance of the Jews, in pronouncing the name Jehovah… The first reason is because the idolatrous Gentiles that had commercial business and traded with the Hebrew people pronounced the name of Jehovah...The Second reason is Deut. 6:13, 10 and 20, in which it says, ‘Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.’ The form of swearing, and the conditions of it are in Jer. 4:2, ‘And thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness...’ The Jews then deceive themselves in not swearing by the Holy name of Jehovah, nor even pronouncing it.”
Yet, later in his preface Valera ridicules others who pronounce the name Jehovah too much:
“The name of Jehovah is (as Ps. 111:9 says) ‘holy’ and ‘terrible.’ If it is holy, why do you, miserable sinner, profane it taking it without any reverence in every third word in your mouth...why do you miserable worm, dust, and ash, not tremble when you take it in your filthy mouth? Remember, God will not hold the innocent that take his name in vain (Exod. 20)…Forgive me Christian Lector if I have gone on too long in this: the superstition of the Jews and doubt of some Christians have made me made me be so exhaustive.”
In one part of his preface, Valera casts doubt all together on whether or not men even pronounce the name of God correctly at all when they pronounce the word Jehova:
“But of the Hebrew name Jehovah, that has been heard to be the name of the God of the Hebrews, our Sevillian Benito Arias, very learned in many languages, speaking of the names of God makes particular mention of the essential name of Jehovah, and thus says these words: ‘It is important to show the reason of similar names and pronunciations such as J E H V E H. And this is how I think that the fathers pronounced it, the Israelites, like other men of other nations, that had news of this name.’ The same Benito Arias after having said this, promised to try to find in another place the true pronunciation of Jehova. If he has found it, I do not know.”
With this hefty confession it’s impossible to know exactly how to pronounce the name of God. The Hebrew word contains no vowel points, so we really don’t know how it’s supposed to be pronounced. So, how do we know we are even pronouncing it right when we say Jehovah?This is an important point, and is still hotly debated today, as all modern Reina-Valera Bibles, which claim to be in agreement with the King James in English, use Jehovah instead of the KJV rendering of LORD (SEÑOR in Spanish). Because of this, the Jehovah Witness movement has gained much ground among Spanish-Speaking people, taking advantage of the use of “Jehová,” in the Spanish Old Testament.
(Note: The only Spanish Bible today that follows the King James in using “Señor” is the Valera 1602 Purified, which reads SEÑOR (all caps) in all but six places, where it reads either “Jah” or “Jehová.” But we will get to this later.)
Valera’soriginal 1602 Spanish Bible revision of Reina’s work saw little publication in the 1600s and 1700s, being reprinted only about four times and then only in very small quantities.
In 1773, the Catholics printed their own whole Bible in Spanish in Valencia, Spain, the work of Felipe Scio de San Miguel, a Segovian Bishop. It consisted of ten volumes and was translated directly from the Latin Vulgate. It was again reprinted in Madrid in 1793 or 1794. Obviously it was a pro-catholic Bible, as it was allowed by the Inquisition.
And, as we shall shortly see, this Catholic Scio version was largely printed by Protestant Bible Societies, and even used by them to revise Valera’s Protestant revision of 1602.
PROTESTANT BIBLE SOCIETIES
The Spanish Inquisition did not take place only in Spain. It also came to the New World as Spain colonized the Americas. With it persecution, torture, and executions continued on another continent towards those of other faiths and beliefs. Catholic burnings of Protestant Bibles also took place on such a large scale that Protestant Bible Societies in the 1800’s felt they had to do something in order to keep the Bibles they distributed throughout Central and South American from being burned to ashes.
Thus, Protestant Bible Societies printed only the Catholic *Scio Bible and distributed it in Latin America in hopes it would be accepted.
The “Cambridge History of the Bible” confirms this with these words: “...early Protestant versions printed for circulation in Spain and Latin America consisted of the Scio text.”
Another source reads, “In 1819, the Protestant Bible Societies reproduced the Scio version without the Apocrypha, by the hundreds of thousands.”
And, Bill Kincaid supports this with, “...The Foreign Bible Society (British) began distributing Catholic Spanish Bibles adapted (Apocrypha and notes removed) from the Felipe Scio (1790’s)...with hopes it would be allowed [by the Catholic church] to circulate [among the Spanish-Speaking people].”
Had Reina and Valera learned of such news, no doubt they both would have turned over in their graves, for they as Protestants devoted their lives to trying to reach lost Spanish-Speakers with a pure Spanish Bible, not a version based completely on the corrupt Catholic Latin Vulgate, which they viewed as full of “errors.” But it seems Protestant Bible Societies didn’t have the same desire or courage as those Spaniards of old, who were willing to suffer persecution and even die for the truth.
The Bible Societies felt that any Bible in the hands of the commoner was better than no Bible at all, so they compromised in printing Catholic versions to distribute to the masses.
* The Scio Bible was produced in the late 1700’s, the work of a Catholic Priest Miguel Scio, who translated directly from the corrupt Latin Vulgate. It was he who translated John 1:1 as Verbo instead of Palabra in reference to Jesus Christ, from the Latin word Verbum. Something which, sadly, all Spanish revision thereafter followed suit in doing, except the 1602 Purified.
But not all Bible Societies printed the Catholic Scio text exclusively. Others took Valera’s 1602 revision as their basis, but then revised it again in many key places with the Scio Vulgate text, making it look to the Catholics like it was a Catholic version. What they produced was a Valera-Scio Vulgate hybrid Bible, which was part Protestant and part Roman Catholic.
And yet other Protestant Bible Societies took the new Catallan Bible printed in Barcelona, Spain, the work of Catholic Bishop Felix Torres Amat, who also translated from the Latin Vulgate, and printed it. One famous author informs us that between 1837-1856, many Bible Societies also put out a revised text of the Torres Amat Catholic Version, and sold it at a very modest price. This is an example of a Valera-Amat Vulgate hybrid Bible.
A good way to tell if a Spanish Bible version is a Catholic translation, or a hybrid Protestant-Catholic Hybrid Bible is to turn to John 1:1. All Catholic versions say, “Verbo,” in reference to Jesus from the Latin word “Verbum.” But as we’ve seen, all Protestant versions from the Reformation read “Palabra.” Thus, it’s easy to tell those versions that are either completely Catholic, or have revised the Reina-Valera with Catholic Vulgate translations.
Below are examples of various hybrid-Spanish Bible versions from the 1800s that were printed by Protestant Bible societies, which revised the Reina-Valera with the Latin Vulgate, making it read more in line with the Catholic texts:
1831 Bible Society of Glascow New Testament
1850 American Bible Society Spanish Bible
1862 Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge
1865 American Bible Society entire Spanish Bible
THE 1865 AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY REVISION
Protestant Bible Societies not only printed Catholic Bibles, they also printed revised versions of the Reina-Valera which either added or retained corrupt Latin Vulgate readings.
A prime example of this is the 1865 American Bible Society translation, a version that has recently been resurrected in the early 2000s, and reprinted for distribution. Those behind its publication and defense have started a new organization called The Valera Bible Society. Their seal is given below.
This group claims to be King James only in English, yet they dogmatically defend the 1865 American Bible Society Spanish Bible version, calling it an “outstanding representative” of the original 1602 Valera revision.
They further dogmatically claim “every attempt should be made to defend this version,” preaching that they believe it to be the very word of God in Spanish.
However, it’s hard to defend the 1865 and the English KJV, as they don’t read the same. Although the revisors of the 1865 did use the KJV some in their translation work, they left a lot of verses unchanged. Thus, the 1865 still reads with the corrupt Vulgate on many occasions.
HISTORY OF THE 1865 ABS SPANISH BIBLE
The 1865 ABS translation came about in the following manner. In 1860, the American Bible Society chose three men to work on a new translation of the scriptures into Spanish. They were: Angel de Mora, Mr. H. B. Pratt, and Mr. Brigham. Both Mr. Pratt and Mr. de Mora were given a salary of $1,200 dollars a year for the task. However, because of eye trouble and the Civil War in America, Mr. Pratt dropped out of the work. (Yet, we shall see later, however, that he did have an impact on the work). They used in their work the King James Bible, the old Valera of 1602, and the new “critical texts.”
In 1862, the Old Testament was completed, and Mr. de Mora continued his work on the New Testament, with the same salary of $1,200 per year.
In May of 1865, Dr. Holdich (an ABS member) states the following about this version:
“Although they may not dare to hope that the work is absolutely perfect, for that would be to claim for it what belongs to nothing human; yet they have strong persuasion that it will be found a very decided improvement on Valera’s generally excellent version.”
Even Mr. Holdich did not think the version was perfect. However, he did think it is an improvement upon the original version of Valera of 1602. Why would he say this?
The answer is because in those days the critical texts, (i.e. corrupt texts made by men who inserted Catholic readings into their own published texts), were all the rage, and many who translated the Bible into another languages in that time were taught in Bible Colleges to use the critical texts. The following quote by the famous missionary Adoniram Judson, should suffice to prove that critical text translations were done even in the early and mid 1800s:
“In my first attempts at translating portions of the New Testament, above 20 years ago, I followed Griesbach, as all the world then did; and though, from year to year I have found reason to distrust his authority, still, not wishing to be ever changing, I deviated by little from his text, in subsequent editions, until the last.”
Adoniram Judson died in 1850. So even before that date translations of the scriptures into other languages were being mixed and mingled with the critical text.
That the 1865 American Bible Society Spanish Bible did the same is easy to see, especially when we look at “The ABS History Text and Translation Essay,” by the ABS, printed in 1966. It is there we read on page 27 that Mr. Pratt’s role in the work of the 1865 was to make sure of it’s critical accuracy, for Mr. Pratt states in his own words:
“My good friend Mora, as my long and intimate acquaintance with him qualified me to know, was more than an ordinary master of Spanish, but had not nor could he have a clear notion of CRITICAL ACCURACY [emphasis mine] so far as the sense was concerned. In our own division of labor, he was responsible for the language, and I for the CRITICAL ACCURACY of the revision. He used to pass on over many things that greatly needed mending, without perceiving the need, till I followed after and called his attention to them. It is, I assure you, one of the few great disappointments of my life, that I could not go on with him till the work was done; and the more so as two men never wrought together in greater harmony than did we.”
So Mr. Pratt did do some work on the 1865. And by his own admission, his job was to assure the critical accuracy of the text, or to make sure that it read more in line with the critical texts. (i.e. Vulgate readings)
That Mr. Pratt loved the Critical Texts is no secret. For in 1893 he published through the same American Bible Society a Spanish version based entirely upon the critical texts of Westcott and Hort, entitled “La Version Moderna.”
The 1865 was not only the work of the three men mentioned above, but also that of Dr. Holdich, a member of the American Bible Society, who tells us his role in the 1865 edition:
“I must say in justification that Mr. Mora had no part of the Bible which I had reviewed except the New Testament… or that we had made but a partial revision of it, having determined to leave many things unsettled, till we came to revise it again before publication, our intention was to revise the Old Testament once, but the New Test. twice, as its CRITICAL ACCURACY was most important.”
According to his confession, the 1865 was revised for critical accuracy yet again. And Dr. Holdich continues by saying that Mr. de Mora had no “critical knowledge” of the scriptures.
Although it cannot be denied that the 1865 used the King James in it’s translation process, and for this reason some verses read much closer to the King James Bible, the fact is the 1865 is not a perfect translation, as it did not take out the many corrupt Latin Vulgate readings in the original 1602. Thus, the 1865 reads with the Catholic Vulgate, and the modern critical texts on many occasions, against the King James Bible.
SOME PRO KJV CHANGES IN THE 1865 SPANISH BIBLE
Mark 2:17 Adds the missing word “arrepentimiento” (repentance)
Mark 9:24 Adds “Señor”
Acts 20:28 Adds “la iglesia de Dios, la cual el gano con su propia sangre.”
Rom. 1:16 Adds "de Cristo" just like the KJV.
1 Cor. 1:18 Adds “predicacción” (preaching).
2 Cor. 4:10 Adds “Señor Jesus”
While the 1865 improved the Spanish Bible in some places, by making it read closer to the infallible King James, it made it worse in others, by causing doctrinal errors, and by still following the catholic and critical texts.
SOME PROBLEMS IN THE 1865 ABS SPANISH BIBLE
Levi. 17:11 Says the life of the flesh is in the soul, not the blood.
Jonah 1:6 Changes “Dios” to “dios.”
Ps. 12:6,7 Changes from God’s word being preserved to only God’s people being preserved.
Ps. 138:2 Takes out the fact that God’s word is magnified above his very name.
Mt. 14:36 Says people were “saved” by simply touching Christ’s garments.
Matt. 24:2 Omits the word “Jesus” following the Latin Vulgate.
Luke 9:43 Removes the word “Jesus” as do Aleph, B, and the Vulgate.
John 10:11 Says Jesus gave his “soul” (alma) instead of his “life” (vida) for his sheep.
2 Peter 1:21 Says the “men” were inspired, not the words.
Heb. 4:8 Changes “Jesus” to “Josue” (Joshua) when every text says “Jesus.”
Acts 16:10 Changes Señor to Dios following the Vulgate, Aleph,and B.
Acts 17:27 Changes Señor to Dios following the Vulgate, Aleph,and B.
Acts 22:16 Removes the words “El Señor” reading with the Vulgate and the critical texts.
James 1:12 Changes Señorto Dios following the Latin Vulgate reading.