Reviewed by FR. J. H. CREHAN, S.J.
6,000 Years of the Bible. By G. S. Wegener (Hodder & Stoughton,
AN admirable collection of more than 200 illustrations makes the strength of this book. They are reproduced in the best Thames and Hudson style, and it is this firm, in spite of 'the Hodder imprint, which holds the copyright of the work.
The author is a German Protestant journalist who was in Rome for the first session of the Council, and, though his book was done in German first of all, it must have been revised for the English market, for illustrations are reproduced and examples cited in the text which are of interest to English readers alone. The title is not well chosen, for it suggests memories of Ussher and his calculation of the date of creation. The main theme is the bringing of the Bible to the people, its transmission and the multiplication of versions.
Here the author gives credit to the Middle Ages as paramount in this regard: "There has never been a period," he says, "when men have been so eager to spread the message of the Bible abroad, and to as many people as possible, despite all obstacles."
His method is that of the higher journalism, without footnotes or citation of sources, and with a bias towards the personal story, whether it be that of Tischendorf or Caedmon, Wulfila of Yadin. In the scholarly field the recent Cambridge History of the Bible will supply the correctives that are needed for some of this author's over-simplifications.
A Catholic reviewer is bound to notice that, in spite of -his fairness elsewhere, the author is distinctly prejudiced against the Rhemes New Testament. He charges it (for he does not mention Gregory Martin. its author) with "making no effort to trans late some of the more difficult words," and goes on to add that it "did not benefit by support from the Hierarchy of the very active kind."
As Thomas Watson, Bishop of Lincoln, was the only member of the Hierarchy still surviving when it was published, and he was a prisoner at Wisbech, he would no doubt have had a suitable comment to make, had such a point been put to him at the time. (The author cannot, surely, be thinking of lack of support by the Protestant Hierarchy, though he does somewhat pass over the amount of help they derived from the Rhemes version when they made one of their own).
A caption set alongside a reproduction of the title-page of Whittingham's version of the gospel of Mark says egregiously: "As a Protestant weapon against Catholic Queen Mary. Whittingham produced the Geneva Bible in 1560."
By then, the Catholic Queen had been dead two years and what Whittingham was trying to do was to make the Church of England Calvinist, an endeavour quite becoming in one who had no other priestly ordination than "a vocation by John Calvin," even though he rose to be Dean of Durham under Elizabeth.