Friday, May 05, 2017

Holy / Special Language

William Whitaker defends vernacular Bible translations, services and prayers at length against the Roman Catholics of his day in his Disputation on Holy Scripture.

In the Council of Trent, Session XXII, cap. 8, it is said “not to seem good to the fathers, that the mass should everywhere be celebrated in the vulgar tongue.” (p250)

 Some papists argued that: “The majesty of religious offices requires a language more grand and venerable than the vulgar tongues of every nation.” (p251)

 Whitaker says, “I deny that the majesty of sacred things can be diminished by any vernacular tongues, however barbarous.” (p251) pointing out that by the power of the Holy Spirit the apostles used barbarous languages in Acts 2.

Some papists including Bellarmine argued that “Three languages [of Latin, Hebrew and Greek] were hallowed upon the cross [by the sign above Jesus' head]: therefore we ought to be content with those three languages in the public offices of the church” (p257)
 Whitaker argues the purpose was not to consecrate these languages but that the report of Christ’s death should be diffused as widely as possible. (p257) In fact this fits with the desire for the message of the gospel to be understood.
Whitaker does not do so but a theological appeal might be made to the incarnation and to what we might call the full and real humanity of Scripture to attack the idea that there are certain special or holy languages. God's power is magnified by the weakness of human flesh and language that he is able to perfectly reveal himself through them.

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