Thursday, May 23, 2013

Simon Magus As A Witch In The Wycliffe Bible (1395), The Tyndale Bible (1526), and the Geneva Bible (1599)

Today's text, sisters and brothers, is from the book of Acts, chapter 8, verses 1 through 13.

First, let take a see how Brother Wycliffe translates this passage into Middle English:

1 But Saul was consentynge to his deth. And greet persecucioun was maad that dai in the chirche, that was in Jerusalem. And alle men weren scatered bi the cuntrees of Judee and Samarie, outakun the apostlis. 2 But good men birieden Steuene, and maden greet mornyng on hym. 3 But Saul greetli distruyede the chirche, and entryde bi housis, and drowe men and wymmen, and bitook hem in to prisoun. 4 And thei that weren scaterid, passiden forth, prechynge the word of God. 5 And Filip cam doun in to a citee of Samarie, and prechide to hem Crist. 6 And the puple yaf tent to thes thingis that weren seid of Filip, with o wille herynge and seynge the signes that he dide. 7 For manye of hem that hadden vnclene spirits, crieden with a greet vois, and wenten out. 8 And manye sijk in the palsi, and crokid, weren heelid. 9 Therfor greet ioye was maad in that citee. But there was a man in that citee, whos name was Symount, a witche, that hadde disseyued the folc of Samarie, seiynge, that him silf was sum greet man. 10 Whom alle herkeneden, fro the leest to the moost, and seiden, This is the vertu of God, which is clepid greet. 11 And thei leueden hym, for long tyme he hadde maddid hem with his witche craftis. 12 But whanne thei hadden bileued to Filip, `that prechide of the kingdom of God, men and wymmen weren baptisid in the name of Jhesu Crist. 13 And thanne also Symount him silf bileued; and whanne he was baptisid, he drouy to Filip; and he sai also that signes and grete vertues weren don, he was astonyed, and wondride.

And this is how Brother Tyndale translates the same section about 130 years later:

1 Saul had pleasure in his deeth. And at yt tyme there was a great persecucion agaynst the congregacion which was at Ierusalem and they were all scattered abroade thorowout the regions of Iury and Samaria except the Apostles 2 Then devout men dressed Steven aud made great lamentacion over him. 3 But Saul made havocke of the congregacion entrynge into every housse and drewe out bothe man and woman and thrust the into preson.4 They that were scattered abroade went every where preachyng the worde. 5 Then came Philip into a cite of Samaria and preached Christ vnto them. 6 And the people gave hede vnto those thinges which Philip spake with one acorde in that they hearde and sawe the miracles which he dyd. 7 For vnclene spretes cryinge with loude voyce came out of many that were possessed of them. And manye taken with palsies and many yt halted were healed 8 And ther was great ioye in that cite. 9 And ther was a certayne man called Simon which before tyme in the same cite vsed witche crafte and bewitched the people of Samarie sayinge that he was a man yt coulde do greate thinges 10 Whom they regarded from ye lest to the greatest sayinge: this felow is the great power of God. 11 And him they set moche by because of longe tyme with sorcery he had mocked the. 12 But assone as they beleved Philippes preachynge of the kyngdome of God and of the name of Iesu Christ they were baptised bothe men and wemen. 13 Then Simon him selfe beleved also and was baptised and cotinued with Phillip and wondered beholdynge the miracles and signes which were shewed.

And here is how Brothers Wittingham, Colby, and so forth, translated the same section in the Geneva Bible:

1 And Saul consented to his death, and at that time, there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Hierusalem, and they were all scattered abroad thorowe the regions of Iudea and of Samaria, except the Apostles. 2 Then certaine men fearing God, caried Steuen amongs them, to be buried, and made great lamentation for him. 3 But Saul made hauocke of the Church, and entred into euery house, and drewe out both men and women, and put them into prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went to and from preaching the worde. 5 Then came Philip into the citie of Samaria, and preached Christ vnto them. 6 And the people gaue heed vnto those things which Philippe spake, with one accorde, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For vncleane spirits crying with a loud voyce, came out of many that were possessed of them: and many taken with palsies, and that halted, were healed. 8 And there was great ioy in that citie. 9 And there was before in the citie a certaine man called Simon, which vsed witchcraft, and bewitched the people of Samaria, saying that he himselfe was some great man. 10 To whome they gaue heede from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that great power of God. 11 And they gaue heed vnto him, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But assoone as they beleeued Philip, which preached the thinges that concerned the kingdome of God, and the Name of Iesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. 13 Then Simon himselfe beleeued also and was baptized, and continued with Philippe, and wondred, when he sawe the signes and great miracles which were done.

Lastly, for comparison, here it is in the King James version:

1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

The Wycliffe, Tyndale and Geneva Bibles all describe Simon Magus as someone who used "Witchcraft". Moreover, and as a direct result of his "Witchcraft", Simon Magus was greatly admired. It is essential to emphasize that not only did the magic attributed to Simon Magus in the book of Acts have nothing whatsoever to to do with maleficium, but, as a matter of fact, the whole point of the story is that Simon Magus at least appeared to perform precisely the same kind of beneficial magic as that attributed to Jesus and his "Apostles".

From Barnes Notes on the Bible (1834, link):
Greek: μαγεύων mageuōn. Exercising the arts of the "Magi," or "magicians"; hence, the name Simon "Magus." See the notes on Matthew 2:1. The ancient "Magi" had their rise in Persia, and were at first addicted to the study of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, etc. This name came afterward to signify those who made use of the knowledge of these arts for the purpose of imposing on mankind - astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, etc. Such persons pretended to predict future events by the positions of the stars, and to cure diseases by incantations, etc. See Isaiah 2:6. See also Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2. It was expressly forbidden the Jews to consult such persons on pain of death, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6. In these arts Simon had been eminently successful.

From the Geneva Study Bible (1599, link):
He had so allured the Samaritans with his witchcraft that as blind and mad idiots they were wholly addicted to him.

John Wesley''s snarktastic commentary (ca. 1760, link):
8:9 A certain man - using magic - So there was such a thing as witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America. [Wesley bemoaned the end of the Witch Hunts, and stubbornly opposed those "infidels ... [who] have given up all accounts of witches".]

Indeed, in Justin Martyr's account of Simon Magus it is taken as a perverse point of pride that Simon was "was glorified by many as if he were a god" in Pagan Rome. According to Christianity's world-denying, self-loathing perspective, fame and approval "in this world" are things not only of no value, but worthy only of scorn. Obviously this way of looking at things required some slight modifications after the worldly "triumph" of Christianity (which did not occur for well over a century after Justin). In fact, Saint Justin already reveals, in spite of himself, just how much early Christians eagerly sought after the approval of others. Because, you see, the whole point of the "Apologetic" effort, of which Justin is emblematic, was to improve the public image of the Jesus-cult through a crude aping of the paideia of Hellenism. Once again we see just how essential the human tolerance for cognitive dissonance is for monotheism in general, and the creed making fishermen in particular. But such secondary observations do not take anything away from the clarity of Justin's description of Simon Magus as a man who was held in the highest regard precisely because of his mastery of "Witchcraft".