Two DVDs of “A Man for all Seasons” show the powerful moral conscience of Thomas More and his deep commitment to Catholicism.
But reading a book by Alister McGrath, “In the Beginning,” I would not elevate More to sainthood because of his scatological comments made about Martin Luther.
The subtitle of the McGrath book is: “The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language and a Culture.” (Anchor Book, Random House, New York, 338 pages, 2001) [The King James Version was published in 1611]
As all readers know, Luther led the Reformation after tacking the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517.
What few readers know is More’s intense hostility to Luther. McGrath writes:
“His anti-Luther writings betray a hostility that continues to shock and embarrass those who regard him as a gentle man of letters, given to erudition and elegance.”
More of Thomas More on Luther: “A mad friarlet and privy-minded rascal with his raging and raving, with his filth and dung, shitting and beshitting. Luther has written that he has the right to besmatter and besmirch the royal crown with shit…to lick the posterior of a pissing she-mule.”
No wonder McGrath concludes: “More’s criticisms show a unique degree of crudity and violence.”
As for Luther, he argued rightly that the German people should read the Bible in the vernacular, their native language rather than the Latin accessible only to the upper classes and the well-educated.
Luther was an early muckraker, denouncing the sale of indulgences as offensive. They were.
In that “ancient” time you could you buy your way from purgatory into heaven. As the joke of the time ran in verse: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings / The soul from purgatory springs!”
More, born in 1478, was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge that the monarchs of England were head of the church (Anglican)–not the pope in Rome.
A staunch Roman Catholic, Thomas More opposed the Protestant Reformation. Yet More was so highly esteemed in England that he held the lofty offices of councilor to King Henry VIII and Lord High Chancellor.
As an author, Thomas More was best known for his “Utopia,” an imaginary ideal nation state located on an island. The book is still well worth reading.
KJV LIVES FOREVER
There’s an old Italian saying: “traduttore traditore” (to translate is to betray).
It is not true in the case of the King James Bible. It is a gem of literature and religious text.
Modern translations are woefully inadequate. They capture the meaning or make the meaning clearer but not the spirit and zest. The KJV has been rightly called the “noblest monument of English prose.” McGrath, author of the King James creation, labels it “the greatest contribution to the spiritual ennobling of the human race.”
McGraw brings in other well-known Bible translations like William Tyndale’s in 1526, the Geneva Bible, the work primarily of William Whittingham, also printed in the 16th century. And: the Coverdale Bible, the first printed in English.
The McGrath book is marred–as with most books printed today—by horrible clichés. Editors should be warned to edit severely, not just edit for “correct spelling.”
The most overused, abused and unnecessary cliché is “of course” as in: “Wine has been matured in oak barrels for centuries, of course.” (Wine columnist Lettie Teague, Wall Street Journal)
The McGrath book is full of “of courses.” And full of somewhats as in “somewhat rigorous” and rathers as in “rather difficult.” The modifier is unnecessary. It is packed with guesswork as in “perhaps,” “possibly” and “it may be.” And the contradictory and therefore meaningless cliché “for better or worse.” It can’t be both.
PANAMA SEVERS TAIWAN RELATIONS
Tiny Panama has the common sense to do what the huge and powerful U.S. refuses to do: cut ties with Taiwan.
Panama has ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China. It is a small gesture but an important lesson for America.
INSULT TO HUMANITY
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan sentenced a Shiite to death for “blasphemy” in posts on social media. The man was found guilty of making derogatory remarks on Facebook about the Prophet Muhammad and his wives.
It was the first time anyone was given the death penalty for so-called blasphemy. Pakistan is a sad-sack country where even allegations of blasphemy leads to violence and killings by vigilante mobs.
VIOLATION OF DRESS CODE
The Saudi Arabians keep looking silly with their dress rules.
Fashion police in Riyadh, Saudi capital, recently arrested a young woman for wearing a mini-skirt exposing her midriff and legs.
The social media shared the spectacle—and so did the “prudes” in Saudi Arabia–who enjoyed the sight.
An investigation followed. The Mighty Kingdom is endangered!
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)