Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11, 2012

Casiodoro de Reina and the Spanish Bibles

Spain’s Casiodoro de Reina was no ordinary man. First, he had that unusual name, the origin of which I still have not discovered. Second, he was a 16th century Spanish Protestant. To anyone who knows Reformation history or the Spain of that era, those two words create an oxymoron. This learned man had the advantage of having perused Scripture since childhood, thus being able to explain nuances and understand Biblical concepts that the average illiterate man would have been forbidden to grasp. He became a monk at age twenty-seven and joined the monastery of San Isidoro del Campo in Seville, Spain. This would prove to be the catalyst for a new life.

The monks at San Isidoro were no ordinary Catholic scholars. Many if not all were secret Protestants, translating Scripture, holding meetings in which they upheld the tenets of the Reformation. But in a rigidly orthodox country like Spain, under an absolutist Catholic ruler like Philip the Second, de Reina and his companions faced death. He thought he would be content in Geneva, John Calvin’s feted realm, but instead found various flaws. Perhaps his Lutheranism and Geneva’s Calvinism presented too great a hurdle. One of his largest concerns was that Calvinism in Geneva, like Catholicism in Spain, was attempting to assert too much control over its adherents, forming a religious prison of sorts. This he could not tolerate.

There was, of course, no place in heavily-Catholic countries for Protestants of the “new thought,” and de Reina, with Spanish friends who had also taken flight from their homeland, continued from city to city. Under a pen name de Reina was able to talk of things that he himself would have been forbidden to breach. In a bold move for the day, he advocated kindness even toward those considered to be “heretics” and supported author Sebastian Castellion, who said Christians should not show brutality even toward those who held unorthodox beliefs. Considering the prejudice and intolerance that ran rampant in all camps during the 16th century, it was a daring statement indeed. He opened a potential can of worms by suggesting that the idea of Anabaptists dying at the hands of both Catholic and Protestant governments was sickening and ungodly.

De Reina next tried London. It was a good thing he was no longer living in Spain, as the Spanish considered him an arch-heretic and burned his effigy for good measure. The 1557 Index of Valentia, which proclaimed certain books off-limits to Spanish Catholics, swelled with de Reina’s works. He eventually moved to Frankfurt, Germany. Feeling confident enough to write against the Inquisition, he penned various literature decrying the cruelty of torture and other methods used on convicted Protestants.

All this activity was only leading up to Casiodoro de Reina’s greatest achievement: the Spanish Bible. While other men had a hand in these translations, de Reina was a leader, offering knowledge and insight. The average Spaniard of the 16th century had never read the Bible for himself. Even if he would have done so, the Latin words would have been nearly incomprehensible to him. De Reina wanted to change that. He may have been exiled from his homeland, but he would give his countrymen the chance to learn what Martin Luther and the Reformation had truly taught.

At least two men had previously attempted a Spanish Bible, Juan Perez de Pineda and Francisco de Enzinas, and de Reina vigorously assimilated their works into his own. De Reina’s Spanish Bible hit the shelves, so to speak, in Switzerland in the late 1560s. He never set foot in Spain again, preferring to consider himself a Frankfurter and to become a full-fledged Lutheran. He died at the age of seventy-four. Ironically, many who had died in Spain for Protestant tendencies were killed for much lesser offenses, but de Reina, the “arch-heretic” who translated Scripture into the Spanish tongue, died elderly and much-fulfilled.

Even today his name is quite popular, as many current Spanish Bible translations bear the name “Reina-Valera.” The “Valera” refers to Cipriano de Valera. In 1602 this man, having toiled to improve de Reina’s version, completed the Reina-Valera translation. Today it is known as “Reina-Valera Antigua” and is available online and in print. Spanish-speaking Protestants will delight in the words and realize that even in the prejudicial Spain of the 16th century, the bright embers of the Reformation found a few welcoming corners.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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