Russell Stendal Answers the Question, “Is the Jubilee Bible a Good Translation?”
Jubilee Bible Prioritizes Context and Spirit of Truth
By Russell Stendal
Many years ago, I was given a copy of an old Spanish Bible translated in the heat and enthusiasm of the Reformation—which was brutally put down in Spain by the Inquisition—when it was common practice to burn Bibles along with their owners.
I immediately noticed a depth and clarity to this translation that brought forth a clear witness of the Spirit of God as to the meanings of many seemingly unfathomable passages that had intrigued me for years. (These were mainly in the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets.) For these reasons, I began to investigate the unique circumstances of this Spanish translation by Casiodoro de Reina, published in 1569.
My investigation and subsequent work ultimately led to the Jubilee Bible, which was translated from the original texts in Hebrew and Greek into Spanish by Casiodoro de Reina (1569) and compared with the revision of Cipriano de Valera (1602).
Casiodoro de Reina, along with other translators of the day, risked his life to translate the Bible. He was often on the run to avoid getting burned at the stake along with his family.
I based the Jubilee Bible on the New Testament of Francisco de Enzinas (1543) and the New Testament (1556) with the Psalms (1557) of Juan Pérez de Pineda, both of which I translated from Spanish into English. I then compared it with the Old English translation of William Tyndale and with the Authorized Version (by King James) of 1611.
The word of our God shall stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
Why the Jubilee Bible Is Unique
Since the beginning of the last century, the Jubilee Bible (JUB) has stood apart from most other English versions in print. The usage and context define each keyword. Therefore, readers do not have to rely blindly on theological dictionaries or reference materials that may wittingly or unwittingly include any prejudice or bias.
The Jubilee Bible is the only translation we know of that has made a serious attempt to mate each unique Hebrew word (and subsequently, its Greek equivalent) with a unique English word (using the standard English of William Tyndale) with the extraordinary insight of Hebrew scholar Casiodoro de Reina of the early Reformation. The usage sets forth what God means by each word as defined by the actual context in Scripture.
So, is the Jubilee Bible a Good translation? Yes, because it’s language is consistent!
Early Spanish Reformer Dodges Flames at the Stake
Casiodoro learned Hebrew in Spain as a young man, apparently from Jews who still spoke Hebrew as a “living” language. The Jews would eventually be expelled from Spain, but not before passing the Hebrew language to critical leaders. Casiodoro began a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Spanish and was forced to flee from Spain to England in 1551.
The Queen of England (Elizabeth I) allowed Casiodoro to preach to Spanish speakers in the Church of St. Mary Axe and gave him a monthly income. He continued his Bible translation until the Inquisition found out about it and sent agents from Spain, who brought false charges against him and undermined his support from the queen.
The Jubilee Bible’s history lies in the tribulations of this translator, who was on the run from inquisitors who repeatedly tried to imprison him and take his life.
So, is the Jubilee Bible a Good translation? Yes, because it stays true to the original language and does not let politics dictate the language used!
Staying One Step Ahead of Defeat
Casiodoro then fled to Germany and then went on into the Low Countries. Casiodoro always maintained an open mind to truth and refused to go along with any given school of doctrine or thought, believing that everyone must be responsible before God for their conscience.
After more than twenty years of working on his translation while fleeing with his wife and children—always staying just one jump ahead of the Inquisition (which was always sending agents to attempt to kill or hinder him)—his Bible was finally printed.
The Inquisition set up a ring of checkpoints all along the borders and, for many years, carefully searched every person and cargo that entered Spain. They made an all-out effort not to let even one Bible into the country. They searched for Bibles with the same intensity that our modern countries search passengers for weapons and drugs!
Casiodoro de Reina was a contemporary of William Tyndale, who was martyred for translating the Bible. Casiodoro was last heard of at age seventy, still one jump ahead of the Inquisition. No one knows whether they got him in the end or not.
Martyrs, Scholars, and Reformers
I have noticed many similarities between the Scripture translations of both these men (William Tyndale in English and Casiodoro de Reina in Spanish). Studying these two Bibles has been the equivalent of getting the validity of the Reformation Scriptures in stereo. Additionally, they agree, yet each brings out unique facets of truth from a slightly different perspective.
The power and clarity of translations had a sharper edge than the work done in either language, even a generation later. Why. The intense heat of the Reformation had died down. Also, Bible translation had to be officially approved by ecclesiastic and secular governments.
I believe we are at a place where brilliant scholarship and linguistics cannot discern between all the possible variations of meaning, nor among what are all being presented as ancient and worthy manuscripts in the original languages. Efforts based solely on man’s wisdom will never suffice. We must have the witness of the Holy Spirit.
So, is the Jubilee Bible a Good translation? Yes, because it is from the Scriptures of the Reformation and it bears the witness of the Holy Spirit!
Truth for Spiritual Darkness
I have chosen to go with the Hebrew scholarship of reformers such as William Tyndale and Casiodoro de Reina. Most importantly, their translations of the Textus Receptus (received text) shined the light of the truth into the spiritual darkness of their day and changed the Church and the world for the better. Further, I chose this rather than relying on modern scholarship, which has a penchant for removing the fear of the Lord from among the people of God in this Laodicean hour.
In conclusion, let us allow the Spirit of Truth to have the last word regarding this matter. We must always remember that even if we were all to learn perfect Hebrew and could obtain a flawless manuscript of the original text, there would still be a humanly insurmountable language barrier between us and the truth. This barrier can only be bridged by the Spirit of God.
—Russell M. Stendal (Editor)
With thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see the light. (Psalm 36:9)
Is the Jubilee Bible a Good translation? Editor’s Note
Of the original edition of Casiodoro de Reina, we only know of a handful of copies that survived the fire of the Spanish Inquisition. Many Bibles were burned together with their owners. William Tyndale was killed because he translated, published, and distributed the Word of God. Yet, because of Tyndale’s prayers and perseverance, the Bible finally became accessible in a language ordinary people could understand.