Elizabethan Homilies

First Book of Sermons or Homilies, 1562
Second Book of Sermons or Homilies, 1623
Index to Annotated Original Book I and Book II, Middle and Early Modern English, John Griffiths' edition, 1859

Footstool Publications http://www.footstoolpublications.com/Homilies/Homilies.htm 
formerly at "The Seminary of the Anglican Way"

You will learn the most by reading this edition.  I first saw this on 12 August 2004, and wish I had started with it.

Index to Edited Book I, Modern English

Index to Edited Book II, Modern English

Index to Original Book I and Book II,
Middle and Early Modern English
Ian Lancashire http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/homilies/

Introduction to the Elizabethan Homilies
Ian Lancashire 

This introduction is really nice.  I first saw this on 03 October 2006 on Mark Rudolph's web site.

The purpose of editing the Elizabethan Homilies is to remove the impediment against their use in the Episcopal Church. This impediment is a footnote to Articles of Religion in Article 35, found on pages 874-875 of The Episcopal Church 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

XXXV. Of the Homilies.

The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.

Of the Names of the Homilies.

1.   Of the right Use of the Church 11.  Of Alms-doing.
2.   Against Peril of Idolatry. 12.  Of the Nativity of Christ.
3.   Of repairing and keeping clean of Churches. 13.  Of the Passion of Christ.
4.   Of good Works: first of Fasting. 14.  Of the Resurrection of Christ.
5.   Against Gluttony and Drunkenness. 15.  Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
6.   Against Excess of Apparel. 16.  Of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
7.   Of Prayer. 17.  For the Rogation-days.
8.   Of the Place and Time of Prayer. 18.  Of the State of Matrimony.
9.   That Common Prayers and Sacraments ought to be ministered in a known tongue. 19.  Of Repentance.
10.  Of the reverend Estimation of God's Word 20.  Against Idleness.
  21.  Against Rebellion.

[This Article is received in this Church, so far as it declares the Books of Homilies to be an explication of Christian doctrine, and instructive in piety and morals.  But all references to the constitution and laws of England are considered as inapplicable to the circumstances of this Church; which also suspends the order for the reading of said Homilies in churches, until a revision of them may be conveniently made, for the clearing of them, as well from obsolete words and phrases, as from the local references.]

Work Yet to be Done

Files completed on or before 26 November 2003 constitute a first draft of modernization. The quality of translations improved as work proceeded, hopefully. There still remains much to be done before the revisions are suitable for universal use by the Anglican Communion. 

The first draft consisted primarily of a transliteration.  A Concise Dictionary of Middle English, by Mayhew and Skeat (1888), was extensively used for this step.

The second draft is more of a translation.  Word order was placed into modern English where the original was confusing.  Punctuation was adjusted to shorten sentences into units of thought.  The Oxford English Dictionary, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the Internet were extensively used to footnote references and suggest modern translations.

Some of the work yet needed is identified below.

0. Compare the middle English source text with a known certified copy of the original text.

1. Need to compare scriptural and other references to ensure they are valid. I conjecture some references are not to indicate quotes, but rather indicate additional or parallel remarks.

2. A believing specialist in Middle English and Early Modern English should review the translation to ensure it is proper.

3. Believing theologians should review the translation to ensure it reflects orthodox theology, freed from the local laws and customs peculiar to England alone.

4. Reexamine the homilies while considering that the Roman Catholic Church has changed in some ways since the Reformation. On those points where positive change has occurred, the accusatory attack on the Roman Catholic Church should be removed.  It is still appropriate to make positive statements of what is right and wrong, that we not fall into those errors ourselves at some point in the future.

5. Reexamine the homilies while considering that we are grasping with political and bioethical concepts that were not directly anticipated in the 1600s.

6. Obtain reviews from other Anglican Provinces. Incorporate comments. Submit for approval at a Lambeth Conference or future alternative.

Historical Comments

Cardinal John Henry Newman refers to contents of the homilies in his tracts.  See "Remarks on Certain Passages in the Thirty-Nine Articles", http://justus.anglican.org/resources/pc/tracts/tract90/


The translation process has been an education in itself.  The Oxford English Dictionary has been of tremendous value, which I started using during the second review of Book 2 Homily 2.  I have gained a new appreciation for the dynamic change in meanings of words and use of grammar in the English language.  Applying this to the King James Bible has given me new appreciation for that work, the tremendous value of modern translations, and the need for continued retranslations of the Bible.

People who are critical of Christianity because of passages taken from the King James Bible should engage in this type of translation exercise, perhaps first with some secular literature.  A more understanding mind, which then is applied to the word of God, might lead to a wiser heart.

Most people do not have the time for doing this sort of exercise.   Clergy and other religious leaders need to carefully select contemporary translations of the Bible to recommend for their congregations' use.  Continued reliance on Middle English and Early Modern English translations may lead to incorrect conclusions about the message of God in some cases.  Even so, it is hard in English to surpass the beauty of language of the King James Bible, and it can still be used selectively to great benefit.

The people who wrote the homilies did not have word processors.  Spelling, particularly in Book 1, was not standardized.  This gave me an appreciation for Noah Webster.  I recommend that high school English teachers use one of these homilies to teach students the value of his contribution.  

Many of the homilies were written as they might have been spoken.  This is appropriate, as they are intended to be preached.  The homilies have extremely long sentences, many interjectory clauses, and often, European word order.  Paragraphs are very long compared to those now found in the New York Times.  The function of written mass communication is different than spoken communication.

The authors did not have the great libraries and the Internet that we have today.  Some of the citations to literature made in the homilies are difficult to verify.  The citations are often incomplete, and the references are not commonly available.  Some of the citations incorrectly refer to other literature.  I suspect that the authors were sometimes working strictly from memory.  If this is the case, it is impressive that they correctly cited so many works.

Standards of precision in citation have changed.  In the Bible, we read that Jesus merely said "it is written".  We sometimes see references to a particular book, such as Isaiah.  Recall that Bible verses were not numbered then.  Today, we expect students to cite as much information as needed to precisely locate the passage being referred to, whether in the Bible or in some other work.  We have become much more like lawyers.  Precision in references is much more important today.  We have many more volumes of literature to select from, as well as variations.  

Further, literacy is no longer the privilege of the socially elite.  We expect ordinary people to be able to locate, verify, and think about these things.  The ability, and the time available, to engage in these activities is not uniformly distributed.  Expanding the communication base has necessitated standardization and simplification.  We see this in the Reader's Digest standard, and the Fog Index.

Rules of punctuation have changed over the years.  Simplification of grammar and spelling has been balanced by new rules for punctuation, structure and organization.  For example, quotation marks (single or double) did not exist at the time of writing the original homilies.  The colon was used often where we would use a comma, period, or semicolon today.  One translator may understand a different thought grouping than another translator, which becomes important when combining short phrases that requires reordering.  The placement of commas, colons, and periods in the original homilies reflect points of pause in speaking or thinking, whereas commas, colons, periods, and semicolons today reflect the dependency structure of thoughts.

Importance of consistency of gender, number, and case in a sentence and in a paragraph was not as great when the homilies were originally penned.  Keeping the distance between a subject and verb short was not as prevalent either.

We have seen a change in English grammar occurring even over the last 40 years as a result of formal investigations into machine translation, and the documentation of computer software for academic writing in the scientific community.  For example, consider the rules for placement of punctuation inside or outside a quotation mark.  Recently modern English rules dictated placement of the period or comma inside the quotation mark, but placement of other punctuation outside the quotation, unless that punctuation was a part of the quotation.  The trend now, which I advocate, is to include in a quotation only that punctuation that belongs with the original text being quoted.  Consider the monologue, "Your Honor, just before the decedent died, is it true that he said "He did it?", or "He did it!"?  I can't tell from your written transcript."  Further, the question mark in the homilies sometimes appears at places other than at the end of a sentence.  

British and American English rules differ also on the order of using single and double quotation marks.  We are now in the process of developing a need, and rules, for multiply embedded quotations.  This progression is not to be unexpected.  Recall that ancient literature had little or no punctuation.  Writing material was precious.

There is plenty of literature of importance that needs to be rendered into modern English.  This is a task that can be done by any highly motivated high school graduate.  Try it!

Specific Common Observations

Some observations about words may help the reader of the King James Bible.

Be.  The word "be" used in the 1600s is often correctly rendered as "are" or "is" in American English of 2000 A.D.  We hear "be" still used today by some segments of our population as it was used when the New World was first colonized by English speaking people.

Of. The word "of" used in the 1600s is often correctly rendered as "by" in American English of 2000 A.D.

Suffer.  The word "suffer" used in the 1600s is usually correctly rendered as "permit" in American English of 2000 A.D.


*  It would be interesting to know the history of the development of punctuation.  When were various characters first introduced?  How has their use changed? 

*  What was the impact of movable type setting and mass communication on:
  a.  Selection and placement of punctuation?
  b.  Standardization and simplification of spelling and capitalization?



These homilies are decidedly Protestant and anti-Roman Catholic in flavor.

Historical Setting

The homilies were written at a time of great persecution of the Roman Catholics in England. See Rev. J. M. Cronin, "The Reformation and Persecution", in "Catholic Cardiff: Past and Present", St. Peterís Magazine, Cardiff (1922).  http://www.ballinagree.freeservers.com/cathcardiff.html visited 15 August 2004.

History of this Project

I first became interested in the Homilies in 1978.  When carefully reading through the new Book of Common Prayer, I read the Articles of Religion and its list of Homilies.  I went to the Diocese of Florida bookstore (part of the diocesan offices) in Jacksonville, FL to order a copy of the Homilies, that I might read them for myself.  The clerk did not at first know what I was talking about.  She then looked, and reported that the bookstore did not have a copy.  I asked her to locate and order a copy for me.  When I checked some time later, she reported that it was out of print, and she was unable to locate a copy in the United States.  She explained that the Homilies were not available because they are not in use in the United States, referring the the notation following that article.  That a tenant of faith is important enough to be included in the Articles of Faith, and was not easily available, piqued my interest.  In 1978 (and even in 1973), I could sense that the Episcopal Church was rapidly losing its moral ground and historical reliance upon Holy Scripture.  I had an unfounded notion that the loss of the Homilies might also be part of that pattern.

For several years, I dredged through a paper copy of "City of God".  Delightfully, I studied my way through the "Complete Works of Flavius Josephus".  My interest in historical writings of the church led me to discover the wonderful collection of writings of the early fathers on the Internet at a site by SAGE Software.  These eventually were published on CD, with the publisher's name changed to AGES Software.  These CDs included many more important classical writings.  There is enough to keep an avid reader occupied for years.

On 14 July 2001, I located a copy of the Homilies (prepared by Ian Lancashire, University of Toronto) on the Internet while drafting another publication reviewing the state of the Episcopal Church.  After rereading the Articles of Religion, I decided that these Homilies were important enough to get them back into use.  Since I could not find a modern version, I embarked on the project.  I completed my first transliteration on 21 January 2002.  

On 20 April 2003, I found a copy of Mayhew and Skeat, "A Concise Dictionary to Middle English from 1150 to 1580" (1888), on the Internet.  This was a big help.  However, it still did not meet all the needs, and the librarian at Methodist College of Fayetteville, NC pointed me to a print edition of Oxford English Dictionary.  I completed my first draft transliteration of both books on 26 November 2003.  The quality of the transliteration improved greatly as I gained experience with the language.  I began the second draft on 28 November 2003, completing through Book 1 Homily 6 by the end of 2003. 

Under the guise of playing Scrabble, OED was a gift to my wife, who always wanted a copy of OED.  She was not amused.  Something about "IMUA"...  (A Hawaiian would understand.)   I installed Oxford English Dictionary on 21 May 2004.  I found OED a tremendous help, even though it does not contain that American word "IMUA".  (Since Hawaii is now a State of the United States, its ancient beautiful language is now part of the American language.)

I continued work in June 2004 after the Spring semester and associated administrivia was over, completing Book 1 Homily 7 on 28 June 2004.  (No, "administrivia" is not in OED. Sorry. That is a U.S. Navy term derived from "administrative" and "trivia".  Leave it to Yankee sailors.)  I installed the Encyclopaedia Britannica Deluxe Edition CD on 13 July 2004, and completed Book 1 Homily 8 on 15 July 2004, and completed the rest of Book 1 on 18 July 2004.  This resource also proved to be a help.

I had targeted a deadline of 08 August 2004 for completing the second draft. However, concentrated work on the translation was suspended in order to care for parents. The deadline passed, part time work recommenced on 26 September 2004, with the balance of the time used to catch up on other obligations (like the IRS).

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