The "Pernicious" English New Testament
John Cochlaeus, an energetic anti-Reformation priest, was eating dinner in a tavern in Cologne, Germany, where Peter Quentel was printing a book for him. A fireplace took the chill off the fall evening and the crowded tavern was a noisy place, but Cochlaeus could overhear a conversation between two of Quentel’s printers.
After several steins of beer, when they were “in their cups,” one printer mentioned a book they were printing that would sooner or later make Lutherans of everyone in England whether the king liked it or not. Cochlaeus listened carefully.
The second printer remarked that Quentel, their boss, was being very secretive about the project and would not let the printers talk to the British customers. The rumor was that they were very clever and that one even spoke eight languages.
Cochlaeus joined the two printers and invited them to his room. After serving several glasses of wine, he learned that they were printing three thousand copies of an English translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale. He also learned about plans to smuggle the books into England.
Cochlaeus went to the Cologne authorities, who investigated the matter, obtained an order to stop the printing, and wrote to King Henry VIII to watch the seaports “lest that pernicious article of merchandise should be conveyed into all parts of England.”
John Cochlaeus was no fan of vernacular translations of the Bible. He once wrote, "The New Testament translated into the vulgar tongue is in truth the food of death, the fuel of sin, the veil of malice, the pretext of false liberty, the protection of disobedience, the corruption of discipline, the depravity of morals, the termination of concord, the death of honesty, the wellspring of vices, the disease of virtues, the instigation of rebellion, the milk of pride, the nourishment of contempt, the death of peace, the destruction of charity, the enemy of unity, the murder of truth."