Reading 3 – Sunday, December 4, 2016
Light in the Darkness through Casiodoro de Reina
By Humberto Avellaneda, Colombia
In the Proverbs, speaking of the blessings of wisdom, the wise Solomon, said: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18. And the apostle to the Gentiles warned that the enemy of souls would seek to blind the understanding of unbelievers so the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ would not shine upon them; but he also affirmed that “God, who commanded the light to shine out of dark- ness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4: 6.
In His infinite love for the fallen race, God has always been willing for the light to shine in darkness and for poor humanity, steeped in sin, to be enlightened through the glory of His presence and His word, for He does not want the sinner to die but to repent and live.
“Satan well knew that the Holy Scriptures would enable men to discern his deceptions and withstand his power…. To maintain his sway over men, and establish the authority of the papal usurper, he must keep them in ignorance of the Scriptures. The Bible would exalt God and place finite men in their true position; therefore its sacred truths must be concealed and sup- pressed. This logic was adopted by the Roman Church. For hundreds of years the circulation of the Bible was prohibited…. Thus the pope came to be al- most universally acknowledged as the vicegerent of God on earth, endowed with authority over church and state.
“The detector of error having been removed, Satan worked according to his will.” –The Great Controversy, p. 51.
It is in this context that we will place today’s Reading. After five hundred years of the enemy’s attacks for the purpose of extinguishing the truth through persecution and martyrdom, we can see clearly that light has always shone in the darkness, for which we glorify God for the faithful torchbearers who risked their very lives so the Holy Spirit could use them to give the light of the gospel to us who live at the edge of the end times.
Let us follow the inspired pen as it recounts the history of that deadly war between truth and error: “Amid the gloom that settled upon the earth during the long period of papal supremacy, the light of truth could not be wholly extinguished. In every age there were witnesses for God–men who cherished faith in Christ as the only mediator between God and man, who held the Bible as the only rule of life, and who hallowed the true Sabbath. How much the world owes to these men, posterity will never know…. They stood firm, and from age to age maintained their faith in its purity, as a sacred heritage for the generations to come.” –The Great Controversy, p. 61.
Only Heaven recorded all the horror and persecution that God-fearing people suffered through the ages to honor their Redeemer and safeguard His word. “Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther, and is to be carried forward to the close of time by those who also are willing to suffer all things for ‘the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Revelation 1:9.” –The Great Controversy, p. 78.
The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, as already seen in previous Readings, was a light in the darkness. It began with great proponents such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, and others whose way had been prepared by the first Reformers.
“When persecution was kindled against the teachers of the truth, they gave heed to the words of Christ: ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.’ Matthew 10:23. The light penetrated everywhere…. The truth … spread with irresistible power….
“Persecution served only to extend the truth, and the fanaticism which Sa- tan endeavored to unite with it resulted in making more clear the contrast between the work of Satan and the work of God.” –The Great Controversy, p. 196.
Despite the opposition of some, sponsored by the papal power, the torch of truth–the open Bible–man- aged to enter almost all the countries of Europe as a heavenly messenger; and Spain was no exception. “With the invention of the printing press, the Bible spread to the homes of the people; and as many learned to read the word of God for themselves, the light of truth dispelled the darkness of superstition as if by a new revelation….
“Thus in Spain a movement spread that was analogous to the religious revolution that developed in other countries.” –El conflicto de los siglos (The Great Controversy), pp. 252, 254.
The light of truth enters Spain
In the awakening in Spain, “the teachings of the Holy Scriptures quietly made their way into the hearts of men such as the scholar Alfonso Valdés, secretary of Charles V; his brother, Juan de Valdés, secretary of the viceroy of Naples; and the eloquent Constantino Ponce de la Fuente, chaplain and confessor of Charles V…. Beyond that, the influence of the Holy Scriptures penetrated the rich monastery of San Isidro del Campo, where almost all the monks joyfully received the word of God as a lamp to their feet and a light to their path. Even Archbishop Carranza, after being promoted to this high office, was forced for nearly twenty years to fight for his life within the walls of the Inquisition, because he defended the doctrines of the Bible….
“These exhibitions of the liberty of the gospel could not fail to attract attention in a country where the love of freedom was so ingrained. Tracts and pamphlets passed from hand to hand. Friends of the Protestant movement in Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands followed by sending a large number of publications to Spain. It was not easy for the believers to avoid the vigilance of the henchmen of the Inquisition, who did everything they could to stop the reform doctrines and counter the wave of literature that was flooding the country….
“The power of the Holy Spirit ac- companied the Reformers in the task of presenting the truths of the word of God at the great diets convened from time to time by Charles V and made a great impression on the minds of the nobles and dignitaries of the church in Spain who attended those gatherings. Even though some of them, like Arch- bishop Carranza, were considered for many years among the staunchest sup- porters of Roman Catholicism, many were convicted that it was truly God who directed and taught those intrepid defenders of truth who with the Bible advocated a return to primitive Christianity and the freedom of the gospel.” –El conflicto de los siglos (The Great Controversy), pp. 255, 258, 261.
Help to spread the gospel
“But it was in ‘the Hieronymite convent of San Isidro del Campo, one of the most famous monasteries in Spain,’ located about two kilometers from Seville, that the light of divine truth shone most brightly. One of the monks, Garcia de Arias, commonly called Dr. White, cautiously taught his brothers
‘… that they should read and carefully meditate on the Holy Scriptures, and that only thus could they obtain the true knowledge of God and His will.’ This teaching was skillfully presented by another monk, Casiodoro de Reyna, ‘who later became famous for translating the Bible into the language of his country.’ The instruction given by such notable personalities paved the way for ‘radical change’ in 1557 that was in- troduced ‘in the internal affairs of the monastery.’ “ –El conflicto de los siglos (The Great Controversy), pp. 268, 269.
The contribution of Casiodoro de Reina in Spain was significant for the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, and its meaning and scope are very important today for Spanish-speaking people, as we celebrate five hundred years of existence of the Protestant Reformation and a few less of having the translation of the Bible in our own language.
In speaking about the life of Casiodoro de Reina, first of all, we must say that we do not have very much information concerning his life, and there- fore we cannot be certain about where he came from. It is said that Reina was probably born in 1520 to a family of converted Muslims and that he studied at the University of Salamanca, al- though others say it was Seville.
What is absolutely certain is that, as is known to all, Reina was a monk at the monastery of San Isidro de Seville, a convent touched by Protestant- ism, including the works of Calvin or Luther. There he became a supporter of the Reformation, being persecuted by the Inquisition, partly for secretly distributing the translation of the New Testament by Juan Pérez de Pineda.
It is significant that when the con- vent was placed in the crosshairs of the Inquisition, all the monks who fled Spain invariably took the road to Geneva, condemned to live in exile until death, since Spain was the only European country that had a national institution dedicated to eradicating heresy. But because of some drawbacks, Reina decided to move to Frankfurt in 1558, but not before beginning the translation of the Old Testament into Spanish.
Casiodoro de Reina outside of Spain
The ascension to the throne of England of Elizabeth I on January 19, 1559, attracted not only the English Protestant exiles but also foreign Protestants. In London, new possibilities for the Reformation were opened under the auspices of a queen who had the title of Supreme Governor of the Church.
That is where Reina sought support for his project to translate the complete Bible into Spanish, a project to which the ex-monk, despite his poverty, de- voted himself from the very beginning of his flight from Spain. The fruit of that work, and not without facing op- position for some years, was a Spanish Reformed congregation in London, which grew to the point where it met three times a week. This favorable situation did not last for very long. First, Reina married, which brought upon him the ire of Queen Elizabeth I, who rejected married clergy. Second, the Spanish church in London and Reina himself drew the attention–how could it be otherwise?–of the Spanish ambassador to London, Álvaro de la Cuadra. The intention of the King of Spain, Philip II, could be easily figured out, for he asked the ambassador by letter to see that Reina would leave England. Thus, in the fall of 1563, a serious scan- dal erupted: Reina was accused by Spanish agents (provocateurs) of moral offenses ranging from sodomy to adultery, and also of heresy. The Bishop of London, Edmund Grindal, a friend of Reina, then opened an investigation to have the confession of faith be studied in detail and promptly closed.
Faced with these attacks, Reina’s reaction was totally unexpected; he suddenly left England with his wife disguised as a sailor. He needed to continue the translation of the Bible in a quiet place in one of the castles of the kingdom of Navarre, and nothing could stop him from his true mission.
The truth comes to light
His original plan was to translate the Old Testament and to connect it with the New Testament translation done by Juan Pérez that had been published eight years earlier. Finally, after 12 years of hard work, Reina completed the translation, his friend Pérez having died, leaving sufficient funds for joint publication of the two translations.
However, Reina could not use the New Testament of Juan Pérez, because the copies that were being printed in Paris were confiscated and destroyed, forcing him to prepare his own translation of the New Testament. This delayed the printing that was taking place in Basel, Switzerland, where he decided to travel to manage the distribution; and furthermore he became seriously ill on the way. Then, when he arrived, he was surprised to find that the printer, to whom he had given a significant advance, had gone bankrupt.
By the mercy of God, his friends came to his aid. Finally, on September 28, 1569, the complete project was finished, containing the following dedication: “For the glory of God and the good of the Church of Spain.” Immediately four large containers of copies of the Bible in Castilian, which were to be delivered to Spain via Flanders, were prepared.
Although other translators can be mentioned as preceding Reina, their work had little significance. But the translation and printing of 2,600 copies of the complete Bible in Spanish by Reina in Basel, known as the Bible of the Bear, was the first major production. The name comes from the first edition, which had the cover illustration of a bear standing on its hind legs, leaning against a tree trunk, and trying to get honey from a hive at the top of the tree. This was to illustrate the sweetness de- sired from the message of God’s word. It was the first complete translation of the Bible into Spanish, derived from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. It reflected the literary beauty of the so- called Golden Age of Spanish literature.
It was revised in 1602 by an illustrious Spanish Reformer, Cipriano de Valera, who published the revision in Amsterdam, Netherlands, that year. That is why this version is nicknamed the Reina- Valera, being one of the Bibles most widely read and studied still today.
Concerning the first version, historian Manuel de León wrote: “The Bear Bible was a major milestone not only because it was the first Spanish version of the Bible, but because it also established linguistic canons supported by the majority of the Reformers in exile in the Sixteenth Century.” In addition, its release date was immortalized in Spanish-speaking countries, which celebrate Bible Month in September of each year.
Today, the Reina-Valera version is still alive. Almost all of the most popular applications for reading the Bible include this version in its options as the default and free. This is the case of the Bible application, which allows free access to two Bibles in Spanish, including the 1960 Reina-Valera and the most recent edition, being undoubtedly the most widespread version among multiple applications offered on various platforms.
The life of Casiodoro de Reina, like those of other defenders of truth, was one of struggle and danger, always running from one place to another, as the Master explained would be the lot of His disciples. His hard work, especially the translation of the Bible into Spanish, was a blessing for him and his contemporaries; to this very day we are grateful for all the work and sacrifice of all the Reformers of the Sixteenth Century, who put everything on the line, even their very lives, so we can have in our hands the written word and the sweet taste of honey.
This hero of the faith, who died in exile in Frankfurt in 1594, having been excommunicated by the Inquisition but always remembered and cherished, re- minds us of a costly lesson: No path to the word of God is opened without suffering. This is the reality of what we as God’s people will have to suffer at the hands of the enemy of God if we really want to defend Biblical principles and tell the world of the soon coming of the Saviour. Like those before us, we are witnessing the results of the papal power united with the civil power (USA), and there will be retaliation against new “heretics”; but, like Zwingli, Luther, and Casiodoro de Reina, we have the promise of the final reward. “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:11.
“Through the centuries, these testimonies highlight the constancy of those who obey God rather than men; and today there are still those who in- spire others to remain firm in the hour of trial, in defense of the truths of God’s word, and through perseverance and unwavering faith are living witnesses of the transforming power of redeeming grace.” –El conflicto de los siglos (The Great Controversy), p. 277. Therefore, God and all Heaven are watching and helping us today to be the Reformers that the world needs in the Twenty-first Century.
The Lord can bless and encourage the Reformers of the last days. The Al- mighty will help us to stand firm on the platform of truth, to want to return to the purity and simplicity that characterized the early church, to carry the faith of Jesus even unto death, and to stand when our Saviour comes.
Let us give thanks to God for the light of His word that continues to shine in our hearts today. Maranatha–Christ is coming. Let us be ready. Amen!