Talk:Alfred the Great

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Nice article, very concise, (concise in the usual good way not the CP two sentence quote mine way). Could the author please parse this to say what it is meant to say because as it stands we don't know if the "wife" is "his father's wife " or "his mother". REF, His father was King Athelwulf and his Who's first wife? first wife, Osburga of the Isle of Wight. Thanks. CЯacke® 10:42, 23 December 2007 (EST)

This looks copied out of something (see the use of weird turns of phrase and archaicisms like "whilst".) May we know from what? Researcher 18:23, 27 December 2007 (EST)

I wrote this article and I did NOT copy it from anywhere, though it is based upon general research for a book I have written. Alfred contributed to learning in England and the process of rational thought in making religious dogma open to criticism by rendering it in English. I hardly think the word "whilst" is archaic in the same sense as "prithee my liege" or such rigmarole.Osburga was Alfred's mother, although Athelwulf married a second wife- a 12 year-old Frankish princess called Judith a "well known beauty" (for a 12 year old). We do not know what happened to Osburga.

Dreadnought 15:27, 30 December 2007 (EST)

You are aware, of course, that 1) Alfred only translated a few parts of the Bible, most notably the Commandments for one of his collections of laws; that 2) he was hardly the first to do such a thing, as the Venerable Bede translated the Gospel of John a century and a half earlier; that 3) Bible translations only became canonically problematic after a decree by Innocent III in the 1190'es; 4) even then, authorized versions continued to be published, suggesting that the problem was not so much the translations as the underlying interpretations; that 5) until around the 15-16th century people who had the education necessary to read and criticise the Bible also almost invariably knew Latin; and that 6) nothing of this prevented lots of popular criticism from appearing anyway. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 15:39, 30 December 2007 (EST)

The point is that Alfred contributed to de mystifying religion by making texts available to ordinary people and thus contributed to Rationalwiki. The fact that the later Middle Ages were more regressive underlines the point. From your last contribution, I think there is a suggestion for further articles on the subject.

Dreadnought 15:49, 30 December 2007 (EST)

But who are these "ordinary people"? Very, very few of his contemporaries would have the opportunity or the ability to read such material, and besides, it was clearly meant for a legislative purpose, not a primarily religious one. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 15:56, 30 December 2007 (EST)

People were read to by the priests. This is evidenced by the fact that pointers were sent out to aid instruction, the base of one of which forms the "Alfred Jewel" and is also why many texts were accompanied by a verse form to memorise. In the introduction to Cura Pastoralis Alfred says that he wishes to introduce useful ideas from overseas to better instruct the people, and that is why he seeks to extend learning and education. He was also a great lawmaker as well and translated non-Christian works -Consolations of Philopsophy being about Stoiicism (I think- I last read it as a teenager). Dreadnought 05:45, 31 December 2007 (EST)

Well, Consolations is hardly non-Christian - it's rather an attempt to unite Christian thoughts with Stoicism and Neoplatonism. This whole discussion is a bit pointless, however, since Alfred did not in fact translate the Bible, beyond a few parts. And even if he had done so, I doubt that his objective would have been to make it possible to question dogma - it would rather have been to ensure that the correct dogma was followed. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 09:11, 31 December 2007 (EST)

Agreed. But I suggest that Alfred contributed to education and to contacts with overseas learning and other cultures and it is better to have even nonsensical dogma explained in your own language than one which is unintelligible, whatever the intention. It is a fact that vernacular versions (part or whole) were suppressed at later dates and presumably for what seemed a good enough reason for the likes of Tyndale to be burnt at the stake through the agency of "Saint" Thomas More- to keep knowledge to an elite. This is why I wrote the article - I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition...

Dreadnought 19:28, 31 December 2007 (EST)

Hmmmm. Reading the article only, it seems to be "on mission" due to the last section. However, it seems from reading this talk page that "Alfred had the Bible translated into English" is basically false. I think a few good sources and better wording would go a long way to keeping this article alive. humanUser talk:Human 20:16, 31 December 2007 (EST)

Dread: Ha! Tangle with our HISTORIAN & you'll get queried to death: he means well but can be lacking in tact (and he's usually right). Susanpurrrrr ... 20:19, 31 December 2007 (EST)

Thanks Susan - yes, tact is unfortunately not part of the MA curriculum (feels like quite the opposite sometimes...)

Dread, I fully agree with your first point above. Alfred certainly did contribute to education and learning, although the extent of that contribution should not be exaggerated. However, the important point is that this was not education for ordinary people - it was accessible only to an infinitely small socio-economic group at the top of society, and would remain so for centuries to come. I mean, even most clergy couldn't read or write properly at that time.

Considering the more fundamental question of medieval Bible translations, it's a complex issue, but I think that saying that the only motivation behind the Catholic attempt to control them was to "keep knowledge to an elite" is to oversimplify what was going on. Firstly, it doesn't really fit with the fact that the Church otherwise went to pretty great lengths to make sure that as many people as possible were actually able to get a basic education, especially through cathedral schools and parochial education. If they wanted to keep the people uneducated, why would they do that?

And secondly, authorized Bible translations existed for in most of the major European languages by the mid-15th century, especially French and German. So I think one needs to see all these translations as not just that, but rather as different interpretations of the Bible, some of which were Catholic and some of which were (proto-)Protestant. This being an age of religious conflict, obviously the Catholic Church was not going to permit what they considered harmful interpretations of Scripture, just as the Protestants certainly weren't very friendly towards those Catholic versions that they in turn considered harmful.

Seen in that light, I think that the best explanation for why the Church tried to control translations of the Bible is not necessarily that it was being particularly repressive or that it wanted people to stay uneducated as such, but rather for the - if one considers it from their perspective - actually perfectly rational reason that they genuinely believed that such materials were harmful to people's spiritual health if they were "handled" incorrectly. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 20:27, 31 December 2007 (EST)


Will someone find some good ones to put this in? humanUser talk:Human 21:05, 31 December 2007 (EST)