Ælfric: On the Old and New Testaments

An edition of this text in Old English is found in the volume edited by S.J. Crawford, Early English Text Series, Original Series 160 (London: Oxford University Press, 1922). As of 2002, this edition is in the public domain, so I have posted it here: https://sites.google.com/site/miscelleneatheologica/home/aelfrictestoe.

An old translation is also printed in that volume, from A Saxon Treatise Concerning the Old and New Testament: Now First Published in Print with English of Our Times by William L’isle of Wilburgham (London, 1623). Crawford printed it in spite of its mistakes and “sinewy and idomatic early seventeenth-century English prose” for its historical interest, and because readers of his edition would know Old English.

What follows is primarily a rendering of the old translation into modern English, with a few minor corrections from the Old English. I have completed the entire Old Testament portion and the beginning of the New Testament portion. This represents only a first pass, and so there are still mistakes present, in addition to mistakes I have undoubtedly introduced.

All headings and text in brackets are my own editorial editions. I have also added paragraph divisions and numbering to more easily correlate the translation with the Old English text.

Note: A new critical edition of the Old English text has now been published in the Early English Text Society series (os 331), edited and translated by Richard Marsden (Oxford University Press, 2008). Please use that edition for scholarly work.

Draft translation by Jonathan Hall, University of Virginia, based on the 1623 translation by William L’isle.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
Updated 3 February 2010.
Corrections and suggestions welcome; e-mail schleviboy@gmail.com.
Page location: https://sites.google.com/site/miscelleneatheologica/home/aelfrictest
Permanent URL to index (bookmark this link): http://purl.oclc.org/net/jonhall/


  • The New Testament
    • Preface
    • John the Baptist
    • The Four Gospels
      • Matthew
      • Mark
      • Luke
      • John
      • Symbols of the Four
    • The Gospel History
      • The Birth of Christ
      • The Life of Christ
      • The Death and Resurrection of Christ
    • The Epistles
      • The Catholic Epistles
      • The Pauline Epistles
    • Christian Doctrine
    • The Lives and Deaths of the Apostles
      • Luke
      • Peter and Paul
      • Andrew, James the Younger, John, Philip, Thomas, and Bartholomew
      • Matthew, James the Just, Simon and Jude, and Matthias
    • John
      • Revelation
      • Introduction
      • Persecution
      • Ministry
      • The Young Man
      • The Young Man’s Upbringing
      • The Young Man’s Misdeeds
      • John Returns
      • John Finds the Young Man
      • The Young Man’s Repentance
    • Conclusion
      • The Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Ages
      • Learn from Scripture
      • The Three Pillars of Society
      • The Jews
      • The Value of Words
      • The Dangers of Drinking
      • Postscript

  • [1] Incipit libellus de veteri testamento et novo [Here begins the treatise on the Old and New Testaments]. This treatise was written for one man, but may nevertheless profit many.


    [2] Abbot Ælfric greets friendly Sigweard at Eastheolon (Asthall).

    [3] It is true, I tell you, that he who speaks by his deeds is very wise, and he who furnishes himself with good works proceeds well both with God and the world. And it is very plain in Holy Scripture, that holy men employed in well-doing were held in good reputation in this world, and as saints now enjoy the kingdom of heaven, and the remembrance of them continues forever, because of their consent with God and relying on him. Careless men who lead their life in all idleness, and so end it, the memory of them is forgotten in Holy Writ, saving that the Old Testament records their bad works, and how they were therefore condemned.

    [4] You have often asked me for English Scripture, and I gave it to you not so soon, but you have begged me first with deeds; when you so earnestly asked me for God’s love to preach to you at your own house, and when I was with you, you lamented greatly that you could get none of my writings. Now I want you to have at least this little, since knowledge is so acceptable to you, and you will have it rather than be altogether without my books. God loves good works, and wants us to do them; and it is indeed written of him that he himself rejoices in his own works, just as the psalmist sang about him: Sit gloria Domini in seculum seculi; Letabitur Dominus in operibus suis, that is, in English, “Let the glory of our Lord be for ever and ever; our Lord rejoices in his own works” [Ps. 104:31 (Vul. 103:31)]. Thus says the prophet.

    The Old Testament: Introduction

    [5] [The Creator] The Almighty Creator manifested himself by the great work which he wrought at the beginning, and wanted creatures to see his greatness and dwell with him in everlasting glory, always in subjection obedient to him. For it would be perverse that the created thing should be disobedient to its creator. At the beginning this world was not, but God himself made it, who was ever without beginning in his great glory and majesty as mighty as he is now, and as great in his light, for he is light itself, and life and truth. And the decree was always in his resolved thought, that he would make these wonderful creatures, and just as he would create them by his wisdom, he would also establish them by his great love in the life which they were to enjoy.

    [6] [The Trinity] Behold the Holy Trinity in these three persons: the almighty Father coming from no other, and the great Wisdom of that wise Father, by himself begotten without beginning, who since redeemed us out of our bondage, by taking flesh of the Virgin Mary. Now their love, always common to both, is the Holy Spirit, who enlivens all things, so great and so mighty that with his grace he enlightens all the angels of heaven, and all men’s hearts on earth, who rightly believe in the living God, and also forgives the sins of all who willingly repent of them, and without his grace there is no forgiveness. He also spoke by the prohets, who prophesied about Christ. For he is the will and very love of the Father and the Son, as we said before. He gave sevenfold grace to mankind (which I have already written about in another English treatise), as the prophet Isaiah has recorded in the books of his prophecy.

    [7] [Angels] When the Almighty Creator formed angels, he made by his widsom ten hosts of them in the first day, many thousands very fair at the first creation, that they in his glory might honor him, all bodiless, bright and strong, without any sin, and living in perfection, of a nature so beautiful, as we cannot express. And there was no evil among angels then, nor did any come by God’s creation: for he is good, and all good comes from him. And the angels dwelt then in glory with God.

    [8] [Lucifer] Indeed: within six days, in which the true God formed the world he willed to create, one angel most excellent, saw how beautiful he was, and how shining in glory, and perceived his strength, and how mighty he was created. His honor also pleased him, and he was Lucifer, that is, Light-bearing, for the exceeding brightness of his glorious appearance. Then he thought it too shameful for him to obey any lord, since he was so excellent, and refused to worship his maker, or ever thank him for what he had given him, whereas he should have submitted himself so much more for the greater glory bestowed upon him. But he refused to have his Creator as his Lord, nor continue in the truth of the true Son of God, who made him so fair, but wanted to get the kingdom by force and make himself God—such was his pride—and earnestly gathered forces to conspire with him in his wicked purpose. Then he had no seat to sit on, for no part of heaven would bear him, nor would any kingdom be his against the will of God, who made all. Then this proud one perceived what his power was, since he had no place to rest on; but fell down, turned into the devil, with all his accomplices from the court of God to the pains of hell, as they deserved.

    [9] [Humanity and the Fall] Within six days after this was done, Almighty God created man, Adam of the earth, with his own hands, and gave him life, and Eve from Adam’s rib soon after, that they with their offspring might enjoy that fair estate which the devil forfeited, if they duly obeyed their Creator. Then the devil soon after deceived them so much as to make them break the commandment of God very quickly, so they both became subject to death, and were driven out of that joy onto this earth, where they and all their posterity have lived in sorrow and hardship ever since, until our Saviour Christ remedied our misery, as this treatise later shows.


    [10] We will follow the order of Moses the great commander’s books, who wrote as God himself directed in their private conference while he lived together with God on Mount Sinai forty days, and receiving his law, fasting all that time in order to teach a great example of reverence. Five books he wrote with wonderful style. The first is Genesis, which contains this history:

    [11] [The First Age (from Adam to Noah)] First the Creation, then about Adam’s sin, and how he lived nine-hundred years in the first age of this world, bore descendants by his wife Eve, and after went with sorrow to hell. Cain was his son, who killed his brother Abel, and innocent man, out of the envy he had for him. And all the offspring of Cain were after drowned in the deep flood, which in the days of Noah destroyed all mankind except for eight people who were in the ark, and of that wicked stock none have come since. But after Abel was slain, Adam became the father of another son, who was called Seth, from whose manhood came all that were left alive: Noah and his wife, and their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their three wives.

    [12] [The First Age, interpreted] We will now speak about this briefly (because we have often written more about this elsewhere), that you might also consider its meaning. Adam, who was made by God on the sixth day, signifies our Savior Christ, who [in the sixth age] came into the world and renewed us according to his image. Eve, whom God took and made out of Adam’s side, signifies God’s Church, which sprung out of Christ’s side. The slaughter of Abel most truly signifies our Savior’s death, whom the Jews, evil brethren like Cain, slew. Seth, Adam’s son, his third, is risen seed, and he undoubtedly signifies Christ who rose from death on the third day. The seventh man from Adam was called Enoch. He did all good things according to God’s good pleasure, and God took him up, body and all, out of this life, and he still lives, as does the famous prophet Elijah, so also taken to that other life, and both shall come again against the Antichrist, to confute his falsehood by the power of God. Yet they shall be slain by that enemy, and rise again, as all men do. Noah, who stayed in the ark while the great flood drowned the whole world except for eight people, is interpreted as requies, that is, in English, rest. He signifies Christ, who came to us to redeem us from the storms of this world to rest and happiness with him. And so on to the end, every holy father by word or work plainly gives testimony to our Savior and his coming. Here was the first age of this world, and the second age was from then to the time of Abraham the patriarch.

    [13] [The Second Age (from after the Flood to Abraham)] Now the history tells us about Noah’s descendants, that his sons had 72 sons, who began to build that wonderful city and high tower, which in their foolish imagination should reach up to heaven. But God himself came there, and saw their work, and gave every one of them a different language, so that they did not understand each other. So they quickly stopped building, and then went to various foreign lands, with as many languages as leaders. In the same age, heathenism began to be set up in many places throughout the world, as we have written in another treatise for the propagation of our faith. Also in this age, the wicked people of the five cities in the land of the foul Sodomite men were suddenly all burned with fire and brimstone, together with their territories, except for Lot alone, whom God led from there with his three women, because of his righteousness. From Noah’s oldest son Shem came the Hebrews, who believed in God, Abraham and his forefathers. His father was Terah, who first lived in Chaldea until Abraham went by God’s commandment to the land of Canaan, where his posterity lived afterward. The patriarch Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, and he worshipped God with all his heart. And the God of heaven spoke often to him, because of his great faith, for which he was willing to offer his own son to God, his beloved Isaac, on his altar which was used for sacrifice, if God so desired. God then blessed him and his son was unhurt. God himself also made him a promise, that through his seed all mankind would be blessed, because of his great faith and obedience to God. Abraham, who by God’s appointment was ready to offer Isaac, is a type of our heavenly Father, who sent his Son to die for us, and Isaac of our Savior Christ, who was put to death for us.

    [14] [Abraham to Joseph] The third age was from then to David, the worthy king of Abraham’s posterity, from whom came Christ the redeemer of all mankind. From Noah’s son Ham are the Canaanites, and of Japtheth the youngest, whom Noah blessed, came the nations bordering on the North Sea. For they made three parts: Asia, in the east for the oldest son, Africa in the south for Ham’s posterity, and Europe in the north for Japheth’s offspring. After Noah’s flood, the Almighty God from his great bounty gave to all mankind alike both fish and fowl and four-footed beasts, even all the clean cattle, but he nevertheless forbade them to eat the blood. Isaac then begat Esau and Jacob, two twins, signifying a great mystery. But Jacob the younger brother was more loved by God for his virtuous disposition, and blessed for his mildness. He became the father of twelve sons called the patriarchs, men of great renown. There was a great famine for seven straight years, and they all traveled to Egypt where they found food. His second-youngest son was called Joseph, and was a great man there in the land under the king, who greatly favored him. And he very honorably took care of his father and all his brothers together with their children. And Joseph lived happily in that land until he was 110 years old. And so the book of Genesis ends like this.


    [15] The second book is called Exodus, in which Moses wrote of the great miracles and ten plagues which almighty God brought upon king Pharaoh in Moses’ time. Moses was born, as this book shows us, as well as his brother Aaron, sons of Amram, in the days of Pharaoh, both very dear to God and with great power to do many miracles. At that time it pleased God to take his people, the seed of Abraham, out of that land into their own country, but Pharaoh would not let them go, until God sent upon him to his great terror ten different plagues for his stubbornness. And Moses then led forth that nation from the bondage of Pharaoh four-hundred years after Jacob came there with the generation of Hebrews. There were in that host that went out from Egypt six hundred thousand men besides women and children and besides the tribe of Levi, which was not named. Moses then led them by the power of God over the Red Sea, as we read in the book. And King Pharaoh came after him with a greater host to get the people back again into bondage in his land. Then the sea opened to Moses, and the water stood up for them like stone walls higher than their heads, and they passed on the ground until they all arrived safely on the other side, praising the heavenly God with a song. And Moses struck the sea with his staff, and the water fell upon Pharaoh’s army, and upon all his chariots and proud ridrs, and drowned them all there, so that there was not one man left. Furthermore this book shows us how God afterward fed all the camp with heavenly food that fell to them fresh from above every day for forty years while they passed through the wilderness, and they had running water from the hard rock. God also gave them laws, that is, plain directions, for their government in the five books that Moses wrote by God’s appointment.

    Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

    [16] Two of them we have named already, the third is Leviticus, the fourth Numbers, the fifth is called Deuteronomy, that is, a second law. These three books tell us how they went afterwards through the wide wilderness, where no one ever lived, and of the great wonders which God did among them over forty years. In all this history (which we have also translated into English) men may hear how the God of heaven spoke to him both by words and wonders. And he put these things in writing as great mysteries for men to remember. And Moses the great, when he was 120 years old, departed this life, and was buried by God himself. And God put Joshua in his place to lead the people, who Moses had blessed, and God promised to be with him, as he was with Moses, in mighty wonders.


    [17] The book which he wrote, called the book of Joshua, shows how he went with the people of Israel into Abraham’s country, and how he won it, and how the sun stood still, while he got the victory, and how he divided the land. This book also I translated into English for Prince Æthelweard, in which one can see the great wonders of God truly fulfilled. Joshua was the son of Nun, and lived more than a 110 years, then departed after his famous conquest. The people afterwards lived there under the law of Moses. Joshua signifies Jesus, in that he brought that people into the promised land, just as our Savior does, who leads into the kingdom of heaven all who believe in him, fulfulling his will in good works.


    [18] After him, it is known that there were in the land certain Judges over Israel who guided the people, as it is written in Libro Iudicum, that is, in the book of Judges. This book clearly declares to us how that nation, as long as they worshipped the God of heaven in the keeping of the commandments, lived in peace, and as often as they abandoned the living God, they were oppressed and put to shame by the heathen lands around them. Again, when they called earnestly to God with true repentance, he then sent them aid by some judge to withstand their enemies and deliver them out of misery, and so they lived long in the land. Any who want to hear more about this can read it in that English book which I translated concerning the same. I think you will be persuaded by that marvelous history to earnestly set your minds on the will of God. So here let this book be ended.


    [19] Then there was a certain woman named Ruth, of the nation of the Moabites, but married to the grandfather of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David. The book that treats this is called the book of Ruth and comes next in the canon of our Bible.

    Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles; Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs

    [20] After these judges, the people of Israel, as the history says, in the time of the faithful prophet Samuel, chose kings for themselves, of whom are written four distinct books, which are called Liber Regum in Latin, that is the book of Kings, so called all in one, and Verba dierum [Chronicles] is placed next to it for a fifth book, because of the many things shown there that is not in the other. These books were written by Samuel and Malachim [Ælfric seems unaware that Malachim is Hebrew for Kings rather than a proper name].

    [21] [Saul] In these we read how Saul was first chosen king in Israel, so that they might have some warrior to defend themselves against the heathen. They made their desire known to the prophet Samuel, that they would have a king of their own nation as all other nations had. And Samuel told God, and God allowed them to make Saul, son of Kish, their king. He reigned after that for forty years, and that people defended against the heathens like a strong shepherd his flock, though he offended in many other things.

    [22] [David and the Psalms] Then the son of Jesse, David the precious psalm-writer of the first tribe which was called Judah, was chosen king in Israel by God to protect them. And he reigned with a strong hand, and protected that people against all heathen lands which bordered them, and he always gained victory. He slew the heathen at every conflict, because he worshipped almighty God with all his heart, and with good works assured his kingship, which he held for forty years, and his memory is famous in the trusted book. Now the fourth age of this world was from David to the prophet Daniel. He was called David, named fortis manum, meaning “strong-handed” in English, because he defeated the wild bear and pulled apart his jaws without wounding himself, the wild lion he also defeated, and tore her jaws with his bare hands [1 Sam. 17:34ff]. And when he was a boy he entered a duel with the great giant called Goliath, and with his sling knocked the huge unbeliever down, so that he lay dead, and cut off his head and so put to flight all the Philistines who fought with Saul; he had the victory. He signifies our Savior Christ, who is the strong-handed one who easily vanquished the cruel Devil, and takes away from him all the faithful into his Church, as David took the sheep from the wild beasts. He is a holy prophet, prophesying many things of our Saviour Christ, as we can learn from the Psalms, which sung by the Spirit of God and to the praise of God. That Psalter is also a book which by the guidance of God he placed among the books of the Bible.

    [23] [Solomon] In his old age he set the wise Solomon to be king, who reigned 40 years from then ever in peace, and for his great wisdom other kings worshipped him, and came to him from far-away countries, from all parts they came to honor him with presents, and he protected his people without any war. He also built a beautiful temple to God in Jerusalem, excellently built with wonderful workmanship, a frame of a sure foundation, so large and overlaid with pure silver and gold that we cannot put it into words.

    [24] [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs] And he by his wisdom wrote three books. One is Parabole, that is, Proverbs, not like the ones you say commonly, but proverbs of wisdom, and instructions to the foolish showing how one can best avoid sin and walk the way which leads to God. His second book is called Ecclesiastes, that is in English, “the counselor of all people,” to be heard also in holy meetings. The third is called Cantica canticorum, which in English is “the chief of all songs,” which he sang by Christ and his Church, that is, the whole congregation believing in Christ. And these books now stand in the Bible. Solomon is interpreted as “peaceable” in English, and he signifies Christ, who brought us peace and is the Prince of Peace, he that has joined us to the fellowship of angels and raised us into a Church, that is his congregation.

    [25] [Other Kings] Now many kings are found in the book of kings (which I have translated part of into English). Some of them were righteous and always worshipped God, as Hezekiah was and after him Josiah, with some others, who were victorious and protected their nation nobly by the blessing of God, whom they worshipped and abided in him in freedom. Some of them were wicked and fared very badly, because they had no desire to serve God, and God did not protect them. And they defiled their people with abominations and led a profane life through unbelief, and made an evil end with infamy, such as Zedekiah, the unfortunate king. The man was led in bonds to Babylon, where they murdered his two children in front of him, and then blinded him and threw him into prison, and much misery came on the land. Nebuchadnezzar, that famous king of Chaldea, came to Jerusalem with a great army, and killed the people, overthrew the city, and destroyed the Temple 400 years after it was built, and all for the unfaithful kings who abandoned their God and the negelectful people who did not mind God. He led the king to Chaldea with him, named Ahikam, extremely shamefully, so that he might acknowledge his abominable deeds against the heavenly God, at least in captivity.

    [26] [The Fiery Furnace] So the king of Chaldea came home to his own country with the spoils, and the remnant of the army, including the highly esteemed prophet Daniel and the three boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, also called elsewhere Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. These three boys were by the king’s commandment thrown into a burning oven, but their bonds were soon burnt off, and they walked unhurt, praising with song the heavenly God, who preseved them in the hot oven, so that not a hair of theirs was consumed in the fire. And the king commanded them to come out of the oven.

    [27] [From the Babylonian Captivity to Christ] Here began the fifth age of the world, which continued until Christ himself came at the beginning of the sixth age in human nature from Mary’s womb, who was ever God with his almighty Father. The remnant of this vanquished people then lived in the land of the Chaldeans under the king, and knew their sins against the almighty God. Seventy years they lived there in bondage, until King Cyrus sent them back again into Judea from where they were led, and commanded them to rebuild that singular temple, as the almighty God put into his mind, that he might show mercy to his people after such great misery. And they lived there until Christ himself was born.

    Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus

    [28] Now there two more books placed with Solomon’s works, as if he wrote them, which were attributed to him because of likeness of style and usefulness, but Jesus son of Sirach wrote them. One is Liber sapientie, that is, the book of Wisdom, and the other is called Ecclesiasticus, very large books, and customarily read in church for much wisdom.


    [29] We come now to the prophets, who prophesied about Christ through the Holy Spirit and this Savior’s coming to earth in true humanity, as we will write about now. Isaiah was a certain holy prophet in the time of kings, as his book shows us. He foretold of Christ very truly, as if he were an Evangelist, so accurately, he spoke in his record just as we say here: Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium et vocabitur nomen eius Emmanuel, et reliqua. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and his name shall be called ‘God himself is with us.’” [Is. 7:14] Again the same prophet wrote in his record: Puer natus est nobis et filius datus est nobis, et reliqua. “A child is born to us and to us a son is given. And his government is on his shoulders, and his name shall be called wonderful, counselor, truly strong God and father of the world to come, surely the prince of peace, and his kingdom will be manifold, and there will be no end of his everlasting peace.” [Is. 9:6f] His book is very large and contains many things about Christ and the goodness of God, and about all mankind in the spiritual sense of God’s Church. He preached the faith in Judea, and spoke out against injustice until the cruel king Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, cut him in two and so killed him [an ancient Jewish tradition, cf. Heb. 11:37].


    [30] The prophet Jeremiah was also a very holy prophet in that land from his childhood, about which God himself said to him: “I truly knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb, and I sanctified you before you were born, and I have ordained you a prophet to the nations” [Jer. 1:5]. He led a holy life, and wrote the book of his prophecy through the Holy Spirit, much and various for people’s instruction, and also in the spiritual sense about the Savior. He was often bound and imprisoned for his holy teaching, and he greatly bore the sins of the people, just as his book tells us, and he was eventually stoned to death in Egypt for his beliefs. Plato, the philosopher and wisest of the heathen, spoke with him, and the prophet guided him, so that he declared his belief in the living God, as Augustine has written [Cf. Augustine, De doctrina Christiana 2.28.43]. And Jeremiah is our special prophet.


    [31] The prophet Ezekiel was carried away into captivity with the people when the king of Chaldea destroyed the Judeans and brought the rest to his land, at the same time Daniel the prophet was taken. And Ezekiel lived there in bondage, and prophesied there, and wrote a book of many decrees about that people, and about our Lord, very profound in understanding, until that governor of the captive people put him to death, as a learned writer tells us [an ancient Jewish tradition].


    [32] The prophet Daniel lived in Chaldea, highly esteemed by their kings, and wrote a book of his prophecy, which God himself revealed to him. And he plainly spoke in his decrees about Christ’s birth: how he would come to people, 490 years after King Darius until our Lord came in true humanity from Mary’s womb. His book is very great with many signs, too long to rehearse here, and also how he was thrown to the wild lions, about which we wrote some time ago in an English homily. He was not killed, but died a natural death when he was 110 years old, and he was buried in Babylon.

    The Twelve Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephanaiah, Haggai, Zacharias, and Malachi)

    [33] There are 12 more prophets besides thesse, who wrote 12 shorter books of prophecy, but with much knowledge about Christ’s humanity and the people of God, as God gave to them. We will write their names in this statement: Hosea; Joel; Amos; Obadiah; Jonah, who was three nights in the whale, and who the whale brought to Nineveh, which signified our Lord’s death, who lay that long in the grave, but arose from the dead through his lordly might; Micah; Nahum; Habakkuk, who spoke of the Savior by name in this way: Ego autem in Domino gaudebo et exultabo in Deo Iesu meo, that is, in English, “I will be glad in the Lord, and I will rejoice in God my Savior” [Hab. 3:18]. “Jesus” was what our Savior was called in this life, and so the prophet said before he was born, just as the archangel did in the gospel. He is also called “Christ,” as another prophet said many years before he was born: Adstiterunt reges terræ et principes convenerunt in unum adversus Dominum et adversus Christum eius, that is, “Earthly kings and governors rose up against our Lord and the Savior Christ” [Ps. 2:2], that was King Herod and Governor Pilate, as the apostles understood them; Zephaniah; Haggai; Zachariah; Malachi.

    Other Prophets

    [34] There are other prophets who wrote no books, such as Elijah and Elisha, but the miracles they performed were nevertheless recorded in manifest memory in the books of Kings. There were also 10 virgins among the heathen people at various times, called Sibyls, that is, “prophetesses,” and they prophesied all about the Savior Christ, and wrote their books doubtelessly through the help of God, about his whole life with full belief, because God wanted him known among the heathen peoples as well as the faithful. But their books are not in the writings of our Bible as the others are.

    Ezra (and Nehemiah)

    [35] Ezra the scribe wrote a book, how that people returned from Chaldea to Judea and rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and its Temple, as King Cyrus allowed them after 70 years to live in that country. And this book is part of the canon, with deep understanding of hidden signs.


    [36] Job was the name of God’s high servant in the land of Uz, very faithful and rich in possessions. He was tested by the deceitful devil, as the book tells us, which he himself wrote after he was tested. I formerly translated some homily about this into English. And this is certainly also a prophecy about Christ and his congregation, as the learned ones say, and the book is part of the canon.

    Tobit, Esther, Judith, and Maccabees

    [37] [Tobit] Another Judean man was tested named Tobit, a great almsgiver and very faithful to the living God. He was also taken captive to Assyria, but he maintained his belief there with good works. And God tested him, so that he became blind and lived that way 10 years. But God healed him through his archangel called Raphael, as the account tells us in his own book, which he wrote himself. And his book is added to this sequence, because like the others it also signifies.

    [38] [Esther] Queen Esther, who saved her people, also has one book in this sequence, because it contains the praise of God, which I translated into English briefly in our manner.

    [39] [Judith] The widow Judith, who defeated Holofernes the Assyrian general, has her own book among these about her victory. This is also put into English in our manner for an example, that you might protect your country with weapons against an invading army.

    [40] [Maccabees] Two books are set according to the Church’s custom among these books, bringing the praise of God, called Maccabees, after their great war, because they fought with weapons against the heathen invaders, who struggled fiercely with them, who wanted to annihilate and remove them from the land which God gave them, and forfeit God’s praise. Behold Mattathias, the worthy servant of God, who fought the invaders with his five sons much more frequently than you can imagine. And they gained victory through the true God, whom they believed in according to the law of Moses. They did not want to fight only with brave words, though they spoke well, and then changed, lest the severe judgment comes on them, which the prophet had spoken of some nation in this way: Et iratus est furore Dominus in populo suo et abominatus est hereditatem suam, et cetera, “The Lord was fiercely angry with his people, and hated his inheritance, and he gave them up to the heathens, and their enemies truly gained victory over them, and the cruel enemy ruled them harshly and they were humbled under their hands” [Ps. 106:40 (Vul. 105:40)]. Maccabeus, God’s brave champion, did not want this judgment of his Lord’s wrath, but it was more agreeable to him that he should with belief call earnestly to God in these other words: Da nobis, Domine, auxilium de tribulatione, quia vana salus hominis, et cetera, “Give us, dear Lord, your true help in our distress and give us strength, because the help of men is weak and worthless. But let us gain power in the powerful God, and he will bring to naught our oppressing enemy” [Ps. 108:12f (Vul. 107:13f)]. Maccabeus then fulfilled these words with powerful works, and overcame his enemy, and therefore his victorious deeds are recorded in these two books of the Bible to the honor of God. I have translated them into English and read them, if you want to learn yourselves.

    Explicit de veteri testamento [Here ends the treatise on the Old Testament].

    The New Testament: Preface

    [41] Incipit de novo testamento [Here begins the treatise on the New Testament].

    I tell you now, Sigweard, that I have written here these few examples of the old books from the Old Testament under the law of Moses, and how, if you had all the wisdom contained in those books, then you would believe that I in no way deceive in this treatise.

    [42] I will now briefly tell about the New Testament after Christ’s coming, so that you will not be deprived of all this knowledge. Though you may not fully understand all that is set down in these true writings, nevertheless you might be improved through these short examples.

    John the Baptist

    [43] “The law and the prophets until John,” as is written in the Gospel (Lk. 16:16). There was the law of Moses and true prophets until John was born, who baptized Christ. He is the end of the old law, and with him began the preaching of the Gospel. He was born at the coming of Christ. Just as the day-star at daybreak rises before the sun, so John shone in holy preaching before the Savior. He was his herald in his preaching, and with his baptism showed Christ’s impending baptism. Christ himself said of him, that there was none at all born among women greater man than he was (Mt. 11:11; Lk 7:28), but Christ is not being compared, since he was born of a pure virgin. John wrote no particular book, but his deeds are written in the Gospel of the Lord, whom he baptized and whose forerunner he was in life and in death. And his fame is now spread wherever Christendom is and Christ’s book has come.

    The Four Gospels

    [44] [Matthew] Four of Christ’s books are written about Christ himself. One of them was written by Matthew, who was with the Savior, his own disciple while he was alive. He saw his miracles and wrote them in the book, those that he could call to mind, composed in Hebrew after Christ’s passion, in Judea for those who believed in God. And he is the first evangelist in this narrative.

    [45] [Mark] Mark the evangelist, who was with Peter for instruction, his own godson increasing in God’s instruction, wrote the second book in the city of Rome based on Peter’s preaching, what he learned from his homilies, as he was asked by those faithful citizens who believed in God through Peter’s preaching.

    [46] [Luke] Luke the Evangelist wrote the third book. From his childhood, he followed the Apostles and later accompanied Paul in his travels. He learned from him the teaching of the Gospel in pure living. He wrote this book of Christ in Achæa in Greek, with what he had learned from Paul and the other Apostles.

    [47] John, the Apostle began to write the fourth book in Greek in Asia Minor, as he was asked by the bishops, concerning Christ’s divinity and the profundities which the Lord revealed to him when he reclined on his loving breast, in which was hidden the heavenly treasure.[John]

    [48] [Symbols of the Four] These are the four rivers from one spring which run from paradise widely over the people of God. These four evangelists were prefigured by what Ezekiel saw: Matthew in the form of a man, Mark a lion, Luke a calf, and John an eagle, because of the signs which they signify. Matthew wrote about Christ’s humanity; Mark, like a lion roars, cried out to mankind wild as in the wilderness; Luke began with the priest Zachariah, who offered a calf to God as a sacrifice; and John, like an eagle, earnestly examined the celestial secrets with his sharp eyes and wrote his Gospel about Christ’s divinity.

    The Gospel History

    [49] [The Birth of Christ] These four books declare how Christ, redeemer of the world, came to humankind from the Virgin Mary in the sixth age of this world, which the prophets had written about in the Bible, in Bethlehem, a town in Judea, in the days of Augustus, that noble emperor. Many thousands of angels proclaimed his birth with heavenly songs. Then three kings came to Christ with gifts from the Far East. Herod killed all the young children that were in the land in order to kill Christ, but did not come near him, because he sought him with deceit. The evil king died in misery.

    [50] [The Life of Christ] These books speak to us clearly about Christ: how he performed miracles, how he was baptized, and how he chose twelve Apostles, that is, messengers, when he first began to preach. They are given these names in the Bible: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Thomas, [Matthew,] and the other James, Philip and Bartholomew, Thaddæus, [Simon the Cananæan,] and Paul, but Paul was chosen after Christ’s Ascension, and Matthias was also chosen in place of Judas who betrayed Christ and then was lost. After these he chose 72 as students for his teaching, whom he sent everywhere, to all towns he was approaching, that people should know about his arrival, but we do not find their names written in the Bible. Then he lived among people in this world just over 33 years and established Christianity. He showed with miracles, as his Gospel says, that he was the Son of God, like when he raised dead men by his power, quickly healed any illness, turned water into wine, walked over the sea with dry feet, stilled the winds with his words of command, cast devils out of madmen, and restored their sense after madness.

    [51] [The Death and Resurrection of Christ] Then, after he had suffered a voluntary death hanged on the cross for our redemption, he rose from death on the third day, and ascended into heaven to his heavenly Father gaining victory. He rules over everything, and will come on that great day to judge all humankind, each according to his works. I say this briefly, because I have already written concerning these four books more than 40 sermons in English, where you can read about these things with more knowledge than I have said here.

    The Epistles

    [52] [The Catholic Epistles]

    [53] [The Pauline Epistles]

    Christian Doctrine


    The Lives and Deaths of the Apostles

    [55] [Luke]

    [56] [Peter and Paul]

    [57] [Andrew, James the Younger, John, Philip, Thomas, and Bartholomew]

    [58] [Matthew, James the Just, Simon and Jude, and Matthias]


    [59] [Revelation]

    [60] [Introduction]

    [61] [Persecution]

    [62] [Ministry]

    [63] [The Young Man]

    [64] [The Young Man’s Upbringing]

    [65] [The Young Man’s Misdeeds]

    [66] [John Returns]

    [67] [John Finds the Young Man]

    [68] [The Young Man’s Repentance]




    [71] [The Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Ages]

    [72] [Learn from Scripture]

    [73] [The Three Pillars of Society]


    [75] [The Jews]

    [76] [The Value of Words]

    [77] [The Dangers of Drinking]

    [78] [Postscript] Whoever copies this book, let him write it according to this example, and for the love of God correct it, that it not be faulty, lest the writer be endangered, and I blamed!