The Bible’s Translation into English
In the same breath he talked about King Narai. He explained that now he could talk to the king intelligibly and honestly. No more guessing games. No more depending upon biased clergy to give the answers. All these wonderful thoughts raced through his mind. Having a Greek Bible, a Bible in his own native language, his troubles were over he thought; but yet, he also realized with a Bible in his hand that he was opening the door to troubles. He remembered Captain Hollingsworth telling him that many good people were executed for their Bible knowledge. For centuries the Bible had been available mostly in Latin and could be read only by the clergy. Then in the 14th century came John Wycliffe, the first man to translate the complete Bible into the language of the people of his time. Because of his prominence among the ruling and scholarly classes he was allowed to die in peace. But that is not the end of his story. A hundred and fifty years later came William Tyndale. Like Wycliffe before him, he wanted to make available a Bible that could be read and understood by the common people. It was a dangerous undertaking which resulted in his execution. He was strangled and his body burned, burned together with the exhumed bones of John Wycliffe.
Indeed, Captain Hollingsworth had said that people like John Wycliffe, and William Tyndale, and other individuals who sought the truth had been executed by the Catholic Church for exposing doctrine that the church did not want them to rightfully know. Not that Tyndale, Wycliffe and the others deliberately exposed the false doctrine of the church but by bringing up the Bible truth, somehow their lies became exposed. Phaulkon knew he was treading on forbidden ground.
“Master, master,” Diego said, bringing Phaulkon back to reality. “Master, maybe you can find the passage from the old man.
Remember when we-“
“Yes, yes,” Phaulkon said, “I remember when we were on the raft-Psalm 37. I’ll find it!” He began turning the pages excitedly. At last he found what he was looking for. Diego could see his face light up. . .
“You found it; you found it,” Diego shouted with delight. Then turning to Marie, he said, “I know very little about these things but I do remember when I was a little boy back home, my mother had just died and this old man showed my father and me a passage from the Holy book he carried with him. He said that I will see my mother again, back here on Earth, and then we can all live happily ever after. It all came back to me when we were shipwrecked. I can’t forget that passage. It’s all I know really-Psalm 37.29”
“Yes Diego, it’s here, it’s here,” Phaulkon said waving his hand above his head. He read: “And the righteous themselves will possess the earth and they will reside forever upon it.”
Phaulkon was as pleased as Diego was for now he had seen it himself. Phaulkon was soon lost in his own reverie, turning from one page to another. Diego quietly slipped away! And Marie went upstairs to bed and Phaulkon stayed awake reading the Bible until dawn. And then when he went to bed, he couldn’t sleep. He was thrilled but he also knew his problems were just beginning. After reading only a dozen pages or more at random from the Bible, he realized, after all, it was not an easy book to read let alone to understand. The very things he was taught about the Christian faith were not the same as what was written in the Holy book, at least not those things he had been taught by the clergy. He wondered, “”Was it the translation of this Greek Bible that caused all the problems in the church?” He got out of bed and went to his desk and there he looked for his letters from Captain Hollingsworth.
The candles had long since burned out but there was enough light to read. He had written a letter to Captain Hollingsworth to hurry with the English Bible. Phaulkon had been communicating with Captain Hollingsworth, now retired and living in Hampton north of London. The captain spent his days doing what he wanted to do after a lifetime at sea and that was to study and research at Oxford University. Phaulkon read the letters over and over and fell asleep with his head on the desk.
The next afternoon Phaulkon went to see Ambassador Chaumont at his residence along with Bishop Laneau to do the translating. He found him reclining on a lounge chair being fanned by two near-naked servant girls. He opened the discourse by explaining to the ambassador that the Siamese are concerned about Dutch intervention; the king’s ministers wanted to know if the support they were getting from King Louis would continue. “King Narai would like to seal a firm alliance with France,” Phaulkon said.
“I assure you,” Chaumont replied, after sending the servant girls away, “that the King of France will do all in his power to protect Siam from the Dutch but for now, my mission is not to discuss war but to teach King Narai the doctrine of Christian faith.”
Phaulkon could see that Chaumont was not a man to try to reason with. He was persistent and his thoughts were fixed. He was indomitable. He found refuge by stating he was entrusted with the responsibility of converting King Narai to Christianity and nothing else mattered. Both Phaulkon and the bishop attempted to plead to his better senses.
“It is not an easy goal to achieve,” Phaulkon stressed. “King Narai is head of a kingdom that has worshipped their own god for some two thousand years.”
“That’s all the more reason we must press harder for the king’s conversion,” he replied.
Phaulkon explained the best he could that King Narai’s faith was as strong as the ambassador’s, that the king was willing to die for his belief, and he would do everything to protect, preserve and extend his faith to others. In final desperation Phaulkon said, “Your Excellency has asked me to help in this grave matter, to assist in teaching a king the Christian faith when I myself do not fully understand its teachings. You assign me this most difficult work which I have no desire to carry out as I am not equipped to do so.”
“Tell me, Monsieur Constantine,” Chaumont said, ignoring Phaulkon’s statement completely, “have you talked to the king about his conversion yet?”
“How can I when I don’t even know where to begin?” Phaulkon asked.
“No matter,” Chaumont said. “I shall start the dialogue myself with the king, with you, Constantine, as our interpreter.”
“Your Excellency, you do not understand,” Phaulkon said, with Bishop Laneau nodding his approval, “you cannot do it that way. The king would just tell us to leave. Even if the king were interested, he would have to pretend not to be. The whole country would rebel, giving generals and ministers the opportunity to seize the throne.”
“I can and must do it my way,” Chaumont insisted. “Leave that up to me. God is on my side.” He then, without further words, dismissed Phaulkon and Bishop Laneau.
Ambassador Chaumont’s second audience with King Narai was arranged. Both Phaulkon and Bishop Laneau accompanied him to the meeting. With the greeting and formalities completed, Chaumont confirmed, at the king’s bidding, that there were rumors that the Dutch were planning an attack on Siam, as they were jealous of Siam’s relationship with France. Phaulkon breathed a sigh of relief. At least the ambassador started off on the right foot. King Narai then asked the ambassador his opinion of the Dutch.
“The Dutch wouldn’t dare attack Siam,” he said. “The Dutch owe King Louis respect after our magnificent French victories in Europe.”
King Narai said he hoped the ambassador was right, that he still didn’t trust the Dutch, and he then turned to trade matters.