The Bear’s Bible


The original cover of the Biblia de Reina or, La Biblia del Oso.

The original cover of the Biblia de Reina or, La Biblia del Oso.

Casiodoro de Reina (Reyna)

Casiodoro de Reina (Reyna)

As September is Bible Month, or so it has been declared by the international authorities on the Bible, we decided to post an article highlighting the background of the Spanish version of the Holy Scriptures which has become a traditional source for Spanish Speaking Christendom, particularly Roman Catholic Christendom.

We have done so inspired by our West Indian Panamanian forefathers who, we insist, played an important role in bringing the reading and the teaching of the Holy Scriptures in English to Panama as this, their new found home, was basically a spiritual wasteland.

We refer, of course, to the Reina Bible translated by Casiodoro de Reina (also spelled Reyna) and first published in its entirety on September 26,1569 under the title “La Santa Biblia Antiguo y Nuevo Testamento.” When it was first published its cover bore the image of a bear trying to bring down a honeycomb to taste its sweetness. Hence, it became known as the Bear’s Bible- La Biblia del Oso.

Reina, we are told by his biographers, was born about 1520 in Montemolín in the Province of Bajadoz and from a young age he became an assiduous student of the Bible. By age 37 he’d become a monk of the Hieronymite Monastery of Saint Isidore of the Fields (Monasterio Jerónimo de San Isidoro del Campo de Sevilla). It was at this time that he came in contact with Lutheranism and he became an adherent of the Protestant Reformation. He did, indeed, become a Lutheran Theologian (a Monk). With a dozen other monks he fled into exile when their activities came to the attention of the Office of Inquisition for Protestant tendencies.

He and his companions first fled to Geneva, Switzerland which was under the influence- rule- of John Calvin. But, Reina found the rigid atmosphere of the Calvinist Church to be unwelcoming. His biographers note that “Calvin used Protestant principles to establish a religious government and in 1555 he was given absolute supremacy as leader in Geneva.” In 1558, Reina, in fact, declared Geneva to have become “a new Rome” and he left.

He next traveled to London (1559), where he served as a pastor to a community of Spanish Protestant refugees, all fleeing, of course, from the Inquisition. King Phillip II of Spain, however, was exerting pressure for his extradition. In 1562 in Seville, in fact, he was symbolically burned at the stake by the Inquisition’s authorities and his writings and those of his colleagues were placed in the Index of Prohibited books, and he was declared a “heresiarch” – a leader of heretics.
The Spanish Bible Translation
It was during his exile in different venues of western Europe and under the partial sponsorship (funds) of various benefactors such as Juan Pérez de Pineda, that Reina began translating the Bible into Spanish, using a number of works as source texts. To translate the Old Testament, the Hebrew Masoretic Text (Bomberg’s Edition, 1525) and the Greek Textus Receptus for the New Testament (Stephanus’ Edition, 1550), having a great deal of help from the translations of Francisco de Enzinas and Juan Pérez de Pineda.
The Ferrara Bible in Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish- was also used as a secondary source. Ladino was the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 – it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.
It is believed that Reina’s Bible, which became the basis of the Reina- Valera Bible, was a cooperative work of the expatriate Isidorean community, accomplished by several different individuals with Casiodoro first among them.
Reina was finally granted citizenship by the city of Frankfurt, Germany on 16 August, 1571, and during this period he worked as a silk trader to earn money for his family. He gradually became even more immersed in the teachings of Lutheranism and in 1580 he published a Catechism very much like Luther’s Catechism, in Latin, French and Dutch. He remained in exile throughout the translation years and in 1594 he died in Frankfurt am Main.

The Reina Valera Bible

Now for the second key part of the Reina Valera Bible that we have all come to know and cherish. In 1602 Cipriano de Valera, a student of Reina, published a revision of the Biblia del Oso which was printed in Amsterdam. We are told that “among the reasons for the revision was the fact that in the intervening period words had changed their meanings or gone out of use. For a time, this (edition) was known simply by de Valera’s name.”
The subsequent revisions by The British and Foreign Bible Society, The American Bible Society, and The United Bible Societies between 1708 and 1995 have totaled 15. Since the resurgence of the King James Only Movement in the United States, and after a great deal of debate among Christian groups who use the Reina-Valera Bible the 1960 revision became the common Bible of many millions of Spanish-speaking protestants around the world, surpassing the 1909 in its reception. Almost all Hispanic liberal and Pentecostal churches use it, despite further attempts to revise it.

We encourage all our readers to devote every month, not just September, and every day to the reading and pondering of the Holy Scriptures to restore guidance to your lives.  It will make a powerful difference in your life.

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