Friday, April 30, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker are to Anglicans or Episcopalians what Martin Luther and Philip Melanchton are to Lutherans. The parallels are not at all exact, but the importance of each pair of leaders is very close. There are two reasons why I think Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker both recognized holy as meaning whole.

First is that historically both were very close to our earlier translators like Wycliffe and Tyndale, the latter who clearly used holy to replace an earlier English word that clearly meant whole to every single etymologist I have ever read. I have developed this argument elsewhere in talking about earlier dictionaries and I won’t develop that argument more here. Second is that the word that is often translated “healthy” or “sound” in our translations today was translated by “wholesome” by Tyndale at the time of Cranmer.

What I want to do is introduce you to this word “wholesome,” because it is popular in early Anglican writers like Cranmer and Hooker and because it also has an effect much like the word whole. So let me quote Cranmer in some key instances, Tyndale’s translation of Titus a few times and Hooker once at least.

So here is Cranmer in his own words (wholesome in italics and bolded):

Will you faithfully exercise yourself in the same holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer, for the true understanding of the same; so as ye may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

It is from what is called as late as 1928: “Form and Manner of Ordering Priests." I have not located a great source on the internet yet. I will do more research and add an internet source later.

XI. Of the Justification of Man. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
XXV. Of the Sacraments. Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.
There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.
The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.
XXXV. Of the Homilies.
The Second Book of Homilies, the several titles whereof we have joined under this Article, doth contain a godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times, as doth the former Book of Homilies, which were set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth; and therefore we judge them to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may he understanded of the people.

Selections from: The Thirty-Nine Articles of 1801 (still showing Cranmer’s influence) found at:

Therefore now to come to the second and latter part of my purpose. There is nothing so good in this world, but it may be abused, and turned from unhurtful and wholesome, to hurtful and noisome.

Selection from: Thomas Cranmer’s Preface to the Great Bible found at:

From William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament we read:

Titus 1:9
and such as cleaveth unto the true word of doctrine, that he may be able to exhort with wholesome learning, and to improve them that say against it.

Titus 2:1
But speak thou that which becometh wholesome learning:

Titus 2:8
and {with} the wholesome word which cannot be rebuked, that he which withstandeth may be ashamed, having no thing in you that he may dispraise.

Selections from: THE NEW TESTAMENT (Tyndale, Rogers, Coverdale, Cranmer): Titus found at:

Then from a sermon by Richard Hooker in two places:

The reason whereof being not perceived, but by greater intention of brain than our nice minds for the most part can well away with, fain we would bring the world, if we might, to think it but a needless curiosity to rip up any thing further than extemporal readiness of wit doth serve to reach unto. Which course if here we did list to follow, we might tell you, that in the first branch of this sentence God doth condemn the Babylonian’s pride; and in the second, teach what happiness ofc state shall grow to the righteous by the constancy of their faith, notwithstanding the troubles which now they suffer; and, after certain notes of wholesome instruction hereupon collected, pass over without detaining your minds in any further removed speculation. But, as I take it, there is a difference between the talk that beseemeth nursesd amongst children, and that which men of capacity and judgment do or should receive instruction by.

But as unruly children, with whom wholesome admonition prevaileth little, are notwithstanding brought to fear that ever after which they have once well smarted for; so the mind which falleth not with instruction, yet under the rod of divine chastisement ceaseth to swell. If, therefore, the prophet David, instructed by good experience, have acknowledged, Lord I was even at the point of clean forgetting myself, and ofn1 straying from my right mind, but thy rod hath been my reformer; it hath been good for me, even as much as my soul is worth, that I have been with sorrow troubled: if the blessed Apostle did need the corrosive of sharp and bitter strokes, lest his heart should swell with too great abundance of heavenly revelations2 : surely, upon us whatsoever God in this world doth or shall inflict, it cannot seem more than our pride doth exact, not only by way of revenge, but of remedy.


It seems to me as I read Cranmer, Tyndale’s translation of Titus or Hooker that “wholesome” easily fell from their lips, as if it was a major theme for them. I know I did not hear it, when I was growing up in an evangelical and Baptist tradition. This pursuit of being "wholesome" like the pursuit of being healthy or sound from our modern translations, seems to have lead to a similar outcome to what you would see with holy meaning whole. You could say the parallel is that healthy means “wholesome” for them. I should note also that the letters used for spelling "wholesome" in the Greek original are very similar to those used for "holy" in the Greek original. This is worthy of some serious study, if not already consideration.

I think this lends some support to the historic idea of historica Anglican comprehensiveness being an expression of being "wholesome" or being healthy or sound. I wonder too if this word “wholesome” isn’t the root from which the Anglican and Episcopalian idea of comprehensiveness first grew.
If so, then I would have to back off from my earlier idea that possibly its main root was holy. While that proposal was made by an Anglican, my further research has not shown much fruit or much support among those with the experience and credentials to know.

I wonder too if "wholesome" is not also a strong idea alongside of holy supporting the concept of the importance of being whole. The nature of Hooker’s writing itself has a style that strives for completeness or wholeness of thought.

As I make these observations, it strengthens my idea that this is one of the key areas where Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church have gone astray. It seems that they have lost track of their biblical moorings dating back to Cranmer, Tyndale and Hooker.

It also convinces me that I need to study this more with Anglicans and Episcopalians by my side to see if in fact these things are true. That is why I have enrolled in studying this tradition on a post-graduate level. With the Lord’s provision, which I am still waiting on, I hope to being studying these things more this summer. Please pray that He may guide my steps, even as I get my feet wet in trying to follow His will and in studying His Word.

In Christ,