'It came to pass in those days...' (BL Royal 1 A XIV, f.86)
A little while ago I recorded readings of several passages from an Old English translation of the Gospels, and I thought today I might post the three short extracts which relate to Christmas. This translation dates from the end of the tenth century, the version known as the West Saxon Gospels. It's always a rewarding experience to read familiar texts in an unfamiliar language, so I hope you find these interesting - though the recordings aren't perfect, so please be forgiving of any mistakes!
First, the opening of the Gospel of John:
On frymðe wæs Word, and þæt Word wæs mid Gode, and God wæs þæt Word. Þæt wæs on fruman mid Gode. Ealle þing wæron geworhte ðurh hyne; and nan þing næs geworht butan him. Þæt wæs lif þe on him geworht wæs; and þæt lif wæs manna leoht. And þæt leoht lyht on ðystrum; and þystro þæt ne genamon.
Mann wæs fram Gode asend, þæs nama wæs Iohannes. Ðes com to gewitnesse, þæt he gewitnesse cyðde be ðam leohte, þæt ealle menn þurh hyne gelyfdon. Næs he leoht, ac þæt he gewitnesse forð bære be þam leohte. Soð leoht wæs þæt onlyht ælcne cumendne man on þisne middaneard. He wæs on middanearde, and middaneard wæs geworht þurh hine, and middaneard hine ne gecneow. To his agenum he com, and hig hyne ne underfengon. Soðlice swa hwylce swa hyne underfengon, he sealde him anweald þæt hi wæron Godes bearn, þam ðe gelyfað on his naman: ða ne synt acennede of blodum, ne of flæsces willan, ne of weres willan, ac hig synt of Gode acennede. And þæt Word wæs flæsc geworden, and eardode on us, and we gesawon hys wuldor, swylce acennedes wuldor of Fæder, þæt wæs ful mid gyfe and soðfæstnysse.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was that Word. It was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and nothing was made without him. That was life, which was created through him; and that life was the light of men. And the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not the light, but he bore witness to the light. That was the true light, which lightens every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world did not know him. To his own he came, and they did not receive him. Truly, as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, to those who believe in his name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
And the birth of Christ in Luke 2:1-7:
Soþlice on þam dagum wæs geworden gebod fram þam casere Augusto þæt eall ymbehwyrft wære tomearcod. Þeos tomearcodnes wæs æryst geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino. And ealle hig eodon, and syndrie ferdon on hyra ceastre. Þa ferde Iosep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareþ: on Iudeisce ceastre Dauides seo is genemned Beþleem (forþam þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede), þæt he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod. Soðlice wæs geworden, þa hi þar wæron, hire dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende, and heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hine mid cildclaþum bewand, and hine on binne alede, forþam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena huse.Truly it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. This tax was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went out, and each travelled to his own city. Then Joseph went from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary, who was betrothed to him and was pregnant. Truly it happened that while they were there, her days were fulfilled that she should give birth. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Visit of the Shepherds (Luke 2: 8-20):
And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende: and nihtwæccan healdende ofer heora heorda. Þa stod drihtnes engel wiþ hig, and Godes beorhtnes him ymbelscean: and hi him mycelum ege adredon. And se engel him to cwæð: Nelle ge eow adrædan. Soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se bið eallum folce. Forþam todæg eow ys hælend acenned, se is drihten Crist on Dauides ceastre. And þis tacen eow byð: Ge gemetað an cild hreglum bewunden, and on binne aled. And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofonlices werydes, God heriendra, and þus cweþendra: Gode sy wuldor on heahnesse and on eorðan sybb mannum godes willan. And hit wæs geworden þa ða englas to heofene ferdon, þa hyrdas him betwynan spræcon and cwædon: Utun faran to beþleem, and geseon þæt word þe geworden is þæt drihten us ætywde. And hig efstende comon, and gemetton Marian and Iosep and þæt cild on binne aled. Þa hi þæt gesawon þa oncneowon hig be þam worde þe him gesæd wæs be þam cilde. And ealle þa ðe gehyrdon wundredon be þam þe him þa hyrdas sædon. Maria geheold ealle þas word on hyre heortan smeagende. Þa gewendon ham þa hyrdas, God wuldriende and heriende on eallum þam ðe hi gehyrdon and gesawon, swa to him gecweden wæs.
And there were shepherds in the same country, awake, and keeping night-watch over their flocks. Then the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the brightness of God shone around them: and they were greatly afraid. And the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. Truly, I now bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: you shall find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and thus saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will. And it came to pass, when the angels had gone away into heaven, the shepherds spoke to one another and said, Let us go to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the child lying in a manger. And when they had seen that, they understood the words which had been spoken to them about this child. And all those who heard it wondered at the things which the shepherds told them. Mary kept all these words in her heart, thinking about them. Then the shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was said to them.