Scripture scholar, best known for his Rheims-Douay Version of the Bible; b. Maxfield, Sussex, England, c. 1540; d. Reims, France, Oct. 28, 1582. One of the original scholars of St. John's College, Oxford (1557–69), Martin became an expert in Greek and Hebrew. Among his fellow students was Edmund campion, whom he helped to bring into the Catholic Church. Martin then spent about a year (1569–70) in the household of Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk, as tutor to his sons, one of whom later became Bl. Philip howard. But always a stanch Catholic, Martin left this post when the Howard family began to be influenced by Protestantism. In 1570 he entered the college at douai (Douay) that William allen had founded (1559) for English Catholics. After his theology course there, he was ordained at Brussels (1573). Having taught at Douai for three years, he spent two years in Rome, assisting Allen in founding the English college (Venerabile Collegio ) there. In July 1578, when Allen's college was removed from Douai to Reims, Martin moved to Reims, where for the next four years he taught Scripture, Greek, and Hebrew. During these years he produced, at Allen's request, an English translation of the whole Bible from the Latin Vulgate.
Although he received valuable assistance, mainly in the revision and the notes, from his Reims colleagues Thomas worthington, Richard bristow, John Reynolds, and Allen himself—all Oxford men—the bulk of the translation was a result of Martin's incredible industry. The pressure, however, was too much for him, and he died of consumption at the age of 42 as his NT was coming off the press at Reims. For lack of funds his OT, in two volumes, was not printed until 1609–10 at Douai. The statement on the title page of Martin's NT that this version was "diligently conferred with the Greeke" was no idle claim. Though made directly from the Latin, his translation shows the influence of the original Greek in several respects, notably in its correct use of the article. Despite its numerous Latinisms, caused partly by a desire for extreme fidelity to the Vulgate and partly by the current fashion in English literature, the Rheims-Douay Version often has original fine turns of expression, many of which were borrowed by the makers of the King James NT (1610); see J. G. Carleton, The Part of Rheims in the Making of the English Bible (Oxford 1902). As revised by R. challoner (1749–50), Martin's Rheims-Douay Version was the only standard Bible used by English-speaking Catholics until the 20th century, when it was supplanted by new versions.
Bibliography: h. hurter, Nomenclator literarius theologiae catholicae 3:278–280. e. vansteenberghe, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 10.1:216–217. j. gillow, A Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dictionary of the English Catholics from 1534 to the Present Time 4: 484–491. b. ward, Catholic Encyclopedia 9: 727–728.
[l. f. hartman]
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