Transforming Scripture: Biblical Translations and Adaptations in Old and Middle English

banner 1

The drive to make scripture available in the vernacular was responsible for some of the highest artistic and scholarly achievements of the medieval period, inspiring literary and academic projects of incomparable magnitude and ambition. Accomplished, learned and imaginative Old English translations and adaptations of the Bible were followed by a great flourishing of Middle English biblical prose, poetry and drama. The Wycliffite Bible made the complete scriptures accessible for the first time in the vernacular to both lay and clerical readers. An object of royal and ecclesiastic patronage, vernacular scripture also had its opponents. Throughout the period attempts were made to control the content and practice of translation, and to censor materials available in the vernacular. 

The conference will explore all aspects of medieval English biblical translation and adaptation. Possible texts for investigation include English glosses in Latin biblical manuscripts; paraphrases and summaries of biblical books; translated biblical extracts in sermons, saints’ lives, legal, pedagogical, historical and other texts; continuous translations of individual books and ‘part-Bibles’; translations combined with commentaries and Latin text; the Wycliffite Bible; Old and Middle English biblical poetry and drama. 

Possible topics for exploration include: the idea of a vernacular scripture and its development; religious controversy and biblical translation; theological, political and artistic agendas of biblical translation and adaptation; translation, commentary and interpretation; authorship and patronage of biblical translations and adaptations; the role of monastic and university scholarship; the opposition to biblical translation, concerns about the adequacy of English and access to scripture by the laity; the purpose and audiences of biblical translations and adaptations; textual transmission and manuscript presentation of vernacular biblical texts; intellectual and artistic continuity in medieval English biblical translation; translation practices, language and diction.

We welcome explorations of individual texts and groups of texts, as well as comparative studies of medieval English material and translations in other languages.

Confirmed plenary speakers include Anne Hudson, Bella Millett, Andy Orchard, Elizabeth Solopova and Jane Toswell.

We are also pleased to announce that Oxford’s John Fell Fund has enabled us to offer six graduate bursaries to cover the registration fee. If you are a graduate student and wish to apply for a bursary then please email with a supporting statement (not exceeding 500 words) outlining how the conference will be of benefit to you.

For further information on ‘Transforming Scripture’ and to submit a paper proposal (an abstract of 200 words), please email the organising committee at


Oxford Medieval Studies

Contact email:
Audience: Open to all