Augustinian friars Martin Luther in Germany, Myles Coverdale in England and Julius Macho and Peter Farget in France were among the leading translators of the Bible into vernacular languages.
There must have been powerful forces at work within the Augustinian Order which favoured this work long before Protestantism came into existence. A first reason was an intimate acquaintance with the Bible. The Augustinian Constitutions of Ratisbon (made obligatory in 1290) required every novice to read the Bible avidly, listen to it devoutly and learn it more and more by heart.
Combined with this knowledge and love of Holy Scriptures went a conscious effort to cultivate the mother tongue. Luigi Marsigli O.S.A., the spiritual leader of the Florentine humanists, fostered this movement in Italy, John Capgrave O.S.A. and Osbern Bokenham O.S.A. in England, and Julian Macho and Peter Farget in France.
The translation of the New Testament by these French Augustinians was printed by a layman, Bartholomew Buyer of Lyon about 1477, and is said to have been the second book to be printed in France. Contrary to popular expectation, Luther's translation of the Bible was nowhere near being the first to appear in German, but it excelled all its predecessors by the beauty and force of its language and made him one of the principal formers of the modern German language.
It may be added that long before Luther the German Augustinians Gottschalk Hollen (died l48l), John Dorsten (died 1481) and John Paltz (died 1511) castigated the lack of esteem for and the knowledge of the Bible even among educated people. They recommended Bible reading by the laity, and defended translations of it into the German language.
Coverdale's fame rests on the fact that he was the first to publish a complete translation of the Bible into English. The popularization of the Bible by translating it into the vernacular was in itself an excellent endeavour; it was the way the Reformers used the Bible which provoked opposition.