William Tyndale
Notes On Short Victorious Life Of
William Tyndale, Martyr, Bible
Translator and Publisher
Although He Only Lived About 42 Years, His Victory Still Continues!
He Translated And Published First English Bible Available And
Affordable To Common People, And Paid With His Life!
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“William Tyndale: Bible Translator And Martyr
Compiled From Various Sources By James H. Dearmore

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William Tyndale is generally purported to be the most widely read English-language author in history, read by about 10,000 times more people than Chaucer himself, yet many people won’t even recognize his name!

William Tyndale was a theologian and scholar born in North Nibley, England in 1494 and died at Vilvoorden, Belgium in 1536. (The first date is only an approximation, no one is actually certain of the exact year he was born).

Tyndale was strangled to death and burned at the stake for being the first person to publish the New Testament in “Early Modern” English. (Other scholars had translated the Bible into English before him, such as John Wycliffe, but Tyndale was the first to take advantage of Gutenberg’s new printing press and widely disseminate his translation.)

At the time that Tyndale published his New Testament translation, it was a crime punishable by death, according to the Roman Catholic Church, and eventually he was hunted down and killed for fulfilling his goal of putting the Word of God into the hands of the common people.

Tyndale studied at Oxford and received his Master’s degree in 1515. He was a priest, scholar, and talented linguist fluent in eight different languages. In 1516, Erasmus had published a new Latin version of the Bible, which consisted of two columns of text: the first, his original Greek sources, and the second, his Latin translation.

Erasmus formatted the book in this way so other scholars could easily check his work. Later Martin Luther used Erasmus’s version to translate the New Testament into German. Then Tyndale used the Greek sources in Erasmus’s version to translate the Bible into the “modern” English of his time.

Wycliffe had produced a handwritten translation of the Bible before Tyndale, but he had not used the original Greek sources, instead relying on St. Jerome’s 4th century Latin translation, which was the only version permitted in England at the time. When Tyndale made his translation, even many priests did not fully understand the Latin version.

Tyndale endorsed the movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church and in his translation he included notes and comments that supported his Reformation views.

Hence, when he finished his work it was immediately banned by the authorities. (Between the years of 1400 and 1557 at least 1,000 people were burned at the stake due to the Bible.) But the New Testament could now be obtained by the common people, thanks to Tyndale – thus he had fulfilled his primary goal.

The Roman Catholic Church referred to Tyndale’s translation (and his other writings) as “pestilent glosses” because of his Reformation opinions, and they went on a search and destroy mission for the book. (Only two copies of Tyndale’s original translation have survived to the present day.) He went into hiding once his version was banned, but eventually he was betrayed by a friend known only as ‘Philips,’ and was put into a prison cell in the castle of Vilvoorden. There Tyndale endured terrible living conditions for more than 500 days, until he was eventually tried for treason and heresy. In 1536 he was convicted, strangled to death, and burned at the stake. “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes,” were Tyndale’s last words.

It’s interesting to examine portions of Tyndale’s actual translation to see why he has been referred to as the “architect of the English language.” Many of the phrases he coined are still used to this day. “The salt of the earth,” “the powers that be,” “fight the good fight,” “let there be light,” were all used in his version of the Bible. Here is a passage from the “Christmas” portion of Tyndall’s translation in Luke 2:1-20, which is still impressive for its clarity and conciseness:

“And lo: the angel of the Lord stood hard by them, and the brightness of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

But the angel said unto them: Be not afraid. For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy that shall come to all the people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a saviour which is Christ the Lord.

Here is a passage from the Beatitudes section, Mathew 5:8-10.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

After translating the New Testament Tyndale wanted to begin working on the Old Testament, but was not familiar with the Hebrew language. Over the next few years he studied it intensely, eventually mastered the language, and began his translation. Tyndale finished “The First Book of Moses Called Genesis” soon afterward and became the first man to translate a Hebrew text into English (The Hebrew language was almost unknown in England at the time.)

Eventually he completed the first 14 books of the Old Testament, and the scholars who worked on the King James version of the Bible used about 80 percent of Tyndale’s work. Some scholars still consider his translation to be the best and clearest ever. Therefore William Tyndale, the theologian and scholar, made one of the most valuable contributions to God’s work, which will live on forever.

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