Posts Tagged ‘William Tyndale’

Today in 1536, one of the greatest Englishmen to have ever lived was first strangled, then burned at the stake. His crime? Well, he disagreed with the king and the church on language policy. Sounds a bit incredible, doesn’t it? Kill someone over a dispute about which language should be used? Well, it happened.


Read more on a blog written by Wycliffe colleague Ed Lauber a year ago on this anniversary…

The phrase “language policy” sounds boring and dull. It is anything but. Even today, much of the information minority peoples need is locked up in languages they don’t speak. Unfortunately, some Christians, and even some missionaries and pastors, think that these minority peoples should read the Bible in English – the new Latin. In some places, we are still fighting for the kind of language policy for which Tyndale died. It is still an issue of knowledge versus ignorance, wisdom versus superstition, and even freedom versus servitude.

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William Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. he loaded our language with more phrases than any other writer before or since.

Melvyn Bragg : The Telegraph : Melvyn Bragg on Tyndale – his genius matched that of Shakespeare


William Tyndale is burned at the stake in Belgium in 1536, from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, published in 1563.

Writing in The Telegraph about his BBC documentary The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England  (BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday 6 June), it seems that Melvyn Bragg has just recently discovered William Tyndale! He says…

Yet until recently Tyndale was little known. His major role in what became the King James Bible was erased from the record. This is the man whose profound love of his country, its people and their right to understand what was then the greatest source of knowledge of the age is indisputable. His Bible was taken over by a procession of plagiarists during the century after his death, none of whom acknowledged his contribution, all of whom were profoundly indebted to him. Not only was 90 per cent of the New Testament the work of Tyndale, but a similar percentage has been tracked down in the several books of the Old Testament that he was able to translate before his death. The state rejected him in his lifetime and it could be said it conspired to continue that neglect until new scholars in the last century dug up his contribution and brought it to the public.

It is hard to understand that a man of Bragg’s intellect could so recently have become aware of the importance of William Tyndale in the history of translating the Bible into English. As recently as March 2011, he did a documentary for the BBC entitled The King James Bible: the book that changed the world.

The blurb told us that Bragg

… argues that while many think our modern world is founded on secular ideals, it is the King James Version which had a greater legacy. The King James Bible not only influenced the English language and its literature more than any other book, it was also the seedbed of western democracy, the activator of radical shifts in society such as the abolition of the slave trade, the debating dynamite for brutal civil wars in Britain and America and a critical spark in the genesis of modern science.

It was an impressive production with an argument at times compelling, at times less so – but Bragg managed to do it all (as I recall) with scarcely a mention of William Tyndale. Of course back then, the media emphasis was on celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible as an English cultural icon.

However back in November 2008 Bragg made a speech which can be found on the King James Bible Trust website where he makes a fairer comment – and acknowledged Tyndale!

Several Bibles had appeared in English following Henry VIII marriage to Anne Boleyn but all of them were subsumed in the King James version which itself was enormously indebted to the unmatchable translation made by William Tyndale; a fierce believer, a linguistic genius and dedicated to the idea that the word of God should be in and on the English tongue. “I will have every plough boy know the Bible as well as thee”, he said to a supercilious cleric.

william_tyndaleAs a Tyndale fan, I enjoyed watching the recent BBC programme and Bragg’s Telegraph article certainly emphasises the credit due to Tyndale in the early translation of the Bible into English.

I’ve just finished making a TV documentary on Tyndale for the BBC. I became fascinated by him when, some years ago, I read conclusive evidence that he had contributed massively to the King James Bible – 90 per cent of the New Testament as we know it was written by William Tyndale.

As one of our contributors to the documentary said, had the King James Bible been published today he would have sued for plagiarism!

The balance is also redressed from 2011 KJV mania when Tyndale is given credit for so many phrases used in English from 1611 through to today. William Tyndale, says Bragg…

…loaded our speech with more everyday phrases than any other writer before or since. We still use them, or varieties of them, every day, 500 years on.

Here are just a few: “under the sun”, “signs of the times”, “let there be light”, “my brother’s keeper”, “lick the dust”, “fall flat on his face”, “the land of the living”, “pour out one’s heart”, “the apple of his eye”, “fleshpots”, “go the extra mile”, “the parting of the ways” – on and on they march through our days, phrases, some of which come out of his childhood in the Cotswold countryside, some of which were taken from Anglo-Saxon and Hebrew, all of which he alchemised into our everyday language.

It is interesting to look back and to celebrate those linguists of yesteryear whose work pioneered the current wealth of Bible translation in the English language – but let’s not forget the linguistics and translation still to be done to bring God’s Word to 1,967 languages still with no translation whatsoever.

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I haven’t come across Steve Alliston’s blog Falling With Style before, but when he posted about one of my heroes of Bible translation, I had to take a look.

I agree with the summary of Tyndale’s contribution as Steve comments on Henry VIII’s promotion of the Great Bible in English within a very short time of hunting Tyndale to his death for daring to translate the Scriptures into English.

The irony for Henry is that within a year of murdering Tyndale, he was publishing the Great Bible in English anyway. This effort watered down a little for the preference of weak Bishops, but made up almost entirely of Tyndale’s earlier banned work. No one has shaped our English bibles, and perhaps the English language more than William Tyndale, who died a traitor’s death in exile, away from the country who should have lauded him.

Perhaps calling Henry VIII “that psychotic monster” is leaving out other aspects of a very complex personality in an age of absolute monarchs. Nevertheless Henry’s desperate search for a solution to his marriage problems did result in a royal approval for a Bible in English – alas too late for Tyndale.

Yet William Tyndale’s dying prayer was answered…

Lord open the King of England’s eyes.

Read the rest of Steve’s blog here.

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The martyrdom of William Tyndale on 21 May 1535

On this day in 1535, a young man called Henry Phillips, whom Tyndale had taken into his trust, betrayed Tyndale as they were walking through the streets of Antwerp. Tyndale was imprisoned, tried, strangled at the stake and his body burnt. With his last recorded words, he asked God to open the King of England’s eyes.

William Tyndale is one of my heroes! While the King James Bible was lauded, and at times almost idolised, during its 2011 centenary, Tyndale’s translation was virtually ignored – and yet…

Within four years of that cry, the same king encouraged the publication of four English translations. All, like many translations since, were based on Tyndale’s work. Even the monumental King James Version is estimated to be between 75 and 85% Tyndale’s. It has been said that Tyndale ‘is the mainly unrecognised translator of the most influential book in the world. Although the Authorised King James Version is ostensibly the production of a learned committee of churchmen, it is mostly cribbed from Tyndale.’ (Joan Bridgeman)

Read all of Hannah’s excellent blog on the Wycliffe UK Blog

On Saturday last, I stood up for the Ulstermen (SUFTUM); today on the anniversary of his martyrdom, I’m standing up for William Tyndale (SUFWT)

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