William Tyndale – inspires us to help others understand the Bible
c1494 – 1536
William Tyndale was an English scholar and leading light in the European Reformation. During his lifetime, publishing or even possessing a Bible in the English language was punishable by death! On one notorious day in 1519, the Roman Catholic church authorities of the day publicly burnt a woman and six men to death because they had taught their children the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed in English!
Tyndale bravely decided to move to Germany to produce an English translation of the Bible. His translation of the New Testament, the first to be translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts and the first produced on a mechanical printing press, was published in 1526. His accurate translation of key words like ‘repent’, ‘elder’ and ‘congregation’ (not ‘do penance’, ‘priest’ and ‘church’ as in the Roman Catholic translation of the day) was to support many of the religious and social freedoms secured by the Reformation in England later that century.
Copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were then smuggled into England in barrels, bales of cloth and sacks of flour. Church officials attempted to stop their distribution and publicly burnt copies, but this opposition only helped to stir up demand for the new English Bible. By the time of Tyndale’s death in 1536, more than 50,000 copies of his New Testament had been sold in England.
Tyndale’s translation work was so careful that scholars estimate 80% of the King James Version text of 1611 and 75% of the Revised Standard Version published 300 years later, consists of Tyndale’s work!
Tyndale’s last words were reportedly, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,” reflecting his conviction that all people in England should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language. The year after Tyndale’s death King Henry VIII finally authorised “The Matthew Bible” which consisted largely of Tyndale’s translation for use in English churches. God had indeed answered William Tyndale’s dying prayer!