It wasn't until 1534 that England finally had a printed version of
the Scriptures in English. And it was William Tyndale, often called "The Father of the English
Bible," who gave England her Bible. But at the time, English authorities weren't all that sure
they wanted one.
Tyndale was a bright man — obtaining a Master of Arts Degree at Oxford when he was in his early
20's. He later studied
Greek at Cambridge. Tyndale recognized the great ignorance among common people about
the Scriptures. At the time, the only authorized Scripture was the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible.
Since very few lay people could read Latin, the Catholic clergy
translated and explained the Bible for their people. However, Tyndale discovered that many of the
clergy were just as incapable of translating Latin as their parishioners, and were often as ignorant
of the Bible as the people they were supposed to be teaching. Nonetheless, all printed Bibles were in Latin and
it was expressly forbidden by the Catholic Church to create an English translation.
Committed to publishing an English Bible, William Tyndale began a translation of the New Testament in England in secret.
Rather than translate from the Latin Vulgate — as Wycliffe, before him, had done — Tyndale used original Greek texts. He
felt this would give him a more accurate translation. It soon became obvious to Tyndale that if he continued
his work in England, he would be discovered and imprisoned. So he
packed up and moved to Germany, where his English New Testament was printed in 1526. Since it was still against the
law to have an English Bible in England, Tyndale's New Testaments were smuggled into the country inside
bales of cloth and other merchandise.
When Tyndale's Bible started showing up in England, the Bishop of London was furious. In an attempt
to rid England of this unauthorized translation, the Bishop and his agents bought every
copy of the new Bible they could find and publicly burned them. And they did a good job of it too.
Tyndale's first edition was a sell-out, although probably
not quite the way he had imagned. And Tyndale, still safe in Germany, simply took the money he made from
this first printing and used it to revise his work and issue a second edition in 1534.
Tyndale was working on a translation of the Old Testament, when he was kidnapped
and imprisoned for being a heretic. He was tried, convicted, and burned at the stake. Times were
tough for religious reformers back then. Nonetheless, Tyndale's skilled translating
abilities and intense committment had given the English language her first great Bible. And although other versions
would come along in the following years, it would be a long time before a truly better
version would be published.
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to view actual pages from Tyndale's Translation.