William Tyndale’s English translation of Holy Scripture.
Every time we open and read an English Bible we should be reminded of William Tyndale (1494-1536) often rightly called ‘the father of the English Bible.’ Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire in England and had an excellent education in the local school. He went to Oxford University in 1508 and after graduation, he studied further in Cambridge University.
At Oxford he made great progress in languages and it was his study of the Greek text of the New Testament that led him to understand Paul’s doctrine of salvation by faith. Although we can’t be sure of the exact date, it was while he was at Oxford that Tyndale experienced personal conversion. This happened as he carefully studied the New Testament. He began to see how the Roman Church had substituted medieval doctrines and practices in place of the true gospel. Tyndale was captivated as he read the Greek New Testament and he wanted to share his great discovery with others. He spent time back in Gloucestershire as a private tutor, still studying the Greek Testament and finding his faith confirmed as he began to read the writings of Martin Luther.
Believing he had a call from God to translate the Bible into English, and knowing the opposition he faced in England, he went to Germany. In 1526 his English translation of the New Testament was published and he began to work on the Old Testament. His enemies were still hunting him and he moved to Belgium. Betrayed, he was imprisoned and executed on October 6 1536 near Brussels. He was strangled and then burned, his last words being, ‘Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.’
Tyndale had translated all the New Testament into English and much of the Old Testament. When the King James translators were working on the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible, they used about 80% of Tyndale’s Old Testament and about 70% of his New Testament – without a single word of acknowledgement! Tyndale was scholar, theologian, translator and martyr. He loved the Scriptures and all his great mastery of languages was put to use as he translated the English Bible.
His style was vivid and memorable and so many of his phrases have become part of the English language. To Tyndale we owe the familiar phrases, ‘Let there be light,’ ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ ‘The salt of the earth,’ ‘Fight the good fight,’ ‘Signs of the times,’ and many, many more. Every version of the English Bible we have today owes so much to the learning and genius and skill and courage of William Tyndale.