Tyndale, William

<<translator and printer of the Bible>>

In the fourteenth century, John Wycliffe was the first to produce (or at least oversee) an English translation of the Bible from Latin, yet all copies had to be hand written as this was before the invention of the printing press.

Over one hundred years later, William Tyndale (1494–1536) had a burning desire to make the Bible available to even the common people in England and would not let the disapproval of the church (that had banned the unauthorized translation of the Bible into English) stop him from carrying out what seemed so obviously God’s will. Tyndale was a theologian and scholar, fluent in eight languages. He translated the Bible into an early form of ‘modern’ English, the first directly from the Hebrew and Greek. A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in Roman Catholic dogma, once taunted William Tyndale with the statement, ‘We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s’. Tyndale was infuriated by such Roman Catholic heresies, and he replied, ‘I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years pass, I will cause the boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scriptures than you!’

He was the first person to take advantage of Gutenberg’s movable-type press for the purpose of printing the Bible in the English language. He was betrayed and imprisoned for supposed heresy – for believing, among other things, in the forgiveness of sins and that the mercy offered in the gospel was enough for salvation. In 1536, he was strangled and his body burned at the stake. His last prayer was ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes’. The prayer was answered in part when, three years later, Henry VIII, who had broken away from the Catholic Church, required every parish church in England to make a copy of the English Bible available to its parishioners.

Tyndale summed up his passion saying ‘I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scriptures were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue’.

See also: influential Christians, translate/translation, Wycliffe/John.

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