Wednesday, October 6, 2010

William Tyndale

On this day, October 6, 1536, William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in Brussels. His crime? Translating the Holy Bible into English.

It may not seem like a terribly radical idea, but it was. A few years ago I read a book I highly recommend by Benson Bobrick (isn't that a great name?) entitled Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired. Tyndale gets his own chapter which is simply titled, "Martyr."

These words from Bobrick's prologue:
In the beginning was the Word and that word was Hebrew and Greek. In the fourth century, it was translated by St. Jerome into Latin, where in the form of manuscript copies it was reserved unto the medieval clergy to dispense as they saw fit. That period of scriptural exclusion endured for a thousand years, until it was shattered by the translation of the bible into the vernacular. Of the vernacular translations, none would compare to the English in moral stature or literary power.

And no one contributed more to that effort than Tyndale; it's estimated that 80% of his work ended up in the King James Bible.

That is just astounding, when you stop to think about it.

More astounding still is that it didn't get him fame and fortune; it cost him his life.

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