English Bible translator makes history
The work of bible translation goes on around the world today; many Christians are engaged in this time-consuming pursuit that often takes a life time.
About 4,100 of the worlds 6,900 languages are without Scripture portions. Translation projects are in progress in an estimated 1,600 languages that currently are without adequate Scriptures. There are about 2,500 languages needing Bible translation work to begin.
Today, Christians in the UK and those throughout the world who speak the English language are grateful for a man who laid down his life for one of the greatest achievements in church history; the translation of the bible into the English language. If it wasn't for this man's work, literally millions may never have heard the Gospel. This hero of faith and historymaker is William Tyndale.
It is surprising that the name of William Tyndale is not more familiar for there is no man who did more to enrich the English language. Tyndale is the man who taught England how to read and showed Shakespeare how to write. No English writer -- not even Shakespeare -- has reached so many. According to a recent exhibit co-sponsored by the British Library and the Library of Congress: "Contrary to what history teaches about Chaucer being the father of the English Language, this mantle belongs to William Tyndale, whose work was read by ten thousand times as many people as Chaucer."
Tyndale's contributions, enshrined in his and subsequent English Bibles, moulded the speech of even those who condemned him. The British Library described Tyndale's New Testament as "the most important printed book in the English language" and paid more than one million pounds for it. Only two complete copies are known to have survived: most were burned or literally read to pieces.
Tyndale was a man of heroic stature and died a martyr's death. In England alone, more than 1,000 people were burned between 1400 and 1557 for the sake of the Gospel. Tyndale's books and tracts (or "pestilent glosses" as his enemies referred to them) were smuggled into England wrapped in bales of wool or cloth or sacks of flour by fellow "Lollards". Had he remained a Catholic priest Tyndale would no doubt have been canonized as a saint, but had he remained a Catholic he would not have attempted to translate the Bible without official sanction. Although the Bible was available in the vernacular in much of Europe, the only version of the Scripture tolerated in England was St. Jerome's Latin translation which dated back to the 4th century. It was thus a closed book even to most clergymen. The Lord changed Tyndale and he became determined to make God's Word accessible to all men.
Tyndale's Old and New Testaments were the first English translation of the scriptures taken directly from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. They remain, as the Times of London put it, "the basis of all English language Bibles until the recent fiascos. Its phrases and cadences, both homely and pungent, are so woven into the language as to be rarely recognised as the work of an individual author."
Tyndale's 1526 New Testament was the first ever printed in English. In the 1530's he also translated the first fourteen books of the Old Testament. He thus became the first man to translate anything from Hebrew into English -- as Hebrew was virtually unknown in England at that time.
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