The Tyndale Bible
Its Impact on Society at Large

Whether you realise it or not, William Tyndale has had an effect upon all our lives. When he was born, c1491, the only version of the Bible allowed in England was in Latin.  It was thus a 'closed book' even to most clergymen.

One day at dinner, Tyndale announced to a visiting clergyman that if God spared him he meant to translate the Bible so that ploughboys should be more educated than the clergyman himself.  He spent the rest of his life devoted to keeping that vow.

The King James version of the Bible is reckoned to be predominantly the work of Tyndale, working in the first half of the 16th century.  Many phrases in common use in English today are his.  He was persecuted by a Roman Catholic church determined that ordinary people should not be able to read the word of God for themselves.  In the end he was betrayed and burnt at the stake.

The impact on society at large of the Bible's translation into English was very significant.  One direct impact arose from the form of English used.  When Tyndale started work it was necessary to release separate editions for southern England and northern England, since the language each called 'English' was so different as to be largely incomprehensible.  Similarly, the language used in southern and eastern Scotland was also 'English' but very different again. 

When the King James Bible was released in the early 1600s, it was expressed in just one dialect of English: that of the Royal Court and educated people in the south-east of England.  English-speaking Christians across Great Britain (now united under a single monarch) were strongly motivated to understand the word of the Lord written in 'English' and thus all acquired an understanding of the English of south-east England.  This was a significant unifying force for the nation. 

Tyndale's life
There was no support for translating the Bible into English at home so he went to Germany in 1524. He never returned to England, but lived a hand-to-mouth existence, dodging the   authorities of the Roman church.  The first complete printed New Testament in English appeared in February 1526.  Copies began to arrive in England about a month later, sometimes wrapped in bales of wool or cloth, or sacks of flour.  Church authorities burned them and of the 18,000 printed only two copies have survived. 

Tyndale became the first man to translate anything from Hebrew into English (the Old Testament), as Hebrew was virtually unknown in England at that time.  There was a heavy price to pay for all this.  A fanatical Englishman, Henry Phillips, betrayed him to the Antwerp authorities and had him kidnapped.  On the morning of 6th October 1536, now in the hands of the secular forces, he was taken to his place of execution, tied to the stake, strangled and burned. His last words reportedly were: "Oh Lord, open the King of England's eyes." 

By the time of his early death, he had translated The New Testament and a substantial part of the Old Testament. It is estimated that 83% of the New Testament in the 'King James' version of the Bible is Tyndale's work. 

Tyndale was one of the greatest Christian men this country has produced, a scholar, a martyr and a very brave man.

Some Common Phrases from Tyndale

"the powers that be"

"my brother's keeper"

"the salt of the earth"

"a law unto themselves"

"filthy lucre"

"fight the good fight"

"twinkling of an eye"

"let there be light"

"gave up the ghost"

"the signs of the times"

"the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak"

(Romans 13)

(Genesis 4)

(Matthew 5)

(Romans 2)

(1st Timothy 3)

(1st Timothy 6)

(1st Corinthians 15:52)

(Genesis 1:3 & 1:14; Job 3:9)

(1st & 2nd Thessalonians)

(1st & 2nd Thessalonians)

(1st & 2nd Thessalonians, Isaiah)