William Tyndale – Father of the English Bible


If you don’t know much about William Tyndale, don’t take my blog’s word for it… Buy the book!  It’s an amazing work by David Daniell, Professor Emeritus of English in the University of London.  If anyone should know about this guy, Daniell should. 

Tyndale is the Father of the English Bible.  He lived from approximately 1494 – 1536.  I am totally humbled by reading this book.  I taught Christian Evidences at Harding Academy in Memphis for 3 years, and as part of my curriculum I taught a segment called, “how we got the Bible.”  Here are a few of the amazing details about this brilliant man.  The scripture had been translated into English only twice, by the same man – John Wycliffe – in the 1300’s.  The problem was, Wycliffe’s Bible was terribly awkward to read, and never got much press, literally – even though Wycliffe caused quite a stir.  Gutenberg’s press was not invented yet, and all copies were hand-written.  Also, Wycliffe translated from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (4th Century), which was inaccurate in many ways; not the least of which was because it was not the primary Biblical text.  Tyndale didn’t translate from a secondary language that had it’s own mistakes; he knew the Greek New Testament, and learned Hebrew without the help of teachers to translate the Jewish text.  Here are a few amazing and important contributions of this man:

  • Translated the Hebrew (Jewish text) and Greek (New Testament) himself, entirely alone.  His work was so amazingly accurate, that the 1611 Authorized Version (King James) is astoundingly 94% verbatim from Tyndale’s Bible.
  • King James authorized 47 scholars (originally 54) in 1607, who came up with only 6% differences in the textual translation, and wording of Tyndale’s personal work.  What we know as the KJV was published in 1611.
  • Tyndale was only ‘about’ 42 years old when he died; nobody knows exactly.
  • Tyndale’s Bible had no verse numbers.  That didn’t come along until the Geneva Bible of the late 1560’s.
  • He was burned at the stake for his treacherous deeds (putting the Bible into the hands of the common man), but because he was a revered scholar by all who knew him, he was “honored” and offered strangulation before his body was burned at the stake.
  • His final words were a prayer, “Lord, open thou the King of England’s eyes.”
  • In the final few months of his life, Tyndale was in prison, and in his only surviving letter, asked a friend for “a warmer cap, a candle to dispel the darkness of my cell, and my Hebrew books to continue the study of God’s Word.

This man was undoubtedly used by God for his Divine purposes; all of us who are of Anglo descent should praise God for Tyndale’s work!  Stay tuned for more on Tyndale’s specific contributions and linguistic mastery in a later post… 

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