23rd May 2011

Happy Anniversary, KJV!

The fourth of a series

“But we had the sentence of death in our selues, that we should not trust in our selues, but in God which raiseth the dead.”
2 Corinthians 1:9 (original KJV of 1611)

Between Wiclif (or Wycliffe) and Tyndale, who produced the next Bible translated into English, is a gap of 200 years, a time of great political, scientific and academic change. And make no mistake, it was mainly politics which paved the way several times for the eventual publication of the King James Bible of 1611, as we shall see.

William Tyndale was a Cambridge scholar and a monk of the prestigious teaching monastery of the Observant Friars at Greenwich, and so he had access to Hebrew and Greek, the new languages of learning. This was the time of the Protestant reformation, which Tyndale opposed. He first set about translating to confirm that the church was correct, and the Protestants were wrong. The church, however, was against the Scriptures appearing in English, and so William exiled himself to Protestant Germany. By 1526 the first edition  of his New Testament appeared.

Tyndale took advantage of the new invention of printing to produce copies in large numbers and smuggle them into England. So careful were the authorities in rounding up and burning these and later printings, that today only four copies survive. But by 1529 copies of Tyndale’s complete Bible, old and new testaments, were finding their way into England. These were the first Scriptures translated into English from the original Hebrew and Greek, where all previous translations had been via the Latin, itself a translation.

Tyndale met his fate in 1536, around 60 years of age, betrayed by a friend, imprisoned in Antwerp, delivered to his English enemies and executed at Vilvoord Castle in Belgium. He was strangled and then burned at the stake dying with this prayer on his lips: “Lord, ope the king of Englandes eyes!” (Bagster’s English Hexapla, page 63). William Tyndale lived all his life in poverty, as a monk, and for most of his life, as an exile and hunted as an heretic. He truly lived the scripture quoted above.

Tyndale was motivated in life to bring the Word of God to the common man. He sacrificed a life of relative comfort as a monk, and he gave his life in a miserable death following long imprisonment, to this end. We today, with so many Bibles available to us, can have little comprehension as to what drove this man and his supporters and friends to give English men and women the Word of God in their own language. And, failing to comprehend, the tendency is to dismiss today’s English Bible as irrelevant. But our story is only beginning….

Most merciful Father, thank you for the men of the times of Tyndale. No privation, no indignity, no sacrifice was too large if it meant promotion of your Word in English. We may revere the man, but let us honour the Book and read and study it, as you intended English men and women should do, the better to know you. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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2 Responses to “23rd May 2011”

  1. hugh jenkins on May 24th, 2011 11:45 am

    amazing to think the Holy Bible translated into English is available to one quater of the world’s population who speak or understand English

  2. hugh jenkins on May 24th, 2011 11:53 am

    amazing to think the Holy Bible translated into English is available to one quarter of the world’s population who speak or understand English

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