William Tyndale (pt. 4) The Translation

Not only did Tyndale’s translation of the NT transform the Church it also revolutionized the English language. In many of our bibles we still have the words that Tyndale chose. Additionally Tyndale introduced new words and phrases into the English language to better transmit the teachings of Scripture. Here is a list of just a few of the words and phrases that were coined by Tyndale:

  • Jehovah (from a transliterated Hebrew construction in the Old Testament; composed from the tetragrammaton YHWH and the vowels of adonai: YaHoWaH)
  • Passover (as the name for the Jewish holiday, Pesach or Pesah),
  • Atonement (= at + onement), which goes beyond mere “reconciliation” to mean “to unite” or “to cover”, which springs from the Hebrew kippur, the Old Testament version of kippur being the covering of doorposts with blood, or “Day of Atonement”.
  • scapegoat (the goat that bears the sins and iniquities of the people in Leviticus Chapter 16)
  • let there be light
  • the powers that be
  • my brother’s keeper
  • the salt of the earth
  • a law unto themselves

Here is how Tyndale translated the familiar passage John 3:16-18,

God soo loved the worlde/that he gave his only sonne for the entent/that none that beleve in hym/shulde perisshe: Butt shulde have everlastynge lyfe. For God sent not his sonne into the worlde/to condempne the worlde: But that the worlde through him/myght be saved. He that beleveth nott/is condempned all redy/be cause he beleveth nott in the name off the only sonne off God.

After completing his first edition of the NT Tyndale did not stop working. Tyndale continued to write fervently producing several helpful books. In these books Tyndale displayed an amazing ability to handle the Scripture. Tyndale did all of this despite the most grueling of circumstances. At every step of the way Tyndale was a fugitive whose life was always in jeopardy. In most instances Tyndale would work in closed up room somewhere for days at a time with using only candle light. Brian Edwards said wrote this about this period in Tyndale’s life:

“How often his head and eyes must have rebelled against the constant attention to small letters in the half-light; how much his cramped body must have ached in every limb and have cried out for exercise after hours and days hunched over his desk in a small spare room kindly lent to him by a friendly merchant!”

Tyndale also continued his translations work by expanding to the OT. Tyndale wanted to print the Pentateuch but he knew that would be difficult to do with the mounting pressure from England to find Tyndale and bring him before the Church as a heretic. In 1529 Tyndale was forced to move his operations from Antwerp to Hamburg in order to remain safe. Tyndale, the fugitive, boarded a ship carrying all of his manuscripts with him. His intention was to land in Hamburg where he had friends and a printer would be easy to find. But God, in His providence, had other plans for Tyndale’s voyage. On the coast of Holland Tyndale’s ship wrecked. Tyndale was left unharmed however his precious manuscripts were lost. Despite this catastrophic set back Tyndale was able to have his translation of the Pentateuch published in the summer of 1530. The determination and perseverance that it took for Tyndale to accomplish this could have only been the result of God’s grace. Thanks to Tyndale’s humble submission to this Grace the ploughmen of England now had both the NT and part of the OT available to them.