born c. 1490-1494 near Gloustershire, England. Died 6 October 1536.

Biblical translator, humanist, and martyr.

A master of ancient languages, he could read Latin at age 10. Educated at University of Oxford. In 1521, as an instructor at the University of Cambridge, Tyndale “fell in with a group of humanist scholars meeting at the White Horse Inn. Tyndale became convinced that the Bible alone should determine the practices and doctrines of the church and that every believer should be able to read the Bible in his own language.”

“After church authorities in England prevented him from translating the Bible there, he went to Germany in 1524, receiving financial support from wealthy London merchants.” In July 1525, he finished the first English translation of the New Testament from the Greek rather than from Latin translations. Printed first at Cologne and, then, “when Catholic authorities suppressed it, at Worms. The first copies reached England in 1526.” Despite persecution, Tyndale managed the first translation of the Pentateuch and of the book of Jonah from Hebrew into English, at which point he was captured in Antwerp. He was burned at the stake at Vilvoorde in 1536.

“At the time of his death, several thousand copies of his New Testament had been printed however, only one intact copy remains today at London’s British Library.” His version was “the first vernacular English text of any part of the Bible to be so published” though earlier English translations of Latin translations existed. Tyndale’s version became the basis for many subsequent English translations. Approximately a third of the King James New Testament of 1611 is word-for-word from Tyndale, and the remaining two thirds are based on his translation.

Tyndale’s translations are still considered to be masterpieces of eloquence. Phrases that are Tyndale’s include, “a man after his own heart,” “flowing with milk and honey,” “a stranger in a strange land,” and “apple of his eye.”

Tyndale’s chief English critic was Sir Thomas More. He disputed many of Tyndale’s translations, seeing them as intentionally designed to support Protestantism (compare with Catholicism; see also Reformation). Examples included Tyndale’s preference for “elder” to “priest,” and “congregation” to “church”.

This material is sourced from (direct quotes come from there) and Henry L. Carrigan, Jr’s book review, “King James’s enduring legacy” from the Guardian Weekly, 12-18 April 2001, p. 30.

William Tyndale, pioneer translator of the Bible, didn't just come up with some nice phrases. When no word existed in English for what he was trying to say, he was forced to come up with whole new words in order to get the meaning across. Two examples are the invented-by-Tyndale word "foreskynne" and the joining of a Norman word with a Saxon word to produce the previously unknown "beautyfull."

Most sources record that he was burned at the stake in 1536, after being strangled to death, but there are those who claim he was already dead and buried before he was burned; the church was so mad at him that they dug up his bones and burned them, just to make a point.

Source: People of the Book: A new history of all King James's men by Guy Davenport. Harper's Monthly, May 2001

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