William Tyndale

Portrer van William TyndaleHieronder het artikel uit Chambers’s cyclopædia of English Literature uit 1886 over William Tyndale.


Letter The reformation led to the publication og three versions of the Bible, which were perhaps the most important scholastic efforts of the reign of Henry VIII. The first part of the Scriptures printed in an English form was the New Testament, of which a translation was published in 1526 by WILLIAM TYNDALE, born in Gloucestershire about the year 1484, a clergyman of great piety, learning, and gentleness of disposition.

In the course of his labours he endured such persecution, that in 1523, he found it necessary to quit England, and retire into Germany. He there visited Luther, who encouraged him in his laborious and hazardous undertaking. Antwerp was the place where Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was first printed. It was speedily circulated, and eagerly persued in England, notwithstanding the severe persecution to which its possessors were exposed.

Sir Thomas More distinguished himself as a most visulent opponent of Tyndale, against whom he published seven volumes of controversy, where such violent language as the following is emplyed: „Our Saviour will say to Tyndale: thou art accursed, Tyndale, the son of the devil; for neither flesh nor blood hath taught thee these heresies, but thine own father, the devil, that is in hell,” – „There should have been more burned by a great many than there have been within this seven year last past. The lack whereof, I fear me, will make more [be] burned within this seven year next coming, than else should have needed to have been burned in seven score.”.

Tyndale translated also the first five books of the Old Testament, the publication of which was completed in 1530. A verbatim reprint of this work, from the copy in the Lenox Library, New York, appeared in 1884, edited by Dr.Mombert.

Efforts were made by King Henry, Wolsey, and More to allure him back to England, where they hoped to destry him; but he was too cautious to trust himself there. His friend, John Frith, who had assisted him in translating, was more credulous of their promises of safety, and returning to London, was apprehended and burned. Tyndale remained at Antwerp, till entrapped by an agent of Henry, who procured at Brussels a warrant to apprehend him for heresy. After some further proceedings, he was first strangled and then burned at Vilvoorden, near Antwerp, in September 1536, exclaiming at the stake: „Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!”

Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament is, on the whole, admirable both for style and accuracy; and indeed our present authorised version has troughout very closely followed it. To use the words of Dr.Geddes: „it is astonishing how little obsolete the language of it is, even at this day; and in point of perspicuity and noblr simplicity, propriety of idiom, and purity of style, no English version has yet surpassed it.” A beautiful edition of it was published in 1836, edited by Mr.George Offor.