Overview of Bible Study

William Tyndale


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    Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant, that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. -- The Book of Common Prayer, 1662

William Tyndale

As a young man, William Tyndale is said to have promised a priest that he would eventually make it possible for a boy driving a plough to know as much of the Scriptures as did the priest.

Educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and Cambridge, William Tyndale was appalled by the ignorance of parish priests, and was persuaded by this to translate the Bible into English.

The English Bible had been William Tyndalebanned since 1480, mostly because the Wycliffe Bible had been used by the outlawed Lollards, and Tyndale wanted to produce a better translation. Rather than translating from the Latin Vulgate, as Wycliffe had, he would work from the Greek and Hebrew of the original Old and New Testaments.

While he had hoped to have the support of the bishops in England, but they feared that an English translation would serve to spread Lutheran ideas; so fearful, in fact, that Tyndale soon found that his life was in danger.

Fleeing to Germany in 1524, he met with Martin Luther at Wittenberg, and in the following year completed his translation of the New Testament.

The printing of his translation was begun by William Royce, a reformist, but Royce was indiscreet and the project was soon being talked about. At the request of anti-Lutheran theologians, the city magistrates ordered the printing to stop.

Tyndale fled to Worms, where publication of his translation was successfully completed. Copies of his translation of the New Testament were met with a hostile reception by the Church. Archbishop Warham denounced it, as did Thomas More, who was opposed to any hint of Lutheran reform. An order went out for the arrest of Tyndale as a heretic.

William TyndaleTyndale went into hiding for a time, probably in Hamburg, and continued his work, revising his translation of the New Testament. He began a translation of the Old Testament, and wrote several other works, including The Practice of Prelates, which included criticism of King Henry VIII's divorce, prompting the king to ask the emperor to have Tyndale seized and returned to England for prosecution.

He was arrested in Antwerp in 1535, charged with heresy the following year, convicted and condemned to be burned at the stake. He was mercifully strangled before the fire was lit.

In the year of Tyndale's death, his translation of the New Testament was actually published in England. Tyndale's translation of the Old Testament was completed by Miles Coverdale that same year, followed by the Matthew Bible in 1537, revised by Coverdale to become the Great Bible in 1539.

Authorized Version

The King James Version didn't appear until the beginning of the 17th century, prompted by Puritans lobbying King James I of England. Published in 1611, it is often known as the Authorized Version, and retains much from previous English translations.

The KJV was soon to become the dominant English translation, but it can safely be said that every English New Testament before the 20th century is a revision of Tyndale's, as 90% of the words in his NT were used in the KJV, and about 75% in the Revised Version.


Overview of Bible Study