A Look at his Translation Influence
William Tyndale was known for his work in one of the first most influential English translations of the Bible New Testament. He was influenced by the work of Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther who wrote the most influential translation into German.
Tyndale’s translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts. His version became the first English translation to place God’s name in its rightful place, the first English translation to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation.
In his time, the Latin versions were popular, yet only in the hands of the Priests. Tyndale’s purpose was to make the scripture available and easy enough for the ordinary layman to read, right down to the “boy who plows the field.” So his style and idiom are simple and clear, yet powerful.
His version drew from the inspiration of original intent, and often challenged the authority of the Pope and the King of England. He maintained that the Church was not an institution to take claim, but that the ekklesia was a congregation of believers governed by the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ as its head, and thus was an organism, not an organization or institution. Therefore he translated the word “church” appropriately to “congregation” to reflect that (as in Matthew 16:18). The Pope took offense, as well did the King of England who wanted exclusive right over the Church of England as its authority. Therefore both called for his head.
Some officials sought out to discredit Tyndale, claiming his version was poor in its translation. That was not actually proven, only used to bring Tyndale to trial. And an attempt to stop the influence of his version.
In 1535, Tyndale was arrested and jailed and in 1536 was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake. His dying prayer was that the King of England’s eyes would be opened. His translation later inspired the Great Bible for the Church of England, which was largely Tyndale’s own work. Hence, the Tyndale Bible, as it was known, continued to play a key role in spreading Reformation ideas across the English-speaking world and, eventually, to the British Empire.
The writer known as Matthew continued to work off Tyndale’s Old Testament studies to complete the Old Testament. The pseudonym was that of John Rogers used to work undercover to complete the translation without being persecuted. King Henry VIII gave authorization to the Bible generally known as Matthew’s Bible. Incidentally the version was revised to be issued as the Great Bible, still an influence from Tyndale’s work. And eventually the Bishop’s Bible was issued.
The Reason for the KJV
In 1611, the 54 scholars who produced the King James Bible drew significantly from Tyndale, as well as from translations that descended from his. One estimate suggests that the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale’s and the Old Testament 76%. His translation of the Bible was the first to be printed in English, and became a model for subsequent English translations.
Some will argue the necessity of the KJV. It was not because God inspired a divinely written translation and handed it to King James. That had already been done by Tyndale if one wants to consider the purpose for the task. It was because the Geneva Bible, inspired by Tyndale, had footnotes denouncing the Supreme Authority of the King, and the King despised the version. Yet the Puritans despised the Bishop’s Bible that the King Authorized and leveraged on heavy bias for the King as Supreme.
Therefore King James approved the work of a compromise for a new translation that satisfied both. The result was the King James Version that he authorized to be translated. As mentioned, the campaign of 54 translators drew primarily on Tyndale’s version, with revisions to clarify points. While keeping the authority of the King in mind.
Perhaps Erasmus had his own issues, being a servant of the Roman Catholic Church. And his early version of Greek translations was rushed. But Tyndale only referred to it for context and relied upon his own inspiration of God while observing the Koine Greek available.