illiam Tyndale was the first
to ever attempt translating the Bible into English from the original languages
(Wycliffe had used the Latin Vulgate). This work was vital to producing English-language
Bibles at the time of the Reformation. Because of his production of an English translation,
we owe a large debt of gratitude to William Tyndale.
England was spiritually dark in those times due to the religious dominance of Roman
Catholicism. The Convocation of the Province of Canterbury had expressly forbidden
anyone from translating any part of Scripture into English without the authority
of the bishop. If the Pope is the anti-christ, as some believe, then it was not
surprising that he used every means to keep the people in ignorance. The Holy Scriptures
were buried in unknown tongues, and the meaning of the passages obscured.
When Tyndale began this great project, the Reformation had begun on the continent of Europe,
but had not much impact in England as yet. Opposition to his work in England would have been
too great. In 1524, he moved to Germany, and never returned to England.
Tyndale was able to translate the New Testament while in Germany, and it appears that the
first copies arrived in England in 1526. Tyndale had done such a good job that the English
New Testament we now have, in the King James Version, is substantially unchanged from the
language of Tyndale's first version. Once the authorities in England discovered that an
English translation of the Bible was circulating in their country, they acted quickly to
stop its spread, confiscating any copies found, and arresting the distributors.
After his translating of the New Testament, Tyndale began translating the Old Testament.
In 1531 the first English translation of the Pentateuch was printed. In 1534, Tyndale
reissued the Pentateuch with a few changes, and a revision of the New Testament.
He had completed another revision of the New Testament in 1535, but he was arrested
before it could be printed. By this time, Tyndale was in Antwerp (the Netherlands).
It was there that he was arrested, and moved to the Castle of Vilvorde, the state prison
of the Low Countries. Tyndale's trial for heresy began in 1536, and he was condemned to death.