Good Friday, via William Tyndale

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William Tyndale's New TestamentWilliam Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible directly from Hebrew and Greek texts into English, in the name of making Scripture available to the common folk. It was he who first looked at the Greek and rendered such ageless phrases as, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26); at the Hebrew and rendered, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1). And likewise with so many other familiar and beloved phrases beyond listing. His translations of the Old and New Testaments are now estimated as forming the basis of about 80% of the later and greatly revered King James Bible. His work also formed the basis of the earlier Geneva Bible, which was the Bible in English that a fellow named William Shakespeare would have read.

Perhaps, if one is ever feeling down about getting insufficient reward for one’s work in this world, the example of William Tyndale might offer a salutary perspective. For his labors he did not become a rich man, nor enjoy a gracious old age fêted by kings, cardinals and colleges. In 1536 — two years after the publication of his revised New Testament translation, which he worked on while in hiding — William Tyndale was burned at the stake in Belgium. He was then somewhere around 42 years of age.

In 1989, Tyndale’s New Testament was republished in a modern edition.No words were substituted by the editor, David Daniell; only the spellings were modernized. From that comes the following verses of Luke, chapter 23:

And one of the evil-doers which hanged, railed on him saying: If thou be Christ save thyself and us. The other answered and rebuked him saying, Neither fearest thou God, because thou art in the same damnation? We are righteously punished, for we receive according to our deeds: But this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus: Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him: Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

And it was about the sixth hour. And there came a darkness over all the land, until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened. And the veil of the temple did rent even through the midst. And Jesus cried with a great voice and said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And when he thus had said, he gave up the ghost. When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God saying: Of a surety this man was perfect. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done: smote their breasts, and returned home. And all his acquaintance, and the women, that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off beholding these things.

– From William Tyndale’s New Testament


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