Today’s offering is a little different from the usual ‘origins’ format – because it’s more of a tribute to someone, with a few origins thrown in.
It’s inspired by a documentary I saw on William Tyndale recently. His is one of those names you tend to be vaguely aware of, that you maybe heard at school, while never being quite sure exactly who he was or what he’s famous for.
He was a very learned and courageous man who was the first to translate the Bible into English with a view to make it accessible to all. The Catholic church wanted religious knowledge and teachings to be filtered through its hierarchy of Pope, Bishops, priests etc and were appalled at the idea of common people being able to read the teachings first-hand and make their own minds up about theological matters. That opened up all sorts of cans of worms – not least the idea that there might be problematic areas for those who believed every word of the Bible to be true. For example, Henry VIII, who persecuted Tyndale and caused him to go into exile, used a quote from Leviticus that condemns a man who marries his dead brother’s wife (as he had done) as a ploy to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. Tyndale himself, however, pointed out that Deuteronomy says it’s the duty of a man to marry his dead brother’s wife!
Ironically, within a few years of his death, Tyndale’s English Bible was commanded to be placed in every church.
An added twist is that the later King James version of the Bible, which was long thought to be the result of the efforts of a group of translators, is now believed to be largely taken directly from Tyndale’s own. The documentary highlighted how he used simple, monosyllabic words because he wanted the Bible to be accessible to people of all reading abilities, and also how his own translated versions of Biblical phrases are still regularly used today:
Fall flat in his face
From time to time
Rise and shine
Even as a non-Christian, I’m full of admiration not only for his masterpiece of literature, but also his vision, bravery and tenacity.