Tyndale, William°

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TYNDALE, WILLIAM ° (c. 1490–1536), English Bible translator and religious reformer. An Erasmian humanist, Tyndale began work on a new, vernacular Bible in 1520, but met so much opposition from his fellow-churchmen that he had to seek refuge on the Continent, where his New Testament, based directly on the Greek, appeared in various editions (Cologne/Worms, 1525; Antwerp, 15263, etc.). Having visited Martin *Luther at Wittenberg and declared himself a Protestant, Tyndale proceeded to smuggle his publications into England, where they were condemned as heretical: Cardinal Wolsey ordered his arrest, but failed to capture him. Of all the English scholars of his time, Tyndale was the only competent Hebraist. His translation of the Old Testament, which referred to the original Hebrew text, appeared only in part (Pentateuch, 1530; Jonah, 1531), although the section from Joshua to Chronicles – which remained in manuscript at the author's death – is thought to have inspired Miles Coverdale's Bible (1535) and to have been included in Matthews' Bible (by J. Rogers, 1537). Tyndale's Old Testament was Protestant more in its prefaces and marginal glosses than in its actual English text, which maintained a great measure of independence. Anglo-Saxon outweighs Latin in the translator's vigorous English style, since he believed, that "… the properties of the hebrue tonge agreth a thousande tymes moare with the english then with the latyne…" (The Obedience of a Christian Man, 1528). In fact, the English language's saturation in Hebrew idiom may largely be credited to the popular appeal of Tyndale's Bible which, after Henry viii's quarrel with Rome, was allowed to circulate in England. Tyndale was finally arrested, condemned, and burnt at the stake for heresy.


J.F. Mozley, William Tyndale (1937); W.E. Campbell, Erasmus, Tyndale, and More (1950).

[Godfrey Edmund Silverman]