The Independent Archive: 24 August 1989: A Bible of Raciness and Splendour Enoch Powell Salutes the Memory of William Tyndale, a New Edition of Whose Translation of the New Testament Is about to Be Published
Powell, Enoch, The Independent (London, England)
AN ENGLISHMAN, William Tyndale, lay languishing in prison near Brussels in 1535 before being put to death for heresy by the Spanish authorities. He petitioned for a Hebrew Old Testament, a Hebrew grammar and a Hebrew dictionary to continue his study of that language in his damp and gloomy dungeon. In England, which he had left forever in 1524, there was neither study nor teaching of Hebrew. Greek was another matter; for a generation past it had been growing vigorously in the universities and would soon be part of the school curriculum.
Tyndale was a born translator. If his countrymen, from prince to ploughman, were to have access to the Bible in their native tongue, it was from the Hebrew and Greek that he must translate it. Scouted and ridiculed by a Church of England still Roman, it was in Germany and the Low Countries that Tyndale did so and found people who would print the results, though the authorities in England bought up the books and burnt them as soon as or before they could be imported.
Tyndale triumphed - his work, that is, though scarcely his fame. Not till modern times had the Bible ever again to be translated from the original languages into English. Coverdale's Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishop's Bible, the Geneva Bible, yes, the King James Bible itself were essentially derived directly or indirectly from Tyndale, altering, correcting, overlaying, but never extinguishing the splendour which the English language had revealed under Tyndale's hands. And so it comes about that his phrases live on our lips today: "Eat, drink and be merry"; "clothed and in his right mind"; "the scales fell from his eyes"; "Am I my brother's keeper?" It was a happy and, I suspect a generous decision of Yale University Press to present Tyndale's New Testament anew in a worthy and monumental edition.
The raciness of Tyndale, which we can enjoy and value to this day, owed much to his escape from the Latin of the Vulgate, from which Wycliffe and his followers had translated, into the distinctive phraseologies of Greek and above all of Hebrew. …