Giving Prayer Cadence and Idiom

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

Giving Prayer Cadence and Idiom


Byline: Mark A. Kellner, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If you're not familiar with the work of William Tyndale, you should be. Even today, English speakers owe a debt to the man martyred at age 42 for the heretical act of translating the Bible into English. Long before, Tyndale, a scholar with a gift for languages, was impassioned about making the sacred books accessible, once answering a critic: If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!

Although that prophecy wasn't fully realized in Tyndale's too-brief life, it would soon take a form that would, indeed, sweep the globe: 75 years after his death in 1536, the translation commonly known as the King James Version of the Bible was released. Much of the KJV's cadence and idiom is owed to Tyndale, including the renderings of the Lord's Prayer, as well as phrases such as seek and you shall find, "ask and it shall be given you " judge not that you not be judge "and"it came to pass "The words"Jehovah " Passove "and"beautiful" are Tyndale's inventions, drawing, as he did, on a solid knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Between his youth and education at Oxford and Cambridge, and his death at the stake, where he reportedly cried, Lord, open the king of England's eyes, as his last words, there was plenty of adventure and drama in Tyndale's life. David Teems, who brought the story of King James I - and that authorized Bible - to life in 2011's Majestie (Thomas Nelson), is back with Tyndale's story, aptly subtitled The Man Who Gave God an English Voice.

Translation is a tricky business, as just about any exchange student will affirm: A friend once recalled using a grammatically correct word to describe catching a bus ride in Spain. Her hearers, however, leapt to a far more colloquial, and ribald, meaning. The rendering of thoughts expressed in one language precisely into another can be daunting; add in the notion of expressing the very Word of God and you have a potentially heroic challenge.

Moreover, the prevailing religious authorities of Tyndale's day, the Roman Catholic Church (which still held sway in Tudor England), had asits leaders those opposed to the simple and unlearned having the Scripture available in the vernacular, especially if such translations would challenge established doctrine. The Greek presbuteros was rendered elder, not as priest ; assemblies of believers were congregations, not a church. Such changes might have been more faithful to the original Greek texts, but they challenged the way the official church read the Bible. Once that got into the public's consciousness, how long could that church survive? …

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