One of these scholars was William Tyndale. Educated at Oxford and at Cambridge, Tyndale’s chief ambition in life was to give to the people a translation in English based on the original languages. He once said to one of his opponents: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest.” In order to achieve his objective, and due to fierce opposition, Tyndale had to leave his native England. After a year of great stress, often fleeing from city to city, he was able to complete his translation of the New Testament in 1525.
Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was the first ever to be printed in English. Also, it was the first English translation to be based, not on Jerome’s Latin version, but on the Greek text itself. Early in 1526, the first copies of Tyndale’s translation were smuggled into England. Many church leaders spoke out condemning it. They obtained copies of the translation and burned them in public ceremony. But all of this concentrated opposition could not wipe out a movement which was making itself felt around the world.
Tyndale’s translation was indeed for the “plough boy.” Instead of “church,” he used “congregation”; for “penance,” he used “repentance”; for “grace,” he used “favor”; for “charity,” “love,” and so forth. These were terms that the common man could understand.
Many Biblical words, familiar to us today, were coined by Tyndale – such words as “peacemaker,” “passover,” “scapegoat,” and “longsuffering.” This is why Tyndale is often called the father of the English Bible.
Tyndale next turned to translating the Old Testament from Hebrew. Within a few years, he had translated several books of the Old Testament and also had issued two other editions of his New Testament. His translations were bought and read enthusiastically. But in 1535, Tyndale was betrayed and thrown in prison near Brussels in Belgium. While imprisoned, shortly before the last winter of his life, he wrote a letter to a person in authority. Tyndale asked that he might be granted the kindness of a “warmer cap” and “a warmer coat also.”
His letter continues: “My overcoat is worn out; my shirts are also worn out… And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark. But most of all, I beg and beseech… that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study.” After spending months in prison, Tyndale was found guilty of heresy and was sentenced to death. He was strangled and burned at the stake, crying aloud, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Had Tyndale escaped his enemies a few more years, he surely would have finished his translation of the whole Bible.