In my previous blogs I have talked about different books read over the Summer, here is another.
I have always found books written by people who are not believers writing about famous Christians fascinating. Roy Hattersley a labour politician has written biographies about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and William and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army. He is clearly an admirer of them and is challenged by their faith. Books well worth reading. William Tyndale: A very brief history written by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg is similar, and much shorter.
Tyndale was alive in the early 1500s and translated the New Testament and the first five books of the Old Testament into English which at the time was highly controversial and for which he was eventually martyred. His translations formed the majority of what we know as the Authorised version of the Bible.
Bragg recounts Tyndale’s life, his passion for ordinary people to be able to read the word of god in their own language and the price he paid to do that. His dedication in learning Greek and Hebrew, his need persecution which resulted in him being exiled from England and living in constant threat in Europe having to move to a new city frequently to avoid capture whilst writing. He was eventually captured martyred in 1536 aged just 42 because he made the Bile available or ordinary English people to read. Amazing!
However, it was the translation itself that impresses Bragg.
“My initial reaction to Tyndale’s Bible was just a tinge of disappointment. So small. It could fit in an inside jacket pocket. And so plain, unprepossessing, it could have been anything at all. Nothing said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the light.’ Yet as I sat and was allowed to turn the pages, I was moved not only by the struggle that had gone into the production of this wallet- sized volume, but by the course it would take and the majestic way its influence would grow through the next five centuries.”
He describes that influence,
“A central point being made by Tyndale was that Christians should not be organized into a pyramid of privilege, but should be a ‘congregation’. This is how he translated the Greek word ekklesia– hitherto translated as ‘Church’, with all that implied……They (all people) were now equal before the Testament, and from this would later grow the ideal of mass democracy. Equal before God. Equal before all men.”
It is suggested that Tyndale was a great influence on Shakespeare who quotes from Tyndale’s translation of the Bible no less than 1,350 times.
I don’t agree with all the conclusions drawn, which go to far. E.g.
“I see it as no accident that Anglican congregations have fallen away since the King James Bible was abandoned.”
However, I think it is worth noting the respect that an influential unbeliever has for the Word of God and the way they believe it has changed society for the good. It should challenge us not to take it for granted.
Written by Tony Thompson