December 08, 2003

Brief defense of Tyndale

I don't know where Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis is getting his information, but when he writes,

Tyndale, for example, translated various New Testament passages in a manner than reflected his anti-cleric biases. For example, in his translation, "Church" became "congregation," "bishop" became "overseer," and "priest" became "elder." He also omitted 1 Peter 2:13-14 altogether because they called upon Christians to obey the temporal authorities.

...I suspect he's not relying on an unbiased source (Thomas More, perhaps?). Among the volumes in the well-appointed Ideofact library is The 1534 Tyndale New Testament. While it doesn't follow the later Chapter/verse format, I believe the following passage:

Submit yourselves unto all manner ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be unto the king as unto the chief head: or unto rulers, as unto those who are sent of him, for the punishment of evildoers: but for the laud of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that ye put to silence the ignorance of the foolish men: as free, and not having the liberty for a cloak of maliciousness but even as the servants of God.

...corresponds to the New American Bible translation, 1 Peter 2:13-14,

Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.

(Actually, that goes on to verse 16, but who's counting). As for Tyndale's translation of the Greek ekklesia as congregation, rather than Church, and so on, millions of words have been spilled over it (three-quarters of a million words by Thomas More alone). I'm not a Greek scholar; I googled the words and found polemics on both sides arguing one way or the other. I'm not going to add to that particular debate, but I wonder whether Dan is in any better position to translate first century Greek than I am.

Posted by Ideofact at December 8, 2003 11:24 PM

My source was The Catholic Sourcebook by Rev. Peter Klein, which has a whole chapter on the various bibles that were around at the time of the Reformation, something that I had in all honesty not seen anywhere else. The section in question that deals with Tyndale's work reads:

Tyndale's Bible was the first printed English New Testament, to which were later added the Pentateuch (1530) and various Old Testament parts. Its translator was William Tyndale (1490-1536), "The Father of the English Bible," an ex-Augustinian monk, and an Oxford student of the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew. It was not embraced by the hierarchy in English because its strident anti-clerical notes and its theological slant (it was quickly noticed, for example, that the new translation used the terms "congregation," "overseer," and "elder," instead of "church," "bishop," and "priest"). These were finer points, however, compared to what brought the wrath of Henry VIII: the abritrary omission of 1 Peter 13-14.

Since the Sourcebook has proved right in the past on issues of translation and such, I thought that it could be trusted in this regard as well. I am, however, now curious as to what Klein's source for those claims were if, as you say, they aren't true.

Posted by: Dan Darling at December 9, 2003 09:37 AM

Not that it adds anything to the question of Tyndale's suggested anti-clerical bias, but I used to eat dinner under a picture of Tyndale every night in my college hall at Oxford.

A bit more interesting tidbit is the large stained glass of Tyndale at the back of the college chapel. He's flanked by several evangelists and missionaries and featured with a printing press.

Isn't it just like us moderns to take someone (who may have been) opposed to the church and priests and set up a giant memorial to him in the tradition of the same thing which he was rejecting/reforming.

Posted by: Andrew at December 10, 2003 03:29 PM