Always Singing One Note
- Thursday, July 01, 2010
Here is a sampling of the English phrases we owe to Tyndale:
"Let there be light." (Genesis 1:3)
"Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9)
"The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)
"There were shepherds abiding in the field." (Luke 2:8)
"Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)
"Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." (Matthew 6:9)
"The signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3)
"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)
"He went out . . . and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:75)20
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
"In him we live, move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)
"A law unto themselves" (Romans 2:14)
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels" (1 Corinthians 13:1)
"Fight the good fight." (1 Timothy 6:12)
According to Daniell, "The list of such near-proverbial phrases is endless."21 Five hundred years after his great work, "newspaper headlines still quote Tyndale, though unknowingly, and he has reached more people than even Shakespeare."22
He Gave Us New Prose—and a Reformation
Luther's translation of 1522 is often praised for "having given a language to the emerging German nation." Daniell claims the same for Tyndale in English:
In his Bible translations, Tyndale's conscious use of everyday words, without inversions, in a neutral word-order, and his wonderful ear for rhythmic patterns, gave to English not only a Bible language, but a new prose. England was blessed as a nation in that the language of its principal book, as the Bible in English rapidly became, was the fountain from which flowed the lucidity, suppleness and expressive range of the greatest prose thereafter.23
His craftsmanship with the English language amounted to genius.24
He translated two-thirds of the Bible so well that his translations endured until today.25
This was not merely a literary phenomenon; it was a spiritual explosion. Tyndale's Bible and writings were the kindling that set the Reformation on fire in England.
Two Ways to Die to Bear Fruit for God
The question arises: How did William Tyndale accomplish this historic achievement? We can answer this in Tyndale's case by remembering two ways that a pastor or any spiritual leader must die in order to bear fruit for God (John 12:24; Romans 7:4). On the one hand, we must die to the notion that we do not have to think hard or work hard to achieve spiritual goals. On the other hand, we must die to the notion that our thinking and our working is decisive in achieving spiritual goals.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:7, "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." First, think. Work. Don't bypass the hard work of thinking about apostolic truth. But second, remember this: "The Lord will give you understanding." You work. He gives. If he withholds, all our working is in vain. But he ordains that we use our minds and that we work in achieving spiritual ends. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." The key to spiritual achievement is to work hard, and to know and believe and be happy that God's sovereign grace is the decisive cause of all the good that comes.
How Erasmus and Tyndale Were Alike
The way these two truths come together in Tyndale's life explains how he could accomplish what he did. And one of the best ways to see it is to compare him with Erasmus, the Roman Catholic humanist scholar who was famous for his books Enchiridion and The Praise of Folly and for his printed Greek New Testament.
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