When William Tyndale first translated the New Testament into English, it was considered to be an abomination. The Roman Catholic Church had just established control over England and wanted to ensure that everyone knew how wrong they believed Tyndale’s Bible to be. In order to do this, they banned all copies of the New Testament and threatened anyone who was caught with one.
As you might imagine, this did not go down well with Christians around the country, and within a year, an underground network of translators had made more than 700 versions in a bid to preserve the Bible in English. It was not until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I that the Roman Catholic Church officially recognised the value of Tyndale’s Bible. It is important to note that Tyndale’s Bible was not the first translation of the New Testament into English. That distinction belongs to the King James Bible (KJV) which was published in 1611.
The Language Of The Early Translators
Before the KJV was published in 1611, the English language had changed a great deal since the time of Tyndale. What is now known as “modern English” was a development of the 17th century, and it was not until then that people began to see writing things like “love thy neighbour” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life” as normal. Before this, these phrases would have been considered a bit strange, maybe even a bit rude. It was also during this time that people began to see spelling as something to be valued, rather than just a means of communication.
The KJV was a new departure, and it caused a lot of controversy, even within the Bible Belt. The translators of the KJV, who were known as the “King James’ boys,” were the leaders of a Presbyterian church in Scotland and they wanted to bring the Bible into everyday English. The English church at the time was known as the “common people,” and they strongly disagreed with the church leaders in Scotland. The KJV was a direct hit at the common people, and it was largely seen as an assault on English culture.
Controversy, Corruption, And Counterfeit Bibles
The KJV was not an easy Bible to translate, and it was not without its controversies. Translators had to work hard just to make sure that each word was properly translated, and that the meaning was not lost in translation. If you look up some of the verses in the KJV, you will see that there is a lot of guesswork involved. Take for example, the New Testament’s book of Romans:
- Romans 1:21 – “For since the creation of man, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, yet so far as human beings have been allowed to explore God’s mysteries, they have seemed rather to rage against him and to clamour for more knowledge.”
- Romans 1:22 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, even while we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him.”
- Romans 1:23 – “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are members of the household of God.”
You will need to look up the definitions of some of the words in order to understand exactly what these translators were trying to convey. For example, the Greek word ἀπαγγέλιος (apagelos) which is often translated as “good news” in the New Testament, is actually a greeting. Similarly, the Greek word στέλειο (statilio) which is translated as “farewell” in the New Testament, is actually a prayer. These two words, ‘good news” and “farewell,” are only two examples of many which highlight the guesswork that went into the KJV. Since it was the work of many men, the Bible was seen as a collection of many different voices, rather than an authoritative text which could not be disputed.
A Bible For The People
One of the main criticisms of the KJV is that it does not represent the “average” person. The Bible was not meant to be read by “the masses,” but by “God’s elect,” which is to say, those whom he had chosen to save. God did not want the world to see him as a weak, powerless deity who had to depend on the prayers of “saints” to save the planet, as the pagans of that time saw him. According to the English church of the time, it was a sign of God’s favour that he had used a common language, rather than the typical gibberish which the pagan priests used in their worship. The KJV, however, did not bring unity to the church, as much as it caused division. For instance, when King James’s son, King William, wanted to make changes to the Bible, the common people took this as a sign that they, too, could change the Bible. They wanted to make sure that they, too, could be included in the process of translating the Bible. As a result, there were nearly 700 different Bible versions published throughout Great Britain between 1611 and 1624, which shows that even in the 17th century, the concept of “one perfect version” of the Bible did not yet exist.
More Than Meets The Eye
If you compare the KJV to more recent translations like the New English Bible (NEB) and the Common English Bible (CEB), you will see that it is not only the language which has changed, but the scope of what is included in each translation. The KJV was, for the most part, a word-for-word translation from the Greek and Hebrew sources, and it came with a preface by King James which stated that the “entire Bible” should be “read, prayed, and believed.” The modern English Bible translations, however, are much more comprehensive, and they include not only the Bible, but also extensive notes, and even appendices. The NEB includes the Apocrypha, which is a collection of books which were considered “non-canonical” and “apocryphal” by the early Church, but which are now regarded as having been written by the prophets and apostles. The CEB also includes the Apocrypha, as well as the deuterocanonical books which were deemed by the Church to be “canonical,” or “authoritative”.
Although the KJV is considered by many to be the standard version of the Bible, it was nonetheless an interesting experiment which helped to establish English as the world’s most spoken language. It was because of this that the English language is now considered to be “holy writ,” or “the Bible in English.” It is interesting how times change. Now, more than 400 years after William Tyndale first translated the New Testament into English, we can see that it was not only the language, but also the message of the Bible which was important, and still is. As a result of Tyndale’s rebellion, not only did the Church in England win the day, but the entire concept of individual freedom of thought and speech was inspired by the Bible’s example of a Christ-like figure who defied the establishment and suffered the consequences. It was because of this, and many other factors, that the English Civil War began in 1642 and continued for more than a decade. For it was during this time that people began to see “the Word” as something more than a book, but as a living, breathing force which could challenge authority and change people’s lives for the better. It was the birth of a new nation, and it was the Bible, above all else, which helped to mould the character of an entire people.