Consider the source of the following familiar lines: I am the way, the truth, and the life; In my father’s house are many mansions; For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory; Seek, and ye shall find; Let not your hearts be troubled; With God all things are possible; The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
The source is the Bible – but it’s the English Bible, the English Bible translated by William Tyndale (1494-1536). Those lines, so familiar, did not exist in English until Tyndale translated them. He’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the King James Version of the Bible, but he should be; he had a huge influence upon shaping the English we speak today, and a direct influence on both Shakespeare and the KJV Bible.
David Teems, in Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice, tells the story of Tyndale (pronounced like kindle). Very little of his early life is known – there’s a rather large gap between his birth in Gloucestershire in England near the Welsh border and receiving his degrees from Oxford in 1512 and 1515; even his birth date is guessed from the date of the Oxford degrees.
What is told in this lively and highly readable biography is what is known about Tyndale – his writings, not only his Bible translations (starting with the New Testament in 1526) but his pamphlets, letters, and the record of written debate, conducted long distance, between him and Sir Thomas More. (Teems points out that more, the “man of conscience” when it came to his conflict over faith with Henry VIII, denied that Tyndale had that same right of conscience.) The author puts Tyndale in the context of his times, both the Reformation which began with Luther and the Reformation in England.
Teems received a B.A. in psychology from Georgia State University. He was a professional musician before turning to writing in 2005. He is the author of To Love is Christ (2009); Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible (2010); And Thereby Hangs a Tale: What I Really Know about the Devoted Life I Learned from My Dogs (2010); Discovering Your Spiritual Center: The Power of Psalm 119 (2011); and Godspeed: Voices of the Reformation (2017). He and his family lived in Franklin, Tennessee.
Tyndale spent his last years in Antwerp, where he was eventually arrested, imprisoned, tried, and then executed (he was strangled and then his body burned at the stake). Tyndale reminds us that we English-speaking peoples owe much to this man, whose risked and ultimately gave his life for the Scriptures he so dearly loved. It’s a wonderful biography.
Top illustration: the execution of William Tyndale. He was first strangled and then burned at the stake.