Tyndale as Translator

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Tyndale as Translator

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Where did William Tyndale learn Greek and Hebrew? Englishman Richard Croke had occupied the chair of Greek at Leipzig (Germany), but this professor came back to Cambridge in 1518 to begin his lectures on Greek. Tyndale’s competence in this language may well be due to Croke’s lectures.

Before that, Professor Grocyn had also taught excellent Greek in Oxford during the time Tyndale was there.

What about Hebrew? David Daniell has written: “In Europe, rabbinical schools flourished and knowledge of Hebrew was growing. Tyndale learned Hebrew: perhaps in Worms, the main centre of Jewish learning in Germany. Hebrew was almost unknown in England” ( The English Bible , p. 147). Maybe translating the Old Testament from the original Hebrew became a secondary reason for Tyndale crossing the English Channel.

Completely verifiable answers to these questions may never be fully discovered in this life. Because of constant persecution, Tyndale had to slip into the woodwork most of the time. Verifiable historical facts are few indeed. As his latest biographer commented, “For a controversialist who was recklessly brave in print, Tyndale had an extraordinary ability to fade into the background” (Moynahan, William Tyndale: If God Spare My Life , p. 33).

But what is not in dispute is well stated by David Daniell: “Tyndale’s gift not only to English-speaking New Testament Christianity, but to language and literature, secular as well as religious, came from a unique ability as translator.

“He had the technical skills of fluent and accurate Greek, Hebrew, Latin and German (and other languages) and the machinery of recent dictionaries and grammars. He had a complete understanding of the complex art of rhetoric. His twin achievements as a translator, still admired, were accuracy and clarity, the latter allowing him variety of expression” ( The Bible in English , p. 133).

His language gifts played a major role in establishing the foundation of the English-language Bibles we use and enjoy today. GN