The Dangerous Work of a Translator

Tyndale Bible
The Tyndale Bible
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, OTM: OM 63-626

A milestone in the development of the English language, the Tyndale Bible is one of the more exquisite artifacts housed in the university’s Special Collections. Published in 1549, this first English bible predates the King James’ version by roughly sixty years. Translation, from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, was begun by William Tyndale (1490-1536) and completed by John Rogers (1500-1555). Tyndale then made use of the printing press to spread the ideas of the Reformation in Western Europe.

The translators used a pseudonym, Thomas Matthew, when they published. Translating the Bible was a very dangerous process while the Reformation swept across Europe. Tyndale fled to the Continent, but was eventually betrayed and caught in Antwerp, where he was given the standard punishment for heresy, and was strangled and burned at the stake. Rogers managed to dodge the authorities for a short while, but underwent the same fate as his collaborator in 1555.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *