Back To CourseWorld History: Middle School
20 chapters | 223 lessons
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Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, former middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.
In order to understand this lesson about a man named William Tyndale, we first need to provide a broad context. The broad context surrounding this lesson is the Protestant Reformation. I'm sure many of you are familiar with it. The Protestant Reformation was an anti-Catholic European movement sparked in 1517 by a monk named Martin Luther. Luther was basically fed up with corruption and what he considered unbiblical teachings in the Catholic Church, and he sought to 'reform' it. Luther taught that salvation was a free gift of God and was not earned by doing good deeds.
On October 31, 1517, he posted a list of 95 grievances with the Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, for all to see. This is called the 95 Theses. This sparked mass anti-Catholic uprisings throughout Europe, particularly among the lower classes. The Protestant Reformation had profound economic, social, and political implications. Ultimately, it helped spread notions of democracy, individualism, and capitalism. The Protestant Reformation lasted throughout the 16th century and into the 17th century (we need to understand it had no clear end date).
Luther was not the only important figure in the Reformation. Others included John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and many others. One of those others was William Tyndale. William Tyndale (1494-1536) was an English scholar who is best known for his English translation of the Bible. Tyndale was deeply influenced by Martin Luther and the Reformation movement. He was particularly disturbed by the fact that the common man was unable to read the Bible for himself.
See, during this time, the Bible was virtually unreadable to most Englishmen because it was only printed in Latin, and only priests and highly educated men knew the language. So, the common man or woman was not able to read the Bible for themselves. If they wanted to know what the Bible said, they had to attend church, and hear it preached to them (and, of course, what was preached was sometimes erroneous, biased, and based on politics).
Now there had been an English translation floating around since the late 1390s. This was called the Wycliffe Bible. The Wycliffe Bible was translated from Latin into English by a man named John Wycliffe (1330-1384). Wycliffe based his translation from a version of the Bible called the Latin Vulgate, which was the standard version of the Bible in Western Christianity. But the Wycliffe Bible was banned and Wycliffe was declared a heretic (in fact, he was so hated by Church authorities that after his death, his body was exhumed and burned).
By the early 1500s, the lower classes were desperate for a new translation of the Bible in a language they could read. William Tyndale took up the task. A tutor and a chaplain, Tyndale was exceptionally educated, being fluent in French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. Tyndale's sermons often caused controversy. The Catholic authorities felt he undermined their power. He was told to stop preaching in public, but he continued to do so. Increasingly, his life was becoming endangered.
In 1524, he left London to hide out in Germany. There he began work on his English translation of the Bible. Unlike the Wycliffe Bible, which was a word-for-word translation from Latin, Tyndale went back to the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and basically translated his version 'from scratch.' His New Testament was completed in 1525. The following year, copies began to be smuggled into England and Scotland. His translation was declared heresy and ordered to be burned.
In 1530, Tyndale evoked the rage of English King Henry VIII. See, the king was planning to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Tyndale believed this was wrong and publicly condemned the divorce in a work titled The Practice of Prelates. Seeking safety, Tyndale moved to the Netherlands and began translating the Old Testament. He completed two different versions in 1534 and 1535.
In 1535, he was betrayed by the man providing him with shelter in Antwerp. Tyndale was captured, arrested, and held in prison in a castle. He was charged with heresy the following year, and condemned to death. In the fall of 1536 he was strangled to death while upon a stake. His last words are said to be 'Lord, open the king of England's eyes...' Once dead, his body was burned.
It seems Tyndale's prayer was answered. By 1539, his translation was officially approved for printing. And, when the King James Bible translation was printed in 1611, it was drawn primarily from Tyndale's version. In fact, one estimate suggests that up to 83% of the King James Version was the work of Tyndale.
Popular phrases coined by William Tyndale through his Bible translation include 'eat, drink and be merry,' 'the signs of the times,' 'brother's keeper,' and 'fight the good fight.' So, we can see, William Tyndale had enormous influence on the English language. He influenced William Shakespeare and generations of English literary figures.
Let's review. The Protestant Reformation was an anti-Catholic European movement sparked in 1517 by a monk named Martin Luther. It had profound economic, social, and political implications throughout Europe. William Tyndale (1494-1536) was an English scholar who is best known for his English translation of the Bible. The Wycliffe Bible was a translation from Latin into English by a man named John Wycliffe. It became available around the 1390s, and was translated from the Latin Vulgate. Tyndale evoked the anger of English King Henry VIII by speaking out against his planned divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The King James Bible was printed in 1611, and was drawn heavily from William Tyndale's translation.
After watching this video on William Tyndale, you could be prepared to:
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Back To CourseWorld History: Middle School
20 chapters | 223 lessons