William Tyndale: The Father of Modern English

from Feb 11, 2015 Category: Articles

With his New Testament, William Tyndale became the father of the Modern English language. He shaped the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary of the English language more than any man who ever lived more than the author Geoffrey Chaucer, the playwright William Shakespeare, or the poets Percy Shelley and John Keats.

The English language at the dawn of the sixteenth century was crude and unrefined. It lacked precision and standardization, a strange mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Norman features with ancient Latin vocabulary, contained in disorganized syntax. Tyndale proved to be its change agent. As he translated the Bible, giving careful thought to words, phrases, and clauses, Tyndale shaped the language at its transition point from Middle English to Early Modern English. The speech of a nation was constructed in his mind and flowed from his pen. In providing the English Bible, Tyndale became the father of Modern English.

Moreover, Tyndale is recognized as the father of the English Bible. His influence upon how the English Bible would be written, read, studied, and preached reaches to this present hour. His translation became so foundational that until the twentieth century, every succeeding English translation was heavily dependent upon his labors. Eighty-four percent of the King James New Testament is a word-for-word copy of Tyndale’s work. Of the Old Testament books that Tyndale translated, seventy-six percent of the King James is found in Tyndale. Daniell notes that Tyndale wrote in “short Saxon sentences with largely Saxon vocabulary, a manner like proverbs.” In so doing, Tyndale translated the Bible into the vernacular of the people, which accounts for its widest possible audience and prolific influence throughout the English-speaking world.

Further, Tyndale is widely regarded as the father of the English Reformation. What most Reformers accomplished through preaching, Tyndale did by his Bible translation. Though he did preach during his younger years in England, in later years his full attention was set upon translating the Bible into the English language. Instead of proclaiming the Scripture, he gave the actual words of the Bible to Englishmen in their native tongue. If the people could read and understand the Word, he believed, God would kindle in their hearts a zeal for the truth. It was to this daring mission that Tyndale set himself, directing all his energies to this God-appointed task for the remainder of his life.

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This excerpt is taken from The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, new from Steven Lawson and Reformation Trust.