William Tyndale’s final words before the chain around his neck strangled him to death were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” That dying prayer was answered two years after Tyndale's death, when King Henry VIII ordered that the Bible of Miles Coverdale was to be used in every parish in the land. The Coverdale Bible was largely based on Tyndale’s work. Then, in 1539, Tyndale’s own edition of the Bible became officially approved for printing.
Tyndale’s translation inspired the great translations that followed, including the Great Bible (1539, also compiled by Coverdale), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishops’ Bible (1568), the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582-1609), and the Authorized or King James Version (1611). A complete analysis of the King James shows that Tyndale’s words account for eighty-four percent of the New Testament and more than seventy-five percent of the Old Testament. Many of the great modern English versions stand in the King James tradition and thus also draw inspiration from Tyndale, including the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version.
The enormous debt owed by the English-speaking world to William Tyndale is incalculable. His crafting of the English language introduced new words into our vocabulary that are spoken every day in countries around the world. Ultimately, his work in translating the Bible from its original languages into the tongue of his homeland helped launch the English Reformation. The calling of God upon Tyndale's heart became a burning passion to see commoners read God's unadulterated Word. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of this man and his vast contribution has been greatly undervalued through the centuries.
We want again Tyndales to tenaciously face the insurmountable obstacles before them and overcome them with zealous resolve for the glory of God. We need Tyndales who translate the Bible into the languages of forgotten people groups around the world. We need Tyndales to proclaim the gospel through the written page in the face of imminent danger. We need Tyndales who passionately love the Word of God to fill every pulpit, every seminary, every Sunday School class, every lectern.
Let us learn to say with David—and no doubt with Tyndale—“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).
This article is part of The Daring Mission of William Tyndale collection.