In the confrontational political climate of the time Tyndale faced persecution and had to flee to the continent. Much of his trouble arose not because of his translation work but his advocacy of church reformation.
In time Myles Coverdale produced a bible for Henry – the Great Bible (because of its size!) – which was largely based on Tyndale’s work. However, after the King’s death the most popular English bible became the Geneva Bible; this was Shakespeare’s bible.
It was also the first English bible to use verse numbers. The translation had a decidedly protestant cast – for example ekklesia was translated as ‘congregation’ rather than ‘church’. But even more controversial were the ‘study notes’ printed alongside the text which were anti-Catholic and anti-Royalist.
When James I came to the throne he called the Hampton Court
It is generally thought that they did not get the bible they hoped for!
The King James Bible is not a fresh translation. It was a revision and compilation of the previous versions: various committees met and read out versions to find the best ones. It is calculated that about 83% of the KJB comes from Tyndale – written in language from another age (90 years before).
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Conference to foster some sort of common understanding between the different elements of the Church of England. On the whole he upheld the status quo, but offered as an encouragement to the Puritans a new translation of the Bible.
Surprisingly to us, it was not an instant best-seller. To begin with no master-copy was made and, as printers copied other printers, mistakes multiplied. A notorious example, ‘The Wicked Bible’ in 1631 omitted ‘not’ from the seventh commandment: ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’.
It would take the convulsions of the English Civil War and some heavy-duty revising in the 18th century before the KJB would become pre-eminent. In this period the KJB was carried across the world by missionaries to the expanding British Empire.
But what of its quality? Many people praise the translation for its ‘poetry’ – in the run of programmes celebrating the anniversary, Genesis 1 and John 1 are often the passages cited. (Although Radio 4 did allot many hours to reading other passages.) For many of us, the Christmas story readings come first to mind (Continued on page 18)
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