Translating the Bible into English and the Bloody Battle that ensued!
Sacrilegious, contraband, illegal, were just some of the terms used to describe one of the rarest books in the world. With only 3 copies left; each worth millions of pounds; one of which was on display in October at St. Paul’s Cathedral, England; it is the very first English translation of the Bible (the New Testament). Translated by William Tyndale in 1534, its’ distribution network consisted of dedicated followers of Christ who would hide the Bibles in bales of wool and smuggle them to avoid detection by Customs. It was regarded as contraband and was against the law to translate it into English. To distribute it as well was going against the power and might of Europe. Copies of the Bible was rounded up and burnt; all but 3 copies are in existence today.
The English church was governed from Rome so church services had to be conducted in Latin by law. Translating the Bible into English to enable the common folk to get to know God for themselves was literally a crime, punishable by death. At that time the church acted as mediator between man and God, and only permitted the educated clergy to read the Bible which was translated in Latin.
Two years after Tyndale translated the Bible, he was executed and burnt as a heretic. But against all the odds, he was able to fulfil his purpose to make the Bible accessible to everyone and not just the elite by man’s standard. Today over 80% of the King James Bible (KJV) comes from Tyndale’s original translation. The KJV remains the most accurate translation of the Bible from the original Greek scrolls.
During this time of reformation, anyone who preached the true Gospel and attempted to open the eyes of people to the truth of Jesus Christ were killed and labelled as a heretic. The term simply means someone who challenged the doctrine of the established church; the Roman Catholic Church at that time. The irony here is that ‘Heresy’ had been declared by Pope Innocent III in 1199 as treason against God; and was regarded as the worst of all crimes. Yet it was these very leaders themselves who were actually committing crimes against God and all that Jesus stood for! They abused their position of power, making the laws of the land to control the masses. Many followers of Christ who stayed true to the Gospel died horrific deaths. From the Apostles some two thousand years ago, through generation after generation; and people are still being killed for their belief in Christ.
Every generation of true Christians experience persecution and suffering. Same thing, different package! Yet Christianity remains the largest faith in the world. The Bible continues to be the bestselling book of all time and tops the best seller list every year; having sold billions through the centuries.
Many, many men and women of God died to make the Bible and its’ teachings available to us. And the more God’s people are persecuted, the more they are victorious over the plans of the devil. Regardless of the war raged against Tyndale and the true followers of Christ, we have complete access to the Word of God today; Victory! But how did we get the Bible? Over the following months we will follow the journey of the Bible; a book forged in blood and persecutions, claiming the lives of some of the greatest, determined, driven and above all; righteous individuals of our time. Wycliffe, the first of the Bible-men, during a time of brutal persecutions said:
“They mined it (the Bible) for individual texts to use in debates and sermons, and they wrote copious notes and glosses on passages within it. But their approach was logical and scholastic; they did not think of it as a work that was alive and breathing, like the God who had created it. It was a priestly text, dusty, locked up in Latin, safely beyond the reach of the English at large. Religion had come to mean the Church itself, and its traditions.”
Many in this age would happily take us back to these dark ages, but the sooner we realise that the Bible is the Living Word of God, the sooner it will be life to us!