Transliteration & translation

We could all look forward to the 500th anniversary of the publication of William Tyndale’s Bible in 1525, but in the meantime, we’re confronted with the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  My first Bible was a KJV—most kids got one when growing up in my decades—but I have repented (i.e., reversed course).

Acknowledging the not-insignificant contributions to English-speaking culture and religion of the KJV, I’d like bemoan three transliterations it foisted upon us:  “baptize” and “bishop” and “apostle.”  These words were creations—Anglicizations, as it were, of Greek words—having the effect of hiding the original meanings.

Previously, a Genevan translator named Olivetan, working around the time of Tyndale, made unpopular decisions to translate “apostle” as “messenger” and “bishop” as “overseer,” as well they should have been translated.  Transliteration, onthe other hand, is pretty much a cop-out—obscuring the meaning and perpetuating darkness.  Real translation sometimes requires courage.

William Tyndale “was in the habit of discussing with the clergy who came to the house where he was a tutor, and showing them how widely they erred from the teachings of scripture.  This raised persecution which obliged him to leave the country, but he had seen that the great need of the people was to become acquainted with the Bible, and he promised that ‘if God spared his life, ere many years he would cause the boys that drove the plough to know more of the Scriptures’ than the divines who kept it from them.”  (E.H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, p. 235)

There in England, as Tyndale’s work was being circulated, the Bishop of London commanded that “within thirty days … under pain of excommunication and incurring the suspicion of heresy, they do bring in and really deliver to our Vicar-General all and singular such books as contain the translation of the New Testament in the English tongue.”

GET THAT?  The Bishop of London was actually doing all he could to keep the Bible out of his own people’s language.

Vive l’esprit de William Tyndale.  That is all I have to say about that.


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