Exciting. The oldest complete New Testament was found by an Indiana-Jones-type adventurer after a ten-day camel ride to a monastery guarded by a 1,100-year-old skeleton. And that’s just the beginning of the story.
Beautiful. Ireland’s Book of Kells contains decorations so complex that they can be seen only with a magnifying glass, which had not been invented yet. How did the monks do it? We don’t know.
Deadly. William Tyndale was burned at the stake for the “crime” of publishing the New Testament in English.
In 2010 Thomas Nelson published an amazing book that was named one of the ten best Christian books of the year.
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Delight in more than 100 memorable selections from the most influential book in the English language
INTRODUCTION Bible translation was a dangerous business in early sixteenth century England, largely because the Bible had become a symbol of the power struggle between the Church and those who wanted to reform it. Sir Thomas More spoke for many when he said it was heresy to think “we should believe nothing but plain Scripture” and let people read the Bible for themselves. This was not just a polite discussion. One hundred years earlier, some Lollards, a group that taught the authority of Scripture over the authority of the priests, had been burned alive with Bibles hung around their necks.
Nevertheless William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English so that even “the boy that drives the plow in England” would be able to read and understand the Bible. Tyndale moved to Germany where he printed the first English New Testament and smuggled copies into England and Scotland. The translation was condemned in 1526 and copies burned in public. Ten years later Tyndale himself was betrayed, captured, and burned at the stake. His final words, spoken “with a fervent zeal and a loud voice,” were, according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”
But when boys who drove plows read the Bible and discovered for themselves what it said, the nation was transformed. Tyndale’s body was killed, but his vision flourished to such an extent that within fifty years of his death, “No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England. . . . England became a people of a book, and that book was the Bible.”
This passion for the Bible did not remain in England. One hundred years after Tyndale’s death, many who wanted religious freedom left England for America. “Mainly they were Christians who hoped to worship God with their whole lives, body, and soul; with a dazzling fervor that still lights up their journals, letters, and poetry 300 years later. . . . America was born in a passionate spiritual explosion. The explosion was created and fueled by the Bible.”
Throughout the centuries countless attempts have been made to suppress the Bible. But none has succeeded. It may seem strange in a day when Bibles are readily available in bookstores, in hotel rooms, and on the Internet that five hundred years ago William Tyndale was burned at the stake for the crime of publishing the New Testament in English.
The story of the Bible’s writing, preservation, and translation is a fascinating one filled with intrigue, discovery, and adventure. In the end, though, the dream of Tyndale—and of Bible translators in the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, and of Jerome who translated the Bible into Latin, and of Martin Luther who translated the Bible into German, and of Cameron Townsend who founded Wycliffe Bible Translators—the dream of the Bible’s being available even to the boy that drives the plow was a dream that changed the world and also had a transforming effect on England and the English language.
And it also has had an effect on societies around the world, from the most sophisticated to the most primitive, societies where people have been taught to read in their own language so that they can read the one book available to them—the Bible.