Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems

If you have ever been to the sea-shore just because the waves somehow enchanted you, or if on a particular visit someone kicked sand in your boyfriend’s face (an inexcusable act) thinking him a weakling though you refused to believe it because you happened to be wearing rose-colored glasses and because of a long-suffering faith in your dearly beloved or simply because you consider him a godly man, unbeliever that he used to be, William Tyndale gave you the words to tell your story.

Following the advent of Tyndale’s English Bible, a single generation later, from 1570 to 1630 more than thirty thousand new words entered the English language. (pg. xxii in the Prologue)

David Teems has written an eloquent account of a man who can never be appreciated enough for the contribution he made to the English language and English speaking peoples when he translated the Bible from the original languages into one that everyone on the British Isle could understand.

Tyndale is broken up into four parts. Teems first expounds on the invaluable contribution Tyndale made to the English language- so much so that many historians and linguists have asserted that without Tyndale there would have been no Shakespeare. Teems lists several examples of famous quotes from the Bard which are in themselves quotes or at least words borrowed from Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament.

I must confess that I never thought about how powerful an impact it must have been to hear the Word- which a medieval person was to live their entire life around- in their own heart language. For the first time in a thousand years people were reading and hearing God speak to them in their native tongue. The experience must have torn the veil from their Savior’s face. Finally the Gospel was accessible to all and people no longer depended on The Roman Catholic church to tell them what God said.

As Luther did in Germany just a few years earlier, Tyndale revealed to the general populace that scripture made no mention of penance, purgatory, or works-based salvation. The response of the Catholic Church was predictable.

The second part of the book describes Tyndale’s years of hiding on the European continent to escape heresy charges and execution in England at the hands of the Bishops and especially of Thomas More who made it his personal obsession to bring Tyndale to the stake. Teems includes many excerpts from letters and expositions that both More and Tyndale wrote debating each other’s position. Ironically, More and Tyndale died within a year of each other both at the hands of the deranged Henry VIII.

In the conclusion, Tyndale’s betrayal and execution are described as well as his year long trial where Catholic leaders debated Tyndale as he languished in his cold, damp cell. For months they tried to bring him to see the sinfulness of his doctrines: his belief that the Bible should be in lay language for everyone to read and not only in Latin, in the hands exclusively of church leaders.

One thing I found eye-opening was the doctrine that the Catholic Church and the authority of the Pope came before Scripture. Therefore, Scripture could only be interpreted according what the Church leaders said it meant. I don’t know if the contemporary Catholic church maintains this stance or not.

The last part of the book contains a time line of Tyndale’s life and work and a glossary of words that Tyndale contributed to the English language.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the information it provided and the writing style in which it was written. It is comparable to reading a novel along the lines of something written by Hugo or Tolstoy. Teems inclusion of several quotes from famous authors indicate his own influence as a writer.

In conclusion, this book is important for the insight it provides on a little-known but important contributor to the most important Book in the world and I highly recommend it.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson publishers.

Kindle store:  $8.79

For more information on David Teems and his books and worship ministry:

David Teems books on Amazon

David Teems website


  1. I have read about Tyndale while reading about Henry VIII. I think that people's contribution of making the bible available to everyone cannot be minimized. They absolutely changed the world.

  2. I haven't heard about this book before today but it seems interesting :)
    Hope you have a lovely day

  3. Wendy: Definitely a worthwhile read if you like history or linguistics.

  4. This book is right up my alley. I'll need to track this down somehow.

  5. Ryan: If you do, please buy it through my blog so I can get a small (very small) percentage. Thanks for visiting!


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.