April 2005: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Submitters Perspective

Page 2


Cont’d from page 1

Tyndale realized he would never be able to achieve his goal in England. It was too dangerous. He had fallen under the scrutiny of Sir Thomas More, who would relentlessly pursue him for years, believing Tyndale to be a dangerous heretic who deserved to be burned at the stake. So Tyndale went to Germany in 1524. He lived in exile for the next 11 years, moving secretly from place to place, always knowing he was in danger of being betrayed.

By the spring of 1536, copies of his translation of the New Testament began arriving in England, smuggled in quietly and quite ingeniously. Anyone caught importing these books would be imprisoned at the very least. But the demand was high. They brought the books into England hidden in among cloth-making cargoes, with tools and cannon, glassware and foodstuff, stacked in barrels labeled wine or oil and hidden in sacks of flour. They would sell out as soon as they arrived, even though they had to be sold clandestinely. People were hungry for the word of God.

The first page of his translation of the New Testament is an elaborate wood cut, a full page, very intricate illustration. It shows St Matthew dipping his pen in an inkpot held by a young angel. As the Quran says: Read, in the name of your Lord, who created. [96:1] NuN, the pen, and what they (the people) write. [68:1]

Tyndale then turned his attention to the Old Testament. An earlier translation of the first verses of Genesis read: In the first made God of nought heaven and earth. The earth forsooth was vain within and

void, and darkness were upon the face of the sea and the Spirit of God was born upon the waters. And God said, Be made light, and made is light.

Tyndale chose to write in recognizable English: In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the water. Then God said: let there be light and there was light.

What a gift it must have been to not only being able to read the book in one’s own language, but to have it clear and understandable. I feel the same way when I compare Rashad Khalifa’s translation to all previous translations. It’s very freeing to be able to study and learn from the scripture. Yet there are traditional Muslims who tell you that the Quran must be read in Arabic, and Friday (Juma’a) services are conducted in Arabic even before an English speaking audience. Just as these early Catholics conducted all services in Latin—Mass, baptism, readings from the Bible—though the audience didn’t speak or understand a word of Latin.

What does the Quran tell us about translation?

If we revealed this to people who do not know Arabic. And had him recite it (in Arabic), they could not possibly believe in it. We thus render it (like a foreign language) in the hearts of the guilty. [26:198-200]

So the Quran must be translated and the language is irrelevant:

If we made it a non-Arabic Quran they would have said, "Why did it come down in that language?" Whether it is Arabic or non-Arabic, say, "For those who believe, it is a guide and healing. As for those who disbelieve, they will be deaf

and blind to it, as if they are being addressed from faraway." [41:44]

And verse14:4 tells us that God means for us to be able to understand His messengers when they come:

We did not send any messenger except (to preach) in the tongue of his people, in order to clarify things for them. God then sends astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills. He is the Almighty, the Most Wise.

William Tyndale was finally betrayed and captured in Antwerp in 1535. He was charged with heresy and kept in a prison for over a year before being formally condemned as a heretic and sentenced to die. As a nobleman he was spared the horrible punishment of being burned alive at the stake. He was strangled and then his dead body was burned, as a warning to others.

But by then the tide was turning. For his own personal reasons, King Henry VIII had turned away from the Catholic Church. It was losing influence and power. The demand continued to have the scripture available in English, so several translations were undertaken. Most translations relied heavily on the work Tyndale had begun.

I think it’s most interesting that the thing the Catholic leaders feared the most—that people would realize the discrepancy between the way the Bible preached the faith and the way it was practiced—never materialized. Reforms were made, but not in the major areas of the divinity and idolization of Jesus, celibacy of priests, the trinity, and the concept of intercession. In the end, it’s only God who guides. It’s clearly His command that the religion should be made easily available to everyone.

Cont'd on page 3