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William Tyndale

image: William Tyndale was burnt at the stakeWilliam Tyndale was burnt at the stake in on 6 October 1536 on the orders of Henry VIII.

Who was William Tyndale and why was he put to death?

William Tyndale was the first person to translate and print the Bible in English when he translated the New Testament. Fluent in at least 7 languages, he translated much of the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew sources. This act was strictly forbidden.  However, breaking the law did not stop Tyndale as he believed passionately that every man, woman and child in England should be able to read the bible in a language which they could understand.

In Tyndale's day the Bible was only available in Latin. The Old Testament was first written in Hebrew and the New Testament in a dialect of Greek. As the official language of the medieval Church was Latin. Church services were conducted in Latin throughout the Christian world, and translation of the Latin Bible into the local language anyone could understand, was actively discouraged.

Printing of Tyndale's English New Testament began in 1525 and by the following year copies were being smuggled into England. William went into hiding and began work on a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into English.

On 6 October 1536, he was strangled and then burned at the stake. His translation of the Old Testament remained unfinished at his death, but formed the basis of the 'King James' version of the bible.

Only one complete copy of this first edition is known to exist, and the British Museum paid $2 million for it in 1948! 


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