The medieval Christian church, in contrast, taught that access to the Bible should be controlled by the church through the priests and that the only legitimate Bible was the Latin Vulgate translation that had been in use in the church for a thousand years—though very few Christians could read it. Tyndale knew that the original Hebrew and Greek texts, in the words of the ancient prophets and Apostles themselves, were more authoritative than any man-made translation could be.
Using editions of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament that only recently had appeared in print, he undertook the first English translation of the Bible from the original languages. In addition to being a courageous Reformer and advocate of religious freedom, Tyndale was also a master linguist and wordsmith. His goal was to make the Bible so accessible that every plowboy in England could own and read a copy. And he knew that the manuscripts in those languages that were closest to the writers’ originals should be the sources from which translations should come.In general, their work succeeded best when they followed the original languages and Geneva (and hence Tyndale); it succeeded least when they remained true to their instructions to follow the Bishops’ Bible.Awkward passages from the Bishops’ Bible survived in many instances, as in Matthew : “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (compare with “The day hath enough with his own grief” [Geneva], and “The day present hath ever enough of his own trouble” [Tyndale]). But in other instances, the translators wisely abandoned the Bishops’ Bible and followed Geneva instead, often improving upon Geneva’s wording.The Geneva Bible (1560) was translated and published by exiled Reformers who had fled to Protestant Switzerland to avoid persecution in Britain when it was under a Catholic monarch.
It was an excellent translation that, for the most part, was a revision of Tyndale.On the whole, the language of the King James translation is strongest in the Gospels, where it is most firmly based on the genius of William Tyndale.It is least strong in the Old Testament prophetic books, which Tyndale never translated.The translators worked patiently through all parts of the Bible, scrutinizing every passage.The outcome was the most consistent and carefully produced of all the English Bibles to that date.When the King James Bible was published in 1611, it included an eleven-page, small-print introduction titled “The Translators to the Reader.” That work, rarely included in Bibles now, makes the translators’ strong case for the necessity of publishing the Bible in the contemporary language of its readers.