First printed Bible in English

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  • Intro

    William Tyndale’s Bible was the first English language Bible to appear in print. During the 1500s, the very idea of an English language Bible was shocking and subversive. This is because, for centuries, the English Church had been governed from Rome, and church services were by law conducted in Latin. Most people in Europe were unable to speak Latin, and so could not understand the Bible directly. The Church therefore acted as the mediator between God and the people, with Priests interpreting the bible on behalf of their congregations.

     

    By Tyndale’s day, vernacular Bibles (those written in local languages) were available in parts of Europe, where they added fuel to the fight for the Reformation, a political crisis that resulted in the splitting of Christianity into Catholic and Protestant Churches. But in England it was still strictly forbidden to translate the Bible into English. Tyndale believed that ordinary people should be able to read (or listen to) the Bible in a language they could understand, but his Bible was highly illegal. The book was banned and Tyndale was eventually executed. An astonishing number of Tyndale's translated phrases are still in use today, including:

     

    'flowing with milk and honey'

    'the apple of his eye'

    'signs of the times'

    'broken-hearted'

    'eat, drink and be merry'

    'the salt of the earth'

     

    In the audio tab Moira Goff, head of the British Section 1501-1800 at the British Library, gives a personal view on the Tyndale New Testament.

  • Audio

    Can't play the file above? Listen to the audio clip here

Find out more about the First printed Bible in English Here

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