The William Tyndale Old Testament

Before the King James Version of the Bible, there was William Tyndale’s ‘heretical’ text. It was the first direct translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into English and was thus a great threat to church power when it was published in the early 16th Century.

As much as it was a triumph of personal courage and a revolutionary act against the established church, it was also a literary triumph. In the first paragraph of Genesis, we learn that:

The earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the deep.

We also hear character through dialogue, as when Eve worries that eating from the tree in the midst of the garden will mean certain death, and the serpent replies: “Tush, ye shall not die”

Much that is beautiful in the King James Version comes directly down from Tyndale, but the reverse is not true. The raw poetry of Tyndale was sometimes fluffed up or expurgated by the King James translators and much meaning and beauty was lost.

The Tyndale Bible is hard to find, but there is an excellent modern spelling edition by David Darnell published by Yale University Press, and some of the books are also available in Project Gutenberg.