Bible Translation Today
The consensus is in: Bible translating is a very difficult job and, considering his situation and what he had to work with, William Tyndale did a remarkable job. Many reputable translators today acknowledge that Tyndale’s work was an amazing accomplishment, and are full of examples as to why the task he undertook was so difficult in his time, as well as today.
Why, not even considering the numerous persecutions he endured, Tyndale’s task and mission were difficult enough: almost certainly with no other English version of the Scriptures to refer to (Wycliffe’s hand-written version from a century before was almost certainly not available to him), and using only very limited Greek, German, Latin and Hebrew sources, he almost single-handedly translated some two-thirds of the Bible into English. His linguistic work is even more laudatory because so much of it has stood the test of time.
Without any earlier version to set precedents, he had to make thousands of personal judgment calls in choosing “just the right words” or expressions to best convey the meanings of the original text. Sometimes he could find no equivalent English expression, so he would coin new words to get to the heart of the meaning. For example, his coinage of the phrase “loving-kindness” to express the meaning of the Hebrew word hesed used so often in the Old Testament.
His translating skill and verbal sensitivity are obvious, and not only in the fact that the “Authorized” or King James Version’s translators used about 90 percent of Tyndale’s choices. His genius is further confirmed by the fact that, in several cases where the KJV translators chose to disregard Tyndale, later translators with more manuscript backing chose to go back to Tyndale’s choices. A good ...