The first hand-written English Bibles were produced in 1380 by a man named John Wycliffe. Wycliffe was an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian.
He produced dozens of English copies of the scriptures. All of them were translated from the Latin copy of the bible which was called the vulgate, which at that time, was the only source text available to Wycliffe. And this made the Pope so mad, that the Bible was printed in a common & vulgar language that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, the Pope ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river! And he was branded at that time – a heretic.
One of Wycliffe’s followers was a man named John Hus, and he actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible.
Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, and instead of wood, they used bibles printed in English to burn him with.
The last words of John Hus were, “in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose call for reform cannot be suppressed.” It turns out John Hus was a prophet.
And almost exactly 100 years later, Martin Luther would fight for the cause to translate the bible into the language of the people. But even that same year, 7 people were burned at the stake for the crime of teaching their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English rather than Latin.
Which brings us to a man regarded as the Captain of the Army of Reformers; William Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, he was fluent in eight languages, including French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish . It was said Tyndale could fool anyone so much so that he could fool anyone into thinking it was his native tongue.
William Tyndale is sometimes referred to as the “Architect of the English Language”, (even more so than William Shakespeare) because many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today. For example:
- lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
- knock and it shall be opened unto you
- twinkling of an eye
- a moment in time
- judge not that you not be judged
- let there be light
- the powers that be
- my brother’s keeper
- the salt of the earth
- a law unto themselves
- and it came to pass
- gave up the ghost
- the signs of the times
- the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
- live and move and have our being
- and fight the good fight
We have all of those phrases in our language because of Tyndale
And yes, at the time of Tyndale it was still illegal to have an English copy of the bible.