William Tyndale - A Biography (Anglais) Broché – 10 avril 2001
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For many centuries there have been Tyndales in Essex, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and especially in Gloucestershire, where England faces Wales across the wide valley of the River Severn. Lire la première page
Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Tyndale was perhaps one of the most sympathetic characters to arise out of the religious controversies of the English Reformation. This book paints him as a warm, sympathetic character, slow to react angrily in the face of gross provocation, and always replying with more genial wit than vehement heat. A man of monumental learning for his day, he was also a prose stylist of the first water.
It truly is a shame that Thomas More, one of the least saintly saints ever to be named to that company, is well known from stage and screen productions, while Tyndale remains in the dark. As this book reveals, Tyndale was the true hero of human freedom, and his behaviour in the midst of heated controversy sets a fine Christian example for us all.
Attention to his non-biblical books is covered alongside OT, NT and Matthew's Bible and Daniell's scholarly but popular style tells a fascinating story of his sufferings and the ecclesiastical polemics of his day with intrigue and heresy, charge and counter charge.
The Introduction refers to the purchase of his Worms 1526 NT by the British Library for a million pounds as 'the only complete survivor of Tyndale's original print-run', the only other extant copy already in the BL being incomplete, but fails to note the discovery of a third copy in 1996 in the Wuerttemberg State Library, claimed to be 'the only really complete copy' because it has the title page which is absent in the other two.
Tyndales achievement in making a bible available in English has been of enormous importance in the history of England and America. The family bible was a proud possession of families, it was a tool by which children could be taught to read and write. On Sundays families could read it to sustain their faith and to learn.
At the time Tydale undertook his project it was illegal in England to have a vernacular copy of the bible. He had to travel to Europe to undertake his work. Tyndale was in life a kind man who never advocated violence and was regarded as of high character even by his enemies.
He has in modern times been largely forgotten. Ironically his enemy Thomas More is nowadays remembered rather than Tyndale. The book by Daniell illustrates why this is ironic. More was in reality a much less sympathetic character. He was involved in the suppression of the bible, the arrest and punishment of heretics and strongly advocated execution of his religious opponents.
Daniell provides a unique perspective on Tyndale, combining expertise in the history of the English Bible with an intimate familiarity with the development and usage of early English (Daniell's Ph.D. is in Shakespeare, whom he has written and taught on for many years). Having authored modern-spelling versions of Tyndale's New Testament and Tyndale's Old Testament, his familiarity with the details of Tyndale's translation techniques provide valuable insight into the work of this underappreciated contributor to the English Reformation and modern English Bible.
Daniell discusses Tyndales achievement as biblical translator and expositor, analyses his writing, examines his stylistic influence on writers from Shakespeare to those of the twentieth century, and explores the reasons why he has not been more highly regarded.
Like other biographies of Tyndale, Daniell provides detailed information--where it is available--concerning Tyndale's origin, his schooling, and the dates and events which comprise the history of his life. Unlike most other treatments of Tyndale, Daniell is positioned to delve into the details of Tyndale's translational work itself.
Perhaps the most valuable contribution of this biography of Tyndale is the evidence it provides regarding Tyndale's capabilities as an exegete and translator--his craftsmanlike usage of both Hebrew and Greek at a time where in-depth knowledge of the original languages was hard to come by, especially in England.
Daniell notes how Tyndale is often relegated as being secondary in importance to other more visible personalities on the stage at the time of the English Reformation:
"Tyndale is today only known in some po0werful intellectual circles as an annoyance to the blessed Saint Thomas [More], clinging like a burr to the great man's coat, as if Tyndale's life were meaningless without More. Tyndale is indeed, sometimes cited first of all as 'opponent of Sir Thomas More', with the fact that he gave us our English Bible mentioned among the also-rans, as being of little account. That is absurd."
Daniell's treatment of Tyndale does away with this inverted priority and establishes Tyndale as a talented craftsman, both theologically and philologically, among those whom God used to bring forth the Reformation. His contribution to the Reformation in England could hardly be overstated.
Throughout Daniell's treatment of Tyndale, one sees a man who is dedicated to producing the Scriptures in the native tongue of his own land while consistently underestimating the negative reaction his work would engender:
"It is possible for the late twentieth-century reader [of the first page of Tyndale's New Testament] to see it as unexceptional, even mild, and even rather over-obvious, and begin to patronise Tyndale. Yet the page, printed in English in 1525, contained high explosive. Inside the reasonableness of tone, stating the need for a New Testament in English as, to borrow a phrase, a truth universally acknowledged; a truth so obvious that it would be superfluous to explain, and only those who were blind or malicious or mad could deny it, as it would be mad to say that the Bible in English would cause evil, darkness and lying--inside that mildness was found an attack so dangerous that it could only be countered by the most vicious burnings, of books and men and women. These first sentences of Tyndale have a calm that suggests that Tyndale himself does not understand yet that his work, and he himself, will be answered with hatred and burning."
Daniell spends considerable time examining the textual work of Tyndale in light of the sources available to him at the time: the Vulgate, the Septuagint, Luther's works, Erasmus' New Testament, and others. He makes a convincing case that Tyndale was not overly dependent upon these other works, but like any good translator, made use of them where and when it made good sense. He pays particular attention to various lines of evidence which show that Tyndale was not slavishly dependent upon Luther:
"The question must now be put: how much of all of that Hebrew-into-English in Genesis is Tyndale's own work? Is it not, as has so often been said, cribbed from Luther? The answer, for example, in that passage from Genesis 42, is absolutely not."
On other occasions:
"Tyndale sometimes follows Luther closely in grammar and vocabulary. That is not surprising given the limited nature of the Hebrew grammars and lexicons available. The brief comparisons here, however, have shown Tyndale independent in passages in Genesis, and a strong case begins to emerge for detaching Tyndale from Luther even more firmly as translator of Hebrew."
As an authority on Shakespeare and the usage of early English, Daniell provides great service in an analysis of Tyndale's translational style. Daniell believes that Tyndale's translation work wed a careful knowledge of the original languages together with a overriding desire to render the result in an English which was understandable.. He gives copious examples throughout the work which bring this point home. Thus, Tyndale's translation method could be to said to stand somewhere between formal equivalence (a close adherence to the words of the original) and dynamic equivalence (taking some liberty with the words in order to better convey the sense of what is being said). With few exceptions, Daniell favors Tyndale over the work of alternative translators.
As Tyndale continued his translation work in the Hebrew of the Old Testament--which was to be interrupted by his untimely martyrdom, his visibility of the Hebrew idiom and thought behind the Greek of the New Testament improved. This contributed to changes in his revision of the New Testament published in 1534.
Daniell is no unattached scholar examining the history of Tyndale's time at-a-distance. He correctly understands the importance of Tyndale in the events of his day and the enduring value of his work both as evidenced in the reality of Protestantism in our day and the heritage of the English Bible. The many hours that Daniell has spent in the presence of Tyndale through his works is evident in his reaction to Tyndale's untimely death:
"We have, at this point to utter a cry of grief. It was a scholar of this towering stature, leading all Europe in his knowledge of Greek, matched now by an equal command of Hebrew, uniquely gifted in tuning the sounds of the English language, who had achieved so much but who still had some of his greatest work to do, who was, soon after this, by a vicious, paltry and mean villain tricked to death. It is as if Shakespeare had been murdered by a real-life jealous Iago half-way through his life, and the great tragedies had never been written. Had Tyndale gone on to the poetic books and prophecies of the Old Testament, we should not only have had them in English far surpassing Coverdale's: we would surely also have had even finer tuning of the New Testament, so much of which is directly entwined with those very poems and prophecies. Tyndale's 1534 New Testament is a triumph; but another New Testament, after another eight years or so, would surely have followed. As Tyndale constantly notes, the work of translation never ends."
Daniell's biography of Tyndale may be unique in the balance which is given to both the historical setting of Tyndale's life and the philological work of the man in translation. Considering the countless hours which Tyndale must have spent and the priority of his translation work in his own mind, this approach to understanding Tyndale provides great balance. The result is an enduring thankfulness for the sacrifices and dedication of this English Reformer who paid the ultimate price so that we might have the Bible in our vernacular: English. We highly recommend this book which will appeal to those with an interest in the events of the Reformation, the history of the English Bible, or an interest in Bible translation in general.
Considering the importance of his contribution, both to Christianity and to the English language, there are surprisingly few biographies written about William Tyndale. In the introduction to this biography, Daniell claims that "there has not been a full-scale study of him for nearly sixty years, since J.F. Mozley's biography of 1937." This leads him to conclude that "there is need for something more modern, especially as the quincentenary of Tyndale's birth in 1494 is widely celebrated." Of course this date passed some twelve years ago, for this volume was printed in 1994. Daniell fills this need with William Tyndale: A Biography.
The outline of Tyndale's life is well-known. He was, as you may know, a brilliant man who was the first to make and print a translation of the Scriptures from the Greek into English. His translation formed much of the basis for what was to become the King James version. In that way, his work continues to be in use today and is still precious to many believers. Of lesser significance, many of the words and phrases he coined, such as my brother's keeper, passover and scapegoat are still in use, even five centuries later. He dedicated his life to the great work of translation which eventually totalled all of the New Testament and the first two sections of the Old. He gave his life for the privilege of translating Scripture and was eventually martyred for the "sin" of giving the Scriptures to the common man in a common language. It is a great tragedy that his life was taken before he was able to complete the remaining books of the Old Testament and, in particular Proverbs, Psalms and other books of poetry.
Surprisingly, for a man of his stature, relatively little is known about Tyndale, for he spent many years of his life toiling in secrecy and obscurity. This book represents a compilation and analysis of most of the important facts available to historians. Many gaps remain, but it seems unlikely that we will ever know significantly more than we do today.
Perhaps the best way of describing this biography is "thorough." This is not a book for the feint-of-heart. While it is only slightly over 400 pages, it is, nonetheless, very thorough and sometimes tough-going. Thankfully, Daniell is a capable writer and he does a very satisfying job of making relevant even what may seem, at first glance, to be mundane. Beyond merely relaying the facts of his subject's life, the author expends great effort in understanding the sources Tyndale used for his translation and the results of his dependence upon particular texts. He examines particular words and phrases Tyndale chose to use, showing him to be a master communicator with a gift for expressing himself with great clarity. He describes even the religious and social implications that arose because of Tyndale's work. Truly Tyndale's influence extended far beyond a simple translation of the Bible.
I was particularly glad to see that Daniell endeavoured to present Tyndale as something more than merely the opponent of Sir Thomas More. Tragically, More has gone down in history as a noble and just man, but the reality is that he was anything but. He proved his lack of character time and again through his bitter hatred of William Tyndale. There is much more to the life of Tyndale than his ongoing confrontations with More and Daniell is careful to document this.
William Tyndale: A Biography was as thorough and interesting a biography as I could hope to read. It was not always easy to read, but it was well worth the effort. I would not hesitate to recommend it.
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