October 6th marks the anniversary of the death of William Tyndale. He believed that everyone should be able to read and understand the Bible in their own language. He started translating the New Testament in 1523, but after the church authorities tried to prevent it, he moved to Germany, where he completed the New Testament. It was printed in Cologne. The first copies were smuggled into England in 1526, where it was immediately condemned.
Tyndale started work on the Old Testament, but was captured in Antwerp before it was finished, condemned for heresy, and executed. At the time of his death, 18,000 copies of his New Testament had been printed.
The last version was half the size of his first attempt and cost just five days’ wages for a skilled labourer. A few centuries before, when a complete Latin Bible would have cost fifteen years’ salary for the same man. A century before Tyndale, an English Bible might still cost around two year’s wages. Now, for the first time, the Bible was more affordable and understandable.
I found myself wondering about the language we use today, and how we communicate our belief in the good news of the gospel to others who have grown up knowing nothing of church. If someone has the courage to enter our buildings for the first time on Sunday morning, would they understand the words we use, words that we take for granted, such as “intercession”. We assume that people know the Lord’s prayer, the hymns, or what to do at Holy Communion. How can we make it easier for people?
Something to think about, perhaps, as we enter a month of harvest and memorial services when we may have many who don’t usually attend our services.