Report on 'Reading Tyndale'

Workshop chaired by Dr. Kristina Bross

Tyndale's language is, above all, meant to be read; and speaking Tyndale's words aloud illuminates the text in profound and unexpected ways. In San Diego, Dr. Kristina Bross conducted two fascinating seminars in which conference participants reviewed a selection of mostly familiar Bible passages, comparing the Tyndale version against the KJV.

Tyndale wrote for the general reader rather than for Classicists. It can thus be helpful to approach Tyndale's language from the perspective of readers addressing the English text, rather than its Greek and Hebrew roots.

Such an approach to Tyndale raises a number of issues: why, exactly, did Tyndale choose certain words over others (and we know that he selected them with care)? What effects did he intend to achieve? What mental and cultural hurdles stand in the way of a 21st-century reader attempting to respond to these Bible passages? Are there undercurrents in these translations that we ignore through over-familiarity?

The seminar-based approach helps to answer these questions. For example, there may have been cases in which the KJV committee made improvements to Tyndale (some might find the KJV's description of the Earth as 'without form, and void' as more atmospheric than Tyndale's 'void and empty'); but we found other instances in which the KJV translators added nothing, or took something precious away.

With Dr. Bross co-ordinating the discussion, we set our sights on Eve's dialogue with the serpent; what a strange passage, becoming stranger with each reading - what exactly is going on between those two? Reading Tyndale aloud reminds us how many standard English phrases have ancient roots; Tyndale likes the expression 'all manner' although the KJV editors deleted it in the passages we examined. We were reminded, also, of delightful words and phrases that have been unfairly lost to us; what a pity we no 'longer say 'cracknel of bread' (now replaced b the boring 'loaf').

These reading workshops deserve to be repeated at future Tyndale events (and the joy is that we have such a huge range of passages to choose from!) Kristina Bross deserves our warmest applause for introducing this major new forum for Tyndalians.

Neil L. inglis

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