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God's Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible---A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal Hardcover – August 23, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The story of William Tyndale's translation of the Bible is familiar. Caught up in the Reformation's efforts to provide ordinary readers with the Scriptures in the vernacular, Tyndale set out to produce a faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Old and New Testament. As journalist Moynahan points out in this exhaustively detailed biography, Tyndale's desire to complete such a translation brought him into conflict with the king and his court, for the fruits of the Reformation had yet to make their way into England. Thus, Tyndale set out on a life of self-imposed exile in Germany and Amsterdam, where he translated and printed his Bible. As his work made its way into England-thanks in large part to Anne Boleyn's advocacy-Sir Thomas More, one of England's most active heretic hunters, attempted in every possible way to have Tyndale tried as a heretic. Moynahan recounts the oft-told story of Tyndale's subterfuge and his remarkable contribution to the history of Bible translation while recreating the political and religious intrigue of early 16th-century England. Moynahan captures well More's hatred of Tyndale, whom he called "a hellhound in the kennel of the devil," as well as Tyndale's burning desire to contribute to God's work through Bible translation, even if it meant death at the stake. As Moynahan points out, Tyndale's translation still exists in the King James Version, since his words account for 84% of its New Testament and 76% of its Old Testament.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The Bible contains few stories more compelling than the one Moynahan tells here: the saga of how William Tyndale defied Church and King--at the eventual cost of his own life--to translate and print Holy Writ in English. In a narrative taut with tension and alive with fiery personalities, Moynahan chronicles the improbable career of the Oxford scholar who risked everything to produce a vernacular version of Scripture. When ecclesiastical opposition frustrated his translation work in England, Tyndale journeyed to the continent, there enduring 11 years of privation and danger as he translated and published the New Testament and much of the Old Testament, soon smuggled to eager English readers. Shrewd detective work enables Moynahan to track the fugitive during these difficult years, when royal and ecclesiastical agents frequently attempted to ensnare him. But in his most astonishing feat of sleuthing, Moynahan discovers that the man who masterminded Tyndale's eventual capture and execution was probably the renowned saint Thomas More, who himself died beneath the executioner's ax for opposing Henry VIII's divorce. Though he acknowledges that Tyndale and More shared ironically similar views of the king's matrimonial maneuvers, Moynahan generally accentuates the sharp contrast between the fearless champion of individual conscience and the ferocious foe of heretics. A gripping historical drama. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 23, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312314868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312314866
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By E. E Pofahl on March 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The author, Brian Moynahan, notes that William Tyndale's translation of the Bible "....fathered what is probably the best known and certainly the most quoted work in the English language." A 1998 analysis of the King James Bible, found Tyndale's words account for 84 percent of the New Testament and for 75.8 percent of the Old Testament. The text observes that Tyndale believed English "corresponded with scripture better than ....Latin ...." The text narrates how Tyndale through faith and sheer determination translated the Bible into the English language.

The author provides a most interesting narrative of the sixteenth century printing and publishing industry in Europe and England. The printing/publishing industry in England was small and closely controlled by the Church and government. However, Lutheran books and tracts were coming into London from Germany and the Low Countries in large number and on a rising scale. This was a concern to the government and the Catholic Church in England. Thomas More began a vigorous campaign to squelch religious reform persecuting heretics and condemning them to death by burning at the stake. For his part, Tyndale began an enthusiastic and dangerous public duel in writing with More.

Though a scholar with a Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from Oxford Tyndale related to average men who "shared ideas with him, ....made a natural constituency for reform, and ...were brave." He adopted the Reformation's efforts to provide common readers with the Scriptures in English and resented the Church's ban on translation of the Bible into English. He planned to translate the Bible, but was unable to find a patron.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Hickey on October 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a gripping, immensely readable tale of intrigue and ironies, set in one of the most fascinating periods in Western history. As depicted by Moynahan's carefully unsensationalistic prose, Thomas More comes off as a foreshadower of Cromwell, worthy of the obsessed villains in Dumas and Hugo, while Tyndale and his underground reformers are endearingly quirky, courageous, and astonishing in their martyrdom. Catholics and Protestants alike indulge in virulent righteousness, while intrigues involving the influence of one of Henry VIII's wives further spices the sauce. Moynahan is equally expressive in his appreciation of Tyndale's textual contributions as well, enthusiastically exploring their semantic subtleties. As I read it, I fancied consulting the author about turning his book into a screenplay, but have settled simply for teaching the text to my adult college students this coming Spring.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
God's Bestseller is the second biography of Tyndale I have read this year and one of only a few produced in recent decades. Written by Brian Moynahan, the subtitle provides a glimpse of the author's emphases: "William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible--A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal." Less-scholarly than David Daniell's William Tyndale: A Biography, God's Bestseller is also more readable, as evidenced by the Mail on Sunday's endorsement which suggests it is "almost worthy of LeCarre."

Though William Tyndale died almost 500 years ago, we continue to read and enjoy his Bible. The first man to translate Scripture into English, much of Tyndale's language and vocabulary continue to used commonly within the church and without. He coined words and phrases such as My brother's keeper, passover and scapegoat. Other commonly used phrases include let there be light, the powers that be, my brother's keeper, the salt of the earth and a law unto themselves. His mastery of English, though the language was still in its infancy, was unparalleled in his age. "In the begynnynge was the worde, and the worde was with God: the the word was God. The same was in the begynnynge with God. All thinges were made by it and with out it was made nothinge that was made. In it was lyfe and the lyfe was the lyght of men. And the light shyneth in the darknes but the darknes comprehended it not." Those verses passed into the King James and subsequent translations almost untouched.

Tyndale's mastery of the language is evident in passages of Scripture he was able to translate only in part before his untimely death. Read aloud these passages from Song of Solomon as they were written by Tyndale and then by the writers of the King James.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By charles falk VINE VOICE on March 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
GOD'S BESTSELLER recounts the remarkable life of William Tyndale, one of the founding fathers of English Protestantism and perhaps the second most influential writer in the English language. Brian Moynahan gives the reader more than a simple biography. He enumerates church abuses that triggered the Reformation, gives brief sketches of the "bible men" who preceded Tyndale (Wycliffe and Luther), and, for good measure, demolishes the popular image of Sir Thomas More, Tyndale's nemesis. Moynahan can be generous with ancillary details because little is known of Tyndale's life after he fled Britain in 1524.
Wycliffe produced the first complete bible in English, but he and his assistants translated from the Latin Vulgate text, then in use throughout the Christian world, into an English that was nearer Chaucer than Shakespeare. Tyndale, who studied at Oxford and Cambridge, translated the New Testament and much of the Old Testament from earlier Greek and Hebrew texts. Eighty years later his simple, colorful language found its way , almost intact, into the King James Bible. It was Tyndale, Moynahan says, who first wrote "Those great rolling phrases that boom through the English-speaking mind..." The Lord's Prayer we recite is Tyndale, the Beatitudes are Tyndale, as are "eat, drink and be merry...", "Death where is thy sting." and a hundred more. A 1998 study found that 84% of the King James New Testament is identical to Tyndale and more than 75% of the Old Testament. Moynahan says, "Where the King James strays away from him, Tyndale is often both more vivid and more plain." Example: the King's scholars changed Tyndale's "...for as ye judge so shall ye be judged." into "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged...
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