Monday, 2 August 2010

God's Bestseller

“God’s Bestseller” is the story of  William Tyndale (c1494 – 1536), the translator of the most formative English Bible  (some 85% of Tyndale’s work remains in the Authorised Version (know in the U.S.A. as the “King James Bible”).
The author of  "God's Bestseller" is Brian Moynahan. His book was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2002.
I grew up in Bristol, U.K.  not very far from the village  North Nibley in Gloucestershire where pious Victorians erected a tower in honour of William Tyndale. (see above)   They thought that he had been born there. In fact he came from nearby Slimbridge.
Not many miles from Slimbridge is the village of Little Sodbury, where Tyndale became a tutor for Sir John Walsh. Walsh’s Manor yet stands.  
 In a former life I sometimes preached in Tyndale’s Chapel (Baptist) in that little village. (The name “Sodbury” derives from two Anglo-Saxon words: sod - meaning  south, and bury - meaning a camp).
(Those of you will good memories from my blog will remember that I worked for four years in the nearby Town of Chipping Sodbury.  The word “Chipping” denotes a market town).
Tyndale is remembered by pious Christians as the great translator, and as a martyr who was burned at the stake.  He should be so remembered.
What has been lost to pious memory is that Tyndale was a most earthy fellow - capable of inventing new words, and also fluent in what today would be called “gutter language”.
He described Bishops as Bishaps (half man, half mishap). He spoke of popery as “popetrie” i.e. “puppetry”. He described the Bishop of Rochester as a “divininite” (half divinity and half ninny).  He renamed Cardinal Wolsey as “Wolfsee”.
Wolsey died after his physician gave him a purgative. Tyndale called it a “shitten death”.  Tyndale said (English modernized) “that for all the worship of (Wolsey’s) hat and glories of his precious shoes (the distinctive hat and shoes of a Cardinal) when he was pained with the colic of a evil conscience he…..  took himself a medicine et emitteret spiritum per posteriora”  (In other words  he farted out, or shit out his spirit from his backside”.
Before we “tut tut” at Tyndale we should note that the Catholic stalwart, Sir Thomas More could also be earthy and crude.  More said that Martin Luther was “merda, stercus, lutum, coenum” (shit, dung, filth, excrement).  He said that Luther was a drunkard, a liar, and ape and an arsehole whom the Antichrist had vomited into the world.

The information in the above italicised section is derived  from Moynahan's  book.
The earthy language of More and Tyndale should help us to remember that modern invective has an ancient provenance.

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