William Tyndale was perhaps the most influential English author ever, and I believe it is partially due to his Twitter-like style.
Most people aren’t aware of the huge debt the English speaking world still owes Tyndale for his English translation of the Bible from the original manuscripts. Harold Bloom said that the “only true rival of Shakespeare was Tyndale.” And David Daniell adds that “Tyndale, through English Bibles, has reached an even greater number of English readers than Shakespeare.”
I have been listening to a biography called Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice by David Teems. I am galloping through this book; its Turkish Delight for a Bible Scholar’s soul!
One of the things that stood out to me about Tyndale’s translation style is what Meeks calls “The Heresy of Explanation.” To put it simply, the Heresy of Explanation happens whenever a translation of the Bible attempts to explain the text rather than translate it. Although I love The Message translation, this kind of paraphrase is cited by Meeks as an example of the Heresy of Explanation. The Message takes all the joy of discovery out of the Biblical text because the reader is not challenged to engage Scripture in the same way when everything is explained. This doesn’t mean that Tyndale tried to hide Scripture’s meaning; on the contrary, he made it his goal to make his English translation as readable as possible.
To make his Bible accessible for the average reader, Tyndale always aimed for simplicity in style. Here are some quotes from Meek’s book which make me think Tyndale would have liked Twitter, especially in the way it forces people to simplify:
- “Tyndale refused to add ornamentation or any unnecessary weight or flourish that might exclude the general reader.”
- For Tyndale, “simplicity was the first order of style, and yet a simplicity that was both sage and penetrating–an informed simplicity.”
- In his translation “he avoided obscurity at all costs. In other words, it was better to be plain and approximate than perfect and obscure.”
Tyndale’s simplicity is only one element that made his style so powerful, but it is a style we should strive to copy.
What do you think? Are there other historical persons who you think would have liked Twitter? Let us know in the comments.
- Always Singing One Note—A Vernacular Bible: Why William Tyndale Lived and Died (DesiringGod.org). This is a biographical sermon on Tyndale’s influence by John Piper. If you don’t have time to commit to the full biography, start here; I bet you will want to read the full biography!
- Would Abraham Lincoln use Twitter? (joshchalmers.wordpress.com)
- That Silly Microchip in your Brain (joshchalmers.wordpress.com)