A Concordance for Tyndale

Work is progressing apace on the first-ever concordance to the modern spelling editions of Tyndale's Bible. Hopefully the concordance to the New Testament will go to press in 1996 and a CD-ROM version will be issued at the same time. The intention is to produce a concordance that can be used alongside concordances to other versions of the Bible. Deborah Pollard is working on the paper version and Ian Thain will be working on the CD-ROM version.

A concordance is an alphabetical index of the words in a text with their immediate contexts. For the Bible, book, chapter and verse references are also provided. The concordance is perhaps the most basic Bible study tool. Prose works also benefit from the provision of a concordance and in due course work will hopefully begin on Tyndale's treatises.

There are two underlying assumptions in the creation of a concordance. One is uniform spelling. If there are variant spellings, the enquirer is at a loss to know all the different forms to look up. Such a concordance would be cumbersome and frustrating to use. The appearance of Tyndale's Old and New Testaments in modern orthography eliminates this problem. The second expectation is a reference tag for the text containing the word of interest, so that the enquirer can look it up. Tyndale's Bible does not show verse divisions. Instead, Tyndale followed the practice of his day in labelling sections with a capital letter in the margin. Verse divisions did not enter the English text until the Geneva Bible: the New Testament in 1557 and the complete Bible in 1560.

There were 2 concordances produced before the Geneva Bible's verse numbering. The delightful title of the second one by John Marbecke in 1550 tells us that it is possible to use marginal capitals: ‘A Concordance, that is to saie, a worke wherein, by the ordre of the letters of the A.B.C., ye may redely finde any worde conteigned in the whole Bible.’ What he did about spelling, I do not know. For the present concordance however, verse numbers have been quietly added. Versification is such a strong (and useful) convention and indexing each word merely by Tyndale's section capitals would make it difficult to compare with other versions of the Bible. Much of the time and effort going in to produce the concordance has been in inserting the verse divisions and checking them. The Authorised Version serves well as the master and only once or twice has it fallen down in that its order of phrases differs significantly from Tyndale's rendering.

When constructing a concordance the major question to address is: What will the concordance be used for? Modern language concordances are typically used to:

  1. find a forgotten verse or passage
  2. trace themes
  3. study word use
  4. study principles of translation

For Tyndale's versions this order should perhaps be rearranged. The phrasing, choice of words and the sentence patterns of early 16th century, English may be of greatest interest to scholars (no. 3). Reading through Tyndale's testaments one senses that Tyndale used many of our smaller words in a different manner from the way we do today. He seems to have fewer definite and indefinite articles. He puts ‘an’ in front of words beginning with ‘h’. Is this because the first syllable is stressed or was the ‘h’ sound lost? His use of relative pronouns differs too. Tyndale uses ‘which’ where we would put ‘who’. He seems to use ‘that’ more than we do today. At least twice he has written ‘that that’ (1 Thes. 5:4 and 2 Thes. 2:3); jarringly awkward. There are unusual pairs of words. He writes ‘because that’ where we would simply use ‘because’ and ‘for to’ where we would use just ‘to’. For this reason the concordance will be an exhaustive one, that is, every word will be indexed. Although this feature will make the concordance quite large, scholars of English language should find it more helpful.

‘Looking up a forgotten word or phrase’ (no. 1) changes to 'looking up a word or phrase for comparison with other versions of Scripture.’ Because Tyndale's version would only be familiar to present day readers through the Authorised Version and is not used for devotional reading, it is felt that the concordance is likely to be used alongside others. For this reason and because there is no verse numbering within the text, it is thought best to display each keyword in as meaningful a context as possible rather than within a set number of words. Every effort is being made to make the concordance readable so that scholars may trace themes, too (no. 2).

When Robert Young published his ‘Analytical Concordance to the Bible’ between 1879 and 1884 he opened a new dimension to scholars by putting down the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek originals and distinguishing connotations and the shades of meaning. This treatment exposes the principles underlying a translation (no. 4) and could be applied to the Tyndale Bible concordance but publication would be greatly delayed. If there is demand, the work could be carried out for a second edition(!) of the concordance.

The publication of the Tyndale Bible concordance should mark an important stage in the study of early sixteenth century English and the theology of William Tyndale. The modern spelling text with verse divisions will exist in electronic form for further studies. Once the Bible concordance has been completed, a concordance for Tyndale's other texts should go ahead. Should anyone wish to expedite the present Bible concordance, please get in touch with me through the Tyndale Society. It is too much to ask anyone to mark verse divisions but there is a need for proof-readers. The concordance is being produced as a set of mini-concordances, one on each book. This is partly to aid proof-reading. So here is your chance to get a mini-concordance of your favourite Tyndale Bible book free. It is not too late to make suggestions for the concordance either if anyone feels something is amiss with the current plan. Further details of the concordance should be available at the conference in September. A short paper for the conference is also in the pipeline.

Deborah Pollard

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