Let There Be Light

William Tyndale and the making of the English Bible

Exhibit sponsored by and travel arrangements made possible by
        Johnson Chiropractic Clinic, Paxton, Florida
         Johnson Lumber & Supply, Kinston, Alabama
            The Tyndale Society, www.tyndale.org

The Kinston Ruritan Club proudly presented a very special exhibit on the history of the English Bible at the Kinston Town Hall on Sunday 3 December from 12noon till 6:00pm. Although admission was free all donations to the Kinston Ruritan Club were put towards community improvement projects.

The Let There Be Light exhibition was originally put together by the British Library to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the birth of William Tyndale (1494–6 October 1536) the first person to translate the Bible into English from the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. In so doing Tyndale not only gave us our English Bible but also gave us our English language. Only two complete examples of Tyndale’s 1526 English New Testament exist. The exhibit explores Tyndale’s role in producing the first English Bible translated from Greek and Hebrew, and the legacy he left to the language through such phrases as ‘Let there be light’, ‘The powers that be’, ‘Fight the good fight’, ‘Eat, drink and be merry’, ‘The fat of the land’, ‘Signs of the times’, ‘Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’, and ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ What Tyndale did affects the lives of all English-speaking people. For his efforts Tyndale was tied to a stake, strangled with a rope and burned outside a castle near Brussels on 6 October 1536. His crime: Translating the scriptures from Greek and Hebrew into vernacular English so that commoners could read the Bible for themselves.

To celebrate Tyndale’s 500th birthday, the British Library created a first rate show of a breathtaking work. The impressive venture allowed the public to view Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament and other great pieces relating to our English Bible. For 12 months during 1996–97 the exhibition toured outside London and visited three locations: The Huntington Library, Pasadena, California; The New York Public Library, New York City; and The Library Of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The curator for the British Library exhibit was David Daniell, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of London and author of William Tyndale: A Biography, and modern spelling editions of Tyndale’s New Testament, and Tyndale’s Old Testament. Dr. Daniell has written extensively on Tyndale and English Bible history and is considered the world’s foremost authority on this subject. He also founded the Tyndale Society and has authored a definitive text on the history of the English Bible.

Through a special arrangement with Dr. David Daniell, the British Library Let There Be Light exhibit panels made their second appearance in the United States since 1997. A previous exhibition was mounted in Paxton Town Hall, Florida as part of the town’s heritage festival on Saturday 28 October 2000. It was sponsored by the Paxton Ruritan Club. This exhibit is of enormous importance and displays rare historic treasures many people never have the opportunity to see. Items seen are all part of the heritage of the making of the English Bible.

The theme traces the life and work of Tyndale who devoted his life to study and translation of the Bible, spurred by the desire to ‘cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the scriptures than the clergy’. Tyndale’s 1526 translation into common English was simple, direct, and had dignity and harmony. The King James ‘Authorized’ Version of 1611 was taken almost entirely from Tyndale’s translation. According to Dr. Daniell, ‘83 percent of the King James New Testament is Tyndale exactly.’

Dr. Joe Johnson of Paxton, Florida is the curator for the Kinston exhibit and is also working with Dr. Daniell on the first audio recording of William Tyndale’s New Testament. ‘We are deeply appreciative and most grateful to Dr. Daniell and The Tyndale Society for allowing our area to have such an opportunity as this exhibition. It has enabled people to see many of the treasures that make up the foundation of our English Bible – a truly unique opportunity!’

Among the items on display were a 1220 Hebrew scroll, a 1250 Latin Bible manuscript, a page from the first book ever printed – the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, facsimiles of Wycliffe’s 1380 manuscript Bible, Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament, 1560 Geneva Bible – the first Bible to add verse division and the first 1611 King James Bible. There were numerous Bibles spanning the 1500s–1800s including Geneva Bibles, various early King James editions, and a Martin Luther German Bible.

Report by Dr Joe Johnson, November 2000

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