The English Bible’s Debt to Jewish Literature
Page beginning the 'third' part of the Bible, containing the writings and the latter prophets. The Tyndale Bible, ‘Thomas Matthew’ Bible
London, 1549 reprint of 1537 edition
William Tyndale was the first person to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. Tyndale may have learned Hebrew in Germany from Jewish teachers. This Bible contains Tyndale’s banned New Testament and incomplete Old Testament, cut short by his execution in 1536. The task to finish the first complete English Bible fell to Myles Coverdale and John Rogers. The results were Coverdale’s Bible (1535), and then the Matthew Bible (Antwerp, 1537)—published by John Rogers (pen-name ‘Thomas Matthew’). All their work would have been impossible without their use of Jewish literature and Latin guides to them.
Likewise, Martin Luther in his translation of the Hebrew for his German Bible referred to the Targum, Rashi, Moses and David Kimhi, Nicholas of Lyra (a Christian with a supposed Jewish background), and Paul of Burgos (converso).
Tyndale had more of an impact on the English language than Shakespeare. Tyndale gave us ‘let there be light,’ ‘eat, drink and be merry,’ ‘atonement,’ ‘the powers that be,’ and popularized the word ‘thou.’ These words and phrases are due to Tyndale’s Hebrew translation technique. Three-quarters of the King James Version is said to depend on Tyndale.
Tyndale was inspired to create an English Bible by Erasmus of Rotterdam, who prepared much of his New Testament at Queens’.