The English Bible Before Tyndale -- By: Chad Owen Brand

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 15:4 (Winter 2011)
Article: The English Bible Before Tyndale
Author: Chad Owen Brand

The English Bible Before Tyndale

Chad Owen Brand

Chad O. Brand is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at Boyce College. Dr. Brand is the author or editor of a number of books and articles, having co-edited Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Holman, 2003), edited Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views (B&H, 2004), Perspectives on Election: Five Views (B&H, 2006), co-authored (with David Hankins) One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists (B&H, 2006), and contributed to the recent Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views on Romans 7 (B&H, 2011).

The English language is a hodge-podge, largely for historical reasons. The name comes from the Angles, a “Germanic” people that immigrated to the island in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. Their removal from their homeland to their new home was facilitated by the evacuation of “England” by the Romans, who had conquered it in A.D. 43 under emperor Claudius and named it Brittania Province. By the middle of the fifth century the Romans were everywhere in retreat, the last blow coming in A.D. 476 when the last emperor, Romulus Augustus (an ironic name) was deposed by an army led by the mercenary Odoacre. Into the void left by the departing Romans, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes streamed across the North Sea and became the new masters of the world that had for centuries belonged to various indigenous Celtic peoples.

The new masters brought with them their languages, various forms of Old German, and unlike the Romans they remained, eventually bringing nearly all of “England” under their control during the ninth-century reign of King Alfred.1 These languages became enmeshed with the indigenous tongues of the earlier inhabitants of the land.2 In the meantime, England had linked (not altogether willingly) its version of Celtic Christianity with that of the rising papacy in Europe, and so the Latin of that church increasingly impinged on the language that was slowly evolving in the land of the Anglo-Saxons. Close proximity to (and regular war with) France brought influence from the several languages that were spoken there, most of them derivatives themselves from Latin. Hence, the hodge-podge.3

It was King Alfred who first sought to have parts of the Bible translated into the evolving English tongue.4 But it would be a very long time before the...

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