William Tyndale: why is his English so memorable?
Tyndale while in exile used Erasmus’ Greek NT, plus Luther’s 1521 September Testament, in German, which took him six months to learn. He had the Vulgate but no Lollard book. Up to 86% of the King James Bible should be attributed to him, despite his execution for heresy. Main source: Moynihan “Book of Fire”.
Familiar Tyndale phrases:
my brother’s keeper
knock and it shall be opened unto you
a moment in time
fashion not yourselves to the world
seek and ye shall find
ask and it shall be given you
judge not that ye be not judged
let there be light
the powers that be
the salt of the earth
a law unto themselves
it came to pass
the signs of the times
the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; like Luther’s translation of Matthew 26,41: der Geist ist willig, aber das Fleisch ist schwach; Wycliffe translated it with: for the spirit is ready, but the flesh is sick.)
live, move and have our being
the word of God which liveth and lasteth forever (Peter 1:23)
(compare NEB “the living and enduring word of God’)
“the uncleane spirit tare him, cryed out with a loud voice and cam out of him.” (Mark’s gospel)
“some seed fell on goode grounde, and sprang up and bare frute, an hundred foolde”
(Matthew 13:8 T used 12 words, MEB needs 17. It is unchanged in KJ.
Tyndale used verbs more than nouns. Moynihan thinks that Greek having variable verb position, while Latin is verb-final, is better for English speakers. Some memorable phrases above have a subjunctive clause.
Lexical bias towards OE: freedom vs liberty
Lexical choice is often monosyllables, but he uses polysyllable at end of utterance
“lest they bid thee again, and make thee recompense”
Esau sold his birthright “for one breakfast”
T introduced new words into the English language; many were subsequently used in the King James Bible, such as Passover (as the name for the Jewish holiday, Pesach or Pesah) and “scapegoat”. He borrowed “atonement” and “mercy seat”.
The effect of using a Greek rather than Latin source includes:
“congregation” for εκκλησία (literally “called out ones”, rather than “church” in the prologue
“elder” for πρεσβύτερος, not “priest”
“repent” μετανοώ, not “do penance”; the Vulgate has “poenitentiam agite”
“love” αγάπη not “charity”, “now abydeth, faith, hope and love, even these thre: but the chefe of these is love”
“overseer” replaced “bishop”
He habitually read aloud, which gives his text a forceful quality. His dialect was Gloucestershire.
He favoured literal meanings, and complained of theologians literall, tropologicall, allegoricall, anagogicall; e.g. “Jerusalem” is used in each sense; he thought the rot started with Origen.
Tyndale later learned Hebrew, but choice of saying aloud “Jehovah” (tetragrammaton) might be irreverent for Jews. He knew no Aramaic: the words messiah, magdalen, golgotha, eliam sabachthani are transliterated without understanding in subsequent bibles.
English borrowings from Ancient Greek have very regular morphology. Medicine in particular assembles morphemes in predictable patterns.
Here are some prefix words of Greek origin where knowledge of pairs of morphemes should prevent confusion:
an-/a- not, without anemic, asymmetric, anarchy
ana-, an- up, against anacardiaceous, anode, analog
ante- before antenatal, antechamber, antedate
anti- opposite, against antagonist, antivenom
apo-, ap- away from, detached aphelion, apogee, apomorphine
peri- around, near or adjacent perihelion, periphrase
cis- on this side of cislunar, cisgender
trans- across, over transatlantic, transverse, transform, transgender
di- two dicotyledon, dioxide
dia- through dialysis, diameter
dis-/di-/dif- apart differ, dissect, divide
du-/duo- two dual, duet
hetero- different heterochromia, heterogeneous, heterotroph, heterozygous
homo- same homogeneous, homoerotic, homophone, homozygous
hyper- excess, above, over hyperthermia, hyperbole
hypo- deficient, under, below something, hypothermia, hypochondriasis
inter- among, between intervertebral, internet, international
intra- inside, within intravenous, introspect
Mental health words are peculiar! Hypochondriasis is literally “below the breast bone”. “Supratentorial” is used as a euphemism for psychological, but there is a tentum in the brain. Some words have Greek roots but novel meanings: scoliosis and kyphosis describe the shape of the spine, but the parts were recycled from other ancient meanings.