Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tyndale - by David Teems

Teems writes weird. By 'weird', I don't mean bad, I just mean 'different'. I wouldn't call this book an account of Tyndale's life, rather, I would call it a 'conversation/discussion' of his life. Perhaps my choice of words seems strange as one can't really have a conversation or a discussion without a participant; but those are the words that come to mind. In a sense, I did feel as though I was participating. Mr. Teems gives you his own thoughts about different events, stating what he finds humorous, and giving his opinion of the various 'characters' in Tyndale's day. You may agree or disagree with what he thinks. He strikes me as a 'one-on-one' teacher; one who gives you, not only the people, time period, events, books and letters that were written, but gets you to think about them, to ponder certain questions, he gets your thoughts rolling.  For instance, he'll give you Tyndale's translation of a certain passage in the Bible and also give you the KJV, NASB, NIV,SCB, translations and have you compare them and then he'll talk about the differences and similarities between them.

I learned a lot from this book. Oddly enough, one of the things I learned is that you can't learn a huge amount about Tyndale's biography. There really isn't much information on Tyndale's life available. To learn about the man, as is made clear in the book, we mainly have his books, letters and Bible translation to go off of. Teems makes good usage of these documents. I like that he'll mention Tyndale's publishing a book, and then take a chapter to 'look' at it. His 'looks' at Tyndale's Bible translation are throughout the book. In one of those 'looks' the author tells you about translation vs. paraphrase in his comparison of Tyndale's translation vs. today's The Message bible. "Representing a more modern appetite, The Message is a clear departure from Tyndale...The translation is upbeat. It is optimistic. It is sincere. And it is certainly readable. These are admirable qualities. But rhapsody has been exchanged for explanation (paraphraseis). .......Robert Alter referred to the phenomenon as the 'heresy of explanation.' (Quoting Alter)'The unacknowledged heresy underlying most modern English versions of the Bible is the use of translation as a vehicle for explaining the Bible instead of representing it in another language, and in the most egregious instances this amounts to explaining away the Bible.' Translation and interpretation are not the same thing, and that is Alter's point. "

Let me mention here a few things that I didn't like. For one, there are some things/topics I do not want to know the details of, in any society. There are some of these unnecessary things scattered throughout the book. Apparently, on rare occasions, Tyndale could be as crude as Luther in his comments about the hypocritical religious people of the day. Also, in my opinion, Teems stressed the 'music/sound/ feeling/rhythm' of Tyndale's writing too much. I would have been fine with a paragraph or two on it's musical quality, how well Tyndale wrote, how simply, I wouldn't even have minded a chapter on it, but it seemed to be one of the main emphases of the author. And, lastly: again, in my opinion, the chapter 'It was England to Him' was entirely unnecessary, even a bit boring. In it, Mr. Teems ponders what it would have been like for Tyndale to have been so far away from his native land (England) by looking at other people's experiences away from home. What was said in that chapter could have been said in one paragraph. But again, that's my opinion.

Now, back to a positive note. In this book, Teems explains that English was considered to be a crude, common language. Latin was the best language, the developed language of the day that was considered fit for the Bible. I liked that it is pointed out that the New Testament translated into the 'common' English language was, "the common Greek(Koine) materialized as common English". I had never thought about it in that way before. Koine Greek wasn't an 'elite' language, it was common, just as English was!

To sum up this look at the life of Tyndale: in reading the information compiled by Teems, It was evident from Tyndale's life that he had a 'working faith', a faith given to Him by God. He wasn't looking at his circumstances, his feelings, his desires, he wasn't focusing on the world around him, He was focused upon God and the tasks that God had given him to do. He knew that life was not about him, but about God.

I'll end with one of the many Tyndale quotes from the book:"Wicked deeds prove that a heart is unfaithful. Unless you are hitting the mark with your deeds, the aim of your soul must be crooked. Your faith should inform every activity of your being."

I received this book as a complimentary copy from BookSneeze® in exchange for my review(which does not have to be favorable).

I review for BookSneeze®