Bible translations and influence on English language

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      John Wyclif of the fourteenth century (a contemporary of Chaucer) is considered the first translator of the Bible. St Paul's notable image "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" in the opening of 1 Corinthian, chap 13 shows a wonderful skill in the English translators. Early translators including Wyclif made little choice of words. Tyndale's translation (1526) of the Greek New Testament is remarkable, clear and accurate. His "Babble not much" for the Greek me battalogesete was a better rendering of a difficult expression (Matt. VI. 7) than the Authorised Version's 'use not vain repetitions'. However, the Authorised version's rendering has remained in the literary language.

Tyndale's gift from phrasing shown in his rendering of the Old Testament has passed through the 1611 Bible into the English language.
Bible translations

     The Authorised version of the Bible made by the direction of King James I in 1611 has been the great influence in phrase-making. But the earlier versions have also left their mark. The Anglican Prayer-book first issued in 1549 had been of influence on the Authorised version. In the Lord's prayer as recorded by St Mathew, the Authorised version has "Forgive us our debts", but the Anglican Prayer Book, taking its rendering from Tyndale's New Testament has "Forgive us our trespasses", (trespass is a word from Old French). The word trespas, a legal term has got a wider currency. The word scapegoat came to use through its coinage by Tyndale in translating a Hebrew term. The phrases Prodigal son, mess of pottage which are Biblical came into the English language not through any rendering of scripture, but through chapter-heading in Pre-Authorised version Bibles. The phrase Sweat of thy brow which is now well-known seems to be a variation of Sweat of thy face (The Book of Genesis III.19). Sweat of thy brow seems to have survived from the Lollard versions of the Bible.

      Tyndale and Coverdale were great phrase-makers. Coverdale's Bible (1535) from the German and Latin follows the style of Tyndale. Coverdale's tender-hearted and loving kindness (Psalm 89, 33) have passed into the English language. The phrase iron path entered my soul has come from Douai Rheims Bible of the Jesuits. The Authorised version has remained a major influence on the literary language in its phrase, syntax and simplicity of style. The Authorised version made a compromise between literalness and colloquialism which is found in Tyndale's translation. It makes the language more dignified for some aspects of divine revelation. But a few archaic words were revived and made permanent in the language as for example, damsel and raiment.

      Tyndale's gift from phrasing shown in his rendering of the Old Testament has passed through the 1611 Bible into the English language. Tyndale had rendered the beauty and strength of the Hebrew poetry. The now familiar phrases from the Authorised version: the burden and heat of the day (Matt. XX,12), eat, drink and be merry (Luke XII, 19), the powers that be (Romans XIII, I) and the fatted calf (Luke XV 23) are all the phrases of Tyndale. However, the Authorised version replaced some of Tyndale's literal rendering of technical terms. Such words are senior or elder for priest (Greek presbyteros), Congregation for Church and favour for grace (Greek Charis). Much of the vast enrichment of meaning in the English word charity has come from its restoration, as against Tyndale's love (Greek agape, Latin Caritas) in the famous passage in I Corinthians XIIL. Tyndale gave to the language the phrase glad tidings which has remained - "to the poor is the glad tidings preached". The Authorised Version has 'to the poor the Gospel is preached".

      The Bible has great influence on English prose-rhythm and phrasing as well as on many images and verbal echoes. Many writers have modelled their prose styles on the Bible, notably Bunyon, Newman. Even the spoken language has the verbal echoes of the Bible. The expression: "I wash my hands of the whole business" is an unconscious echo of a Biblical image Pilate's action of washing his hands in public (Matt XXVII, 24). Vulgar expressions like gone to kingdom come have been suggested by the Lord's Prayer. The phrase cared for none of those things comes from the account of Gallio in Acts XVIII, 17. It is important to note that the two verses (chap II, 11 and 12) of The Song of Solomon in the Authorised version, two phrases occur which have become a part of the literary language "the rain is over and gone", "the voice of the turtle is heard". The first phrase occurs in Wordsworth's poem, Lines written in March and the second phrase occurs in a recent American play entitled 'the voice of the Turtle'. Very few have noticed this connection.

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