The translator’s gift

Daily Reading for October 6 • William Tyndale, 1536, and Miles Coverdale, 1568, Translators of the Bible

Doubtless, like as all nations in the diversity of speeches may know one God in the unity of faith, and be one in love; even so may divers translations understand one another, and that in the head articles and ground of our most blessed faith, though they use sundry words. Wherefore methink we have great occasion to give thanks unto God, that he hath opened unto his church the gift of interpretation and of printing, and that there are now at this time so many, which with such diligence and faithfulness interpret the scripture, to the honour of God and edifying of his people: whereas like as when many are shooting together, every one doth his best to be nighest the mark; and though they cannot all attain thereto, yet shooteth one nigher than another, and hitteth it better than another; yea, one can do it better than another. Who is now then so unreasonable, so despiteful, or envious, as to abhor him that doth all his diligence to hit the prick, and to shoot nighest it, though he miss and come not nighest the mark? Ought not such one rather to be commended, and to be helped forward, that he may exercise himself the more therein?

For the which cause, according as I was desired, I took the more upon me to set forth this special translation, not as a checker, not as a reprover, or despiser of other men’s translations, (for among many as yet I have found none without occasion of great thanksgiving unto God;) but lowly and faithfully have I followed mine interpreters, and that under correction; and though I have failed anywhere (as there is no man but he misseth in some tiling), love shall construe all to the best, without any perverse judgment. There is no man living that can see all things, neither hath God given any man to know everything. One seeth more clearly than another, one hath more understanding than another, one can utter a thing better than another; but no man ought to envy or despise another. He that can do better than another, should not set him at nought that understandeth less. Yea, he that hath the more understanding ought to remember, that the same gift is not his, but God’s, and that God hath given it him to teach and inform the ignorant. If thou hast knowledge therefore to judge where any fault is made, I doubt not but thou wilt help to amend it, if love be joined with thy knowledge. Howbeit, whereinsoever I can perceive by myself, or by the information of other, that I have failed (as it is no wonder), I shall now by the help of God overlook it better, and amend it.

Now will I exhort thee, whosoever thou be that readest scripture, if thou find ought therein that thou understandest not, or that appeareth to be repugnant, give no temerarious nor hasty judgment thereof; but ascribe it to thine own ignorance, not to the scripture: think that thou understandest it not, or that it hath some other meaning, or that it is haply overseen of the interpreters, or wrong printed. Again, it shall greatly help thee to understand scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and unto whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth after. . . .When thou readest scripture, be wise and circumspect; and when thou comest to such strange manners of speaking and dark sentences, to such parables and similitudes, to such dreams or visions, as are hid from thy understanding, commit them unto God, or to the gift of his Holy Spirit in them that are better learned than thou.

From the Prologue to the translation of the Bible by Miles Coverdale (1535); found at

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