I wonder, would David Blunkett let Tyndale in to England today? Henry VIII certainly didn’t, and had him burnt at the stake (after a merciful strangling) in 1536. I’m not at all sure that Tyndale qualifies as speaking English: whatever language this is, though, it is quite magnificent:
“As ye ēvious Philistenes stopped ye welles of Abraham ād filled them vpp with erth to put ye memoriall out of mīde to ye entent yt they might chalenge ye grounde: even so the fleshly mīded ypocrites stoppe vpp the vaynes of life which are in ye scripture wt the erth of theyr tradiciōs false similitudes & lienge allegories: & yt of like zele to make ye scripture theyr awne possessiō & marchaundice: and so shutt vpp the kingdome of heven which is Gods worde nether enterīge in thē selues nor soferinge them that wolde.
It’s not that hard to translate to modern English. In fact “The greedy hypocrites stopping up the veins of life … with the earth of their traditions, false similitudes & lying allegories just as they try to make the scripture their own possession & merchandise” nails Disney’s lawyers and the software patenters as if it were written this morning.
But there are passages which send me running to the OED. They are mostly a matter of spelling: “Cornell” and “Mary” turn out to be “kernel” and “marrow”, which explains why this Protestant praises the “swete mary” of the scriptures. And there is one word which has defeated me altogether. Tuglinge. It’s an adjective (“tuglinge allegories”). It’s not in the OED; and it wasn’t in Google until I wrote this entry. If any reader knows …
That fierce, murderous eloquence does make me wonder whether the rhetoric of modern Islamists is comparable. I doubt it. The Protestant reformers were for the most part inventing the languages they used. They could do anything. But anyone writing in Arabic today is coping with 1400 years of denunciations of heresy, and it’s most unlikely they could improve on them much.
Reading on, I find that Tyndale not only nailed the lawyers. Someone had told him about the PR for Windows Media Audio too: ” And yet they fayne theyr Idole ye Pope so mercifull / yt if thou make a litle money glister in his Balams eyes / there is nether penaunce ner purgatory ner any fastīge at all but to fle to heven as swefte as a thought and at the twinkellynge of an eye.