Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Receiving the Bible for the First Time

Leslie: Imagine never being able to read the Bible in your native language. What kind of joy would you feel when receiving the translation for the first time?

Nancy: Just over a year ago, the Kimyal tribe of Papua Indonesia was given the gift of having the New Testament in their own language for the very first time.

While I was preparing for this series, someone sent me a link to a video that captures the intense join of the Kimyal people when the long-awaited shipment of New Testaments finally arrived. I found myself in tears as I watched their celebration.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, May 4.

Nancy: Well, this year we’re celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. It was first published in 1611.

We’re talking in the series not just about the King James Bible, but more broadly about the gift of God’s Word and the incredible gift of not only having God’s Word, but having it in our own language. For most of us, our mother tongue is English. To have the English Bible is a privilege we have today that people didn’t have for centuries in the past.

So we are looking at some of the history of the English Bible. I hope you don’t get bogged down. Some of you say, “I’m not into history, into all these names, into all these dates.” But you don’t have to remember the names and dates. But I want you to get a fresh sense of wonder and awe of what it took for us to get these many copies. I’ve got two sitting here right in my stand—copies of Bibles in English. I’ve got scores more in my study at home.

But there was a heavy price paid for us to have the Bible in English. I want us to grow in our appreciation of that. One of the books that I have been using as a reference for this series is a book by Donald Brake that’s called, A Visual History of the English Bible. I love that it is visual because you have pictures of these old, early English translations.

But the subtitle on this book on the history of the English Bible, I thought, was particularly intriguing. The subtitle is, The Tumultuous Tale of the World’s Bestselling Book. The tumultuous tale—and it is a tumultuous story because of political and religious leaders who in the Dark Ages were often the ones who were threatened by the idea of people being able to read the Bible for themselves. They did everything possible to keep it from happening.

So we have juxtaposed against that the courage of men like John Wycliffe, who we talked about in our last session, who were determined to get the Bible into the hands of the people against the opposition of the organized church and the political system of the day. Because, these men like Wycliffe knew that if the people could hear and read the Bible for themselves, it would set them free from spiritual darkness and tyranny.

So John Wycliffe was one of the first of those reformers who were intent on getting the Bible into the language of the people.

Then we come to another one of those great men—those heroes of our faith when it comes to how we got our English Bible, his name was William Tyndale. He was another of those men raised up by God—Tyndale, in the first part of the 1500s. Tyndale was a brilliant scholar. He was equally fluent, they say, in eight languages. He studied the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew at Oxford .

Remember, for years and years—hundreds of years—those languages had not been studied. They had not been available. There were no Greek and Hebrew texts available. Well, by this time, those texts had come to light, and Tyndale studied the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Scripture.

Tyndale was committed to evaluate every teaching of the established church in the light of Scripture—not just what traditions say, not what respected scholars think, what are their opinions, but what does the Scripture say?

As he read and studied the Scripture, this fire began to burn in his heart and he developed this lifelong mission to translate the Bible from the original languages—the Greek and the Hebrew—into English. It had never been done before. Remember, Wycliffe’s Bible had been translated from Latin into English. But now Tyndale set out to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into English.

Well, as you might imagine, as we’ve been saying over the last couple of days, there was enormous opposition in the church in England to putting the Bible in the hands of lay people. Tyndale was known to have had an argument at one point—I understand it was rather heated—with a clergyman who supported the official church position that only clergy were qualified to read and interpret the Scripture. Tyndale got rather incensed. He was angry over this, and he said what became a famous quote. He said,

If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!

When word got out about Tyndale’s English New Testament project, many set out to arrest him and to stop him from completing the work. So in 1524, he was forced to flee to Germany, and even there he faced physical threats. He had to flee from one city to another, taking his work with him.

It was a year or so after Tyndale escaped to Germany that the Tyndale New Testament was first released. This was significant because it was the first printed edition of the Scripture in the English language. Remember, previously it had been handwritten. Now it was the first printed edition of the Scripture in the English language, and it was the first New Testament translated directly from Greek, rather than the Latin.

Well, over the next five years, 15,000 copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were smuggled from Germany to England in bales of cotton, in sacks of flour. They were smuggled into England because, remember, it was illegal to read the Bible in English or in any language other than Latin. The Bishop of London was terrified of Tyndale’s translation.

The church was concerned that if the people could ever read the Bible for themselves, it would spell their downfall—the downfall of the established churches. The people’s eyes would be opened to the truth and to the corruption of the church. They were concerned that the church would lose its power; it would lose control, and maybe most importantly, it would lose income from the sale of indulgences that were supposed to buy people’s way out of purgatory or earn them the favor of God.

Church authorities in England banned and confiscated Tyndale’s New Testaments wherever they were found. There were public burnings of the books, but copies kept getting in. It seemed that the more fiercely the King and the Bishop opposed the Bibles, the more interested the lay people became and the greater the demand, and Tyndale’s New Testament became a bestseller.

Now, Tyndale stayed in Germany and set out to begin translating the Old Testment and began making revisions on his New Testament.

Shortly after finishing his final revision on the New Testament, Tyndale was betrayed to the authorities by a man who had pretended to befriend him but intended to turn him in. So Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned for 15 months near Brussels. He was finally tried and condemned to death. He was strangled and burned at the stake on Oct 6, 1536. His final words were a prayer, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” That prayer was answered three years later when King Henry VIII finally approved and funded the printing of an English Bible.

How much we owe to faithful, brave men like Tyndale. Men who labored, sacrificed, suffered, and in some cases gave their lives so that we could have the Holy Scriptures available in our own language.

There’s no way to overstate Tyndale’s influence. By the end of his life, the Bible was no longer just available to priests and clergy, but to the common man, including the boy behind the plow in the fields! His translation heavily influenced the King James Bible which was published some 85 years later. It is estimated that 90% of the 1611 King James Version is essentially Tyndale’s translation.

Within a short period of time after Tyndale’s New Testament, three other translations had been released. Now, keep in mind that the English language was still in a state of flux. The language was changing and so translations were becoming more clear. These three other translations were all derivatives of Tyndale’s translation. I don’t expect you to remember what these are called or the details about them, but let me give you for the next few minutes a snapshot, an overview of those three other translations that followed Tyndale’s. It’s an interesting progression all of which was a trail leading up to the King James Bible.

Miles Coverdale was a man who, like Tyndale, believed everyone should be able to study the Bible in their own language. He finished the work Tyndale had begun before his death of translating the Old Testament. So in 1535 the Coverdale Bible was released.

And then another man was named John Rogers, who was another associate of Tyndale. Because Tyndale was so reviled, Rogers published under a pen name, Thomas Matthew. Rogers revised Tyndale’s New Testament and combined it with the work Tyndale had done on the Old Testament before his death and the books of the Bible that Coverdale had translated and added some of his own editorial notes and published in 1537 what became known as the Matthew’s Bible

By this time the Matthew’s Bible had come out in the 1530s, the religious and political climate in England had changed. King Henry VIII had broken ties with the Roman church because the Pope refused to give him permission to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. Henry proceeded to marry his mistress anyway and broke off ties with the Roman Catholic church and declared himself not only the head of State, but also the Head of the Church in England. This started what became known as the Church of England or the Anglican Church. To spite the authority of Rome, Henry funded the printing of the first legal English Bible.

The King ordered that every church should have a copy of Scripture on hand, and that,

Ye shall discourage no man . . . from the reading or hearing of the . . . Bible, but shall expressly provoke, stir and exhort every person to read the same, as that which is the very [living] Word of God.

Now there were many church leaders who found the notes in the Matthew Bible offensive, and King Henry VIII wanted a Bible that the clergy would find more acceptable, so he commissioned Miles Coverdale (who had already published the Coverdale Bible) to publish a new Bible without notes from the Matthews Bible. And in 1539 and the Great Bible, so called, was published. This was the first English Bible authorized for public use. One writer put it this way,

The Bible in the English vernacular, now "approved to be read," by official edict of the king, created a lasting thirst for Englishmen of all classes. Everyone was caught up in this new delight. They either read it themselves or had it read to them. Many began the process of learning to read just for the enjoyment of reading the Bible. It is impossible to imagine the first reading of the Scriptures and the impression it made upon their hearts.

That quote brings to mind this quote from the Holy Scripture, where the prophet Jeremiah says in chapter 15 in the book of Jeremiah:

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (v. 16).

As we have been talking about, over these last few days, how we got our English Bible and the treasure that is for us, my heart has had an increasing burden for millions of people on the planet today who still have no Bible in their language, in their mother tongue.

Today there are more than 6900 languages spoken in the world. There are almost 2100 language groups who do not have a single verse of Scripture available in their language today. 340,000,000 people speak those 2100 languages.

Just over a year ago, the Kimyal tribe of Papua, Indonesia was given the gift of having the New Testament in their own language for the very first time. A missionary named Rosa Kidd and her national helpers had spent 15 years on the translation.

While I was preparing for this series, someone sent me a link to a video that captures the intense joy of the Kimyal people when the long awaited shipment of New Testaments arrived. I found myself in tears as I watched their celebration. We posted a link to that 10 minute video on ReviveOurHearts.com. I hope you’ll go there and watch the whole thing.

But for today, our team has prepared a condensed audio version to give you a sense of what that historic day was like for the Kimyal people.

 

Leslie: The Kimyal Tribe of West Papua, Indonesia sang “Jesus Loves Me” in their native tongue as they waited for a bush plane that was flying overhead. That plane was delivering a valuable package. They’d been waiting for this package for many years—the very first copies of the Bible in their language.

[Tribe singing: “Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.”]

Voice for Semea (Kimyal Pastor): In the past, only part of God’s Word was translated into our language.

Leslie: This is Semea, a pastor from the Kimyal tribe.

Semea: But now we’re going to have it from Matthew to Revelation. Our hearts are no longer heavy, they are light!

Rosa Kidd (Bible Translator): It says in the Gospel of John that, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (1:1).

Leslie: This is Rosa Kidd, one of the Bible translators.

Rosa: And Jesus is that Word, and Jesus is coming. And we need to be there to meet Him. It blew me out of the water. I thought, “Lord, this is how we know that it’s you doing something here.”

Leslie: Once the Bibles were taken off the bush plane, one of the Kimyal pastors began to pray in a loud voice before all the people gathered around the makeshift landing strip.

Kimyal Pastor: We’re getting ready to pray. Everybody close your eyes. O God. O God. The plan which you had from the beginning regarding your Kimyals, which already existed in your Spirit, the month that you had set, the day that you had set, has come to pass today.

Oh my Father, my Father. The promise that you gave Simeon that he would see Jesus Christ and hold Him in his arms before he died. I also have been waiting under that same promise, O God. You looked at all the different languages and chose which ones will be put into Your Word. You thought that we should see Your Word in our language. Today, the day you had chosen for this to be fulfilled, has come to pass. O God, today, you have placed Your Word into my hands, just like you promised. You have placed it here in our land. And for all this, O God, I give You praise.

Leslie: When they finished praying, translator Rosa Kidd says that the older believers spontaneously handed the Bibles to the younger believers gathered there. One of the older women said . . .

Rosa: “We have taken God’s Word, we have accepted it, we’ve put it into our hearts, and now we are going to give it to you young people who need to also take it and accept it and walk with God as He teaches in this Bible.”

So, they handed it off to the younger believers and the crying and the sobbing that took place there was just, it was something totally unexpected to me. I knew they would be happy, but the emotion that came out was just so overwhelming to me.

I thought, “We have no idea.” We have had the Word of God for so long. We have taken it for granted. We have resources, we have translations, we have all these different things, and we don’t cherish them. We don’t realize what a precious gift we have and hold in our hands. And these guys were realizing that and saying, “God you’ve come to us through the Word.”

Voice for Welega (Bible Translator): Today we have received our reward for that which we have worked.

Leslie: This is Welega, one of the men who translated the Bible in the Kimyal language.

Welega: Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” Today, I’m reaping the fruit of the burden that I carried over this work. And I am rejoicing and all the people with me!

Rosa: The Kimyals have always had a love for the Word. They know the Word; they can quote the Word. They’re very good at memorizing. We’ve had one lady that has memorized whole books. And she’ll sit there and as she talks with you, she’ll quote 3 or 4 or 5 verses at a time. And so they love the Word of God. And just to see them with it . . .

Leslie: For years, Sisir, one of the pastors in the tribe, had to use Bible translations from four different languages to teach the people. Now that he has the entire Bible in the Kimyal language, you can hear the joy in his voice.

Voice for Sisir (Pastor): Before when I taught God’s Word, I used the Indonesian Scriptures, I used the Dani Scriptures, and I used the Yali Scriptures. I used the Nalca Bible to teach the Word. I’ve been doing that how many years? On March 16, when God’s Word came to Korupun in the Kimyal language, it fell down to us into our hands,
so that was like a weapon in my hand. I don’t have to translate it. It’s ready to use. I don’t have to look at the other books and translate it. That just made me so happy that I can just straight away teach it.

Leslie: As the tribe carried these priceless first copies of the Bible back to their village, they all joined in chorus singing, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And Pastor Semea summed up what many in the tribe were feeling on this momentous occasion.

Semea: It has come to us Kimyals, and we have received it, held it in our hands and placed it in our hearts. Because of this our hearts are very happy.

Leslie:
I hope you’ll watch the video of the Kimyals receiving God’s Word. You can do that by visiting our website, ReviveOurHearts.com.

After hearing those joyful voices, I will be a lot less likely to take it for granted the next time I pick up the Bible in my language.

This entire series has been like this—giving us a fresh appreciation for what it means to have copies of the Bible that we can read for ourselves.

If you appreciate hearing the Word of God valued and explained on Revive Our Hearts, you can thank listeners who give to make the program possible. When you provide a gift of any amount, we’d like to send you the CD, Hidden in My Heart.

Now, Nancy, you’ve been telling your friends about this CD. What reaction have you gotten when recommending a lullaby CD to people who don’t have young children?

Nancy: Oh Leslie, it’s been incredible! A man wrote me to tell how meaningful this CD is to him and his wife. Now this is a couple with no children at home. But the Scripture on this CD has meant so much to them, and they’ve listened to these songs over and over.

Song:

Love the Lord your God
With all your mind,
With all your strength.

This CD will get God’s Word into your heart. It will refresh and encourage you. It will calm your spirit. It will help tether your heart to God’s Word.

We’ll send you Hidden in My Heart when you send a gift of any size this month to Revive Our Hearts. I want you to know that your contribution really will make a difference. The summer months usually are a stretching time to the ministry, since financial support typically decreases during that period. We’re asking God to provide $350,000 here in May so we can make it through the lean summer months without having to scale back on ministry outreaches.

Some dear friends of Revive Our Hearts know how important response is in the month of May. And they also know that many people have listened to Revive Our Hearts for years without investing back into the ministry. So these friends have offered to match the gifts of every new supporter, up to a challenge amount of $60,000.

That means if you’ve never made a contribution before to Revive Our Hearts, your gift will be doubled. And remember, whether you’ve given before or not, we’ll send you the CD Hidden in My Heart as our way of saying thanks. Ask for Hidden in My Heart when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: What English translation of the Bible was the first to be brought to America? It wasn’t the King James Bible. Nancy will tell you tomorrow. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.