From the time we first met David Teems, I have loved this man’s heart, mind and writing. I have followed the trail, both of his words to music and also his poetry and prose — the depth of his soul, the sharpness of his insights and the breadth of his subject matter. These, added to the tender compassion and sensitivity of his art, have culminated in the carefully researched and beautifully written Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice.
Although the wise and humble William Tyndale was elusive and the records of his comings and goings sketchy because he was pursued and often betrayed, Teems carefully chronicles the life and times of Tyndale, creating a fascinating profile of a man intent on his mission, committed to his Master and driven by his passion to give the common person the scriptures in his own tongue. All disservices done in the name of God, all distortions and misrepresentations used to manipulate devotees with scripture into bondage to institutions, he felt, could be changed if everyone could read and know for themselves the Word of God.
Teems paints not only a scholar focused on translating the scripture in its original intention, but a poet who did so with such simplicity and beauty that we still quote and set to memory the perfectly-turned phrases and sentences given to us in the 16th century by William Tyndale.
Perhaps, Teems proposes, it was because Tyndale so identified with the exiles of scripture — Moses, Hagar, Jacob, Paul and indeed Israel itself — aching for home, that he was able to infuse his translation with disarming personal passion. “To be exiled is one thing,” Teems writes, “but to be exiled under threat of death is quite another. But far from having any power to diminish or cripple, the danger enhances…. All the primal instincts are flushed forward…. William Tyndale is alive in ways that were not possible under fairer conditions. Exile and death are a particular boon to his art.”
Teems believably argues that because he was a man hounded and pursued by both the Roman Church and King Henry VIII’s various factions, with no place to really settle for long, the adage “Language is the only homeland” became more true for Tyndale. This was doubly so because he was not only a literal exile, but also the kind of exile all artists know because of what they see and feel — that which makes them artists. Maybe this, too, is what attracted an artist such as David Teems to the pursuit of Tyndale in the first place.
As works of great scholarship and research, and also as beautifully written pieces of art, both the Tyndale Bible and the book about it by David Teems are highly satisfying in content and delivery.