He knew that to translate the Bible was to give others an object of joy “which liveth and lasteth forever” (1 Peter 1:23, his translation). He had seen “the lyghte of the knowledge of the glorie of God” in the Hebrew scriptures. Like the prophet Jeremiah (15:16), these words were the “the joy and delight” of his heart. His relationship to Scripture in its original languages was not transactional but transcended duty and entered the realm of delight. Ancient Greek and Hebrew were precious to him because they were the home of Holy Scripture. As the Greek grammarian A T Robertson writes, the Scriptures were “the event where grammar becomes grace”.
Accessing even a little of the Bible in its original languages is an opportunity for a rich experience of Scripture. Put another way, in a vivid analogy used by Robertson: “The freshness of the strawberry cannot be preserved in any extract.” Examining the Greek enables us, for example, to experience Paul in his own words as he describes the invincible hope that he has in Jesus in Romans 8:35-37. Paul writes that the Christian exists in a double condition: always engulfed in conflict and yet completely, utterly triumphant. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [...] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
There is something of a swagger to this passage. Instead of stating his point directly (“you are secure in Christ”) he begins with a rhetorical question: “Who shall separate us?” He is not eliciting new information. He is boasting. Notice his word choice: we are “in all these things”. Paul uses a common container metaphor to depict the Christian as being engulfed by this litany of afflictions. Conflict is our state of life, and yet in the midst of it “we are more than conquerers”. The English phrase translates a single Greek word: ὑπερνικῶμεν (hupernikomen). Paul chose a word used in classical Greek literature (not from the Greek version of the Old Testament) to refer to the way that one person utterly devastates another in a battle to the point of complete and total humiliation. It comes from two words: ὑπερ (huper, “beyond”) and νικάω (nikao, “I am victorious”) and could be translated as “we are utterly triumphant” in English. As the early Church Father John Chrysostom explained: “[the word means] they did not merely conquer, but in a wondrous way” (translated by J B Morris, cited in Frank Thielman’s Romans). What is wondrous about it? It is that even these afflictions “work together for good” (28). Paul is saying in the most graphic way imaginable that God will do more than defeat these enemies, he will humiliate them by using them to “conform us to the image of his Son” (29). Not only will these afflictions fail to separate us from the love of Christ, he says, but they will fail utterly. This is how the triumph of Christian suffering is described –– with an emphatic “No!” to Paul’s rhetorical question. As Joseph tells his brothers in Genesis 50: “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”. Having tasted truth like this, it becomes easier to understand Tyndale’s final request.