Rare 500 year-old Tyndale Bible up for auction

by Vanessa Rodriguez |

(Tyndale Society Twitter)William Tyndale knew seven languages and is credited with completing the first English New Testament translated from the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts in 1526.

LONDON (Christian Examiner) -- A rare, nearly 500 year-old Bible purchased at a second hand bookshop, is expected to go for tens of thousands of dollars at Sotheby's auction in London in July.

The historic book is a copy of the first Bible printed in English, The Guardian reported. A William Tyndale translation of the New Testament, the Bible carries a 1537 print date -- only one year after the scholar was condemned a heretic and executed for his works that went against the traditional doctrine of the Roman Catholic church.

According to the Tyndale Society, the first completed English New Testament was translated from the ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts 11 years prior in 1526. It was also the first English New Testament to be mass produced using the printing press. However, copies of the book discovered in Britain were burned and the only Bible read in church was in Latin.

The current owner reportedly purchased the historic Bible for 25 shillings as a student in Cambridge during the 1960's. That converts to about $1.97 today, yet the auction price is expected to reach $55,000.

Peter Selly, a Sotheby's book specialist, claimed the artifact held value well beyond its religious nature and credited Tyndale with influencing the language and vernacular through his translation. Examples of phrases Tyndale introduced that are still used today can be found on the The Tyndale Society  Twitter page.

"It's not just the religious aspect, it's the contribution to the English language. A lot of people have said 'no Tyndale, no Shakespeare'. He transformed and had a great gift for the English language," Selly said.

Selly told The Guardian the original owner of the book only recently realized the monetary value of the Bible.

"People have always had this idea of coming across a really valuable thing in a bookshop. This seems to have happened here."

On June 17, an eight-page excerpt from the Book of Esther in a famous Gutenberg Bible auctioned for $970,000 above the pre-sale estimate of $500,000 to $700,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The pages are from one of the first books printed on the Johann Gutenberg printing press in the 15th-century. In the 1920's, the book was divided and sold in fragments.