For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5:10-11 (King James Version)
Any preacher, worth his salt, struggles through Holy Week and Easter. He labors hard, prays hard, hoping to communicate clearly the sublime mystery of the cross. He longs to tell others as best he can what it is that Christ did on the cross. But the preacher is not alone in this; theologians and the greatest of minds have wrestled for centuries to plummet the depths of the cross. What is it that Jesus did for us on the cross? How do we best communicate the wonder of it all to the world?
Someone who has helped me to get a little better hold on the meaning of the cross is William Tyndale (1494-1536). While Tyndale is hardly a household name today, he is a surely a hero. He was the first person to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament into English. He gave us the English Bible!
Fluent in seven languages Tyndale’s life passion was to make the Bible available for every person in England to read, even the simplest “plow boy”. Yet for this Tyndale faced great opposition and was strangled to death at the stake, his dead body then burned. Tyndale’s dying words were a prayer, “God open the eyes of the King of England!” But Tyndale’s labors live on after him as his translation of the Bible became the basis for the King James Bible.
As Tyndale translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English he found it necessary to rework some older English words, as well as to invent new ones. It was after all Tyndale who gave us new English words like “Passover”, “scapegoat”, “mercy seat”, and “Jehovah”. Many common English phrases we use today were actually coined by Tyndale; phrases such as, “fight the good fight”, “twinkling of an eye”, “the powers that be”, “the salt of the earth”, “my brother’s keeper”, “signs of the times”, and, “it came to pass”.
As Tyndale labored over the Bible in its original languages he saw that sometimes there was no exact English word for what he wanted to translate. There was no direct translation for concepts like “reconciliation”, “ransom”, “justification”, “pardon”, and “expiation”. These were all concepts having to do with what Jesus did for us on the cross.
As Tyndale desired to be as faithful and precise as possible in translating what the cross of Christ meant, he found it necessary to invent a word. No Greek, Hebrew, Latin, or French word would do. He must come up with a new one. So he did! He coined the word, “at-one-ment”. Tyndale understood the cross as making us “at-one” with God.
He saw in Scripture that no man or women could “at-one” or make “at-one-ment” with God. Only God can make “at-one-ment” or atone for our sins. In his book, A Pathway into the Holy Scriptures, Tyndale writes of sinners through the cross being “loosed, justified, restored to life and saved, brought to liberty and reconciled unto the favour of God, and set at one with him again.”
Here is peace for troubled hearts! Peace for anxious, guilty souls longing to be one with God. Christ has already done it! “It is finished!” Through the cross of Christ God has reconciled the whole world to Himself, not counting our sins against us (II Corinthians 5:19).
Look again to the top of the page and ponder today’s wondrous text: “…we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” At-one-ment is God’s gift for you and me through the cross of Christ! Be at peace!
Grace and peace through the cross,
P.S. Here is how William Tyndale’s translation looked in the language of his day:
For yf when we were enemyes we were reconciled to God by the deeth of his sonne: moche more seinge we are reconciled we shal be preservid by his lyfe. Not only so but we also ioye in God by the meanes of oure Lorde Iesus Christ by whom we have receavyd the attonment. Roman 5:10-11