How to use this site    About Us    Submissions    Feedback    Donate    Links - School Assemblies for every season for everyone

Decorative image - Secondary

Email Twitter Facebook


A Good Read!

The world’s bestseller

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the origins of the Bible’s translation into English.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a Bible – a variety of different versions would be helpful.
  • Optional: you may wish to show part of the YouTube video ‘John 1, Latin Vulgate’, in which case you will also need the means to do so. It is 11.33 minutes long and is available at: 
    Alternatively, you may wish to ask a student to prepare a reading from the Latin text, with a second student reading the same verses in an English translation. The Latin version is available at:


  1. Ask the students, ‘What is the bestselling book of all time?’

    You may wish to ask the students to discuss their answers in small groups or with a partner before listening to a range of responses.

  2. Show the Bible to the students.

    Point out that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time. It consists of 66 different books, with two distinct sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament speaks about the time before Jesus was born, and the New Testament tells us about the time of Jesus, the spread of Christianity and the start of the Christian Church.

  3. After Jesus had returned to heaven, his disciples continued to spread the news about him. Gradually, Christianity started to spread throughout the world. People from many different nations began to follow the teaching of the Christian Church. At that time, Rome was still the great power that governed the world, and the Roman leaders insisted that the Bible should only be read in Latin, the Roman language. This meant that whenever the Bible was read in churches or homes, most people had no idea what was being said.

  4. Optional: you may wish to show part of the YouTube video ‘John 1, Latin Vulgate’ to enable the students to listen to part of the Bible being read in Latin.

    Alternatively, you may wish to ask two students to read a few verses from the Bible, one in Latin and one in English.

  5. Things started to change in 1494, when a baby called William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire. When he grew up, he became a clergyman, but he became increasingly  concerned that only well-educated people could understand what was said in the Bible. Tyndale believed that the Bible was God’s message to the world, and he knew that God would want poor people to understand what the Bible was saying just as much as he wanted rich people to.

    Tyndale shared his thoughts with other clergymen, but none of them agreed with him. In fact, they labelled Tyndale a heretic who was against the Church. Some of the clergy even stated that it was more important to do what the Pope (who was based in Rome) said, than to do what they thought God said.

    When church leaders opposed what he believed, Tyndale said, ‘I defy the Pope, and all his laws. If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than you!’ In other words, Tyndale would fight to make sure that even a simple peasant boy would have a better knowledge of the Bible than the leaders of the Church in Rome!

  6. Tyndale was determined to translate the Bible into English and, eventually, he fled to Germany, where he hoped that he could work on the translation in secret. The first English translation of the complete New Testament was published in 1526, and copies of Tyndale’s translation were smuggled into England the following year. The church leaders were furious, but they didn’t know where Tyndale was hiding, so they could do nothing to stop him in his work. Meanwhile, Tyndale began to translate the Old Testament.

  7. In 1535, Tyndale was betrayed, arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorde, in Belgium. A year later, he was found guilty of heresy and burnt at the stake. His last words, shouted loudly from the stake, are reported to have been, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

  8. Within four years of Tyndale’s death, Henry VIII had ordered four English translations of the Bible to be printed in England, all of which were based on William Tyndale’s original translation. His life had not been wasted!

  9. About 70 years later, King James I commissioned a new English translation of the Bible. This would use all of the new advances in translating from Hebrew and Greek texts, and would be written in a way that was accessible to everyone. In 1611, over 400 years ago, the King James Version, also known as the Authorized Version, of the Bible was printed. At last, the Bible was available to everyone, no matter what their social standing, just as Tyndale had dreamed.

Time for reflection

Since then, the Bible has been translated into thousands of different languages and is still the bestselling book of all time. We are privileged that people like William Tyndale were willing to give up their lives to fight for our right to read and understand the Bible. Tyndale shows us the importance of standing up for what we believe to be right, even when everything seems to be against us.

Tyndale started by translating the New Testament because he knew that it was easier for people to understand. Other parts of the Bible are more difficult to follow. If anyone is reading the Bible for the first time, it is probably a good idea to start in the New Testament, rather than the Old Testament.

Ask the students, ‘Is the bestselling book of all time worth a read?’

Challenge the students to read the Bible for themselves and see why Tyndale was so determined that it should be available for all.

Dear God,
Thank you for people like William Tyndale, who were willing to fight for the rights of poor and uneducated people.
Please give us hearts that love people who are less fortunate than we are.
Please give us the courage to stand up for causes that we know to be right and fair.


‘The Lord’s Prayer’ by Hillsong Worship, available at: (5.56 minutes long)

Publication date: September 2022   (Vol.24 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
Print this page