Frye in Symbolism in the Bible:
Already in the Middle Ages, the question had arisen of translating the Bible into the vernacular (or modern) languages. It was resisted by authorities of the Church establishment, partly because the issue very soon got involved with reform movements within the Church. One of these reform movements was led in England by John Wyclif, a contemporary of Chaucer in the fourteenth century. His disciples, working mainly after his death, produced an English translation of the entire Bible, which was of course a translation of the Vulgate Latin text, not of the Greek and Hebrew. Nevertheless, the Wycliffe Bible became the basis for all future English translations. In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation broke out in Germany under Luther, and one of Luther’s major efforts to consolidate his position was to make a complete German translation of the Bible, which became among other things the cornerstone of modern German literature.
Similar efforts were made in England. Henry VIII, you remember, declared himself to be head of the Church, but didn’t want to make any alteration to Church doctrine, so he amused himself in his later years by executing Protestants for heresy and Catholics for denying his claim to be head of the Church. Thus, William Tyndale, the first person to work on the translation of the Bible into English from Greek and Hebrew sources, was a refugee and had to work on the Continent. Eventually he was caught by Henry’s goon squad and transported back to England where he was burned at the stake along with copies of his Bible. Henry VIII, with that versatility of intention which is often found in people who have tertiary syphilis, had begun his reign by being called “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope, because he had written a pamphlet attacking Martin Luther–that is to say, his minister Sir Thomas More had written it but Henry had signed it. However, as “Defender of the Faith,” he changed his mind about what faith he was going to defend, and in the last years of his reign the English Bible in the hands of various other translators, including Miles Coverdale, had become established as the official Bible for the Church of England for which he was now the head. (CW 13, 420)