Posts Tagged ‘William Tyndale’

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer ...

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Česky: William Tyndale (portrét ve Foxeově Knize mučedníků) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“If God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”
–William Tyndale (1494-1536)


Perhaps you’ve heard of Tyndale Publishing, best known for The Living Bible?

Then perhaps you’ve heard of William Tyndale, after whom the company is named. He’s been called by some “the Father of the English Bible.” His passion was to get the Bible into the hands of the common man.

You see, several centuries before his time, the Church Council of Toulouse (in France, 1229) forbade the use of the Bible by ordinary people. The Pope and priests felt that the common man could not understand the Bible, that clergy were the only ones who could properly interpret scripture.

Actually, Tyndale was not the first person to translate the Bible into English. That honor belongs to John Wycliffe, who lived in the 1300s. He translated from Latin into pre-renaissance English.

But Gutenberg hadn’t invented the printing press yet. All copies of Wycliffe’s translation had to be written out by hand.

Tyndale was perfectly suited for the task God gave him. He was skilled in seven languages: ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and English. By the time Tyndale was ready to pursue his dream, the printing press had been in use for almost seventy-five years. So Tyndale sought permission and financial backing from the bishop of London to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into post-renaissance English. Permission was denied.

That didn’t stop Tyndale. He traveled Europe, looking for a place to settle. Worms, Germany, a Lutheran city, became his home.


English: John Wycliffe in his study

English: John Wycliffe in his study (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I can’t help but notice: German was not on his list of known languages. The right location may not have been a comfortable choice for Tyndale, but it was God’s choice.

By 1525, the New Testament in English was complete. Because of the printing press, several thousand pages could be produced in one day. In Wycliffe’s day, only a few pages could be hand-copied each day.

The newly-printed Bibles were smuggled into England in barrels, covered with cloth and articles for sale. Sometimes they were packed in bales that looked like cloth, or even hidden in sacks of flour.

It wasn’t long before the bishops and priests in England discovered that English Bibles were being sold. Officers of seaports were instructed to find and burn all copies.

Yet Bibles were still smuggled in.

A clever Catholic bishop of London decided he would buy all copies of the Bible that were being printed. He contacted a merchant in Germany to make arrangements. The bishop’s plan was to burn every Bible, once they arrived in England.

What that bishop didn’t know was: that merchant in Germany was a friend of Tyndale’s.

Yet the friend made a deal with the bishop anyway. Why? So he could give the proceeds from the bishop to Tyndale. More copies than ever were printed and sent to England. The bishop could not possibly buy every copy.

Imagine his shock when that bishop learned later it was his money, spent to keep English Bibles out of England, that actually paid for a veritable flood of Bibles into the country!

One might expect that Tyndale worked on to translate the Old Testament and lived well into old age, able to write and minister under God’s loving care. One would be wrong.

For nine years, Tyndale did escape authorities and was able to continue his work. But a man named Phillips, a frequent guest in Tyndale’s home, betrayed him. Tyndale was tried for heresy and condemned as a heretic. In 1536, he was strangled and then burned at the stake.

I’m tempted to ask, “Why, God? Tyndale was obedient to you. He left his home country, his friends, everything familiar. He worked so hard, ministered to others, and helped the poor. You miraculously blessed his work, and protected him for nine years. Yet in the middle of translating the Old Testament, Tyndale was arrested and martyred. Why, God?”

One commentator remarks: When God’s work for Tyndale was completed, God took Tyndale out of this life; and God gave his faithful servant the privilege of leaving this life through a martyr’s death (www.prca.org).

My perspective is so short-sighted. I tend to see death (martyrdom in particular) as tragic and distasteful. But from eternity’s point of view, “if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”

Heaven awaits!

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, Father, that there is no cause to fear suffering and death. You have promised to be with us, to give us the strength to endure, just as you did for William Tyndale. And then, after just a little while, you will take us to our real home of eternal bliss. Glory!

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