Name:                     William TYNDALE


Birth:                      abt 1495                  in Slymbridge, near the Welch border

Death:                     6 Oct 1536               Belgium

Father:                     John TYNDALE (~1475-)


Misc. Notes



(Following Written by; Victor A. Shepherd 1991)


“He was not someone who made trouble for the sake of making trouble. Neither did he have a personality as prickly as a porcupine. He didn't relish controversy, confrontation and strife. Nonetheless, he was unable to avoid it. At some point he became embroiled with many of England's "Who's Who" of the sixteenth century. Anne Boleyn, one of Henry VIII's many wives, flaunted her notorious promiscuity -- and Tyndale called her on it. Thomas Wolsey, cardinal of the church and sworn to celibacy, fathered at least two illegitimate children -- and drew Tyndale's fire. Thomas More, known to us through the play about him, A Man For All Seasons, advanced theological arguments which Tyndale believed to contradict the kingdom of God and imperil the salvation of men and women -- and Tyndale rebutted him bravely.


“William Tyndale graduated from Oxford University in 1515, and then moved over to Cambridge to pursue graduate studies, Cambridge being at that time a hotbed of Lutheran theology and Reformation ferment. As he was seized by that gospel which scripture uniquely attests, Tyndale became aware that his vocation was that of translator; he was to put into common English a translation of the bible which the public could read readily and profit from profoundly. There was enormous need for him and his vocation, as England was sunk in the most abysmal ignorance of scripture. Worse, the clergy didn't care. Tyndale vowed that if his life were spared he would see that a farmhand knew more of scripture than a contemptuous clergyman.


“But of course his life would have to be spared. The church's hierarchy, after all, had banned any translation of scripture into the English tongue in hope of prolonging the church's tyranny over the people. Tyndale wanted only a quiet, safe corner of England where he could begin his work. There was no such corner. He would have to leave the country. In 1524 he sailed for Germany. He would never see England again.


“Soon his translation of the New Testament was under way in Hamburg. A sympathetic printer in Cologne printed the pages as fast as he could decipher Tyndale's handwriting. Ecclesiastical spies were everywhere, however, and in no time the printing press was raided. Tipped off ahead of time, Tyndale escaped with only what he could carry.

Next stop was Worms, the German city where Luther had debated vigorously only four years earlier, and where the German reformer had confessed, "Here I stand, I can do nothing else, God help me!" In Worms Tyndale managed to complete his New Testament translation. Six thousand copies were printed. Only two have survived, since English bishops confiscated them as fast as copies were ferreted back into England. In 1526 the bishop of London piled up the copies he had accumulated and burnt them all, the bonfire adding point to the sermon in which he had slandered Tyndale.


Worms too was a dangerous place in which to work, and in 1534 Tyndale moved to Antwerp, where English merchants living in the Belgian city told him they would protect him. (By now he had virtually completed his translation of the entire bible.) Then in May, 1535, a young Englishman in Antwerp who needed a large sum of money quickly to pay off huge gambling debts betrayed Tyndale to Belgian authorities. Immediately he was jailed in a prison modelled after the infamous Bastille of Paris. The cell was damp, dark and cold throughout the Belgian winter. He had been in prison for eighteen months when his trial began. The long list of charges was read out. The first two charges -- one, that he had maintained that sinners are justified or set right with God by faith, and two, that to embrace in faith the mercy offered in the gospel was sufficient for salvation -- these two charges alone indicate how bitter and blind his anti-gospel enemies were.


“In August, 1536, he was found guilty and condemned as a heretic -- a public humiliation aimed at breaking him psychologically. But he did not break. Another two months in prison. Then he was taken to a public square and asked to recant. So far from recanting he cried out, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" Immediately the executioner strangled him, and the firewood at his feet was ignited.


“His work, however, could not be choked off and burned up. His work thrived. Eventually the King of England did approve Tyndale's translation, and by 1539 every parish church was required to have a copy on hand for parishioners to read.


“Tyndale's translation underlies the King James Version of the bible. Its importance cannot be exaggerated. A gospel-outlook came to penetrate the British nation, its people, its policies, and its literature. Indeed, the King James Version is precisely what Northrop Frye came to label "The Great Code", the key to unlocking the treasures of English literature, without which key the would-be student can only remain mystified and ignorant. More importantly, however, the translation of the bible into the English tongue became the means whereby the gospel took hold of millions.


“Tyndale's promise was fulfilled. He was spared long enough to see the common person know more of God's Word, God's Truth and God's Way than a contemptuous clergy. In the history of the English-speaking peoples Tyndale's work is without peer.






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