William Tyndale - Part 1
"I defy the pope and all his laws; and, if God spares me, I will one day make the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the pope does!" So said translation pioneer William Tyndale.
Born near Dursley, Gloucestershire, UK, between 1484 and 1496, Tyndale developed a zeal to get the Bible into the hands of the common man—a passion for which he ultimately gave his life.
Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, Tyndale became fluent in at least seven languages. In 1522, the same year Luther translated the New Testament into German, Tyndale was an ordained Catholic priest serving John Walsh of Gloucestershire. It was during this time, when Tyndale was 28 years of age, that he began pouring over Erasmus’ Greek New Testament. The more he studied the more the doctrines of the Reformation became clear. And like a great fire kindled by a lighting strike, so Tyndale’s heart was set ablaze by the doctrines of grace:
By grace . . . we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel; and when the gospel is preached to us openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfill it and sorrow because we do not.
Rome’s Opposition to an English Translation
Nearly 200 years earlier, starting in 1382, John Wycliff and his followers (known as Lollards) distributed hand-written English translations of Scripture. The Archbishop of Canterbury responded by having Wycliffe and his writings condemned.
But Rome was not finished. In 1401, Parliament passed a law making heresy a capital offence. Seven years later, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it a crime to “translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue . . . and that no man can read any such book . . . in part or in whole." The sentence was burning. Across Europe, the flames were ignited and the Lollards were all but destroyed. Rome was determined to keep God’s Word out of the people’s hands.
. . . as a boy of 11 watched the burning of a young man in Norwich for possessing the Lord’s Prayer in English . . . John Foxe records . . . seven Lollards burned at Coventry in 1519 for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer in English.
John Bale (1495-1563)
Rome was not finished with Wycliffe either: 44 years after his death, the pope ordered Wycliffe’s bones exhumed, burned, and his ashes scattered.
Tyndale was truly in great danger.
Stay Tuned for part 2!