Bible Translatorby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
With a passionate, booming voice William Tyndale cried out at the stake, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes."1 Although William deserved no death, he was condemned by virtue of the emperor’s decree, tied to a stake, strangled and burned. Tyndale exposed God’s truth to the common people of England, translating the Greek bible into English.
William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire, on the English border of Wales, in 1492. He grew up in the University of Oxford, and was ordained there in 1515. From the University of Oxford he became a student of Magdalen College, and later moved on to Cambridge University. This is probably where he developed his protestant convictions.
Leaving Cambridge University in 1521, William united with a knight from Gloucestershire whose name was Sir John Walsh. There Tyndale was a schoolmaster for Master Walsh’s children. Because the Walsh’s were very hospitable to nobility and clergy alike, William was able to engage in many deep theological discussions around their table. Tyndale was so well learned in God’s matters, that when anyone disagreed with his opinions, he simply showed them the Bible, plainly laid the obvious evidence before them, and confirmed his sayings. After a time, the learned men began to get tired of Tyndale’s reasoning, and secretly held grudges against him in their hearts. William was shocked by the clerics lack of knowledge of scripture, and to one in particular he contested, “If God grant me life, ere many years pass I will see that the boy behind the plow knows more of the scriptures than thou dost!”2
Tyndale’s desire grew to translate the bible into the people’s common language. He accused the clergy of hiding the true meaning of the bible from the people. Taking advantage of the ignorant masses, the clergy sold indulgences, took the money for themselves and became rich. Disgusted, Tyndale preached that we are saved by faith alone, and that God alone can forgive sins.
The priests were enraged. They charged Tyndale with heresy. Besides the fact that it was illegal for Tyndale to translate the bible into English without approval at that time, he was alarmed by the priest’s false accusations.
In 1524, Tyndale fled from England, financially backed by Sir John and Humphrey Monmouth. Here he worked on translating the New Testament directly from Hebrew and Greek texts. The pages of the bible were being printed by a willing man in Cologne (1525), when Tyndale’s adversaries burst into the shop. Providentially, Tyndale had been warned just in time and fled with the unfinished pages of his new testament. A year later the New Testament was printed in Worms.
Cuthbert Tonstal (bishop of London), and Sir Thomas More, not wanting the New Testament to be distributed, speculated how to destroy that “deceitful, misleading translation”. Augustine Packington (merchant), served to be the answer when he arrived at Antwerp. Though he was a friend of Tyndale’s, he did not reveal that to the bishop. Upon hearing that the bishop was willing to buy the New Testaments, Augustine said, “My lord! I can do more in this matter than most merchants that be here, if it be your pleasure; for I know the Dutchmen and strangers that have brought them of Tyndale, and have them here to sell; so that if it be your lordship’s pleasure, I must disburse money to pay for them, or else I cannot have them: and so I will assure you to have every book of them that is printed and unsold.” Thinking he had found the answer of ridding himself of the New Testaments, the bishop replied, “Do your diligence, gentle Master Packington! Get them for me, and I will pay whatsoever they cost; for I intend to burn and destroy them all at Paul’s cross.” Having done this, “the bishop of London had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.”1
In 1530, Tyndale completed and published his translation of the Pentateuch. He also published several other papers such as, “The Parable of the Wicked Mammon”, and “The Obedience of a Christian Man”. Thus, English authorities increased their search for Tyndale, wanting to be rid of him.
Now in Antwerp, Tyndale was housed by Thomas Pointz. At dinner one evening, in the spring of 1535, William Tyndale met a student named Henry Philips and became good friends with him. Pointz however did not trust the fellow, saying,”he rings as false as a counterfeit coin.” 2
On May 21, 1535 Tyndale was captured as he was innocently walking to dinner. William, betrayed by his “friend” Philips, was arrested and hauled off to prison for sixteen months; after which, he was condemned and executed as a heretic in 1536.
William Tyndale was selected, as God’s servant, to open the eyes of the common people of England. Though he was persecuted and sought after by many enemies, he persevered and completed the translation of the New Testament, as well as the first five books of the Bible. His work set the course for many others in history. Miles Coverdale finished a whole translation of the Bible based largely on Tyndale’s work. A few months after Tyndale’s death, his stirring cry at the stake was answered. King Henry gave official approval of the Bible and by 1539 every church was obligated to provide copies for its congregations. Who can estimate how the course of England and the whole world was changed by this free access to the light of God’s Word. We are deeply indebted to him for his sacrificial work, and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Foxe, John. “The Life of William Tyndale.” Bible-Researcher.com. 2003. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. August 28, 2004. http://www.bible-researcher.com/tyndale1.html.
2Jackson, Dave, and Neta Jackson. The Queen’s Smuggler. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1991.
3“Tyndale, William” Encarta. CD-ROM. Seattle: Microsoft, 2004.