The Life of William Tyndale (Part 2)

Tyndale Leaves England

Tyndale was not able to secure a position with the Bishop of London, so he had no place to continue his work.

He left England for Germany where he likely visited Wittenberg using a false name.

Eleven years of hide-and-seek were underway as he moved around Europe.

In Cologne, printing of his New Testament began but was interrupted by opponents of the reformers.

Word reached Henry VIII, and he was encouraged to squash the attempts to print an English Bible.

Tyndale gathered his printed work and fled to Worms, only four years after Luther’s trial there.

The first copies of the English New Testament were smuggled in from Germany in bales.

It was quite expensive, but many arranged to have a copy, and read Tyndale’s exhortation to read the Scripture carefully and repent and believe the Bible.

Tyndale was a master translator and was the first to translate the Bible from the Greek, where Wycliffe had translated from the Latin Vulgate.

To avoid confusion with the Roman Catholic usage of words, key changes were made to indicate the differences. For example:

Penance became repentance.

Grace became favor.

Church became congregation.

At the translation of the King James Authorized Version of 1611, many of these words were changed back to the disdain of the reformers who used the Geneva Bible.

The Roman Catholic meaning of the word charity distorts the Greek word agape as it is used in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Tyndale’s translation had no standardized spelling, so there are many variants of words. This sometimes led to poor accuracy where the same word is translated in different ways for variety in the text.

Many of Tyndale’s phrases have endured until today. Somewhere near 90% of the New Testament of the 1611 AV is retained from Tyndale’s translation.

Claims that Shakespeare was responsible for shaping the English language can be turned to the influence of Tyndale’s work on Shakespeare through the Geneva Bible.

The Book’s Reception

There were many pirated editions for the open market.

The Bishop of London declared the book full of heresy and dangerous.

Cardinals in Rome also spoke against the book.

King Henry VIII declared it should be burned, and those who used it, punished.

Collection and burning of the Bibles provided profit for the printers, and Tyndale had money for a new edition—a plan that backfired.

By 1527 King Henry VIII had four agents seeking Tyndale.

Meanwhile, Tyndale was improving his translation of the New Testament, while working on the Old Testament and writing other books.

His books spoke of the justification of the gospel and Christian living. He also published the Pentateuch in English.

King Henry VIII had a change of heart and decided to use Tyndale’s disputes with Rome to further his own interest in divorcing his wife Catherine.

Tyndale met with a liaison of the king who tried to negotiate his return, but Tyndale would not stop writing books. So, he was again under threat of arrest.

In Antwerp, Tyndale lived with an English merchant and published a revised New Testament in 1534, while continuing his work on the Old Testament.

Even Tyndale’s enemies declared his virtue and scholarship. The same was spoken by his friends.

Tyndale helped the poor and encouraged many, even those who broke under persecution.

Tyndale’s End

The arrival of Henry Phillips in Antwerp led to Tyndale’s capture on May 21, 1535.

He was then imprisoned at the Grim Castle at Vilvorde for one year and 135 days.

Thomas Poyntz worked to get Tyndale released, but was himself imprisoned and lost his business.

Tyndale drew up a defense based upon justification by faith and the ultimate authority of Scripture.

In October 1536 he was executed in the square at Vilvorde where his final words are recorded to be “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Myles Coverdale was compiling all of Tyndale’s work and completing the Old Testament translation from where Tyndale left off.

The following year the Matthew Bible, essentially Tyndale’s work, was given the authority of the king and soon after he ordered that a Bible be placed in every parish.

Today, Tyndale’s statue is on the banks of the Thames where his books were originally smuggled.

Think About It

Why was Tyndale forced to live in hiding for 11 years?

How was Tyndale’s translation different from Wycliffe’s?

How did the Church unwittingly support Tyndale’s second edition?

What was Tyndale’s ultimate end?

What impact did Tyndale have on England?