In the Face of Death…

Around 1526, after being inspired by Erasmus and Martin Luther, the great William Tyndale of England, utilized Erasmus’ work to produce the first English translation to be directly taken from the original Greek & Hebrew texts…

Like those that inspired him, Tyndale faced much opposition for his efforts, being criticized by both the Catholic Church and the King of England. Claiming it was plagued with errors, the Catholic Church made every effort to confiscate his translations wherever they were found, ultimately seizing and burning thousands of copies. In fact, it has been said that the Catholic clergy, in setting Tyndale’s Bibles ablaze, made a “burnt offering most pleasing to the Almighty God”. Their efforts however were in vain. The more they condemned the work, the more interested the public became. Then just as now, it appears that even bad publicity can be an effective selling point.

Feodor_burn_books_of_nobility

Though his work reached many, changing their lives and the world around them, Tyndale ultimately paid a heavy price for his loyalty to the Word of God. In 1536, charged with heresy, Tyndale was condemned to death. It is reported by John Foxe that his last words were, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”¹  Immediately after, he was strangled and burned at the stake, his translation of the entirety of Scripture left incomplete, unfinished…

Around the time of his death, two of Tyndale’s associates – Myles Coverdale and John Rogers – continued their own work towards completing the translation. In 1535, just prior to Tyndale’s execution, Coverdale supplemented portions of Tyndale’s translation with that of Luther’s work and some Latin, publishing the Coverdale Bible. Shortly afterwards, in 1537, publishing under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew,” John Rogers produced his Matthew Bible, which itself was a composite of Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, and Roger’s own translations; the first Bible version to be completely translated from the original manuscripts into English. Later, fostered by the success of his earlier work, Coverdale was requisitioned in 1539, on the order of King Henry VIII, by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer to produce a fully authorized English Bible. With it, Tyndale’s hope for the common man’s access to the Bible came to life, as this translation – known as the Great Bible due to its impressive size – was sent to every church across the land.

Through his promotion of the English Bible, King Henry VIII effectively renounced Roman Catholicism and its rule under the Pope, and in doing so initiated the birth of a new Christian denomination that was neither Catholic nor Protestant. With the development of Anglicanism, King Henry VIII withdrew England from under Rome’s control, declaring himself both the ruler of state and of the new denomination. This would change in due time.

References:

  1. Daniell, David, “William Tyndale: A Biography”, Yale University Press,2001,pg 382-383

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