Driving the M4 toward Bristol, you’ll see a tall tower up on a ridge. The tower is called the Tyndale monument. On the monument is the statement that Wm Tyndale first translated the NT into English from the Greek. (insert marker here) (from the Greek-Wycliffe had done it from the Vulgate-not as accurate). He was martyred 10/6/1536.
Born near Bristol around 1494, His family was from the valley of the Tyn. Hence “Tyndale”. He was registered at Oxford at 13, got his bachelors at 17. He went to Cambridge got his Masters at 20 in 1515. Think about this year for a second. It was 2 years before Martin Luther nailed his theses on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany. This is only 23 years after Columbus sailed. It’s the age of Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Its Renaissance and Reformation. It was also the age of the great philosopher and translator, Erasmus. He didn't study under Erasmus but he was the one who compiled the Greek new testament that was later used as the basis for the KJV. Tyndale studied all of Erasmus’ writings but especially the Greek New Testament.
But remember; when it came to religion, there was only one church.
I hear people say, we shouldn't have all these different churches. We Christians are all divided. Well if having one church leads to the corruption and the false doctrine of salvation that the Catholic church was guilty of in the middle ages, then I’m glad there are many different kinds of churches. In fact, I say the more the merrier! BUT, let’s try to love one another, and not tear each other down. I know men who are Bible church pastors, Methodists, and reformed Baptist, and Christian Missionary Alliance, and even Church of Christ folks, that I would stand shoulder to shoulder with, because I know they love the Lord and hold fast to sound doctrine. I also know of folks in all those groups that I would have to graciously decline to work with because there are problems with their doctrines and Bible beliefs. Unfortunately there are some Baptists that fall into that category, too. But in Tyndale’s day, the RCC (Roman Catholic Church) had a monopoly. And neither they nor the government allowed people to start their own church. Tyndale and his colleagues began to discuss what was going on with Luther in Germany. And the reform work that Erasmus was talking about. They met at the White Horse, a pub in Cambridge, talking about the corruption in the RCC, and some folks didn't like that. In fact, people began to make accusations against them that were unfounded. Tyndale didn't mind being lied about but he didn't want to be classified as a troublemaker; he wanted to make a difference.
So He left school and got a job as a tutor, Sir John Walsh was his employer. Sir John was close to King Henry and took part in the Kings Coronation. (He was the King’s champion, a ceremonial post sort of like an unofficial head of the Secret Service.) Tyndale was treated like a member of the family and met many great guests and got to discuss the issues of the day. Often Tyndale disagreed with the guests but he always humbly pointed them toward the answer found in scripture.
Pretty soon he was invited to preach at churches all over the area. He started preaching out doors for the crowds. But that got him in trouble. A local priest branded him as a heretic, and threatened to expel those that went to hear him from the church. Remember, there’s only one church.
He wrote around that time that while he was sowing in one field, the devil was working in another. He said, “what can I do? I can’t be everywhere at once. Oh if only Christians had the Bible in their own language.”
He was brought up on charges, but nobody stood up to accuse him so he was dismissed. That was good but the priest got angrier. They got a theologian to come and try to fix him. The theologian was very impressed with Tyndale’s knowledge of scripture, but as he realized that the more Tyndale knew of scripture the further he got from the Catholic Church. So he said, it would be better for a person to be without God’s word than be without the pope.
That horrified Tyndale, that this man would put the pope above the Bible. He said a famous statement at that time: “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, I will cause the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than he (the pope) does!” He was determined to get the scriptures into people hands.
As much as 85% of the KJV was copied straight from Tyndale.
He went to London to visit with Bishop Tunstall who was known a great Greek scholar. He wanted to go to work for him to translate the Bible. But the Bishop was uncomfortable with the Bible in the people’s language. Isn't that odd? A bishop who didn't want people to read the Bible.
He didn't know what to do but realized he couldn't translate the Bible in England. So he traveled to Germany and later France. This is still before Luther began his break from the church. He hired a printer to begin to print his New Testament version. Matthew and Mark were printed, but one of the workers let it slip that they were printing a Bible in English. The authorities shut it down. But before they did Tyndale and his helper grabbed arm loads of printed sheets and had them sent out and smuggled into England.
He found another printer, and in 1526 the first copies of the NT in English began to show up in England. They smuggled them inside bales of wool and sacks of grain. In London, Bishop Tunstall found out about it, condemned it, had copies publicly burned and warned booksellers not to carry it. 1 shilling and 8 pence would get you a bound copy of the NT. About half a week’s labor for the common man. Many, many copies made it to England. The more the King and the church opposed it, the more people wanted it. It got to the point where a person risked death if they were caught with a Bible.
A new archbishop had a new plan. Buy them all up. They were able to buy a fresh load coming in, but what he didn't know was that the seller was sympathetic to Tyndale and he turned all the money over to Tyndale who then could pay for another large printing of the NT. Tyndale was wanted ‘dead or alive’. He also published a number of other books. He was the most popular writer in England. King Henry got a copy from Anne Boleyn and really liked it at first.
Tyndale then decided he needed to get the OT (Old Testament) into the hands of the plowman, too. Problem: Nobody was teaching Hebrew at this time. There was a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe at this time and Jewish people who knew Hebrew who would teach it to gentiles were rare as were gentiles willing to work with a Jew.
How did he learn it? Nobody knows. He was proficient in 8 languages so he might have taught himself.
He finished the Pentateuch (First 5 books of the OT) in 1529. But something happened. He was in a shipwreck off the coast of Holland. He lost his manuscripts, his money, and all copies of the Pentateuch. He was discouraged. But he ran into an old college buddy, Miles Coverdale. Coverdale encouraged him. In one year the Pentateuch was redone and published. He did Jonah and other books in 1531. Back in England, Sir Thomas More (an English lawyer, philosopher, author, statesman, churchman,Renaissance humanist and important Councillor to Henry VIII. AlsoLord Chancellor from 1529 to 1532) had written against him. Tyndale replied to him in print and that was spread around England. Many friends were harassed and tortured. Merchants were ruined. King Henry petitioned Charles the 5th of Germany to hand over Tyndale. In early 1534 Thomas Poyntz took him in. He was a relative of the lady Tyndale had worked for many years ago, Mrs.Walsh. While with the Poyntz he completed a revision of the NT in 1534. But in 1535 somebody hired a friend of Tyndale's, a man named Phillips, to kidnap Tyndale. Tyndale was arrested and placed in the castle at Flanders in Belgium. He was there for 500 days, but during that time he wrote a book “Faith alone justifies before God.”
Many people visited him. Many tried to get him to recant his beliefs to get forgiveness from the church. But his work continued even while in prison. There is a letter he wrote to the prison governor. He asked him to get him a warmer cap and coat, a piece of cloth for his legs. These were things that he owned that were taken away when he was imprisoned. He also asked for a candle. Then he said “above all…permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary.” He was STILL working. His friend Coverdale had completed an OT translated from Latin not Hebrew. Matthew completed one too. Both had Tyndale’s NT, and much of his OT. They dedicated their Bibles to King Henry. By now the old Bishops had died and King Henry’s advisers said that this Bible was very accurate. SO, Henry said, every church in England should have one. This was the answer to Tyndale’s prayer. Tyndale only finished about half the OT when he died, but the Geneva Bible came along in 1560 relying heavily on Tyndale and somewhat on Coverdale and Matthew. Then in 1611, the KJV, the most published Bible in the world-and 80 to 85% of it was Tyndale’s.
Yet Tyndale died in prison for his faith.
And as those Bibles with Tyndale’s work spread all over England, things began to happen. First there was an English reformation where the church broke off from Rome. But it didn't reform very much so other groups came into being. They wanted to purify the church and make it holy again. They got the nickname puritans.
They were not allowed to worship as they wished so they went to different places. Some came to America.
Many died. But through God’s providence He brought pagan native Americans to help them survive. And yes, many bad things happened to the native Americans and to the settlers over the years. But many of these believers from England reached out to the Indians with the gospel. And many were saved.
Because Faith alone justifies-Faith in Christ and His work frees us from all the penalties of sin before God.
Do you have faith in God? Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ and His death for you on the cross? Have you turned from your sinful ways and knelt at the feet of the risen Christ?
Importance of Word of God in the hands of the people. You need the Bible to know God!
We must preach the Word of God. Proclaiming a It as believers.
We must believe in the sufficiency of the Word of God. It is enough. Traditions aren’t needed. Just preach and read the scriptures.
The Word must be our authority. Acts 5 …you decide, as for us we must obey God rather than man. The Word of God is higher than any earthly authority. We are to try every spirit.
We must embrace the Word of God ourselves. Many have debated scripture without embracing its truth.
Don’t be discouraged when bringing the word of God. Don’t let setbacks stop you.
And remember the greatest lesson of scripture was the title of one of Tyndale’s books: Faith alone justifies before God.
What kind of faith is this that people have spent their lives for? What kind of faith is it that people have died for? It’s the faith revealed to us in this book.
Here it is in a nutshell: God almighty has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. And Jesus saves!
For more information:
William Tyndale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia