The Work of William Tyndale (Doctrinal Bible Church in Huntsville, Alabama)

History of the English Bible (Doctrinal Bible Church in Huntsville, Alabama)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:44
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The History of the English Bible: The Work of William Tyndale-Lesson # 2


Doctrinal Bible Church

Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom

Wednesday April 19, 2023

The History of the English Bible: The Work of William Tyndale

Lesson # 2

One hundred and thirty years would pass after the production of Wycliffe’s translation before there would be any further progress in translating the Bible into English.

No doubt part of the reason for this was the 1408 British law against any Bible in English.

However, the tide was turning in Europe since Bibles appeared in the 1400s in Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch languages.

This would set the stage for the most influential Bible translator of all time, William Tyndale.

His appearance on the pages of history was preceded by tumultuous events.

There were two rival Popes during the period between 1378-1417, one in Avignon and one in Rome.

There was also the invention of the movable-type printing press in 1454.

Gutenberg’s first full length book was the Latin Vulgate Bible.

In 1453, the Turks invaded Byzantium where the Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Empire to 1100 years prior, which resulted in Greek scholars taking their manuscripts to Europe.

Five years later, Greek was offered for the first time at a European university.

Consequently the Reformation and Renaissance would be born as a result of the rediscovery of classical Greek and of the Greek New Testament.

Also, the new world was discovered in 1492.

The Turkish invasion coupled with the invention of the printing press formed the catalyst for the production of the first published Greek New Testament on March 1, 1516.

Lastly, the Reformation was born when Luther challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

It was during the midst of these great events that Tyndale’s Bible would come about.

William Tyndale was trained in Greek and Hebrew and he earned his bachelor’s degree from Oxford in 1512 at the age of 16 or 17 and his master’s in 1515 and he would later study at Cambridge.

He became fluent in six or seven languages and thus, it was clear that he was a genius.

When he was considering the idea of translating the Bible in the 1520s, he came to the conclusion that he would not be able to do his work in England because of the 1408 edict which was still in effect.

He would travel to Germany to learn Hebrew from Jewish rabbis since no one knew Hebrew in England.

He translated much of the Bible into English while on the Continent but did not return to England for fear of his life.

Tyndale’s passion was for getting the Word of God to lay people.

He wanted the boy behind the plough to know more of the Word of God than the educated classes.

In 1525, he completed his first translation of the New Testament but it would not get printed until 1526 and there are still three copies of this first edition which exist today and he would later revise this edition substantially which resulted in a virtual masterpiece.

He was the one who coined such words as “Passover,” “peacemaker,” “scapegoat” and the adjective “beautiful.”

All of which were coined by him in this edition.

He would produce five editions of the New Testament, however, the 1534 edition would be the most remembered of them all.

He did perform a tremendous amount of work on the Old Testament but did not live to complete the task since he was kidnapped in 1535 at Antwerp.

He was burned at the stake the next year for heresy and was charged with the corruption of the Bible, which was of course false.

The truth is that he produced a superb translation of the Bible.

His dying words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”

Little did he known that in just a few months before his death a version of the Bible in English which was based largely on his own work had already been printed in England with King Henry VIII’s blessing.

Interestingly, a letter was discovered last century that was from Tyndale himself while he was in prison awaiting execution.

He asked his captors for warmer clothes since he was very cold and even asked if he could have a Hebrew Bible and a Hebrew dictionary to pass the time in a way that would be profitable for him spiritually, which sounds like the apostle Paul (2 Tim 4:13).

Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was based on the Greek text and he did consult with Luther’s German translation and the Latin Vulgate to help him deal with difficult portions but he primarily used Erasmus’ third edition.

The 1534 edition was a major departure from the 1526 edition since it was excellent English and a clear translation for its day.

Not only did he know the biblical languages better than any Englishman of his day, but he also knew English better than most and thus, he turned good Greek into good English.

The significance of Tyndale’s translation of the Bible can never be overestimated since it was the first English New Testament after the age of printing and the first English New Testament translated directly from the original Greek.

It was also the first English translation to employ italics to signify words which were not translating a word from the original language.

Furthermore, his translation greatly influenced the King James Bible.

In 1940, Professor J. Isaacs wrote of Tyndale’s accomplishment: “His simple directness, his magical simplicity of phrase, his modest music, have given an authority to his wording that has imposed itself on all later versions.… Nine-tenths of the Authorized New Testament is still Tindale, and the best is still his.”

During his last years on earth, Tyndale gave himself to performing good works because, as he said, “My part be not in Christ if mine heart be not to follow and live according as I teach.”

On Mondays he visited other religious refugees from England and on Saturdays he walked Antwerp’s streets, seeking to minister to the poor and on Sundays he dined in merchants’ homes, reading Scripture before and after dinner and the rest of the week he devoted to writing tracts and books and translating the Bible.

We do not know who planned and financed the plot that ended his life (whether English or continental authorities), but we do know it was carried out by Henry Phillips, a man who had been accused of robbing his father and of gambling himself into poverty.

Phillips became Tyndale’s guest at meals and soon was one of the few privileged to look at Tyndale’s books and papers.

In May 1535, Phillips lured Tyndale away from the safety of his quarters and into the arms of soldiers. Tyndale was immediately taken to the Castle of Vilvorde, the great state prison of the Low Countries, and accused of heresy.

Trials for heresy in the Netherlands were in the hands of special commissioners of the Holy Roman Empire and took months for the law to take its course.

During this time, Tyndale had many hours to reflect on his own teachings, such as this passage from one of his tracts: “Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health—for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.”

Finally, in early August 1536, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic, degraded from the priesthood, and delivered to the secular authorities for punishment.

On Friday, October 6, after local officials took their seats, Tyndale was brought to the cross in the middle of the town square and given a chance to recant and of course, he refused and was given a moment to pray.

English historian John Foxe said he cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”

Then he was bound to the beam, and both an iron chain and a rope were put around his neck and then gunpowder was added to the brush and logs and at the signal of a local official, the executioner, standing behind Tyndale, quickly tightened the noose, strangling him.

Then an official took up a lighted torch and handed it to the executioner, who set the wood ablaze.

One other brief report of that distant scene has come down to us.

It is found in a letter from an English agent to Lord Cromwell two months later which said “They speak much of the patient sufferance of Master Tyndale at the time of his execution.”

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