Posts by hsamworth

Life of Tyndale Livestream

On Monday, August 29, 2016 at 9:45am I spoke in the Crown College Chapel on the life of Tyndale. The live-stream was recorded and the video is posted below:

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Is The Reformation Over? – Part 2

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. Baker Academic, 2005 This is the second of a two part-review of the book written by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom and published by Baker Academic. Although the book was published nearly six years ago, the issues involved are extremely pertinent to today. In this second article, we will seek to point out what are believed to be the two main weaknesses of the book. As stated before, it is a well-written and extremely informative review of the relationship between Catholic and Protestants. Our two main contentions or criticisms of the book deal with the subjects of history and theology. In the area of history, the writers fail to state clearly two important and pertinent facts. The first omission deals with the development of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution while the second omission is the failure to answer the question as to why there was a reformation in the first place. Throughout the book the writers encourage the reader who desires more information regarding the Roman Catholic Church and where it stands on doctrinal issues to purchase a copy of the Catholic Catechism and read it carefully. Frequently the authors state that an Evangelical will find much in the Catechism with which he can agree. In one paragraph, Mark Noll stated that while reading the Catechism, he was led to put it down and worship in prayer and thanksgiving because there was so much with which he agreed. Note page 116 where Mr. Noll states this. No one who has an understanding of Church History would necessarily dispute that statement. However, a study of Church History reveals a pattern of the Roman Church in deviating from the faith over a period of time. Much of what the Church Fathers wrote would be accepted as orthodox today. For example, one would be in agreement with the Nicene Creed and its statements about the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Protestants Churches recite the Nicene Creed as part of their liturgy. One also would agree with Augustine in his controversy with Pelagius regarding the sinful nature of man. However, the further one proceeds on the path of Church history the more he encounters certain doctrines that transformed the Roman Church into a sacramental church....

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Is The Reformation Over? – Part 1

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. Baker Academic, 2005 Why take the time and effort to review a book that was published nearly six years ago? Events have moved on and there are certainly more current issues that demand our attention. The reason for the review is that Is the Reformation Over? is an extremely important book and the questions that it raises are pertinent today. The title of the book is worthy of our attention. What do the authors mean when they ask the question concerning the Reformation? Do they mean that the Reformation is over because it has accomplished its objective? Could they possibly mean that the Reformation is over because it has failed? The tone of the book remains rather coy regarding the answer to the question. Perhaps the sub-title of the book can aid us in formulating an answer to the authors’ question. The book is an evaluation of the contemporary Roman Catholicism by two pronounced Evangelicals. We can note that even the subtitle carries an implied question. It has been the glory of Roman Catholicism that the Church is always the same: semper idem. If the Roman Catholic Church is, and always has been, the same, there would be little reason for the qualifying adjective. Although one does not wish to give a final judgment, it appears that the authors believe that both the Roman Catholic Church and Evangelicals have changed. We will give reasons for this opinion later in the review. The authors have written the book to chronicle some of the changes that have occurred in Catholic/ Protestant relations over the past years. According to their analysis, the differences in the current situation have been the result of three significant events. The first is Vatican II that was convened in 1960 by Pope John XXIII. This was the first general council since Vatican I that took place in 1870. There was a new openness about the church and things were questioned that would have seemed improbable just a few years before. This new attitude of openness caught the attention of Protestant observers who attended the sessions. Perhaps the most intriguing thing was that no longer were Protestants considered to be non-Christians. Indeed, they were called “separated brethren.” To be sure, Roman Catholics are...

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The Great Bible

The Great Bible

The Great Bible owes its origin to the desire of William Tyndale to provide the English ploughboy with the Word of God in his own language. This desire was reiterated in Tyndale’s last words, “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.” Those stirring words were uttered outside the Vilvorde Prison on October 6, 1536 when William Tyndale was strangled and his body burned. During the time Tyndale was held in the Vilvorde Prison, his friend and co-laborer, Miles Cloverdale, superintended the printing of the first complete English Bible in 1535. Coverdale used Tyndale’s translations of the Pentateuch and the New Testament while he himself translated the remaining portions of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha using Latin and German Bibles. A year after Tyndale’s death, John Rogers, using the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, published what is believed to be the first licensed English Bible. The Matthew’s Bible incorporated Tyndale’s translation of the books from Joshua to II Chronicles for the first time. The Matthew’s Bible was published in 1537 and Miles Coverdale printed a second edition of his Bible in the same year. Thus by 1537 the English people had two complete English Bibles. Meanwhile, King Henry VIII changed his mind regarding the distribution of the Bible in English. Not only did he permit the licensing of both the Matthew’s and the Coverdale Bible, he ordered that every church in England have a copy of the English Bible for use in the worship services. Thus in November 1538 he issued a decree through Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, that every church in England should have a copy of the English Bible in the largest size. Miles Coverdale was chosen to supervise the editing and printing of this edition. Coverdale chose the Matthew’s Bible of 1537 as the basis of the revision rather than his own edition of the same year. This gives us insight to the motives of the early English translators. They had little interest in putting forward their own work. They had a greater interest in providing the most accurate translation. This is also an indirect proof that John Rogers, the editor of the Matthew’s Bible, limited his involvement in Bible translation to the production of the Matthew’s Bible. There is no record that he had any further involvement in the work of Bible translation. For reasons that are not totally clear, Coverdale decided...

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Worms New Testament

Worms New Testament

A RECENT DISCOVERY The providential care of God over His Word was aptly demonstrated by a discovery at the Wurttembergishe Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, Germany in 1996. The directors of the Library were reclassifying their holdings of English books when they came across a book that they were unable to identify. Figure one shows the outside cover of the book with the engraving of a person with the date of 1550 clearly discernable. It was an English New Testament but there was no clear evidence of the date of publication. A careful check of reference books listing the publication dates of English Bibles failed to provide positive identification. After consulting the staff at the British Library it was conclusively proven that it was a 1526 Worms New Testament, the first complete printing of the New Testament in the English language. What made the discovery of an English New Testament printed in 1526 such an important event? To answer this question, we must put this New Testament in its historical context. William Tyndale left England in late 1524 or early 1525 and settled in Cologne, Germany with the intention of translating and printing the English Bible. At the time vernacular copies of the Scriptures were forbidden in England. His efforts to have the printing done in Cologne were interrupted and Tyndale fled to the city of Worms. There in 1526 the first New Testament, printed in English and translated from the original Greek, was completed in the print shop of Peter Schoeffer. Estimates of the print run vary from three thousand to six thousand. Of the initial printing, in 1996 only two copies were know to have survived. One copy, located at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London lacks nearly one hundred and forty pages. The second copy, purchased by the British Library in 1994 from Bristol Baptist College, lacked the title page. The Stuttgart copy was complete, including the title page. This was the only copy of the Worms New Testament that had survived intact. For that reason alone, its discovery was a newsworthy event. However, the record of its history provides a fascinating account of how God providentially preserves His Word. There are some gaps in the record but the main outline of the story appears to be as follows. In 1550 the New Testament came into the possession of Ottheinrich, a territorial prince of the Palatinate. From other books in...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 10

THE SECOND EDITION NEW TESTAMENT – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   The months after the death of Frith were difficult for Tyndale. Not only did he lose the help of a trusted companion, what did his death communicate about the continued opposition to the Word of God by the English rulers? Although he had been tricked into putting his thoughts on the Eucharist into writing, Frith had stated that the doctrine of the Eucharist was not as important as the doctrine of Christ. In his opinion, freedom was permitted concerning those doctrines about which the Word of God did not speak with absolute clarity. However, for English churchmen what was important was what the Church taught. From that teaching there was to be no deviation. Moreover, how could people be sure that the opinions of the church officials were correct when they were denied access to the Word of God? Thus, Tyndale redoubled his efforts to give the ploughboy the Word of God in a language he could read and understand. There is evidence to indicate that Tyndale continued to translate the Old Testament books. However, the main focus of his work was a thorough revision of the Worms New Testament that had been published eight years before. During those years, Erasmus had published a fourth edition of his Greek New Testament containing readings from the Complutensian Polyglot that was finally published in 1522. In addition, the Worms New Testament had been produced under the most difficult of circumstances after Tyndale and Roye were forced to flee from Cologne. With the relative safety of Antwerp and living in the Merchant Adventurers’ house, Tyndale believed that he had the time to do a thorough revision of the New Testament. In addition a number of the Worms New Testaments had been confiscated and the demand for them remained high. Making the situation even more urgent was that pirated editions of the New Testament began to appear in England. They were printed by Dutch printers who were willing to risk producing New Testaments and smuggling them into England because of the lucrative market. This continued even after one of the Dutch printers was arrested in London, imprisoned and later died. However, what appears to be the main reason for the revision of the Worms New Testament was the printing of the New Testament as it had been “corrected” by George Joye. This...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 9

EVENTS AFTER 1530 – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Following the printing of the Pentateuch in 1530 we do not know much about Tyndale’s activities for a period of time. There was no doubt that he continued his work of translation. Perhaps this was when he began his translation on the following books of the Old Testament that John Rogers would incorporate in the Matthew’s Bible of 1537. However, there was one book that Tyndale wrote during this time. It was entitled The Practice of Prelates. There are many who are of the opinion that it the one book of Tyndale that we could safely do without because of its subject matter and how it alienated King Henry VIII. Perhaps we can better understand it when we seek to put the larger context before the reader. While the exact location of Tyndale could not be established by the authorities in London, they were well aware of his basic activities. He was also the subject of much discussion and even of disagreement. There were some who were totally convinced that he was a heretic and should be captured and brought back to England to face charges of heresy. Little doubt existed that such a course of action would result in his conviction and death at the stake. However there were others, who while they thought that Tyndale should be brought back to England, had a totally different view of the man. These were the Evangelicals and were convinced that the time was right for an English translation of the Bible. Thus Tyndale, rather than be burned at the stake for heresy, would be employed in the work of Bible translation. At this time it may appear that they were unrealistic in their hopes, but they were able to persuade the King for permission to attempt his recall. They employed a man by the name of Stephan Vaughn to search and make contact with Tyndale. Several letters of Vaughn are extant today that tell of his efforts. In the event, Vaughn was able to make contact and speak with Tyndale about a possible return. Vaughn reported that Tyndale on one occasion said that if King Henry would permit the free circulation of the Scriptures, he promised to return to England, place himself at the King’s mercy, and not do any more translation. However, it was during this time of discussion that...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 8

THE PENTATEUCH – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Finding that the situation had calmed down in Antwerp, Tyndale returned to the city sometime in 1529. Antwerp provided a number of advantages for Tyndale. First, it would be safer because the city did not have a cathedral with no resident Bishop who would be on the lookout for heretics and no university with a theological faculty. Antwerp was closer to England so the task of transporting Bibles and Testaments would be easier. In addition, Antwerp boasted of nearly sixty printing establishments. Although it was illegal to print heretical books, many of the printers were willing to turn a blind eye if a profit could be gained. Finally, the Merchant Adventurers’ house was located in the city. Not only was this the headquarters of those who would aid him smuggle the Bibles into England; the house itself provided immunity from search and seizure although we will note that these freedoms were violated in the case of Tyndale. Having finished the translation and printing of the New Testament, it was only natural that Tyndale would turn to the books of the Old Testament. As we noted previously, there is uncertainty where Tyndale learned the Hebrew language because most students of his life are convinced that he did not know the language when he departed from England. In reality, it would be some years before the teaching Hebrew became a standard practice in British universities. Regardless where Tyndale learned Hebrew, there is no doubt that he mastered the language. There is good reason to believe that Tyndale perfected his translation of the first five books of the Old Testament during his stay in Hamburg. Thus with a prepared manuscript, it was a matter of finding a printer who would be willing to undertake the work. Although the book purportedly was printed by Hans Luft in Malborow, it was to hide its real origin. It is true that Luft was the printer of Luther’s works and he indeed had presses in both Wittenberg and Malborow. However, the true printer was Johannes Hoochstraten of Antwerp. The book itself contained the books of Moses but there was something distinctive about it. The books of Genesis and numbers were printed in the Gothic or black letter type while the remaining three books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy were printed in Roman type. Scholars have debated the reasons...

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Geneva New Testament of 1577

Geneva New Testament of 1577

The Geneva Bible of 1560 is well-known to the English speaking people. It was the Bible of the Puritans and held the affection of the majority of the English people until well into the 17th century. For many years it proved to be even more popular than the King James Version initially printed in 1611. However, few persons are aware of a New Testament printed in 1557 that preceded the printing of the Geneva Version by three years. It is popularly known as the Geneva New Testament although it is important to state that it was not carried over to be the New Testament of the Geneva Bible although it was used for comparison. The history of this Geneva New Testament is fascinating because it brings together several strands of the English Reformation and the Geneva New Testament itself broke new ground in several areas. It is necessary to begin with the historical context of the period between 1550 and 1560. King Edward VI, who never enjoyed good health, died in 1553. After an abortive attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne, Mary Tudor became Queen of England. Fanatically attached to the old religion, Mary sought to rescind the Reformation begun by her father and to return the Church of England to the Roman obedience. Far sighted individuals who saw what was about to take place decided to flee the country. Although it was said that these departures were for the purpose of maintaining commercial contacts with the mainland of Europe, the majority of the exiles left because of religious reasons. One of these exiles was a man by the name of William Whittingham. In the absence of a definitive biography, he has attained almost legendary status. Some accounts state that he was fluent in seven languages and one could not discern which of the seven his native tongue was because his fluency in them was equal. Another account reported that he married the sister of Calvin’s wife and thus became his brother-in-law. How then can fact be separated from fiction in his life? We know that he studied at Brazenose College, Oxford University although other accounts stated that he was a graduate of Christ College of the same university. Apparently he had received permission to go abroad to prosecute further studies. In one of the first recorded accounts, we find him at Frankfurt as part of...

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J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   We are going to take a break from reviews of books that deal with the history of the Reformation and the Bible. Rather we will review a book edited by Timothy George entitled J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: the Impact of His Life and Thought and published by Baker Academic in 2009. The book consists of a series of essays analyzing the life and impact of J. I. Packer on the Evangelical resurgence of the last sixty years. The occasion was the celebration of his eightieth birthday in 2006. In some ways it must be considered a different, if not a strange, book because books of this type are usually not written during the individual’s lifetime in order that a more balanced perspective of the person and his work can be given. The book itself is a series of essays by contributors who have been associated closely with Dr. Packer and his career. They include Charles Colson, Richard Neuhaus, Alister McGrath, Mark Dever, and others. When the name of J. I. Packer is mentioned, most people would recognize him as the author of one of the best selling book in recent years. That book is Knowing God and it is nearly impossible to gauge fully its impact since it was published in 1973. It has been used to introduce many to a rare combination of theology and practical application to their understanding. Packer has always striven in his books to write theology for lay people. Although he is certainly capable of writing academic theology, he has been led to write primarily for the non-specialist. However, to understand the purpose of the book, it is necessary to know somewhat of the life of J. I. Packer. Born in 1926 and educated at Oxford University (DPhil for his work on Richard Baxter) Packer has taught at a number of schools and universities both in England and Canada. There were three formative influences on his life. The first was his education at Oxford where he studied the classical curriculum majoring in Latin and Greek studies. During that time, although nominally a member of the Anglican Church, Packer came to faith in Christ. In addition, it was at Oxford that Packer came to discover the Puritans through the writings of John Owen, the second major influence on his life. A third influence was...

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Editio Regia

Editio Regia

The Greek New Testament of 1550   “The finest Greek text ever printed” is indeed high praise for any book. It is a book contained in the Van Kampen Collection and behind it is a fascinating story that merits telling. The book, also called the Editio Regia, was printed by Robert Stephanus in 1550 in Paris. However, some historical background is necessary to realize the importance of this book. The Stephanus family (Stephanus is the Latinized version of the French name Estienne) was famous for its printing. The patriarch, Henri, was the royal printer to the King of France. In 1509 he printed a five fold version of the Psalms called the Quincuplex Psalter. It contained five versions of the Psalms in Latin including the Vulgate, the Gallic version, Old Latin and two others. The significance of this book was that it was edited by Faber Stapulensus or LeFevre and is considered by some to be the first book printed in support of the Reformation in France. At that time the movement for reform in France was called Evangelicalism. This movement received support from no less a person than Margaret of Navarre, the sister of King Frances I. So from the very beginning of this movement, the Stephanus family was involved. Over the course of years, Robert succeeded his father as Royal Printer. In 1528 he printed his first version of the Vulgate that was considered to be the most accurate ever published. He soon acquired a reputation not only for the quality of printing but for the accuracy of the text itself. It appears that he expertly combined the roles of both printer and textual critic. Prior to this time the Greek New Testament had been printed primarily by Johannes Froben of Basle. A total of five editions had been printed, all edited by Erasmus, the final edition appearing in 1535. Erasmus died the following year and his work was carried on by others. The person who primarily assumed his role was Robert Stephanus. 1546 saw the printing of Stephanus’ first Greek New Testament. It was a small duodecimal edition that became known as the O Mirificam edition from the preface to the work. A second edition, nearly the same as the first, came out in 1549. At this time the textual study of the Greek New Testament was still in its infancy. The first edition of Erasmus’...

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The Writings of J. F. Mozley – John Foxe and his Book

A book review by Dr. Herbert Samworth   This is the third book written by J. F. Mozley that we are reviewing. However, it was the second that he wrote. It is entitled John Foxe and His Book. The name of the book itself is a clue to the manner in which Mozley writes. The book of course is Acts and Monuments or more popularly known as The Book of Martyrs. Undoubtedly there are few persons who have never heard of the book. However, the opposite would be true regarding the life of the person who compiled it. Perhaps some would know that it was compiled by John Foxe. But who is John Foxe? What do we know about his life? It is probably true to say that very little is known about Foxe himself. To rescue Foxe from this undeserved anonymity is the purpose of Mozley’s book. Certainly he does not neglect the book itself. Rather he gives us a very clear account of its origin, its publication and subsequent editions. There is probably no other book that accomplished the repudiation of the Roman Church in England as did the Acts and Monuments. However, I believe that a strong case can be made that this was not the original intent of the work. Certainly it possesses an anti-Roman bias but this was because of the intolerance and cruelty imposed on those who disagreed with its teachings. However, Foxe did not limit his disagreement against temporal forms of punishing heresy to the Roman Church. He was totally opposed to any form of temporal punishment against false teaching whether it was practiced by the Roman Church or the Protestant Church. However, if we are to understand this we must know something of the man himself. Foxe matriculated in 1534 and graduated from Oxford University around four years later because he became master in 1539. There was always one consistent thing about John Foxe and it was his pronounced Protestantism. Indeed, his faithfulness to its teaching cost him his fellowship because it required ordination to hold it. However, to be ordained meant to take the vow of celibacy and Foxe remained unconvinced that this was what the Word of God taught even though the Church had made it a sacrament. Not only was Foxe a person of integrity he was also known for his unwillingness to seek preferment in the church...

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