Posts by Herbert Samworth

The Life of William Tyndale – Part 13

HIS IMPRISONMENT – by Dr. Herbert Samworth •   As we have seen from our previous installment of the life of William Tyndale, he was betrayed and arrested in May 1535. He was taken to the Vilvorde Prison where he would be incarcerated for the remaining months of his life. What do we know about William Tyndale during these final months of his life? Did he ever reflect on the treachery of Henry Phillips? Did they ever meet face to face during these months? There is reason to believe that Phillips would be a witness to the interrogations of Tyndale, but contemporary reports indicate that he remained hidden and out of sight. There is little reason to believe that a person of the character of Phillips would have the courage to confront Tyndale face to face. The Vilvorde Prison where Tyndale was held later would be used as a model for the famed Bastille Prison in France. It was razed sometime in the 18th and 19th century so there remains no physical evidence to indicate where Tyndale’s cell was located. In light of a letter that he wrote while in prison, it would be interesting to know if his cell was located underground. Prison life was harsh in those days and contemporary pictures of Tyndale that show him in relative comfort are certainly wide of the mark. There remains no doubt that the arrest and imprisonment of Tyndale violated the agreement between the Merchant Adventurers and the officials of the Low Countries. Thomas Poyntz proved to be a true friend of Tyndale although his attempts to have Tyndale released ultimately proved to be ineffective. As it turns out, Poyntz himself was accused of heresy by Phillips, was arrested, and only fled when it was apparent that he himself was in danger of being tried for heresy and sent to the stake. Poyntz suffered because of his friendship with Tyndale to the extent that he lost both his property and family. He escaped to England, but his wife and family refused to follow him and remained in Antwerp. There is an amazing contrast between the activities of Thomas Poyntz and Henry Phillips and it is only right to record our gratitude for the efforts that Poyntz made to rescue his friend from the clutches of the officials. Much mystery surrounds the activities of the English officials. It appears that efforts...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 12

HIS ARREST AND IMPRISONMENT – by Dr. Herbert Samworth •   By the year 1534 William Tyndale could look back with a degree of gratitude and accomplishment. He had finished the translation and printing of the New Testament in 1526 and a second revised edition in 1534. He also began the translation of the Old Testament with the printing of the books of Moses in 1530. In addition, he had translated the book of Jonah. As we noted in a previous chapter on Tyndale’s life it was during the years in Antwerp, he engaged in a controversy with Sir Thomas More that began with the publishing of More’s A Dialogue Concerning Heresies to which Tyndale replied two years later in An Answer unto Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue. In 1532 and 1533 More replied in a massive book of six parts entitled A Confutation of Sir William Tyndale. This ended the controversy because Tyndale did not reply to More. In addition to his translation work and controversy with Sir Thomas More, Tyndale wrote brief tracts that served as keys to interpret of the Word of God. It is our thesis that Tyndale in his desire to reach the ploughboy not only determined to give him the Bible in his vernacular language but also to provide helps to its correct interpretation. A Pathway into Scripture and the introductions to the various books found in his translations of the New Testament and the Pentateuch furnished such helps to interpretation. His one polemical book apart from the controversy with Sir Thomas More entitled The Practice of Prelates did not prove to be helpful. Because he resided in Antwerp and was not in England, there is reason to believe that the writing of the book cost Tyndale the favor of Henry. Although many in England declared themselves in favor of the divorce, Tyndale was adamant that Henry should remain married to Catherine. However, when he wrote that it was not right of the King to divorce his wife, he was expressing his honest conviction from the Word of God. Considering subsequent events, it would have been better for Tyndale to limit his work to that of translation and not to meddle in affairs of the court. Certainly, we would be willing to trade The Practice of Prelates for a complete translation of the Old Testament from the hand of William Tyndale. Thus, Tyndale in...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 11

WILLIAM TYNDALE AND SIR THOMAS MORE – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   When we last noticed William Tyndale, he had completed the publication of the Pentateuch in 1530 and his revised second edition of the New Testament in 1534. We must pause in our narrative of the events of his life to take notice of a verbal battle that ensued between him and Sir Thomas More. It certainly was not the most edifying of contests, but a review of it will bring into focus some of the most important contrasts of the events taking place in England and Europe during that time. On one hand, William Tyndale and Thomas More were two dissimilar men. More, who was about seventeen years older than Tyndale, had achieved fame as a humanist. He was a graduate of Oxford University and the companion of John Colet and Erasmus. More had gained notoriety in his own right with the publication of the satirical Utopia. He pursued a career as a lawyer with great success, married well, and enjoyed a very successful life. There are many who believe that it was Colet and More who persuaded Erasmus to take up the study of Greek. Colet had studied at the Platonic Academy in Florence while More had pursued the study of Greek at Oxford. Thus, there was a direct connection between Thomas More and the beginning of the Reformation with the publication of the Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, the Novum Instrumentum in 1516. On the other hand, Tyndale, while also a graduate of Oxford and a student of the Greek language, had been forced to go abroad to translate and print the Word of God in his native English. We must be reminded at this date, due to the Constitutions of Oxford promulgated in 1408, that it was illegal to possess a translation of the Bible in the English language. Tyndale was basically a fugitive from English law and was residing in the Merchant Adventurers’ house in Antwerp. He enjoyed none of the comforts that characterized the life of More. However, the outward circumstances as different as they may have appeared, were secondary to the differences that characterized the two individuals. It was not a matter of character because both individuals were transparent in their beliefs. However, the issue dealt with the most basic of differences imaginable. For William Tyndale what was supreme in his life...

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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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