Reformers

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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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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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 7

TYNDALE AND HIS TRACTS – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Before Tyndale departed from Worms, he issued his first tract, exclusive of his translations of the Word of God. It was entitled a Compendious introduction, prologue or preface of Paul to the Romans. This is the first tract that Tyndale authored and although he did not attach his name to it, it was quickly recognized as his work. It was primarily based on a tract of Martin Luther that he placed before the book of Romans in his September Testament. An enlarged edition of this prologue was also included in his revised New Testament of 1534. The importance of this tract was not only that it served as an introduction to the book of Romans which of all the New Testament books gives the clearest and most logical explanation of the Gospel and the doctrine of justification, but that it was a fulfillment of Tyndales’s vow to make the ploughboy know what the Scripture meant. We will never truly understand the life of William Tyndale until we recognize that the translation and printing of the Scriptures in the English language was but the prelude to instructing people to understand the Word of God. We will have reason to return to this theme a bit later, but for the present, we merely wish to make the point that Tyndale was intent on providing a key to the understanding of the Word of God as well as providing the text. In our last lesson on Tyndale, we conjectured that after he left Worms and the printing of the first complete New Testament in English, Tyndale parted from Roye and went to Antwerp in the Low Countries. Finding that the situation was dangerous, we believe that he left Antwerp and spent time in Hamburg at the home of Mrs. Von Emerson. It was undoubtedly at that time he worked on his translation of the five books of Moses. However before we speak of Tyndale and his return to Antwerp, we must make mention of the first theological book that Tyndale authored. It was entitled The Parable of the Wicked Mammon and is based on the parable taught by the Lord in Luke 16. However, it is not a Biblical exposition of the parable as much as it is a tract dealing with the doctrine of justification by faith. One might wonder why Tyndale...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 6

TYNDALE IN WORMS – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   After their effort to have the New Testament printed in Cologne was frustrated, William Tyndale and William Roye fled up the Rhine River to the city the Worms. Just five years before, Martin Luther had taken his noble stand for the Reformation in that very city. Like much of William Tyndale’s life and deeds, there is a paucity of information about his activities. However, we can surmise that he continued on his work of translating the New Testament and made arrangements with Peter Schoeffer to have the work printed in his establishment. Finally, about March 1526 the New Testament was completed. It was the first printing of the complete New Testament in the English language. Unlike the Cologne fragment Tyndale did not add editorial notes. Basically it was the Greek of the New Testament rendered into the English language. It was printed in a neat octavo in Gothic type. Even today it is quite easy to read and one can imagine the excitement of an Englishman reading the Word of God for the first time in his native language. The translation is accurate and lively. There are a number of unanswered questions about this edition. One question concerns the fate of the initial printing of the New Testament that began in Cologne. It was in quarto as the lone surviving fragment indicates. Did Tyndale finish that edition and also have an edition printed in the octavo size? There are some who believe that is exactly what happened. They are convinced that the quarto New Testament was completed in three thousand copies and an octavo edition was also printed in the same number of copies. If this were true, then a total of six thousand copies of the New Testament were printed by Schoeffer. However, most experts believe that Tyndale abandoned his plan to have the New Testament printed in quarto and switched to the octavo size. What may have been the reasons for the switch are impossible to determine at the present time. However, it is a know fact that the three surviving copies are octavo and only the Cologne fragment survives in the quarto size. The result would be that three thousand copies of the New Testament were printed, all in octavo. Whatever may have been the actual case, there remained no uncertainty that the printed English New Testament...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 5

TYNDALE IN GERMANY – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   If the earlier events of Tyndale’s life can only be sketched in outline, the years after his departure from England in late 1523 or early 1524 provide even more of a puzzle. We know that Tyndale came to the conclusion that he could not translate the Scriptures into English in London or even in England itself. Consequently he left his native country, never to return. But where did he go and what did he do in the period before his first attempt to print the New Testament in Cologne, Germany? Some have speculated that he went to the city of Hamburg where he was hosted by a widow, Mrs. Margaret Van Emerson until he went to Cologne. However, J. F. Mozley in his magisterial life of Tyndale has given strong evidence that he first went to Wittenberg where Luther and Melanchthon were teaching. In proof of his thesis, Mozley examined the matriculation registers of the University and found under the date of May 27, 1524 the name, in Latin, Guillelmus Daltici ex Anglia or William Deltici from England. What is the significance of the name William Daltici? Mozley demonstrated that if the syllables, dal and tin, were switched, it would be Tyndal. Mozley’s work is a fine piece of investigation and it would be charming to think of William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon conversing together about the events of the day and the work that God was doing in reforming His church. Doubtless, they would also have conversed about the remaining work to be done including the translation of the Scriptures. If the above is correct, it would give us a clue to where Tyndale learned the Hebrew tongue because we are quite certain that he left England ignorant of the Old Testament source language. It would also give us a clue as to his activities from the time that he departed England. But whether or not such was the case, we can place William Tyndale and William Roye, another English priest, in Cologne later that year. Roye’s name does appear on the matriculation list of Wittenberg University so there does not appear any doubt of his presence there at the same time as Guillelmus Daltici. This would also give us a clue as to where Tyndale and Roye made their acquaintance. Roye was not a linguist but...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 4

TYNDALE IN LONDON – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   In the rehearsal of William Tyndale’s period of residence in London, we have as many of the original sources as for any time of his life. In his prologue to the books of Moses, published in Antwerp in 1530, Tyndale recounted the events that led him to London. As a result there are many who believe that Tyndale first formulated his plans to translate and print the New Testament while at Little Sodbury. Whether or not this is the case, there is no doubt that what he experienced at Little Sodbury was a confirmation of the desperate condition of those without the Word of God in their native language. We believe that events at Little Sodbury merely confirmed his desire to translate the Scriptures. Even from his days at Oxford, Tyndale had seen the results of the ignorance of God’s Word. This applied not only to the lay people but to those who were in the process of being trained to be spiritual leaders. He remarked in his exposition of John’s first epistle about the time that he heard a clerk prove that Christ was a true prophet by the authority of John the Baptist and then prove that John the Baptist was a true prophet by the authority of Christ. Such use of Scripture never dealt with what the Scriptures taught about the way a person could come to know God and receive true forgiveness of sins. This way of dealing with the Scriptures was reinforced by the method of training priests. They were not permitted to study the Word of God until they had been taught six, seven, and even eight years in heathen philosophy. Upon the reception of their first degree, they had to swear that they held no opinions condemned by the church but what opinions the church had condemned were unknown to them. In Tyndale’s view, the Scripture was locked up by false expositions and false principles of natural philosophy. Thus we can see the force of Tyndale’s vow to make the boy that driveth the plough know more of the Scripture than the priests because the simple fact was that the priests did not know the Scripture. Frequently, we will find Tyndale using the idea of a “key” to unlock the meaning of God’s Word. In the Preface to the Five Books of Moses...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 3

LITTLE SODBURY MANOR – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   The narration of Tyndale’s life has brought us to the year 1521. We are now on firmer ground as regards his activities. In that year he left Cambridge University and returned to his ancestral home – Gloustershire. He became a tutor to the children of Sir John and Lady Anne Walsh at Little Sudbury Manor, their home. Once again, we are faced with the question of why should a person, who spent at least eight years at Oxford and graduated M.A. and an indefinite period of time at Cambridge, return to his childhood land to become tutor to two young children, about the ages of eight and ten? Were conditions so desperate that this was the only means of earning a living? It is nearly impossible to make sense of Tyndale’s activities unless we interpret them in the light of his ambition to translate the Word of God into the English language. Although detailed certainly of his activities lies beyond our knowledge, there was a basic pattern that is plain to see. His actions were all directed to prepare himself to translate the Bible into the English language. Several factors appear to make this abundantly clear: his disgust with the theology taught at Oxford, his matriculation at Cambridge to improve his knowledge of the source language of the New Testament, and the activities and conversations at the White Horse Inn would reinforce his basic conviction that the Word of God must be translated and printed in the vernacular if ever there was to be true reformation in the Church of England. Whether his activities were part of a master plan that he had formulated even as a student at Oxford or that he came gradually to see that this was to be to his life’s work is nearly impossible to state with certainty. However, it is abundantly clear that his activities and studies were designed to equip him to be a skilled translator of the Scriptures into the English language. Even his work at Sodbury Manor would contribute to his preparation. For certainly his duties of instructing two young children would leave him ample time to continue his private studies. However, that was not all that Tyndale did while at the home of the Walshes. One of his activities was to go to a monastery called St. Austin’s near Bristol....

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 2

TYNDALE AT CAMBRIDGE – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   In our first study of Tyndale’s life, we have traced his birth, upbringing, and education at Oxford University. This brought us to the year 1516 and William Tyndale would have been about twenty-two years of age. The activities of Tyndale after the completion of his studies at Oxford are not certain. However, on the authority of John Foxe, there is good reason to believe that he studied at Cambridge University for nearly five years. There is no formal record of his matriculation in the University archives; however, as a recent graduate of Oxford, this condition may have been waived. Why should an individual who spent the previous eight years pursuing a university education decide to study at another institution of higher learning? Although we are reduced to conjecture, there were a number of factors that could have influenced him to continue his studies. We know that Erasmus had returned to England and from 1511 to 1514 had taught Greek at Cambridge. Although he would have departed from Cambridge by the time that Tyndale arrived, his influence would remain. If we consider the strong probability that Tyndale was formulating plans to translate and print the Bible in English, an advanced knowledge of the language of the New Testament would be a decided advantage. For that reason alone, we can be confident of Tyndale’s presence at Cambridge lacking any other evidence to the contrary. During the approximately five year period that Tyndale spent at Cambridge, many pivotal events took place, both on the continent and at Cambridge itself. Perhaps the most important was the publication at Basel of the first copy of the New Testament in Greek. After leaving Cambridge, Erasmus gradually worked his way to Basel with the intention of having his Latin translation of the New Testament published. Unknown to him at the time, Johannes Froben, who had taken possession of the Amberbach printing establishment in Basel, had heard that a New Testament in Greek had been printed at Alcala in Spain. Froben correctly surmised that such a book would have a large sale. Because this Greek New Testament was to be part of a Biblical polyglot, known as the Complutensian, the New Testament was not published, i. e. offered for sale until the Old Testament portion was completed. However, Froben knew that it would not be long before the...

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The Life of William Tyndale – Part 1

TYNDALE’S BIRTH AND EDUCATION – by Dr. Herbert Samworth   Among many Christians the King James Bible is considered to be the standard of accuracy and scholarship. Yet, nearly eighty-five percent of its majestic prose of the New Testament is the work of an individual who labored nearly ninety years before its publication. That individual was William Tyndale and he can rightly be considered as the foremost translator of the English Bible from the Greek language. However, he was not the first to translate the Bible into the English language. That honor goes to John Wyclif who lived in the 14th century. However, the work of Wycliffe was restricted to manuscript copies because printing by moveable type had not yet been perfected and it was, in reality, a translation of a translation because Wycliffe and his associates translated from the Latin Vulgate. After Wycliffe’s death in 1384, and he died officially orthodox as a member of the Church of England, the English clergy made a monumental error. In a series of decisions known as the Constitutions of Oxford promulgated in 1408 under the direction of Thomas Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Convocation declared that no person could possess a copy of the vernacular Scripture, i.e. the English Bible, apart from the permission of the bishop. The English Bible would remain illegal for nearly one hundred and thirty years and William Tyndale would live his entire life during the period when the English Bible was proscribed. Our information concerning the birth of Tyndale and his early life is scanty indeed. No one can state with absolute certainty the year of his birth. Surmises of the time of his birth vary from 1490 to 1496. However, recent scholarship has settled on the year 1494 as the probable date and appears to fit better with the known facts of his life. Not only is the exact year of his birth a matter of uncertainty, so also was the place of his birth. Rather than go into detail concerning the various places that have been set forth as his birthplace, evidence indicates that he was born in the village of Slimbridge in the Cotswold region of Gloustershire, England. At that time, Gloustershire was the center of the English wool producing industry. A society had been formed known as the Merchant Adventurers who invested heavily in this business and carried on trade with weavers...

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