Reformers

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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