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Story of the Reformer: William Tyndale


In a time when the scripture was not available for the common people, those who can read it are able to hold authority without accountability. One of the overarching themes of the reformation was that Scripture must be made available to all people. William Tyndale, in the path of John Wycliffe, made it his life's work to translate Erasmus' Latin New Testament into the common tongue in England.

William Tyndale was born in 1494 and was educated at Oxford and Cambridge. He was a skilled scholar and was especially adept when it came to languages. While at Cambridge, he and other scholars, namely Thomas Bilney, Thomas Cranmer and eventually Hugh Latimer, gathered at the White Horse tavern to discuss theology and especially the writing of German reformer, Martin Luther. These discussion would lay the theological ground work for the English Reformation. During this time Tyndale had been reading Erasmus' New Testament and had found a joy and comfort that was found in none of the Catholic doctrine or law of the Pope. The truth that sinners are justified by the total and unearned grace of God offered Tyndale the hope that he needed. William knew that this truth needed to be made more available to the English people.

After finishing his studies at Cambridge, Tyndale returned home to tutor the children of Sir John Walsh for 2 years. Afterwards he traveled to London to join the work of the church. He hoped to be used as a translator but was rejected.

Tyndale made a commitment to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into English. This could not be done very easily in England, so he traveled to Worms where he could get access to the Greek and Hebrew text. Tyndale's first translation of the New Testament was published and distributed in 1525-26. This work was a great translation and was met with great excitement, but the Catholic Church saw how dangerous. They knew that if the common people could read scripture on their own, the church would lose its authority. Tynale's translation was banned, but just one year after printing, copies of the Tyndale's translation were being smuggled into England.

The Catholic church condemned Tyndale as a heretic, which forced him into hiding. While hiding William began translating the Old Testament. Before being betrayed, arrested and martyred in 1536, Tyndale was able to complete not only a revised New Testament, but also the Pentateuch, Joshua through 2 Chronicles, and Jonah.

Tyndale's bible translation was his great contribution to the cause of the reformation. He made good on his promise to a lazy Catholic clergyman "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” Tyndale believed, most heartily, that the words of God were meant for all people. There is no one that should be withheld from reading and encountering God in the scripture.

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