William Tyndale Reference

William Tyndale

(History of the World: The Renaissance)

Article abstract: During the Reformation, Tyndale translated the New Testament and the first five books of the Old Testament into English.

Early Life

William Tyndale was born near the border between Wales and England, probably in Gloucestershire, around 1494. He was also known as William Hutchins; the family moved from the north and took the name Hutchins to avoid detection during an unsettled period of war. Nothing is known about either his childhood or his family except that he had a brother named John and possibly another one named Edward.

Tyndale entered the University of Oxford around 1508. While there, he abandoned the teachings of the Church and instructed students in scriptural truths. About 1516, after receiving his master’s degree, Tyndale entered the University of Cambridge, where he remained until 1521. Tyndale’s friends loved and respected him, and even his enemies acknowledged his learning and his irreproachable integrity. Neither proud nor selfish, he was zealous in his work, courageous, and faithful throughout his life.

Life’s Work

From 1521 to 1523, Tyndale served as schoolmaster to the children of Sir John Walsh, a knight of Gloucestershire, at the manor house of Little Sodbury. He also began to preach in nearby villages and to crowds that gathered around him in Bristol. When Thomas Parker, a man of violent temper who vigorously prosecuted accusations of heresy, was appointed chancellor of the district, Tyndale was accused of heretical teaching and summoned to appear before him. He was threatened and reviled, but because no witnesses would testify against him, he was given no punishment. This was the only time, aside from his last trial, that Tyndale was brought before any church officer on charges of heresy.

Tyndale realized that the clergy of his day opposed his doctrine because they did not know Latin, the language of their Bible, and consequently could not know what Scripture actually taught. Concerned more with ritual than with truth, their ignorance was indicative of the spirit of the church rulers. When a friend told him that the pope was the Antichrist of Scripture, Tyndale concluded that, as Antichrist, the pope would strive to keep the Holy Writ from the people. Tyndale had come to know Christ through his study of Scripture, and he believed that if others had that opportunity they would also choose Christ over the Church. He decided that the only remedy would be an English translation of the Bible distributed to the people so that they could study it for themselves.

Tyndale resolved that he would be the translator. While still at Little Sodbury, he began the New Testament, working from the original Greek and not from the Latin Vulgate as John Wycliffe had done in the 1300’s. Because of his sympathy with the religious reformers, Gloucestershire was unsafe for him and he moved to London in 1523. He had hoped that Cuthbert Tunstall, the new bishop, would grant him patronage, which would support him while he studied and wrote. This was not to be the case; when Tyndale was granted an interview, Tunstall coldly refused to help.

Fortunately, while preaching at St. Dunstan’s-in-the-West in London, Tyndale met Humphrey Monmouth, a wealthy cloth merchant and patron of needy scholars. Monmouth invited Tyndale to stay with him and paid him to pray for his parents and other saints. In Monmouth’s home, Tyndale was free to work on his translation, and he heard men discuss the history of King Henry VIII’s reign and the progress of the Reformation in Germany, France, and Switzerland.

Deciding that the English version of the New Testament would be impossible to print in England, Tyndale sailed for Germany in May of 1524, never to set foot in his native land again. Upon his arrival in Hamburg, he visited Martin Luther in Wittenberg and remained there until April, 1525. While at Wittenberg, he worked on his translation with the help of a secretary, William Roye. In the spring of 1525, Tyndale returned to Hamburg to collect some money he had left with Monmouth. He and Roye then traveled to Cologne and arranged for the printing of the New Testament. Johannes Cochlaeus, dean of St. Mary’s Church at Frankfurt, discovered the plan and obtained an order from the Cologne Senate which prohibited the printers from proceeding with the work. In addition, Cochlaeus warned Henry VIII to watch the British seaports in order to prevent the translation’s arrival in England.

Before Cochlaeus could confiscate the papers, Tyndale and Roye escaped to Worms in October of 1525, taking the already printed sheets with them. They hired Peter Schoeffer, a printer with Lutheran sympathies, to complete a new printing of the New Testament. In spite of the precautions taken by the king and the bishops, the copies of the Testament...

(The entire section is 1990 words.)