During Tyndale's lifetime, it was illegal to print and distribute Bibles in the English language. At that time, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the Bible to be translated into common languages. While Wycliffe had translated an earlier version of the Bible more than a hundred years before it was scarce. Also, Wycliffe's Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate as opposed to the original languages of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament).
William Tyndale, a gifted linguist who was fluent in seven languages, firmly believed that the Word of God was meant for everyone to read. When told by a clergyman that "We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's." Tyndale responded by saying, "I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!" Those were not idle words.
In 1523 he headed for London where he attempted to get permission to translate the Bible into English from Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall. Permission was denied. Less than a year later, he left England and is believed to have headed for Wittenburg where Martin Luther nailed The 95 Theses to the door of The Castle Church seven years earlier. At this time, Tyndale is believed to have begun his work on translating the Greek New Testament into English. It was completed in 1525. The Bibles started to make their way into England and into the hands of the people. Of course, they had to be smuggled in for as soon as Church officials became aware of them, the books were banned. Those of us in English-speaking countries who criticize the smuggling of the Word of God into closed countries would do well to remember that the Bible which they hold in their hands is there because of people who risked their lives translating it, printing it and smuggling it into England! Will we dare to deny people the very Word of God?
William Tyndale didn't and he paid for it with his life. He began his work on the Old Testament around 1529. In 1535, he was betrayed and seized in Antwerp, Belgium. He was charged with heresy and sentenced to death. Tyndale was strangled and then burned at the stake in the fall of 1536.
It was reported that his final words were:
Lord! Open the King of England's eyes.Within four years, that prayer was answered and four English translations of the Bible were published.
Are we willing to put our lives on the line for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? William Tyndale was.
This blog is part of a series entitled Those Who Counted The Cost...And Paid It