William Tyndale (1492-1536)
Walking along the Embankment in London one discovers several statues of great people. One statue there is erected to the memory of William Tyndale.
William was born in 1493 in the county of Gloucester. Little is known of his childhood, but as a young man he was educated at Magdalen Hall at Oxford and later attended Cambridge University. In 1520 Tyndale accepted a post at Little Sodbury as tutor and chaplain in the household of Sir John Walsh. In this home he had many theological discussions with priests of the area.
In 1408 a law had been passed forbidding any translation of the Scripture into English and warned that any one caught reading the Scriptures would be excommunicated. Clerics argued that "ordinary people could not understand the Bible if they had one," but Tyndale had a burning desire to bring the truths of the Bible to the common people around him. Tyndale vowed to one priest, "If God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scriptures than thou doest!"
With this determination Tyndale sought the permission and the encouragement of the Bishop of London for his endeavours. He was refused so he left England, never to return again.
He travelled to Cologne where he continued his work to the point where it was ready to be printed. Sadly, one of the printers, under the influence of drink, talked loudly of Tyndale's work in the presence of John Cochleus who made it necessary for Tyndale to flee with his precious manuscripts.
Finding a haven in Worms, the area associated with Martin Luther, he was able to finish the first edition of the English New Testament. Copies were smuggled into England to eager readers.
The Bishop of London, learning of Bibles coming to England, purchased the whole shipment in an effort to stop their distribution. In February of 1526 these Bibles were publicly burned. However, the money from the sale of the Bible provided funds for publishing the second edition of the New Testament.
In 1534 Tyndale was staying in the home of an English merchant in Antwerp. Henry Phillips of that town pretended to be Tyndale's friend but was to act as the Judas in his life. An invitation to a meal led the unsuspecting Tyndale into a trap.
He was taken as prisoner to the Castle of Vilvorde. There he spent almost 6 months badly treated as he awaited the death penalty. Before being strangled and burnt at the stake he cried out, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" His last prayer was answered. Within one year King Henry gave the English Bible royal recognition and every parish church in England was supplied with a Bible.
Our thanks to Barbara Cross, Mission to the World, Chelmsford, England