“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest.”
– Tyndale, in response to a clergyman opposing his translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular
William Tyndale was born around 1495 in England. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1521 and soon came upon his life’s work: translating the Scriptures into English. Tyndale petitioned the Church in London for permission to do this translation; however King Henry VIII andhigh-ranking clergymen were firmly against a vernacular version of the Scriptures. Although some translations had been made into Old English, Tyndale’s Early Modern English translations were to be the first to draw directly from Greek and Hebrew texts. Tyndale went ahead with his translation, eventually fleeing to Hamburg under a pseudonym. There he encountered anti-Lutheran sentiment, but eventually Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was published in 1526. Thanks to the new technology of the printing press, many copies were produced. Copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were smuggled into England and Scotland. The Bishop of London condemned the book and burned copies in the public square.
Tyndale was declared a heretic. Tyndale spent the next years in hiding, translating the Old Testament and writing theological treatises: one of Tyndale’s most notable treatises condemned Henry VIII’s divorce as unscriptural. Henry also called for Tyndale’s arrest. In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed by a friend and arrested. He was tried for heresy and condemned to death. His last words wer, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”
Tyndale never completed his translation of the Old Testament. However, over 18,000 copies of his New Testament were printed, and much of his work influenced and was included int he King James Bible of 1611.
Almighty God, who planted in the heart of your servant William Tyndale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to the people in their native tongue, and endowed him with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.