484 years ago on October 6, Reformer William Tyndale, at the age of 42, was executed by being burned alive at the stake. His crime? He had translated the Bible into English and the “common people” were reading it.
William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. He was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue.
Pope Clement VII was the main one persecuting Tyndale about translating the bible into English and had him imprisoned a year and a half before Tyndale was actually killed but Clement died in 1534 and didn’t get to see Tyndale executed. Pope Paul III was in power when Tyndale was burned at the stake.
Catholics are taught that the early vernacular Bibles were untrustworthy, and riddled with errors and that this is why they were suppressed. The fact is that they were too close to the truth for the Roman Church to tolerate.
So what had Tyndale done in his translation that was so heretical? Tyndale had translated the Greek word for ‘elder’ as ‘elder’ instead of ‘priest’, he had translated the Greek word for ‘congregation’ as ‘congregation’ instead of ‘church’, the Greek word for ‘repentance’ as ‘repentance’ instead of ‘penance’ etc. Why were such differences important to the church? The Roman Church has priests, not elders. A congregation implies a locally autonomous group of believers guided by the Holy Spirit and not a hierarchical unified church subject to a Pope. The Roman Church is built on penance and indulgences to the priest and Church, not repentance to, and forgiveness from God. (See Martin Luther’s 95 Theses on Indulgences, the debate that sparked the Reformation). In trying to faithfully render the Greek into English, Tyndale’s translation exposed the errors of the church to the people, which quickly brought the wrath of the Catholic church down on him.
It was common practice, and Roman Catholic teaching, for “heretics” to be turned over to secular authorities for execution. This was nothing more than a transparent and quite unsuccessful attempt to keep the blood off the hands of the Church. As a result, King Henry VIII got blamed for it.
A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in Roman Catholic dogma once taunted William Tyndale with the statement, “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s”. Tyndale was infuriated by such Roman Catholic heresies, and he replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!”
His final words as he stood on the pyre were, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes”. The Lord answered that prayer; within 4 years of Tyndale’s death the king of England, in defiance of the papacy, ordered that 4 english translations of the Bible be published and made available to the people. This resulted in the furthering of the protestant movement.
All 4 translations were based on Tyndale’s work. Today there is a Bible publishing company named after William Tyndale, Tyndale Publishing House and the Tyndale Bible. Much of the King James Bible was a result of Tyndale’s work.
Only one complete copy of this first edition is known to exist, and the British Museum paid $2 million for it in 1948!
To ALL of the reformers we owe a debt we can never hope to pay.