THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE PART 3
THE LIFE AND WORK
OF WILLIAM TYNDALE
By: Michael Hobbis
Part 3 (of 3)
In Part 2 of our account of the life of Tyndale, we last left him as having been furnished with extra funds to continue with the work of further revision of his translation of the New Testament. These funds came about by a merchant friend of Tyndale, ostensibly providing help to Bishop Tunstall to buy all of Tyndale’s translated Scriptures coming from the presses of Europe, which Tunstall in a great display promptly burnt. This, in turn, gave Tyndale more money to continue with his major work of revision and Old Testament translation.
We learn from Foxe that while he was sailing to Hamburg to print the translation of Deuteronomy, there was a great storm at sea and Tyndale lost ‘both money, his copies and time’. With Coverdale – with whom he was now working – he had to begin all over again – the Pentateuch being completed between Easter and December and printed in January, 1530 in Antwerp.
Tyndale was prodigious in his labours and in 1531 also translated Jonah and a revised Genesis. The great work of the year 1534 was a completely revised New Testament, with further slight revision in 1535. This was in addition to his previously published polemical works, already mentioned: The Obedience of the Christian Man and The Practise of Prelates and further work on the Old Testament.
The history of the English Bible at this time is admittedly unclear in its detail, but it is believed that every year on average since its first issue, a new edition had been printed and sent by merchants and other means to England. During this period of Tyndale’s labours for the Lord, he also was involved in a drawn out controversy with Sir Thomas More, who had, using all his erudition, sought to ridicule and discredit the faithful translator and Reformer. In 1529, More published a considerable volume entitled ‘The Dialogue’. This extensive work was a defence of the Church in its use in worship of images, penances, praying to saints and going on pilgrimages et al. This was a reaction to such books of Tyndale as ‘The Wicked Mammon’ and ‘The Obedience’, which reached England as More was preparing this tome. This literary assault upon Tyndale was written with all the consummate skill More could bring to it, but Tyndale had the Truth on his side and was more than capable of a clear and spiritual response. His ‘Practise of Prelate’s’ was an initial defence, but in 1531 he wrote ‘The Answer’; this more comprehensive work was plainly written and its straightforward arguments silenced most of More’s accusations. However, Sir Thomas More bitterly persisted with a further polemical work ‘The Confutation’; this second attack by More was regarded even by his friends as a failure, being some ten times the size of Tyndale’s ‘The Answer’.
With no certain dwelling place, and in the midst of these distractions from enemies such as More and the over-zealous monks Roye and Joye, this indefatigable soldier of Christ laboured so that you and I could hold in our hands the Word of the Living God, understandable and pure.
There were happier times during Tyndale’s self-imposed exile in Europe; viz. two wonderful influences upon the Royal courts of England, or should we rather say God’s work of providence, in regard to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his Queen. The first is the account whereby a maid of the Queen had obtained from her a copy of Tyndale’s work, The Obedience of the Christian Man; this book was in turn borrowed by a male friend who was so taken with its contents that he was loathe to return it. The maid, in much distress, confided in the Queen who, in turn, appealed to Henry for assistance, who obtained its return. Henry, curious as to its contents, began to read it, upon which he exclaimed ‘this is a book for me and for all Kings to read’. Such are the marvellous workings of the King of Kings.