Tyndale’s Burning

(an excerpt from Killing the Bible)

Tyndale wrote to readers of his translation and his writings:
“Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health—for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.”

Published Works
A Pathway into the Holy Scripture
The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1527)
The Obedience of a Christian Man (1527–1528)
The Practyse of Prelates (1530)
The New Testament (1526–1534 three editions)
The Pentateuch

All these works and more were written during those mysterious years, in places of concealment so secure and well chosen that neither the ecclesiastical nor diplomatic emissaries of Wolsey and Henry VIII, charged to track, hunt down, and seize the fugitive, were able to reach him. Under the false idea that the progress of the Reformation in England rendered it safe for him to leave his deep concealment, he settled at Antwerp in 1534, and combined the work of an evangelist with that of a translator of the Bible.

On the practical Christian side, Tyndale spent five days each week in translation and two days doing Christian work. On one of the two days, he preached in a secluded location. On the other, he went incognito to the slums and brought food to the people. Unlike most religious men of his day, William sought not to live in the ivory tower trappings of the pious but to live out his faith as he had seen the Gospels reveal. On Tyndale, Drs. Craig and Joel Lampe have said it best on their “greatsite.com” cataloguing the history of Bible workers: “His translations are made directly from the originals, with the aid of the Erasmus 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament, and the best available Hebrew texts. The Prolegomena in Mombert’s William Tyndale’s Five Books of Moses show conclusively that Tyndale’s Pentateuch is a translation of the Hebrew original. His translations, it would turn out, became decisive in the history of the English Bible, and of the English language.

Nearly a century later, when translators of the Authorized, or King James Version, debated how to translate the original languages, eight of ten times, they agreed that Tyndale had it best to begin with. Tyndale’s place in history has not yet been sufficiently recognized as a translator of the Scriptures, as an apostle of liberty, and as a chief promoter of the Reformation in England.”

Tyndale’s execution from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Tyndale was betrayed by a friend, named Philips, the agent either of Henry or of English ecclesiastics, or possibly of both. Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorde for over 500 days of horrible conditions. He was tried for heresy and treason, in a ridiculously unfair trial, and convicted.

Burning Charges against Tyndale. Heresies:
He maintains that faith alone justifies.
He maintains that to believe in the forgiveness of sins and to embrace
the mercy offered in the Gospel was enough for salvation.
He avers that human traditions cannot bind the conscience, except
where their neglect might occasion scandal.
He denies the freedom of the will.
He denies that there is any purgatory.
He affirms that neither the Virgin nor the Saints pray for us in their own person.
He asserts that neither the Virgin nor the Saints should be invoked by us.

After eleven months of privation and starvation, he was brought out of prison and tied to the center post in the castle courtyard. He was given the choice of “kindness” because he was a clergyman. Kindness meant that
the executioner would strangle the victim with a cord prior to lighting the wood for the heretical burning. Tyndale opted for the kindness and said his last words, “Oh God, open the eyes of the king of England.” He was then strangled to death with a cord from behind the post and his body burned at the stake. He was forty-two years old. One year after his murder, King Henry VIII rebelled against the pope and officially created the Church of England. The king vowed there would be no more burnings of Englishmen by Rome. Tyndale New Testaments were brought out into the open and read at will by order of the king.

By the time of Tyndale’s martyrdom in 1536, some sixteen thousand New Testaments had passed into England and Scotland. In a few years, fifty-four clergymen brought together by King James would use Tyndale’s Pentateuch, New Testament, and the partial translations of other Old Testament books, which had been completed by Tyndale’s disciples, to compose 90 percent of the King James Bible.