I remember very little about my days in High School. Sports I remember and the High School drama I’ll never forget. I specifically remember my Junior year when our beloved speech teacher, Mrs. Edwards, announced what our drama was going to be. Daniel was fun. The Lions of Trondheim was a great play, but nothing topped the drama when we did the life of William Tyndale.
Tyndale and Luther turned the world upside down in the 1500s. Tyndale was precisely the man God needed in England to see His Word get into the hands of the people. He had a burning desire to see to that every plowboy would be able to have, read, and understand the Scripture. His mastery of the language allowed him to introduce English words in translation that are still being used around the world today!
For these translations to happen, God had to lay the foundation for these men to work on. A man named Erasmus helped do that by compiling and composing a Greek edition of the New Testament. Luther took that text and translated it into German. Many say Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it. If this was the case, I would like to propose that Tyndale made scrambled eggs of it and fed millions!
Tyndale was God’s man for this job. He had a God-given desire to translate Scripture. He also could speak seven languages and was proficient in ancient Hebrew and Greek. He had a pastor’s heart and ministered to the people of England regularly.
It did not take long, however, to realize this endeavor would not be favorable to the King or those in authority. King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and Sir Thomas More, among others, were furious. “It was,” said More, “not worthy to be called Christ’s testament, but either Tyndale’s testament or the testament of his master Antichrist.”
Needless to say, like Luther, Tyndale had to go into hiding to finish and revise the New Testament and begin working on the Old. His finished books would be smuggled out by friends to the people of England. Many were fearful to read or take them, unsure of what the fallout might be. Tyndale would comfort each of them with these words, “Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, nor 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 is on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes.”
When the authorities realized the English Bible was spreading from region to region they knew they had to do something. So they came up with a genius plan to pay people for their copies. Tyndale realized that this was not a curse but could be used as a blessing in disguise. His “distribution team” went around and gathered up all the Bibles which they previously distributed. They collected the ones that needed revisions or had errors, took them to the King, and the King graciously paid them, and then burned the old copies. They used the funds from the King to print new improved editions! God save the King!
A plot was finally put into place that would “end” the work of Tyndale (end is in quotations seeing seventy-five percent of the King James Old Testament and eighty-five of the New is Tyndale’s work). Henry Phillips, a crook and thief, was paid by the King to go undercover as a follower of Tyndale to expose him and his writings. After building a friendship and earning Tyndale’s trust, Phillips was allowed the privilege to see the works and press. Much like Judas, Phillips (which by the way was my character in the play) sold out Tyndale in 1535.
One year later, on October 6, 1536, Tyndale was chained to a stake in the middle of the town square and burned for his work. Before the flames could quench him he cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
That prayer was answered two years later when King Henry VIII ordered that the Bible of Miles Coverdale was to be used in every parish in the land. The Coverdale Bible was largely based on Tyndale’s work. In 1539, Tyndale’s edition of the Bible became officially approved for printing.
So what are our takeaways from Tyndale?
1. If God has laid a purpose on your heart don’t let anything stop you!
2. We all are to be subject to those who rule over us, but when that rule is contrary to God, we must obey God rather than man.
3. Just because you have not seen an answer to your prayer, it does not mean God is not going to answer. It might not happen until after you are gone!