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William Tyndale

William Tyndale

William Tyndale (ca. 1495-1536) was the greatest of all English biblical scholars. His translation of the Bible into English formed the major part of the Authorized Version, or King James Bible.

William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire and mostly educated at Oxford, where he earned a master of arts degree in 1515. He became a priest and, doubtless influenced among other things by the work of John Colet and Erasmus at Cambridge some years earlier, decided to produce an English translation of the Bible. He found support from a rich London cloth merchant. Within months, however, he became convinced he must leave London if he was to succeed; and, accordingly, with the financial support of the merchant, he left England in 1524, never again to return.

After short sojourns in Hamburg, and, possibly, Wittenberg, Tyndale settled down at Cologne in 1525. He quickly began the printing of his New Testament, but only a few sheets had been finished when the city fathers got wind of it and stopped it. The work was resumed at Worms, and by April 1526 an octavo edition was being sold in London. In November all available copies were burned at St. Paul's Cross. In 1528 Tyndale published the Parable of the Wicked Mammon, dealing with Luther's teaching concerning justification by faith, and the Obedience of a Christian Man, which replaced papal authority by royal authority and was heartily approved by King Henry VIII. However, in the Practice of Prelates in 1530, Tyndale not only attacked Cardinal Wolsey but opposed the annulment of Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Meanwhile Bishop Tunstall of London had invited Sir Thomas More to reply to Tyndale's books, and a lively controversy took place.

Tyndale's Lutheran-inspired Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount was much admired; and possibly The Supper of the Lord, which appeared in 1533, was also his. Meanwhile throughout these years his work on the Old Testament had been proceeding. In 1530 he published his translation of the Pentateuch. As his New Testament had been pirated for various unsatisfactory editions, he published a revision in 1534, with a third, revised edition in 1535. In 1535, however, he was seized by the local government authorities in Antwerp, where he was living, for being a propagator of heresy. After months of imprisonment and many theological disputations he was condemned in August 1536 for persistence in heresy, and in October he was strangled to death and his body publicly cremated.

During his years at Antwerp, where he was so well maintained by the generosity of the English merchants there, Tyndale acquired a great reputation for austerity of character and frugality of life, combined with a steady attention to the needs of the poor, which offset the impression caused by the violent language found in his polemical works. In the year following his death there appeared in England a new Bible with the king's approval which was said to be the work of one Thomas Matthew. It was, however, a composite work edited by John Rogers and containing translations by him, by Miles Coverdale, and, for the greater part, by Tyndale. This Matthew Bible was reedited by Coverdale and published in 1539. It became known as the Great Bible. In this way Tyndale's translation was the basis of the first Bibles in English to get royal approval. His translation has underlain most subsequent English versions and has profoundly affected the development of the English language.

Further Reading

A short study of Tyndale's thought, a brief sketch of his life, selections from his writings organized under various heads, and an essay on him and on the English language by G. D. Bone are contained in the useful book by the Reverend Stanley L. Greenslade, The Work of William Tindale (1938). A similar book is Gervase E. Duffield, ed., The Work of William Tyndale (1965).

Additional Sources

Daniell, David, William Tyndale: a biography, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Edwards, Brian (Brian H.), God's outlaw, Welwyn; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Evangelical Press, 1976.

Edwards, Brian (Brian H.), William Tyndale, the father of the English Bible, Farmington Hills, Mich.: William Tyndale College, 1982 printing, 1976. □

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Tyndale, William

William Tyndale (all: tĬn´dəl), c.1494–1536, English biblical translator (see Bible) and Protestant martyr. He was probably ordained shortly before entering (c.1521) the household of Sir John Walsh of Gloucestershire as chaplain and tutor. His sympathy with the new learning led to disputes with the clergy, and he moved to London, determined to translate the New Testament into English. Finding that publication could not be accomplished in England, Tyndale went to Hamburg in 1524, visited Martin Luther in Wittenberg, and at Cologne began (1525) the printing of the New Testament. Interrupted by an injunction, he had the edition completed at Worms. When copies entered England, they were denounced by the bishops and suppressed (1526); Cardinal Wolsey ordered Tyndale seized at Worms. Living in concealment, Tyndale pursued his translation, issuing the Pentateuch (1530) and the Book of Jonah (1536). His work was later the basis of the King James Version of the Bible. His tracts in defense of the principles of the English Reformation, The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) and The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1528), were denounced by Sir Thomas More. The Practice of Prelates (1530), condemning the divorce of Henry VIII, drew the wrath of the king. Occupied with revising his translations, Tyndale was seized (1535) in Antwerp and confined in Vilvoorde Castle, near Brussels. His trial ended in condemnation for heresy, and he was strangled at the stake before his body was burned.

See biographies by J. F. Mozley (1937) and C. H. Williams (1969); study by E. W. Cleaveland (1911, repr. 1972).

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Tyndale, William

Tyndale, William (c.1494–1536). Translator of the Bible. Tyndale was probably from a Gloucestershire family and entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1510. He became tutor to the children of Sir John Walsh of Old Sodbury, but soon removed to London and the continent, visiting Luther at Wittenberg. Meanwhile he worked on his English translation of the New Testament. Printed in Germany, copies smuggled into England were seized and burned by the authorities. In 1528 Tyndale issued The Obedience of a Christian Man, which argued for complete submission to temporal power, but his Practice of Prelates in 1530 attacked both Wolsey and Henry VIII's proposed divorce. His subsequent controversy with More turned on the question whether the authority of Scripture or of the church was paramount. In 1535 Tyndale was seized by servants of the Emperor Charles V and burned as a heretic at Vilvoorde near Brussels in October 1536. Tyndale's translation, based on Erasmus' Greek version, was much used by the Authorized Version issued in 1611, and his great phrases roll round the heads of Christians and non-Christians alike—‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’; ‘And though I bestowed all my goods to feed the poor, and though I gave my body even that I burned, and yet had no love, it profiteth me nothing’; ‘the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’

J. A. Cannon

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TYNDALE, William

TYNDALE, William [c.1492–1536]. English cleric, BIBLE translator, and Protestant martyr. Born in Gloucestershire, he studied at Oxford, was ordained in 1521, and entered a Gloucestershire household as chaplain/tutor, where he resolved to translate the BIBLE and issued a challenge to a local priest: ‘If God spare my life I will cause that the boy that drives the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou.’ He preached and wrote in London before moving to Germany, where his New Testament was printed in Worms (1524–5), with a later revision printed in Antwerp (1534). Copies smuggled to England were rigidly suppressed. He also translated the Pentateuch and Jonah, and possibly other parts of the Old Testament, after contact with Jews at Worms in Germany. He was betrayed to officials of the Holy Roman Emperor in Antwerp and was strangled and burned as a heretic at Vilvorde, near Brussels. His biblical translation was deliberately homely and without pedantry, as in the phrases for ever and ever, to die the death, a man after his own heart, apple of his eye, which have passed into general English usage. The work fulfilled his aim of appealing to all classes in English society and formed a basis for most subsequent renderings, including the Authorized Version.

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Tyndale, William

Tyndale, William, or William Huchens (c.1494–1536). Biblical translator and religious reformer. He was born in Gloucestershire, and worked for his BA and MA at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, 1506–15. From Oxford, he may have gone to Cambridge before becoming tutor to the children of Sir John Walsh in Gloucestershire (important for Lollardy) in 1522. After failing to gain patronage in London, Tyndale went probably to Wittenberg, but then to Cologne and to Worms (all connected with the Protestant Reformation). His translation of the New Testament was published in Worms in 1526 and was smuggled to England. The Pentateuch came next (Antwerp, 1530), the first translation ever made of Hebrew into English; Joshua and II Chronicles followed. His New Testament was ceremoniously burnt in London in 1526, and his own life was in danger from English spies and Henry VIII's allies. In 1535 he was imprisoned in the castle of Volvorde, and after trial for heresy he was strangled and burnt at the stake, 6 Oct. 1536, praying that God would ‘open the King of England's eyes’. His translations were not immediately used in England (when the Great Bible, see COVERDALE, was finally printed), but they underlie some 80 per cent of the Authorized Bible (1611).

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Tyndale, William

Tyndale, William (1494–1536) English translator and religious reformer. In 1525, he started printing an English version of the New Testament in Cologne, Germany. Tyndale then began translating the Old Testament. He also wrote numerous Protestant tracts. Tyndale was eventually captured by the Church authorities and burned at the stake as a heretic. His translation later provided a basis for the Authorized Version of the English Bible.

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