St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

At the turn of the sixteenth century, the Bible was not available in English. There had been fragmentary translations since the seventh century, but these were based on the Latin version rather than on the original Hebrew and Greek. The fourteenth-century English translation known as the Wycliffe or Lollard Bible, had been suppressed in the early fifteenth century; and possession of the Bible in English was punishable by death. During the period known as the Renaissance, the study of Greek and Hebrew led to a revival of Biblical studies. 

William Tyndale (c1494-1536) studied at both Oxford and Cambridge. In addition to English, Tyndale was fluent in six languages, ancient and modern, including Hebrew and Greek. This enabled Tyndale to study the Scriptures in the original languages; and these studies shed light on certain errors relative to faith and morals in the late medieval Church. This opinion was reinforced when Tyndale was appointed tutor in a knights’ household in England’s West Country. He was distressed by the ignorance of the local clergy, particularly of the Scriptures, and by their neglect of their flock in terms of teaching and preaching. When Tyndale voiced his concerns, one local priest blasphemously asserted: “We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's.” Tyndale responded: “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the 
boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!” 

Tyndale went to London in 1523 to seek support for his proposed translation of the Bible into English from the original languages. Failing in this effort, he travelled though Germany; and over the course of his sojourn he completed his translation. The translation of the Greek New Testament was printed in 1526 in the city of Worms; and copies were smuggled into England. Tyndale was condemned as a heretic in absentia by Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s chief minister, in 1529. The authorities gathered up and burned as many copies of Tyndale’s New Testament as they could; and to possess a copy was considered proof of heresy. Tyndale also provoked the King by opposing his divorce from Catherine of Aragon as unscriptural. Henry sought Tyndale’s apprehension; and the fugitive travelled from town to town in Germany and the Low Countries, revising his English New Testament and beginning work translating the Hebrew Old Testament, completing nearly half of it, while constantly looking over his shoulder. 

At Antwerp in 1536, Tyndale was to the local authorities of Emperor Charles V, who was most willing to carry out King Henry’s wishes to have Tyndale executed as a heretic. Tyndale was bound to a stake and strangled before his body was burned. The English martyrologist John Foxe gives the date as October 6th. As Fox reported in his Book of Martyrs, Tyndale’s final words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", were reported as, “Lord! Open the King of England's eyes.” Tyndale’s prayers were answered in 1539 when King Henry’s issued the Great Bible, based on Tyndale’s earlier translations. Tyndale’s work was incorporated into the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611; and through the English Bible, Tyndale help shape modern English.