Sunday 30 September 2012
Thus the final words of William Tyndale who we remember this week. Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More formed an Establishment that wanted nothing to do with the Bible in English. They effectively drove William out of the country to the free cities of Europe where he travelled, studied, preached, cared for the poor and translated the New Testament and much of the ‘Old’.
Befriended by the theologian Erasmus it was his understanding of the revolutionary nature of “justification by faith” that impelled William to seek to share the Good News. The idea he espoused that the ‘plowboy’ should have access to, and understanding of, the Bible frightened the Establishment. Doubly so coming from a scholar fluent in seven languages including Latin, Greek and Hebrew with Reformist publishing and printing contacts in Europe who declared “Let it not make thee despair, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbiddden thee in pain of life or goods, or that it is made by breaking 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.”
Having opposed King Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon William could expect litttle protection or support from the Establishment and he was ultimately betrayed by a man that he had befriended to the Catholic Imperial authorities in Antwerp in 1535. Convicted of heresy he continued to care for the poor and to preach bravely in captivity until he was killed by strangulation in 1536. Wonderfully his final wish, witnessed by the historian John Foxe, was granted and two years later Henry authorised the Great Bible for the Church of England. His words found their way into much of the ‘King James Bible’ and the works of William Shakespeare. A man of great integrity, scholarship and faith who died a brave and saintly death. He loved the truth and helped us all to know the Bible better.