The Bible caused William Tyndale to be strangled and burned to death–do not take it lightly!
In 1526, Tyndale translated and published the first-ever mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language. The King James Version came out in 1611, and it is remarkable to think that almost 100 years before, producing the Bible in English was considered heresy that would lead to death. Tyndale’s famous last words at his execution came true: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
Let’s rewind. In 1408, the Catholic Church banned translating the Bible into English because of the perceived threat of the Lollards (followers of 14th century John Wycliffe). To them, Wycliffe taught heresy. The only English translation at the time of Tyndale was the hand-copied Wycliffe Bible, which was circulated by the Lollards.
Wycliffe began English Bible translation work but died before he finished it (his death was in the late 1300s). He was so hated that 43 years after his death, officials dug up his body, burned his remains, and threw the ashes into the River Swift.
Now fast forward to October 1536: Tyndale was strangled to death and then burned for his work. A list of accusations stood against him as a heretic, first of which was that he maintained that faith alone justifies.
Every English-speaking person knows how indebted we are to the KJV. Did you know that more than 90% of Tyndale’s translations were included in the 1611 KJV? Perhaps an even stronger testimony of Tyndale’s accuracy was that more than 75% of his translations appear in the 1952 Revised Standard Version.
Tyndale risked his life (and ultimately lost it) to produce an English New Testament because he wanted English-speaking people to know proper doctrine. In fact, it is said that his “intellectual gifts and disciplined life could have taken him a long way in the church—had he not had one compulsion: to teach English men and women the good news of justification by faith.” The Roman Catholic Church did not teach this doctrine, and Tyndale believed that everyone should have direct access to God’s Word.
We should be grateful that we can learn directly from God! While pastors and teachers can help us understand, nothing beats going straight to the source. Realize that Tyndale’s tragedy is our triumph—the pages you can read in your language were produced through much trial and loss. He valued it so much that he was willing to die to see the Bible in English.
Do you value it? Recommit today to reading it faithfully and living with the boldness of William Tyndale and others who have been faithful before us.
- “Did You Know?,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 16: William Tyndale: Early Reformer & Bible Translator (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1987).
- Tony Lane, “A Man for All People: Introducing William Tyndale,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 16: William Tyndale: Early Reformer & Bible Translator (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1987).
- Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 211 & 348.
- Brian Edwards, “Tyndale’s Betrayal and Death,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 16: William Tyndale: Early Reformer & Bible Translator (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1987).