William Tyndale: Reformer, Translator, Martyr

by Clayton Kraby

William Tyndale (1494-1536) dedicated his life – and eventually gave his life – to the cause of translating the Word of God into the English language.

Tyndale was a Protestant Reformer, a Bible translator, and a martyr for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, we know little about his childhood, early life, or even his conversion. We do know that Tyndale received his master’s degree from Oxford in 1515. Although he was just 21 years old, he was already fluent in 8 languages!

Addicted to Scripture

John Foxe offers this description of Tyndale, “[He] increased as well in the knowledge of tongues and other liberal arts as especially in the knowledge of the scriptures, where-unto his mind was singularly addicted.”[1]

Tyndale was active in studying and teaching Scripture. Through it he came to see that people of England could not be reached using a Latin Bible, a language they did not speak. Tyndale said, “It was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the Scripture were laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.”

However, it was illegal to have a “vernacular Bible,” or a Bible in the common language. You could be put to death for producing, reading, or even memorizing Scripture in English.

One day in 1519, a woman and 6 men were publicly burned at the stake for teaching children the Lord’s Prayer and the 10 Commandments in English!

As he continued to devour Scripture in the original Greek, Tyndale came to see that much of what the church taught did not line up with the Bible. And although he was an ordained priest himself, he was not shy about letting people know…

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William Tyndale: Reformer, Translator, Martyr | Reasonable Theology