Giving one’s life for life-giving Scripture

Glenn Townend reflects on the sacrifices made by one of the most significant Englishmen of all time to have the Scriptures translated and proclaim the gospel to the world.

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William Tyndale is considered one of the most significant Englishmen of all time. Born about 1494 in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, he graduated from Oxford University with a BA in 1512 and an MA in 1515, and later also studied at Cambridge (1517-21), where he learnt seven languages and read the Protestant writings of Martin Luther and Erasmus from Rotterdam. He dreamed of translating the Bible from the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), and from the available Latin, into English. 

In discussion with church superiors at his first job, Tyndale was told that, “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 was following the desires of Jesus to have the Scriptures translated; to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and to proclaim the everlasting gospel to every nation, tribe, language and people (Revelation 14:6). Seventh-day Adventists value every translation in every language as God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:14-17). William Tyndale had to move to Europe to translate the Bible into English because of antagonism from the Church and Crown. When his first English New Testaments were smuggled into England, the Church bought as many as they could and burned them. This did not deter Tyndale and his supporters who continued to translate, publish and ship English Bibles into England. 

In 1536 Tyndale was captured by Spanish soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire. He was imprisoned, tried and finally burnt at the stake on October 6, 1536 in Vilvoorde, Belgium as a heretic. His last words were “Lord open the King of England’s eyes.” 

Within a year, the King ordered an English Bible to be in every church in England. When the King James Version was translated by a group of scholars 80 years later, more than 80 per cent of the language they used was from Tyndale’s translations. 

Life transformation comes through regular reading of Scripture. If people gave their life for that privilege, then surely I can create a daily Bible habit this year.