William Tyndale is one of my favorite individuals in Church History. Over the next few days, maybe even a week, I will be doing a series of post about William Tyndale. This post will serve only one purpose, to inform my readers more about the life and godliness of William Tyndale. There are many things that could be said about Tyndale’s life, however I will stick to “just the facts.” This is of course a partial lie because my opinions and partiality toward Tyndale will definitely bleed through. But I will try to give you an idea of what Tyndale’s life was like.
William Tyndale is one of the most important men in the history of the church, in the history of western civilization, and in the development of the English language. Tyndale had this influence despite persecution, imprisonment, and constant loneliness. The story of William Tyndale’s life is an amazing story, and it is a story that we can learn a lot from. As we look at His life we can clearly see that He was not only called by God, but he was also equipped by God. Tyndale depended on Christ as his strength. And his life is proof that the Apostle Paul was on the mark when he wrote Romans 8:28ff:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Throughout every trial that Tyndale faced we can see that God was working for good in his life. And even though Tyndale, more often than not, found himself without any companions it is clear that there was nothing that could separate him from the love that Christ had for him.
Tyndale was raised in a modest home. We do not know a lot about his childhood just a few facts. It is thought that Tyndale was born around 1494, probably in North Nibley near Dursley, Gloucestershire. The town of Nibley, to this day, claims Tyndale as its own. There is even a Tyndale monument in Nibley. This monument is a tower that was constructed in 1866 and is 111 ft tall. One of the things that we know about Tyndale’s childhood is that he was well educated. In fact, at 13 Tyndale entered the equivalent of a College and earned his degree by 1512. It was then, at 18, that Tyndale entered Oxford to begin studies for his master’s degree. Three years later Tyndale was ordained as a priest and was made Master of Arts. It was not until after receiving this additional degree that Tyndale was finally permitted to study theology. To Tyndale’s great disgust the theological studies that he so looked forward to had very little to do with the study of Scripture. Tyndale loved the Scriptures, and he loved to talk about the Scriptures. But with little to no Scripture in his school studies Tyndale had to find another outlet. And, in much the same way that we might meet at Starbucks, Tyndale would gather his fellow students together for discussion and debate about the teachings of Scripture.
Thankfully Tyndale was a gifted linguist, for without this gift Tyndale would not have been able to read his bible. We must remember that at this time there was not an English Bible available to people. Thus Tyndale toiled in the languages (Greek and Latin at this time; it was not until later that he taught himself Hebrew). It was this gift, and love for the biblical languages that led Tyndale to leave Oxford and pursue further education at Cambridge. Cambridge, with the influence of Erasmus (the leading Greek scholar of the time), was the hub of Greek and NT studies. Under the influence of the Scriptures in their original languages Cambridge became the University of the Reformers. Tyndale was drawn to this atmosphere, and clearly it was God who was at work in these events.
There is little record of Tyndale ever being at Cambridge, and we can almost imagine him quietly listening, learning, and committing himself to his studies. This was the character of William Tyndale. As we look at his life we can see that he was the personification of James 1:19:
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…
Even Thomas More, who was the most bitter enemy of Tyndale on this earth, acknowledged that Tyndale was “as men say, well known, before he went over the sea, for a man of right good living, studious and well learned in Scripture, and in divers places in England was very well liked, and did a great good with preaching… (he was) taken for a man of sober and honest living, and looked and preached holily.” I can’t help but wonder how many of us, in the face of unjust persecution, would be described in this manner by our most bitter of enemies.
to be continued…