William Tyndale (pt. 3) The Work of Translation

Soon after this encounter Tyndale decided it was time to leave Little Sodbury. With the blessing of the Walsh family Tyndale left for London in 1523. Tyndale went to London hoping to obtain permission from the church to translate the NT into English. Tyndale knew of Bishop in London named Cuthberttyndale_small.jpg Tunstall. Tunstall had received praise from Erasmus, and so Tyndale (some what naively) thought that Tunstall would be of help to him. Tyndale could not have come to Tunstall at a worse time. Tunstall had just recently settled into his office, and with the influence that the German Lutherans were having on the church it would not have been a wise political move for Tunstall to employ a zealous bible translator. Consequently Tyndale was turned downed by Tunstall. Later Tyndale would describe Tunstall as a “ducking hypocrite.” Tyndale did everything he could to translate the NT legally with Church permission, but when we was turned down he did not quit. Tyndale’s burning passion to give the man behind the plough God’s word in simple language never died down.While Tyndale was in London waiting to meet with Tunstall he had the opportunity to preach on a several occasions at the Church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West (In fact there is now a monument to Tyndale on that very church). This church was known to be a place of reformed thinking, and so it attracted many who were friendly to the reformation movement. One such man, Humphrey Monmouth, had recently become a “scripture man” and began attending the church. After a few Sundays of hearing Tyndale preach Monmouth introduced himself to Tyndale. This friendship that developed between the two men would prove to be profitable for Tyndale throughout his ministry. After Tyndale was rejected by Tunstall Monmouth took Tyndale into his own home. Monmouth, who would be imprisoned for his association with Tyndale, said of Tyndale “He studied most part of the day and of the night at his book, and he would eat but sodden (boiled) meat by his good will, no drink but a small single beer.” Monmouth’s support for Tyndale was extremely important because he had the resources of a wealthy and well connected man.One of the great connections that Tyndale had through Monmouth was to the London Steelyard. The Steelyard was the landing spot for many of London’s imports, and was controlled primarily by the Germans. This was significant because many of these Germans from the Steel yard had been influenced by Lutheran teaching. Through these connections at the Steel yard Tyndale was able to get his hands on the works of Martin Luther. As Tyndale read Luther he realized that Luther had come to many of the same conclusion that he himself had come to. Tyndale found a theological reassurance from Luther that spurred him on even more in his desire to translate the NT into English. However, Tyndale knew that because of the persecution from the Roman Church there was nowhere in England that he would be able to safely translate and print the Scriptures. (Remember Tyndale could not just run down to Kinko’s and have a few copies run off.) Tyndale would need to enlist a printing press for this work, and he knew that it would be impossible to do in England. With this in mind Tyndale left England under a false name and went to Germany.
 It is thought that upon arrival in Germany Tyndale first went to Wittenberg and met with Luther. After this short tyndale-portrait.jpgperiod of time Tyndale left Wittenberg and went to Hamburg. Tyndale left the safety and fellowship of Wittenberg because Cologne on the Rhine, where Tyndale actually began his printing, was much closer to England. It would be far easier for him to smuggle these Bibles into England from this location. (It is worth noting that William Tyndale had no one to help him in his translation work, nor were there any other English versions of the Bible available for him to reference. In contrast, Luther had all the resources of Wittenberg University, as well as 19 other German translations to work from.)
 Tyndale had to move his work again when he was almost captured in Cologne. John Cochlaeus, who has a bitter opponent of the Reformation, had heard rumors that learned Englishmen were lurking in the city, and that they were printing the NT in English. Upon hearing this Cochlaeus received permission from the local government and began searching for Tyndale. Word got out and Tyndale immediately slipped out of town by night literally with armfuls of printed sheets, and went to Worms. In 1526 Tyndale completed his translation work from Worms, and copies began trickling into England and Scotland. There were two significant events that helped Tyndale get his translation to the people. First, there had been a horrible harvest the year before in England. This meant that the English were depending greatly upon imports from other countries. What the English authorities would soon learn is that bibles were being smuggled in with these imports. The Second significant event that helped Tyndale in his work came after the English and Church authorities realized that bibles were coming into the country. They did not know how to stop this, so they kept buying up the bibles. Their goal was to prevent the people from getting them, however what they did instead was fund Tyndale to continue printing.
 Tyndale faced this opposition because the Roman Church felt that his translation of the NT contradicted the teaching of the church. They were partly correct in this assertion; Tyndale’s NT did contradict their teaching. But it was not the translation that contradicted the Church it was a literal rendering of the scripture that contradicted the church. Tyndale contended that the Greek New Testament did not support the traditional Roman Catholic readings, and he was correct. Using words like Overseer rather than Bishop and Elder rather than Priest Tyndale transformed the doctrine of the Church.