Tyndale: Missionary to the “plough boy”

In 1521, after finishing his time at Cambridge, Tyndale became the private tutor to the Walsh family at the “Little Sodbury Manor.” This proved to be one of the most important stages in Tyndale’s development. Tyndale’s responsibilities were light at Little Sodbury; he was in charge of teaching the Walsh boys to read, write, and count. In addition to these responsibilities Tyndale preached the Sunday Morning sermon in the little church of St. Adeline. Tyndale preached at St. Adeline, but was not officially the chaplain of the church, nor did he have charge over the village. This left Tyndale with quite a bit of free time, and he used that time to study the Scriptures. The room that was provided for him was a quiet room, and as far away from the two boys as possible. While at “Little Sodbury Manor” Tyndale began translating. His first work was the translation of the Manual of the Christian Soldier by Erasmus. This book described the spiritual armor of a Christian, and the guidelines by which he must live his life. It was filled with Scripture references, and quotations. Upon completion of his translation Tyndale presented his work to Sir John and Lady Walsh. The Walsh’s were proud of their tutor’s scholarship, and impressed by his humble diligence.A look back at Tyndale’s life will reveal that he was skilled in seven languages besides English (French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish), many of which he learned while studying at Little Sodbury. It was during this time that God began to implant a desire within Tyndale to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular. Tyndale saw how the peasants lived. They were poor beyond our comprehension. In addition, the people lived in fear of the church. Their money and allegiance were required, and, as we will see in the life of Tyndale, refusal was not taken lightly. Tyndale would later give his life so that these people could have the Scriptures, the very power of the Gospel, made available to them.Sir John and Lady Walsh were known by all for their hospitality. More often than not the Walsh’s would invite traveling friars or Church dignitaries to dine in the Great Hall at little Sodbury Manor. Invariably the dinner conversation would turn to the great political issues of the day, as well as church issues (for the two were inseparable at the time). Tyndale’s presence for these conversations added a new element to the conversation. In the eyes of the church dignitaries Tyndale was a mere priest and tutor who should not have been allowed to be a part of the meal. But Sir John and Lady Walsh knew that their scholar would be able to handle any conversation. Tyndale’s use of Scripture in these conversations turned debates was maddening for his opponents because they rarely studied the Scriptures. More and more Tyndale knew that he needed to leave the safety of Little Sodbury Manor to fulfill his great calling. His country-men were dying without God’s word, and without the gospel. Eventually Tyndale came to the point where he could no longer hold in his fervor. Here is how Brian Edwards described the exchange:

“A learned man had been debating some point over the table, and finding he could not get the better of this troublesome Scripture-quoting priest he rose in a rage and stormed, ‘We were better be without God’s law than the pope’s.’ That, thought Tyndale, aptly summarised the prevailing view in the Church of Rome. He broke the pregnant silence that followed: ‘I defy the pope and all his laws; if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth a plough shall know more of the scripture than thou doust.’”

In these seemingly prophetic words Tyndale summarized what his life would be about for the next decade.

to be continued…