Tyndale created “the powers that be”

Not only did Tyndale’s translation of the NT transform the Church it also revolutionized the English language. In many of our bibles we still have the words that Tyndale chose. Additionally Tyndale introduced new words and phrases into the English language to better transmit the teachings of Scripture. Here is a list of just a few of the words and phrases that were coined by Tyndale:

  • Jehovah (from a transliterated Hebrew construction in the Old Testament; composed from the tetragrammaton YHWH and the vowels of adonai: YaHoWaH)
  • Passover (as the name for the Jewish holiday, Pesach or Pesah),
  • Atonement (= at + onement), which goes beyond mere “reconciliation” to mean “to unite” or “to cover”, which springs from the Hebrew kippur, the Old Testament version of kippur being the covering of doorposts with blood, or “Day of Atonement”.
  • scapegoat (the goat that bears the sins and iniquities of the people in Leviticus Chapter 16)
  • let there be light
  • the powers that be
  • my brother’s keeper
  • the salt of the earth
  • a law unto themselves

Here is how Tyndale translated the familiar passage John 3:16-18,

God soo loved the worlde/that he gave his only sonne for the entent/that none that beleve in hym/shulde perisshe: Butt shulde have everlastynge lyfe. For God sent not his sonne into the worlde/to condempne the worlde: But that the worlde through him/myght be saved. He that beleveth nott/is condempned all redy/be cause he beleveth nott in the name off the only sonne off God.

After completing his first edition of the NT Tyndale did not stop working. Tyndale continued to write fervently producing several helpful books. In these books Tyndale displayed an amazing ability to handle the Scripture. Tyndale did all of this despite the most grueling of circumstances. At every step of the way Tyndale was a fugitive whose life was always in jeopardy. In most instances Tyndale would work in closed up room somewhere for days at a time with using only candle light. Brian Edwards said wrote this about this period in Tyndale’s life:

“How often his head and eyes must have rebelled against the constant attention to small letters in the half-light; how much his cramped body must have ached in every limb and have cried out for exercise after hours and days hunched over his desk in a small spare room kindly lent to him by a friendly merchant!”

Tyndale also continued his translations work by expanding to the OT. Tyndale wanted to print the Pentateuch but he knew that would be difficult to do with the mounting pressure from England to find Tyndale and bring him before the Church as a heretic. In 1529 Tyndale was forced to move his operations from Antwerp to Hamburg in order to remain safe. Tyndale, the fugitive, boarded a ship carrying all of his manuscripts with him. His intention was to land in Hamburg where he had friends and a printer would be easy to find. But God, in His providence, had other plans for Tyndale’s voyage. On the coast of Holland Tyndale’s ship wrecked. Tyndale was left unharmed however his precious manuscripts were lost. Despite this catastrophic set back Tyndale was able to have his translation of the Pentateuch published in the summer of 1530. The determination and perseverance that it took for Tyndale to accomplish this could have only been the result of God’s grace. Thanks to Tyndale’s humble submission to this Grace the ploughmen of England now had both the NT and part of the OT available to them.

Throughout Tyndale’s entire ministry every attempt was made to capture him. In light of all the resources devoted to capturing Tyndale it was clearly the hand of God the delivered him from many close calls. Tyndale had to live his life in constant secrecy, trusting very few people. Tyndale was even able to return to Antwerp where he had a group of friends sympathetic to the cause of the reformation. It was there that Tyndale met a man by the name of Henry Phillips. Phillips was an Englishman who gained an audience with Tyndale through a group of merchants who were friendly to the cause of the reformation. Tyndale almost immediately was impressed with easy manner and eloquent speech of the student lawyer. Phillips gained the confidence of Tyndale and his friends while in Antwerp and learned a great deal about how this group kept Tyndale safe. On May 21st 1535 Phillips showed up at the home Tyndale was residing in and invited himself to lunch; Phillips even borrowed two pounds (enough for a poor family to live on for two months) claiming that he had lost his purse. Brian Edwards described what happened next in this way,

“As the left Poyntz’s home… Tyndale courteously stepped back to allow his guest to precede him. Phillips, a tall, handsome man, stood aside and insisted that the great reformer should have precedence. Tyndale came to the opening and saw two officers ready to seize him, he hesitated and moved back, Phillips stood over him, pointing down with his finger as a sign that this was the man; he then jostled Tyndale forward into the officers who bound him with ropes and brought him to the attorney’s residence and finally the grim castle of Vilvorde, just six miles north of Brussels.”

As Edwards stated Tyndale was taken to the castle of Vilvorde and placed in the dungeon. Tyndale was too godly a man to have any thoughts of revenge against Phillips, but that being said Phillips never received the reward he was promised for delivering Tyndale.
Tyndale was prepared for this fate; in fact he had always expected that his life would be taken from him for his work. His only surprise was that it took so long for him to be captured. With this attitude Tyndale wasted no time mourning while in prison. He knew that even though his trial would be a farce he might have the opportunity to speak on behalf of his savior. And so, Tyndale began preparing for his defense. In the beginning of his imprisonment Tyndale was even able to continue his work of writing and translating.
As the winter of 1535 approached Tyndale became ill due to the cold and wet conditions of his cell. All day and night Tyndale would shiver from the conditions, but this did not keep him from his work. Tyndale knew that he would need warm clothes if he was going to survive much longer and continue his work, so he wrote a letter to the prison governor. This letter is the only letter in Tyndale’s own hand that has survived, and as far as we know it may have been the last letter he ever wrote. Here is what that letter said:

I believe, right worshipful, that you are not ignorant of what has been determined concerning me; therefore I entreat your Lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here during the winter, you will request the Procureur to be kind enough to send me from my goods, which he has in his possession, a warmer cap, for I suffer extremely from cold in the head, being afflicted with a perpetual catarrh, which is considerably increased in the cell. A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin: also a piece of cloth to patch my leggings: my overcoat has been worn out; my shirts are also worn out. He has a woollen shirt of mine, if he will be kind enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth for the putting on above; he also has warmer caps for wearing at night. I wish also his permission to have a candle in the evening, for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark.But above all, I entreat and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the Procureur that he may kindly permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend my time with that study. And in return, may you obtain your dearest wish, provided always it be consistent with the salvation of your soul. But if any other resolution has been come to concerning me, before the winter is over, I shall be patient, abiding the will of God to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit, I pray, may ever direct your heart. Amen.W. Tindalus

Finally Tyndale’s trial came. His charges were as follows 1) maintained justification by faith alone, 2) maintained that belief in the Gospel alone could save, 3) believed that human tradition was not binding, 4) denied the freedom of the will, 5) denied the existence of purgatory, 6) he affirmed that neither the Virgin nor the Saints pray for us in their own persons, 7) and finally he asserted that neither the Virgin nor the Saints should be invoked by us. The list is much longer than this, but these were the main charges. And in August of 1536 Tyndale was condemned as a heretic. A few days after this verdict was rendered a public and humiliating ceremony took place to officially remove Tyndale as a priest and cast him out of the church. It was not until early October of 1536 that Tyndale was led out of the castle and through the southern gates of the town. Tyndale was taken to the place of execution. Before being bond up Tyndale made one final public intercession with the cry “Lord open the King of England’s eyes!” These are the last words that we have from Tyndale, for after this he was strangled to death and then burned at the stake.
Later in this same year the Coverdale Bible, which contained Tyndale’s NT virtually unchanged, was taken before the king for approval. The bible was dedicated to him and it did not contain the name of William Tyndale, so the King authorized its printing. The bibles were so popular that two years later, in 1538, the King ordered that every church in England display a copy of the bile for its parishioners to read. The Lord answered the dying prayer of William Tyndale, and the ploughman had his bible. Today we can thank God that he used men like William Tyndale to provide us with his precious word.