Who was William Tyndale?
Our school takes its name from William Tyndale, the man responsible for the first English translation of the Bible and who died a martyr for his belief that the Word of God should be available in the language of the people.
It was into a world of unparalleled religious corruption that Tyndale was born, probably about the year 1494. He was born in Gloucestershire on the banks of the Severn, a district which was a stronghold of the Roman (Catholic) Church.
The Roman Church ordained him as priest in 1521 and he attended the universities of Oxford and Cambridge where he became a very proficient Greek scholar. The Greek New Testament of Erasmus and the works of Luther awakened in him the desire to give the Bible in their own language to the common people of England. Tyndale has been quoted to have said to an adversary: "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than thou doest." Tyndale observed: "They pray in Latin, they christen in Latin, they give absolution in Latin, they bless in Latin, only curse they in the English tongue." The Roman Church forbade the translation of God's Word from the Latin Vulgate into English. William Tyndale was highly gifted in the matter of languages, being skilled in seven: Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French and English, each of which he spoke as if it were his native tongue.
In 1450 the invention of the printing press by John Guttenberg in Germany took place and in 1516 the editing of the New Testament in Greek by the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus was completed. Both of these events were great advantages for Tyndale in his task of Bible translation. However, he was not able to continue his work in England and sailed to Hamburg in 1524, never again to set foot on English soil. For the remaining 12 years of his life he lived in exile, in poverty, in perils, fleeing from one town to another in Germany. After Tyndale's English translation was printed at Worms in Germany in 1525, thousands of copies were smuggled into England by English merchants. As might have been expected, Tyndale's Testaments were not at all welcomed by the Roman Catholic authorities in England and the flames of martyrdom were rekindled. Several of Tyndale's friends were burned at the stake and a considerable number of the New Testaments were also consigned to the flames. In the meantime William Tyndale started on translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into English and published some of his own writings, among them The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Obedience of a Christian Man, and Practice of Prelates. Believing that the Reformation in England had progressed far enough that it would be safe for him to come out of hiding, Tyndale moved to Antwerp in 1531, continuing his writing and translation work and his work as an evangelist.
Became a martyr
However the power of the Roman Church and the King of England had great influence in Belgium. Tyndale was betrayed, arrested and imprisoned in 1535 for 18 months, after which he was tried for heresy and treason, found guilty, strangled and burned at the stake. It is recorded in Foxe's Book of Martyrs that just before his death on 6th October 1536, William Tyndale cried with a loud voice and fervent zeal: "Lord, open the King of England's eyes." He was a faithful Bible translator, reformer and martyr. The present Authorised Version of the New Testament is, in substance, the unchanged language of Tyndale's translation. Dying at about the age of 40, he bequeathed to the English speaking world a treasure of incomparable worth. Well might he have said; "The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up."