When William Tyndale began studying for the ministry at Oxford, he was horrified to discover that his official courses did not include study of the Scripture. He began to teach and discuss Scripture in private groups. He was fluent in seven languages besides English, and while studying Erasmus’ version of the Greek New testament he came to see the need and blessing of being justified by faith alone, and he realized many errors were perpetuated by his church.
Tyndale exhorted that it was in the language of Israel that the Psalms were sung in the temple of Jehovah; “and shall not the gospel speak the language of England among us?… Ought the church to have less light at noonday than at dawn?… Christians must read the New Testament in their mother tongue.” Tyndale determined to give the English people a translation of the Bible that even a plowboy could understand.
In 1523 he went to London to seek permission from the bishop to translate the Bible into English. He was denied. He worked on the translation of the New Testament on his own with help from Humphrey Monmouth until he went secretly to Germany and finally finished it in 1525 with the assistance of William Roy. It was “smuggled back into England. It was the first translation of the [New Testament] from the original Greek into English –indeed, it was the first translation of a Greek book into English. “ The translations were condemned by the bishop, who had copies burned in public, and Cardinal Wolsey declared Tyndale a heretic. Tyndale went into hiding and began translating the Old Testament and other papers and treatises. Due to the secrecy and danger of his work, much of his exact whereabouts and the identities of those who helped him are unknown.
At one point the authorities bought as many of his translations as possible in order to destroy them, but the money actually helped Tyndale by providing the means to work on new and better translations.
The King [Henry VIII], Wolsey, and [Thomas] More all had agents on the Continent hoping to find and arrest Tyndale. In 1534 Tyndale was betrayed by a false friend near Brussels, arrested by imperial forces, and thrown into prison. He was accused of maintaining that faith alone justifies. He was found guilty and in [October] 1536 was executed.
His last words at the stake were, “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” That prayer was answered three years later with the publication of Henry VIII’s “Great Bible.”
Much of the King James Version and other translations are based on Tyndale’s work.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to this man for having the burden and vision to give English-speaking people an understandable translation of the Bible, for doing right in the face of danger to himself, for the many hours of work involved, and for “loving not his life unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).
http://chi.gospelcom.net/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses/glmps059.shtml (Direct quotes are from this source.)
Quotes from William Tyndale:
I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to stablish the lay people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text.
I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust.
I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus, that I never altered one syllable of God’s Word against my conscience, nor would do this day, if all that is in earth, whether it be honor, pleasure, or riches, might be given me.
Christ is with us until the world’s end. Let his little flock be bold therefore. For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us…?
The preaching of God’s word is hateful and contrary unto them. Why? For it is impossible to preach Christ, except thou preach against antichrist; that is to say, them which with their false doctrine and violence of sword enforce to quench the true doctrine of Christ.
Where no promise of God is, there can be no faith, nor justifying, nor forgiveness of sins: for it is more than madness to look for any thing of God, save that he hath promised. How far he hath promised, so far is he bound to them that believe; and further not. To have a faith, therefore, or a trust in any thing, where God hath not promised, is plain idolatry, and a worshipping of thine own imagination instead of God.