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The Works of William Tyndale – A Review by Ben Ramsbottom

Category Book Reviews
Date August 10, 2010

In the history of the church of God, we believe no man is worthy of more honour than William Tyndale. When we think of that dear man, in loneliness translating the Scriptures, often in a musty cellar or draughty attic, what he sacrificed for Jesus’ sake! How different from an eminent minister preaching to hundreds, and being warmly welcomed! What a debt we owe to him for his wonderful translation work on which our own Authorized Version is largely based!

It is, then, with a feeling of gratitude to the publishers that we welcome the two-volume set of The Works of William Tyndale.1 At the beginning of each volume and on the dust jacket is a portrait of Tyndale, that which hangs at Hertford College, Oxford. As he was only in his mid-forties when he died, how he must have aged through his hardships!

The works were first published in three volumes in 1848 by The Parker Society, named after the Elizabethan archbishop and, we believe, chaired by the famous Earl of Shaftesbury – its aim being to publish all the works of the Reformers. The three volumes are now produced as a two-volume set.

Those who have an interest in church history have doubtless read about Tyndale’s The Parable of the Wicked Mammon and The Obedience of a Christian Man, but it is gratifying actually to have them and to read them.

Apart from these well-known works, included is A Pathway into Holy Scripture, Tyndale’s first original composition – his Prologue to his translation of the New Testament. Also there are prefaces to the various books of the Bible he translated and tables expounding certain words in these books, along with expositions of parts of Matthew, John, and John’s First Epistle. Though a replica of the original, the print is very clear and Tyndale is not difficult to read.

Some people have thought it a pity that William Tyndale ever engaged in original writing; if he had not, he could probably have translated the whole Bible. But his own answer would have been that he considered himself a Reformer as well as a translator.

At the beginning is a 76-page life of Tyndale, and the books are well edited (with footnotes and explanations) by Henry Walter, who we are told was Rector of Hasilbury Bryan, Dorset. How often we stumble across unknown, godly clergyman, hidden away in small villages in the nineteenth century! What an indictment of the Church of England today!

Tyndale’s works should not be approached as just containing things of historical interest – though there is included his Answer to Thomas More and The Practice of Prelates. But also there is a mine of spiritual reading. William Tyndale writes essentially on the great doctrine of the Reformation: justification by faith alone. This he emphasises over and over again against the Roman Catholic doctrine of man’s merit. Tyndale also very ably expounds many passages which appear to teach justification by works, clearly showing that there must be fruit, but the fruit springs from the root. Like the other Reformers, it may appear that he over-labours the one point (rather than the wider teaching of the Puritans) but this was first-generation Protestantism.

On first picking up Volume 1, we were attracted by the following:

Note the difference of the law and of the gospel. The one asketh and requireth, the other pardoneth and forgiveth. The one threateneth, the other promiseth all good things to them that set their trust in Christ only. The gospel signifieth glad tidings, and is nothing but the promises of good things. All is not gospel that is written in the gospel-book: for if the law were away, thou couldest not know what the gospel meant; even as thou couldest not see pardon and grace, except the law rebuked thee, and declared unto thee thy sin, misdeed and trespass…Apply always the law to thy deeds, and so shalt thou no doubt repent, and feel in thyself a certain sorrow, pain and grief to thine heart because thou canst not with full lust do the deeds of the law. Apply the gospel, that is to say the promises, unto the deserving of Christ, and to the mercy of God and His truth, and so shalt thou not despair; but shalt feel God as a kind and merciful Father…All threatenings shall be forgiven thee for Christ’s blood’s sake.

These are books of quality and value.

Notes

    • image of the Works of Tyndale
         

      The Works of William Tyndale

      2 Volume Set: Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures

      by William Tyndale


      price £33.00
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      In the history of the church of God, we believe no man is worthy of more honour than William Tyndale. When we think of that dear man, in loneliness translating the Scriptures, often in a musty cellar or draughty attic, what he sacrificed for Jesus’ sake! How different from an eminent minister preaching to hundreds, […]

Taken with permission from the August 2010 issue of The Gospel Standard, edited by Ben Ramsbottom.

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