Works of William Tyndale – A Review by David Campbell
This collection of Tyndale’s writings was originally brought together by the Parker Society and is a reprint of their 1848-1850 edition. It is now excellently bound in two volumes* which have attractive dust jackets. Numerous historical notes have been supplied which are based on careful research. These notes will be of interest to historians of the early Reformation period but can easily be passed over by the ordinary reader. A fairly full biography of Tyndale will be of great use in placing each of the works of Tyndale in its historical context. A few observations on each volume might encourage readers to give time to them.
The first volume contains four major treatises as well as the biography. There follow a number of shorter pieces: prologues for the different books of the Bible translated by Tyndale. These latter works serve to illustrate the devout wish of the great translator of Scripture that the minds of men would be enlightened by truth. They will repay the careful reader. The treatises are interesting but perhaps more difficult to digest due to their length. The first, which is also the earliest of Tyndale’s writings, is called A Pathway into the Holy Scripture and was designed to introduce men to the evangelical doctrine as taught by the Reformers and as contained in the Scriptures. As can be said of most of Tyndale’s works, while there are some expressions which may be injudicious, particularly relating to the sacraments, the zeal of the writer for the enlightenment of his fellow countrymen and the exposure of Rome as the fountain of deceit and error cannot be hidden.
The same purpose is evident in the second longer treatise, entitled The Parable of the Wicked Mammon. This is very loosely based on the words, ‘make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness’ (Luke 16:1-12). The explication of the text does not come until well into the work and even then is not easily understood. This aspect of the work aside, the treatise is on the doctrine of justification by faith and the intention of the author is to draw a clear line between law and grace, faith and works. This was, of course, the doctrine on which the whole Reformation turned in the sixteenth century and the work should be read in that light.
The next treatise, The Obedience of a Christian Man, was intended for Christian rulers. An interesting note is given regarding Anne Boleyn’s copy of this book, which came eventually to be read by her husband, Henry VIII. His comments on it show the influence that Tyndale’s writings had on those in high places, as well as among the lower classes. Of particular interest in this work is the description of Antichrist. The fourth treatise in volume 1 is A brief declaration of the Sacraments, which treats of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Tyndale identifies the covenant signified in baptism with that in circumcision as given to Abraham; only the signs are different. He lays emphasis on the need for faith if either sacrament is to be blessed to the recipient. Not all that Tyndale says on the sacraments can be approved, but he was certainly a strong voice in opposition to the errors of Romanism on the sacraments.
The second volume contains an Exposition of Matthew Chapters 5, 6 and 7, and another of the First Epistle of John, together with marginal notes for the whole of Matthew. These expositions vary in length, some verses being briefly touched, while others, like 1 John 2:2, are given extended treatment (18 pages). Much of the later Authorised Version can be found in these translations of Tyndale on which he comments. Also in volume 2 is found a polemical work, The Practice of Prelates, which the Parker Society, an Anglican body, wishes to assure us was intended against the prelacy of Rome rather than prelacy itself. However, in answer to the point, ‘What officers the apostle ordained in Christ’s Church; and what their offices were to do’, Tyndale is plain and simple: ‘The apostles, following and obeying the rule, doctrine and commandment of our Saviour Jesus Christ, their master, ordained in His kingdom and congregation two officers’. These he describes as bishop or elder, and deacon. Readers may judge for themselves how sympathetic Tyndale was with ‘Protestant Prelacy’.
Half of volume 2 is taken up with An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, and what was in part a response to that writer, The Supper of the Lord, which reviews John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11. These extended polemics cover many other fields and assert Reformation principles in, more or less, plain Scripture terms. The volume concludes with very full and useful indexes to both volumes.
However inclined we may be to differ from Tyndale on various points and on some expressions, we should be ready to sit at his feet and to learn from him. This faithful, godly man was most eminently useful to the church of God as the great Bible translator. He was also martyred in 1536 for the testimony which he held and thus belongs to that ‘cloud of witnesses’ whose faith we are to follow, ‘considering the end of their conversation’.
2 Volume Set: Doctrinal Treatises and Introductions to Different Portions of the Holy Scriptures
This collection of Tyndale’s writings was originally brought together by the Parker Society and is a reprint of their 1848-1850 edition. It is now excellently bound in two volumes* which have attractive dust jackets. Numerous historical notes have been supplied which are based on careful research. These notes will be of interest to historians of […]
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