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Introducing William Tyndale : Review

Category Book Reviews
Date August 23, 2017

William Tyndale is remembered as a Bible translator and martyr: a key player in a sequence that led to the King James Bible. In fact, as the compilers of this attractive little work show, there was far more to Tyndale than Bible translation- vital as that was. Indeed it is argued that William Tyndale’s work was the catalyst producing Reformation in England: that he was in fact our greatest Reformer.

Biographies of Tyndale are popular but a book that majors on his ‘Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue’ may seem less attractive. To be put off by that would be a mistake. Tyndale was not only concerned that the people had the Bible in their own language but also that the vital truths of the Bible should be plainly taught and expounded, and so he penned an impressive list of theology writings. The definitive edition of his works issued by the Parker Society in the mid nineteenth-century runs to two solid volumes: a total of 1,325 pages (available in facsimile reprint from Banner of Truth.)

The controversy between Tyndale and Thomas More provides a summary of the life-and-death struggle between those who placed their faith in the Christ of the Bible and those whose faith was in the Romanist church and its priesthood, and so the extract was very wisely chosen.

The book begins with an Introduction by John Piper, covering Tyndale’s life and labours, his theological and translation work, the bitter persecution he faced, and his abiding importance. Piper relies heavily on Tyndale expert David Daniell, whose enthusiasm for his subject goes a trifle too far: the degree to which Tyndale’s translation underlies the Authorised Version seems somewhat overstated (but this is a minor criticism).

The core of the book is Tyndale’s ‘Answer’ to More’s bitter attack both on Bible translation at all, and on specific terms used by Tyndale in his translation, for example repentance not penance, elder and not priest, and even congregation rather than church. Tyndale refutes the concept that the Bible requires tradition, defends Scripture’s full inspiration, and then shows that the Bible made the church, rather than any church making the Bible. Finally he proves from Scripture that the church of Rome is no true church.

The book is in a clear modern typeface. Tyndale’s language is not modernised: frequent obsolete terms are explained in footnotes. The polemic (on both sides) is robust.

The final section is Robert Sheehan’s ‘Epilogue’, an interesting look at the history of the English Bible from Wickliffe and the Lollards to Tyndale and the printed Bible, and finally his enduring legacy.

As we remember the Reformation in the current spiritual climate few books could be more timely–or more necessary.

Of Further Interest

    The Works of William Tyndale

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

    by William Tyndale


    price $59.00 $47.20

    Description

    William Tyndale is remembered as a Bible translator and martyr: a key player in a sequence that led to the King James Bible. In fact, as the compilers of this attractive little work show, there was far more to Tyndale […]

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