On this day in 1536 – William Tyndale was executed

William Tyndale was born in Melksham Court, Stinchcombe between 1484 and 1496, his family also went by the name of Hychyns at times and Tyndale was enrolled at Magdalen College, Oxford as William Hychyns. Tyndale studied a Bachelor of Arts degree at Mgadelen Hall in 1506 receiving his degree in 1512, in the same year he became a subdeacon. In July 1515 he was made Master of Arts and this allowed him to begin studying theology although his official studies did not include the systematic study of Scripture. Tyndale later said on this

They have ordained that no man shall look on the Scripture, until he be noselled in heathen learning eight or nine years and armed with false principles, with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of the Scripture”.

Tyndale whilst studying theology also became fluent in Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, Hebrew, German and Latin. In 1517 until 1521 he was at the University of Cambridge before becoming chaplain at the home of Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury in 1521, he also became a tutor to Walsh’s children. His opinions caused Tyndale to be summoned before the Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester, John Bell, in 1522 but no formal charges were laid against Tyndale.

In 1523 Tyndale left Little Sodbury and travelled to London to ask permission to translate the Bible into English, he sought the help of Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall, a classicalist who worked with Erasmus on a Greek New Testament. However, Tunstall denied Tyndale his patronage saying he had no room for him within his household. Instead Tyndale preached and studied in London and took help from Humphrey Monmouth, a cloth merchant, also during this time he lectured across the city including at St Dunstan-in-the-West.

Tyndale left England and landed in Europe in 1524 where it is believed he travelled to Wittenberg, an entry in the registers of the University of Wittenberg has been translated to William Tyndale of England. During his time here he began his translation of the New Testament and it was completed in 1525 with the help of William Roy, an Observant friar.

In 1525 publication of the work by Peter Quentell, in Cologne, was interrupted following the impact of anti-Lutheranism. A full edition was however printed in 1526 by Peter Schoeffer in Worms, Germany, a city that was adopting Lutheranism. More copies were printed in Antwerp and were smuggled into England and Scotland before Bishop Tunstall condemned it in October 1526. Tunstall issued severe warnings to booksellers and burned many copies in the streets.

Tyndale remained in Worms for a year before moving to Antwerp and then Hamburg in 1529 when he continued revising his New Testament and began work on translating the Old Testament and writing treatises. Cardinal Wolsey declared Tyndale as a heretic in open court in January 1529.

In 1530 Tyndale wrote The Practyse of Prelates, which opposed King Henry VIII divorce from Katherine of Aragon on the grounds that it was unscriptual and a plot by Cardinal Wolsey to get Henry entangled in the papal courts. Henry demanded that the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V captured Tyndale and sent him to England under the terms of the Treaty of Cambrai. However, Charles demanded formal evidence before he would do anything.

Tyndale was betrayed by Henry Phillips who alerted the Imperial authorities as to his position and he was captured in Antwerp in 1535 and held in the castle of Vilvoorde near Brussels. He was charged with heresy in 1535 and stood trial where he was condemned to be burnt at the stake. Tyndale’s date of death is typical marked as 6th October 1536 and it was reported that his final words before death were ‘Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.’

Just four years after Tyndale’s death English translations of the Bible were published at the King’s request.

William_TyndaleWilliam Tyndale

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