Tag Archives: William Tyndale

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

On this day in 1533 – John Frith was burned at the stake for heresy

John Frith was born in 1503 in Westerham, Kent to Richard Frith, innkeeper of the White Horse Inn. Frith was educated at Sevenoaks Grammar School before transferring to Eton College and later Queen’s College, Cambridge, although Frith received his BA from King’s College.

Whilst at Cambridge he studied under Stephen Gardiner and read Latin, Greek and Mathematics. It was also here that he met Thomas Bilney and they began discussing the Reformation, it was during these meetings that Frith met William Tyndale for the first time. Upon graduation Frith became a junior canon at Thomas Wolsey’s Cardinal College, Oxford however, this did not last long Frith along with nine others were accused by the University of possessing heretical books and were imprisoned in a cellar for six months. Upon his release Frith left England to travel to Antwerp to join up with William Tyndale.

Frith spent many years in Europe and during this time he translated a number of works including, ‘A Pistle to the Christian Reader: The Revelation of the Anti-Christ’; ‘An Antithesis between Christ and Pope’. He also published his own works in response to Thomas More, Bishop Fisher and John Rastell entitled ‘A Disputacion of Purgatorye’. Unpon reading Frith’s work Rastell converted to the Protestant ways.

In ‘A Disputacion of Purgatorye’ Frith put forward the argument that there were two purgatories. He wrote “God hath left us two purgatories; one to purge the heart and cleanse it from the filth which we have partly received of Adam…and partly added thereto by consenting unto our natural infirmity. This purgatory is the word of God, as Christ saith.” Frith continued to say that the second purgatory was Christ’s cross and said; “I mean not his material cross that he himself died on, but a spiritual cross, which is adversity, tribulation, worldly depression etc.”

In 1532, Frith returned to England and was quickly arrested in Reading where he was mistaken for a vagabond with the help of Leonard Coxe, a local schoolmaster, he was released. Sir Thomas More, when he learnt that Frith had returned to England issued arrest warrants for Frith’s capture on the charges of heresy. Frith was eventually arrested when trying to board a ship back to Antwerp.

Frith was sent to the Tower of London where he continued to preach and write about the Lutheran ways and in particular the ritual of Communion, knowing that his work would be used against him as evidence. Whilst Frith was imprisoned Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor after disagreeing with the King’s views on religion and a short time later following the death of William Warham, Thomas Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

Also Cranmer himself leaned towards the Lutheran way he met with Frith at both Lambeth and Croydon for discussion in which Cranmer attempted to persuade Frith to change his stance regarding the Eucharist to be more in line with that of the King. Cranmer was trying to save Frith’s life but Frith was unwilling to change his belief.

Frith was eventually moved to Newgate Prison where he continued writing; he received letters from William Tyndale who attempted to keep Frith’s spirits up. However, Thomas Audley was given the office of Lord Chancellor and he sentenced Frith to stand trial.

Frith was placed before a jury of examiners and bishops and here he submitted his own writings as evidence of his personal views that were considered to be heresy. Frith was offered a pardon if he answered positively to two questions the first was ‘Do you believe in purgatory?’ the second was ‘Do you believe in transubstantiation?’ Frith replied that neither could be proven and with that he was condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death by burning on 4th July 1533.

Frith’s views would continue to live on and after the death of King Henry VIII, Cranmer subscribed to the same views as Frith regarding purgatory and the Eucharist and these were implemented into the Protestant reforms during King Edward VI’s reign.

John FrithJohn Frith being led to his death.

On this day in 1535 – William Tyndale was arrested

21st May 1535 saw the arrest of William Tyndale, the spiritual leader of the reformation. Tyndale was born in the late 1400’s in Gloucestershire. Tyndale enrolled at Oxford in 1505, and received his Master’s degree in 1515, aged just 21. Tyndale was fluent in eight different languages.

In the early 1520’s Tyndale was employed as a tutor by the family of Sir John Walsh in Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire. During this time he devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures as well as becoming more attached to the reformation movement. His religious views led to him being dismissed from his tutor role and it is here that Tyndale headed to London to seek permission to translate the bible into English, his request was turned down and he turned to lecturing.

In 1524 Tyndale set of for Europe in order to translate the Scriptures into English and it is believed that it was in Wittenberg that Tyndale translated the New Testament, with the help of Martin Luther. In Cologne, 1525, Tyndale’s New Testament was printed as a quarto and its distribution began and it was later smuggled into England and Scotland. In October 1526 Bishop Tunstall condemned the publication urging any bookersellers and individuals who had copies to burn them. Cadinal Wolsey, in 1529, declared Tyndale a heretic.

In the following years Tyndale learnt Hebrew and began translating Pentateuch, the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First Chronicles, and the Book of Jonah. During the time that Tyndale was translating these works he remained hidden from Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII who were at the time keen to stop the spread of Tyndale’s work. The idea of Reformation was still a long way off in England.

In 1530, Tyndale published a paper entitled ‘The Practyse of Prelates’ in which he spoke out about King Henry VIII’s divorce to Katherine of Aragon in favour of a marriage to Anne Boleyn. Tyndale warned that it was a plot by Cardinal Wolsey to get England tied up in the papal courts. Henry was furious at this publication and demanded that the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V extradited Tyndale to England under the Treaty of Cambrai.

The English King finally caught up with Tyndale in 1535 when he was betrayed by a close friend, Henry Phillips. Tyndale was arrested on 21st May and was imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorden until 6th October 1536 where he was burned at the stake after being tried on the charges of heresy and treason. Thomas Cromwell had tried to intercede on Tyndale’s behalf. Tyndale’s final words at the stake were documented as ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.’ Only four years later Henry approved the distribution four translations of Tyndale’s bible in England.

William Tyndale