William Tyndale: Reformer & Father of the English Bible1494-1536

Posted on September 18, 2008. Filed under: Church History |

Thursday, September 18, 2008– Here is a short introduction/summary of William Tyndale, the English Protestant responsible for the English Bible that became the King James Bible. This piece was written for Reformation Celebration 2007 at Redeemer Church, Ft. Worth.

William Tyndale: Reformer & Father of the English Bible1494-1536

A Priest said to William Tyndale, “We had better be without God’s Laws than the Pope’s.” Tyndale replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws, and if God spares my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.”


  • Born 1494 in Gloucestershire; BA from Magdalen Hall, Oxford 1512; MA and ordained as a priest in 1515; studied possibly under Erasmus at Cambridge, a hotbed of Lutheran thought, 1517-21 (?) and was part of the famous White Horse Inn discussion group which included Coverdale, Latimer, Cranmer, Frith, and other English Reformers.
  • 1521 Tyndale is chaplain in Sir John Walsh’s home and tutor to the children.
  • 1522 he is charged with heresy by the Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester.
  • 1523 sought permission of Bishop Tunstall to translate the Bible into English- permission is denied, so Tyndale preaches in London and begins work on his translation with financial help from a layman, Humphrey Monmouth. When the persecution began he moved to Hamburg.
  • His New Testament was published in 1526 in Worms and copies began to be smuggled into England where the translation was condemned by Bishop Tunstall. Cardinal Wolsey now condemns Tyndale and calls for his arrest in Europe.
  • 1530 he published the Pentateuch; he opposed King Henry VIII’s divorce and the King asked the Emperor, Charles V, to have Tyndale arrested.
  • 1535 Tyndale is betrayed by a friend, arrested in Antwerp, and executed in 1536 by strangling and then being burned at the stake on October 6.

Summary: Henry C. Sheldon writes in his History of the Christian Church, vol.3 The Modern Church, Part One (1895) “Among these early reformers from the universities, the first place as respects breadth and permanence of influence is to be assigned to William Tyndale, the one man among all Englishmen who has left any marked impress of his individuality upon our English Bible….Tyndale became convinced that the Bible in the language of the people must serve as the great instrument of reform.” (p.266).

The Impact of the Tyndale Bible:

· Coverdale Bible of 1535; Great Bible of 1539; Geneva Bible of 1560; Douay-Rheims Bible of 1582-1609; King James Bible of 1611; and the Revised Standard Version of the 1940’s all are derived from the work of William Tyndale.

· “Nine-tenths of the Authorized Version’s (KJV) New Testament is Tyndale’s. The same is true of the first half of the Old Testament….” (William Tyndale: A Biography, David Daniell. Yale University: New Haven, CT. 1994. p.1).

· Words and phrases coined by Tyndale: Jehovah, atonement, Passover, scapegoat, let there be light, my brother’s keeper; salt of the earth, it came to pass, the powers that be, filthy lucre, gave up the ghost.

Questions for Further Study:

What one scholar is the link between Luther, Zwingli and Tyndale and their efforts at translating the Bible into the common languages?

Why was the Catholic Church so opposed to new translations of the Bible?

What did Tyndale have in common with Paul from his Philippian jail experience?

Questions for Application:

What Christian Radio preacher named his show after the White Horse Inn?

Tyndale fled England due to the persecution. Is it right to sometimes flee persecution?

Recommended Reading:

William Tyndale: A Biography, David Daniell. Yale University Press: New Haven, CT 1994 (429pp.).


Here are some good websites:








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