John Bradshaw - A Lamp Unto My Feet
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw, thanks for joining me for 500. Our special series on the reformation. Tonight, you and I are gonna see a television program called A Lamp Unto My Feet. We're focusing especially on the life and ministry of one of the great reformers: William Tyndale. And in a few moments my special guest will be Dr. Dedrick Blue. He is the dean of school of religion at Oakwood University in Huntsville Alabama. Dr. Blue, thanks for joining me.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Thank you very much.
John Bradshaw: Tell me something about this man William Tyndale, who was he, what he was like?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: William Tyndale was the great reformer of England. As a matter of fact he brought us the English Bible that we have today. And if it were not for Tyndale, I would not be able to read the Bible in my native language. So, what a great man of God who sacrificed all for the cause of God?
John Bradshaw: Looking forward to speaking more with Dr. Blue in just a moment. Tyndale, a Bible translator, a giant of a man, moved by an impulse that he followed and in so doing changed the world. There are 66 books in the Bible. The Bible contains prophecy, life sketches, historical information. The Bible reveals the plan of salvation to you, to the world. The Bible connects the mind with the heart of God. Matter of fact, the Bible became so pervasive in society, there are many phrases that we use today that you might not even think of the origin that originated in the Bible. For instance, we say something happened by the skin of your teeth. Well, that phrase originated in the Bible. And ,actually we can thank translators like William Tyndale for bringing it into common English usage.
Can a leopard change its spots? That's biblical. There is a fly in the ointment, that's found in the Bible. The writing on the wall, it's a phrase we use all the time. Where did that phrase come from? It came right out of the Bible. The Bible is an enormous part of life today, even for people who don't have faith in God and don't profess any sort of belief in the Bible. So imagine a world without the Bible. Imagine a world. where theres no Word of God, even if there is some kind of knowledge about God. What would it be like in a world where the Bible just doesn't exist? Well, I can tell you something about that, because that for many years was my world. Well, I was raised in a churchgoing family, going to church every Sunday, mine was not a biblical faith.
Now we had a Bible in our home, but it wasn't a book we ever read or consulted. So I was raised in a world where the Bible just didn't feature. Our knowledge of the Bible was woefully inadequate. We had misconceptions and false ideas. When I say we, I'm talking about my family members and I, and perhaps the people I consider my friends, people, my circle of influence, just didn't have a clue. And so for me when I discovered the Bible, the Bible was freedom. The Bible introduced me to a world that I didn't know existed. Of course, I knew there was a heaven, and I knew there was a God, but I did not know how I could get forgiveness for my sins. I was guilt ridden. I went to confession to confess my sins to a priest by the time I got home from confession I had sinned again and wondered, in fact, I despaired knowing I would never be good enough for heaven. Let me tell you a story that would help you to illustrate what life is like for people who just don't have the Bible.
Now I go to confession, and our home was just five doors down the street from the church. I mentioned by the time I got home I would have sinned, and so I wondered to myself, what's the point? The only time I'm really right with God is the moment I leave confession. Now, you might be the sort of theologically geared person who says, "John, you don't understand it right". What I do understand is what my understanding was, whether that was right or wrong. And I knew that by the time I got home I would sin. I knew that. Sta-as a young buy, nine years old standing out in front of our church, on the little grassy strip between the sidewalk, the footpath and the road. That road was the busiest section of road in the country. It was state high way one. Everything going north and south went up and down that road, long before they put in the bypass you know.
I remember standing on that grassy strip watching the trucks, the semis go by, and thinking to myself about the only chance that I've got of making it to heaven is if one of those trucks runs off the road, runs me over and kills me. And I thought to myself, wouldn't that be good? I'm 9 years old, because at least that way I'd die having been forgiven, and I could go to heaven. Knowing that that would never happen. I thought, "What if I threw myself under one of those passing trucks"? Isn't that a charming thought for a nine year old to have? But nine year olds want to go to heaven too, nine year olds want to please God. And this nine year old didn't know any better. Why not? Because no one in my sphere ever read the Bible. And I certainly couldn't read the Bible, wouldn't have known where to start, and wasn't encouraged to do so.
So, when you think about the importance of somebody like William Tyndale and the work he did, to translate the Bible and get the Bible before people, in a time where doing so would ultimately cost him his life, you realize that William Tyndale's contribution to the world was absolutely enormous. So in a couple of moments we are gonna go to Gloucestershire, that's the part of the, the, the county in England where William Tyndale was born. We'll go to little Sudbury, a tiny little village where, uh, William Tyndale ministered, uh, for Sir John Walsh and his wife, tutoring their children. He worked in a little church. Now we were at that church, filmed right there at the church. You'll see it.
And here is what's interesting, it's an historic church, so historic, Tyndale's church, and why we were there, a couple of American tourists walked by, I thought that was odd until they told me they were on a walking tour, which I think is probably a good way to spend your vacation. We got talking and I said to them, "Do you know about this church"? "Oh no, we don't know a thing, what is it"? And I was just amazed, I thought surely they are stopping because they know it's the William Tyndale church. No, they had no idea. The man across the street wondered why we were filming on that deserted little lane, a sweet little place. Why are you filming here?
Well, we are at the church, the William Tyndale church. He said, "William Tyndale? Does he have something to do with this place"? The man that lived there for years and didn't know that one of the greatest figures in history, I don't think that's a stretch, had worked in the church, just across the street from where he lived. We'll take you to a large kind of impressive monument to William Tyndale, up on a hill overlooking Gloucestershire. It's deserted, while we were there, two people visited the monument. And they were there because as young and in love they were just looking for a place to get away from people. They in fact didn't go to the monument itself, just to the hill on which the monument stood. William Tyndale, a forgotten giant but he's not gonna be forgotten in 500. We'll be back in just a couple of moments with A Lamp Unto My Feet.
This is It Is Written, in John Bradshaw, thanks for joining me. In rural England there stands a monument to one of the great heroes of the reformation. While he grew up a long way from the center of attention, he's remembered as one of the giants of history. While others formulated doctrine, while others were preaching and teaching, this man poured himself into translating and printing his legacy is the Bible. The Bible, one volume, two divisions, the old and the New Testaments. It's made up of 66 individual books. Some of them are very short, 2nd John has just 13 verses. 3rd John has one more verse, but fewer words. The book of Jude, only 25 verses. Some books of the Bible are very long.
The book of psalms has 150 chapters including the Bible's longest chapter psalm 119. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, more than three quarters of a million words. It was written by shepherds, farmers, merchants, scholars, statesmen and kings, the majority of whom had never met each other. And the Bible says some pretty remarkable things about itself. 1 Peter 1:23 says that people are born again through the word of God, which lives and abides forever. The early Christian's tested the teachings of the apostles by the Old Testament. Jesus called God's word the truth in John 17:17. Psalm 119 verse nine says, "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word".
Same chapter verse 130, the entrance of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple. And David said on the 105th verse of the same psalm, "Thy word is A lamp unto my feet. And a light under my path". So if this is true, that the Bible is the truth, that it cleanses, that people are born again by it, that it's a lamp and a light. If that's true, then imagine a world with no Bible. It's not that hard to imagine. Back in Jesus day, the scriptures, and remember, in Christ's day they only had the Old Testament scriptures, back then the scriptures formed the framework or the basis for society. The word of God was widely taught, and people had a good working knowledge of what we today would recognize as the first 39 books of the Bible, the Old Testament. But several hundred years after the founding of the Christian church, by people such as Peter and James and John, non-biblical traditions and teachings started to seep into christianity.
Some of the plainest teachings of the Bible were ignored. If the entrance of God's word gives light, then the obscuring of God's word led to a period of some real spiritual darkness. How did it happen? In the 4th century AD, the Roman emperor Constantine, Constantine the great, he became known as, converted to christianity. It was a nominal conversion and Constantine never really abandoned paganism. As a result, a number of pagan practices became established within the Christian faith. For example, the early Christians practiced baptism by immersion, but over time, infant baptism found its way into the church. The venerating of relics was certainly not practiced by the early Christians, but that too found its way into Christianity shortly after Constantine was baptized. The early Christians did not confess their sins to a priest, but that found its way into church practice as well.
Now, there were some Christians who clung to the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, but over time the church began to drift more and more away from the word of God. Now come down to the 16th century, by this time, the ruling church had been in power for more than a 1,000 years, and many non-biblical practices had become deeply entrenched, worse than that, the Bible itself had become virtually inaccessible to the vast majority of the people. In many places, the Bible was banned. People were forbidden to read it or to possess it. Here in England in Coventry, a dozen people became known as the Coventry Martyrs after they lost their lives, they were executed, because it was known that they disagreed with some of the practices of the established church.
One of them was a woman who was found to have in her possession a handwritten copy of the Lord's prayer, The Ten Commandments and the Apostles' Creed. She was burned at the stake for that. There are hundreds of stories just like it, thousands even. After centuries of drifting from the Bible, the Word of God was out of the reach of the people. The darkness that existed was almost palpable, but here in England heroes stood tall, who would cause the light of the Bible to shine again. John Wycliffe who was born in around 1328, became known as the morning star of the reformation. In the 14th century the peasant class were essentially slaves, and the influence of the ruling church was enormous. The catholic church essentially controlled the country and by later in the 14th century, the pope was receiving five times as much gold from the government of England as was the king.
And when it came to the teaching of God's word, the people were living in superstition and fear as priests as well as traveling monks and Friars kept the people in spiritual darkness. It was a common practice for the monks to sell forgiveness of sin. They would live in luxury, fleecing the flock instead of feeding the flock. The people were kept in darkness by monks who were barely less ignorant of the scriptures than they were. In 1365 pope Urban the 5th demanded that England submit entirely to the authority of the church of Rome, which would have been an admission on England's part that the pope was the legitimate sovereign of England, as he lay on what people thought was his death bed, the monks urged Wycliffe to recant the things that he had said in opposition to them and the church, but instead Wycliffe propped himself up and said, "I will not die, but live and declare the evil deeds of the Friars".
What Wycliffe went on to do was to translate the Bible into the English language of the day. At Wycliffe's third trial, he met his accusers with these words, "With whom think you are you contending, with an old man on the brink of the grave? No, with truth, truth which is stronger than you, and will overcome you". Wycliffe was hated by the church. After his death, his books were burned and even his body was exhumed and burned and his ashes were cast into the River Swift near Lutterworth. His followers were persecuted, and it was enshrined in law that to translate the Bible into English without a license was a punishable crime.
110 years after Wycliffe’s death, another man came on the scene, another Bible translator, when William Tyndale was born in 1494, superstition controlled people’s lives, kings could sentence people to death for petty reasons, popes could issue decrees that had no basis in scripture, and yet people accepted that as the will of God for their lives, without the Bible they couldn’t know whether the church was right or wrong. As Hosea 4 verse 6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge". By the time William Tyndale was born, John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible was out of date, because the English language had changed substantially. Wycliffe and his followers had been known as Bible men. 100 plus years later, another Bible man was needed. Back with more in a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. William Tyndale was born in Gloucestershire England in around the year 1494. His family moved here during the wars of the roses. A series of wars for control of the English throne between the house of York and the house of Lancaster. Tyndale was educated at Hartford college in oxford, and earned a master’s degree in theology in 1515. He was fluent in eight languages, including Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was originally written. In 1521, he moved here to the little village of Little Sudbury where he became the chaplain in the home of Sir John Walsh. In fact, this church is built from the actual stones, and according to the plan of the church, Tyndale ministered in when he lived right here. He had a deep respect for the Bible, much like that which Martin Luther had.
And it wasn’t long, and that respect for the word of God got Tyndale in a lot of trouble. John Fox, the author of the famous Fox’s book of martyrs reported on a conversation William Tyndale had. Someone said to him, "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 I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the scriptures than thou doest". It was here in Little Sudbury that William Tyndale felt the call to translate the Bible into English. So he left here the following year for London to get the support he needed. He was looking for the blessing of a certain bishop, a man who had praised the work of a dutch theologian Erasmus.
When Erasmus translated the New Testament, but Tyndale didn’t get the support he needed. Convinced the people of England needed the Bible in their own language, Tyndale left England in 1524 for Europe, and made his way to Wittenberg where Martin Luther was living. Luther had translated the New Testament into German a couple of years before. And now Tyndale set about working on a translation of the Bible that would impact Christianity in Great Britain and around the world. He was helped by a priest named William Roy. And within a year or two the translation was finished.
After some challenges owing to the opposition Luther was facing, Tyndale had translated the New Testament into English. He had the printing done in Worms, the city where Martin Luther’s trial, before emperor Charles V was held. More copies were printed in what was then the dutch city of Antwerp. And in the months that followed, those Bibles were smuggled into England and Scotland. But smuggling an English language version of the Bible across the English channel wasn’t an easy matter. That bishop who refused his permission to Tyndale to translate the Bible into English back then, he stood up a lot of opposition to the project.
In fact, he commanded that Tyndale’s Bible be burned. Booksellers were banned from selling the book. Now burning the Bible in public, what that did was generate a lot of sympathy for the whole project, even among supporters of church and state. People didn’t like to see the Bible treated in that way, burned in the streets. Here's what one historian said, "The spectacle of the scriptures being put the torch provoked controversy even amongst the faithful". But there was worse to come.
In January of 1529, the catholic cardinal Thomas Wolsey condemned Tyndale as a hieratic. This attracted the attention of England’s King Henry VIII who acted swiftly against this new reformer. Henry was even more upset with Tyndale, because of Tyndale’s public disagreement with Henry’s intention to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Tyndale contained that that Henry VIII's divorce lacked biblical support. Henry wasn’t open to constructive criticism, but fortunately for Tyndale he was in the Netherlands and Henry couldn’t touch him there. He continued to speak out, not only about Henry VIII's morals, but also about the teachings of the Bible as his writings would spread news about his convictions spread also.
Like Luther, Tyndale maintained that the Bible should be the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice. He also believed strongly in the Bible teaching of justification by faith. He did not believe that people should confess their sins to others. And like Luther, he also didn’t believe the popular teaching that when people die they go straight to heaven or hell. Like the other protestant reformers, it was Tyndale’s purpose to direct men and women to the Bible as the rule of faith and practice. And even though the protestant reformers didn’t always agree with each other on any number of subjects, what they did do was lift up the Bible as supreme, helping believers move towards a clearer understanding of God’s truth.
William Tyndale’s scholarship had a profound influence on the translation of the King James version of the Bible, as well as the English language itself. Translation of the King James began in 1604 by order of James 1st, king of England, and it was completed in 1611. It’s estimated that 83% of the New Testament and 76% of the Old Testament in the King James comes to us from William Tyndale, Passover, scapegoat, my brother’s keeper, the salt of the earth. It came to pass. The signs of the times, let there be light, a law unto themselves, and much more is the result of Tyndale’s scholarship. Now, ultimately, Tyndale would meet the same fate as the Oxford Martyrs, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer who were burned at the stake right here by the Roman church, 20 years after Tyndale died. But before Tyndale was put to death, he prayed a prayer that would change the world, that's coming next.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. In Vilvoorde Belgium, on the northern side of the capital city of Belgium Brussels is a museum dedicated to the life and ministry of William Tyndale. It's situated here, because this location is only yards from the very spot where William Tyndale was executed. It might not look like much of anything today, but if you'd been here 500 years ago, you'd have seen a castle standing on this spot right behind me. The Senne River just over here runs between Antwerp and Brussels making Vilvoorde a place of real strategic importance. That castle was of a line of fortifications and William Tyndale who'd been betrayed to the holy Roman empire was kept as a prisoner for more than a year in the castle right on this spot.
Eventually he was brought out and executed right here. Before he was put to death, Tyndale prayed one last prayer. He said, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes". His prayer was answered. Within four years of his death, four English translations of the bible had been published, all at the behest of king Henry VIII, and all of them based on the work of William Tyndale. I've come here to this museum to speak to the experts on the life of William Tyndale. Why was Tyndale held here in Vilvoorde, why here of all places?
Dr. Willy Willems: Here in Vilvoorde there was a castle, and in that castle there was not so many people, so there they know if we put him in Vilvoorde, he can, he will stay in prison.
John Bradshaw: What do you think conditions were like inside the castle prison?
Dr. Willy Willems: Uh, as prisons in the 16th, very difficult. We know by his last written letter that we have in archives that he asked on the authorities to have warm clothes, to become candles and to become his work, his translation work for having the time now in prison and he stayed there for the time he had to stay, and hoping that he wouldn't escaped, they killed him.
John Bradshaw: So why was the church so opposed to Tyndale translating the Bible?
Dr. Willy Willems: It's a way to eliminate all critical actions and reactions in church. If you have, uh, uh, uh, your people, who can criticize your own way to live as church, it's very difficult to stay as church. They want to keep their own power, and don't give the opportunity on all people to understand what was the word God's and not the word of the church.
John Bradshaw: Explain for me William Tyndale's contribution to the reformation.
Dr. Willy Willems: He was the man who, uh, who worked on the English speaking people. And it's very important because we had a German translator, we had a French translator, we had still a Swiss translator. We had several translators who makes the new world, that's very important to know, because we have still, uh, in Europe a big difference between the Latin part and the non-Latin part. So, the English contribution of William Tyndale is not only a contribution in let's say the English speaking part of Europe, but always contribution on the new world, because we would travel from this country to the states, and making in states also the new world with a own translation. And it's very important to know that the new American version is the most important translation with the biggest part of William Tyndale in it.
John Bradshaw: Few people have had so great an impact upon the religious faith, the cultural heritage, even the vocabulary of the English speaking world, as William Tyndale. Britons voted him 26th in the list of the 100 Greatest Britons of all Time. And few prayers have been answered as dramatically as that prayer Tyndale prayed in the final moments of his life when Henry VIII granted permission for the Bible to be published in English. It unleashed the Bible upon the English speaking world. And as a result, the world would never be the same again. The core principle of the reformation was the role of the word of God in a believer's life.
Notice, that William Tyndale translated the bible into the English not long after Johannes Gutenberg gave to us the modern printing press, which meant the word of God could be distributed to people who could read it for themselves, understand it for themselves, and then follow the leading of the holy spirit in their lives. Tyndale's contribution to the reformation was enormous. It's one thing to teach or to preach or to write as other reformers did. It's another thing all together to actually give people the Word of God. And that's what William Tyndale accomplished. Though he's been gone 500 years, his influence and his impact lives on in the lives of people who continue to be transformed by the power of the Holy Bible.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to 500, I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written. And my special guest is the dean of the school of religion at Oakwood University in Huntsville Alabama Dr. Dedrick Blue. Dr. Blue, thanks for joining me.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: It's a pleasure to be here with you today John.
John Bradshaw: William Tyndale, tell me, tell me something about the man.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, William Tyndale was one of the greatest reformers of the protestant reformation, and was so instrumental really in unlocking people's understanding of the Bible particularly in the English language, but the implications of what he did are still reverberating around the world to this day.
John Bradshaw: It seems to me that people like Tyndale, he wasn't the only translator, but seems to me they don't get enough, enough credit for what they did, the, the, the reformation was all about getting the word of God into the hands and hearts, and minds of the people.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Oh yeah.
John Bradshaw: That's what he dedicated his life to doing.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Oh absolutely. I mean, if you stop and think about the time which Tyndale was born, uh, around 1494, right? Things were beginning to transpire in the world that were radically different. For example, the fall of Constantinople opened up the world to having the Bible in their hands in the Greek language, which really inspired, a great, great, um, Bible translator by the name of Erasmus, to take this Greek Bible and begin to make it available throughout Europe. So for the very first time in centuries, people were able to pick up the Word of God and begin to look at it, and begin to grap with it, and scholars could actually read it for themselves.
John Bradshaw: Now not that the English language is anymore important than any other language, but wasn't yet available in English. It was not an easy matter for Tyndale just to go and translate the Bible. If you and I wanted to translate the Bible, people would cheer us on, we could start a, a, a go fund me page, folks would help us out.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Then it was different, what was the age like in which Tyndale found himself. I mean, I mean society and so forth.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, in society, most, most people were, were in absolute object poverty. They were, uh, serfs, serving lords and serving kings. There was prolific ignorance in the land, and in addition to that, the, um, most of population was actually illiterate, and the only literati were really the priest. And, and the priest, uh, would study for years and years, uh, philosophy, languages and all these things. And then finally after they came to a point of understanding they were allowed, at some point after eight, nine, 10 years of study to to, to, to see the sacred scripture.
So, people at that time were, were left in ignorance, the church pretty much dictated their lives, dictated how they were to respond and to perceive the world. And so all of a sudden someone comes along and says, "Listen, now there is a world that God has for you. That is found in the sacred pages. If you could only have access to them and read them for yourselves, you would come to understand the God that I know and the God that I have loved.
John Bradshaw: Tyndale has this idea that he wants to, to, to translate the Bible, what, what, what moved him in that direction? Why in the world would a man want to do such a thing back then?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, I think that Tyndale was greatly inspired by a previous Bible translator Erasmus who we mentioned just a moment ago who had began to take the, the, the Greek version of the Bible and began to do some work in translation there. He was also greatly inspired by Martin Luther, and the reformation that was taking place in Europe. You know Martin Luther began to, to, uh, read the Bible and discover this great biblical truth, righteous just by faith, justification by faith, you know, saved by grace. And these kinds of ideas greatly inspired Tyndale. And so Tyndale being, um, uh, an interesting man at a quite young age, he actually began his studies.
So he's born in 1494, by, by 1512 he's already well deep into his studies, mastering so many different languages. He was a, he was a gifted linguist, being able to speak French, and uh, Latin, and read Greek and read Hebrew, and so many, all, all these languages, right? Seven or eight languages this man mastered. And so, as he was beginning to read he said to himself, wait a minute, "It seems to me that the greatest thing that people need in their life is not the traditions and the ceremonies of a church for their soul salvation, but there is something else that God wants us to know and come to understand, and is found within the Word of God. And if I could just have the opportunity to translate this and get it to the people in their own language, then they could come to an understanding of what God really has in store for them".
John Bradshaw: You mentioned something a moment ago and this really reminds me to understand the reformation you've got to take yourself there, uh, as it were, look around, see the sites, listen to what's going on.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Mm-hmm.
John Bradshaw: Immerse yourself in that, in that time. You talked about people were dealing with excommunication and death. You go to greyfriars church yard or, stone throw from there, the monuments in Edinburgh Scotland to people were martyred just up at St Andrews, people were martyred there, you go to Oxford, and they have the great big monuments to people who were martyred.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Absolutely, absolutely.
John Bradshaw: So, so people were, were dealing with this. This was, uh, obedience to the church, was a matter of life and death.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: It certainly was, and we also know there was, uh, just around that time that the inquisition was in full force, um, in, in Europe. And you are absolutely right, there were, there were a great number of people who were martyred for their, for their faith or their belief or their, uh, failure to submit themselves to the authority of the church of Rome.
John Bradshaw: So what kind of man does this make Tyndale? I don't want to get to the end of the story before we get to the end of the story, but he wants to translate the Bible. I mentioned, you and I we could, we could start today and people would cheer us on, what did Tyndale have to go through? And then I'll get to my next question?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, when Tyndale wanted to translate the Bible, you know, he went to, he went to the presiding bishop and asked for permission. And he was denied. And so the only way that Tyndale could pursue, um, this translation is that he had to leave England in order to be able to do it.
John Bradshaw: You said the bishop denied him permission, what do you think motivated the bishop to say, "No, you just cannot do that"?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, it's hard for me to be able to get into the bishop's mind. But if we go back and take a look at the times in which we, in which they were living, fealty to the church was absolute. Um, and so perhaps the bishop out of fear and perhaps the bishop out of his own sense of loyalty to the church did not want to see the church disrupted. There is, there is always people along the way who, who maintain the status quo thinking that in the maintenance of the status quo, that we are not throwing the whole baby out with the bath water.
John Bradshaw: You'd think that bishop might have seen the writing on the wall, you'd think he might have thought, boy if he translates the Bible, and this gets out, this could, this could upset the apple cart.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, it was clear that if the Bible were translated and got out, especially when, when later reads how Tyndale did some of his translations, it was a direct assault to the authority of the priesthood.
John Bradshaw: There was no Bible. Wycliffe the morning star of the reformation, he'd translated the Bible into English some years before, couple of 100, 150 years so before, uh, but by now that English was archaic.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right.
John Bradshaw: There was no English Bible.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: That's right.
John Bradshaw: So it was gonna change things. Here is the question I was gonna ask you a moment ago. Tyndale looking ahead, he, he, he knows that what he's thinking about doing is radical.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Mm-hmm.
John Bradshaw: He knows this is radical. He maybe motivated by the, by the purest motives although he knew that he was gonna come to conflict with the church along the way. He looks down into the future, he's got to have some idea, when the bishop says no, but he refuses to take no for an answer. He's got to have some idea of where this might end up for him.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
John Bradshaw: So help me understand the mind of someone living under the direct authority of an absolute monarch, the direct authority of an absolute pope, in a system that's, uh, pretty rigid, pretty strict. He's staying, I got to do this, what drives that man?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: I think it's the same thing that drove, um, the apostle Paul, you know. The apostle Paul says, you know, "I'm crucified with Christ, yet not I, but Christ lives in me". It's the same motivation that, that motivated Jesus who said, not my will but thy will be done. It's the same motivation that has motivated the men and women of God down through the ages, who knew that although there may be a king, a premiere, a prime minister or a president, that we answer to a higher authority. It's like when the apostles emerged out of the prison and said, we must obey God rather than man.
There is something that motivates the child of God when they understand that there is authority that is above all other authorities, that yes there may be a king, but there was the king of kings and Lord of lords. And yes, there may be a priest, but there was a high priest in heaven who sits at the right hand of the throne of God, Jesus Christ the righteous. And I think when you get a hold of that, that changes the way in which you view the world. Your life becomes less important, and turn, in, in, in, in the grand scheme of things, because I now live to glorify Him. And I think that motivated Tyndale.
John Bradshaw: Outstanding. We'll be back with more in a moment I'm with Dr. Dedrick Blue, uh, dean of the school of religion at Oakwood University. More on William Tyndale in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining us on 500 brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is Dr. Dedrick Blue, the dean of the school of religion at Oakwood University in Huntsville Alabama. We're discussing William Tyndale, one of the great reformers, who uh, maybe just for reviews sake, found himself living and operating in pretty difficult circumstances. This wasn't the 21st century in the United States.
John Bradshaw: This was then, 500 years ago, in an, in an environment where there was an absolute king.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Mm-hmm.
John Bradshaw: And an absolute pope, and Tyndale was told he absolutely had to do what he had to do, but something got a hold of him and he's like, "I've got to translate the Bible". How do you feel in your, in your study of William Tyndale that Tyndale believed, what was his vision? I get the Bible translated into English, the end result of this is going to be... what was he presupposing?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: I think he was presupposing, um, the end of tradition and the emergence of a true kingdom of God. So for example, one thing that, that, that Tyndale does in his translation, instead of using the word priest, he uses the word overseer. You see, because he did not want to give people any impression that there was a priestly class. Another thing that he does in his translation when he translates Ekklesia, the called out ones, right, he translates it congregation, rather than translating it as church. And he did that particularly because congregation implies that the people are somehow making up this, this, this kingdom of God, engaged in dialogue with God, rather than through a structured authority of the church.
John Bradshaw: He was angling for change.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: He was angling for change. And that change was to say, "Hey, people, the word of God is here, you can read it. And God wants you to be His people". That the church is not an institution, the church is people who come together, who worship God in spirit and truth".
John Bradshaw: So to put it another way, Tyndale translated, I could, I could perhps, it might sound negative, translated the Bible with an agenda, but let me put it in a positive sense, with a vision?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes.
John Bradshaw: He saw did he? This wasn't just I'll translate the Bible and let this go where it goes. He had a vision for what the Bible could do in the church and in the lives of people.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right, right.
John Bradshaw: Well, let's talk about the translating, I think many people would be surprised to know just how influential Tyndale's translations have been. How have affected us down through the years, what do we know today of Tyndale's translating?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, you know, um, uh, some scholars have estimated that about 83% of the New Testament, and about, uh, 76% of the Old Testament, are Tyndale's translations. The, the authorized version, the King James version, there was 54 scholars get together and they decided they were gonna grapple and translate the Bible. Well, they borrowed most of that from Tyndale, because they couldn't improve upon what Tyndale said. Not only that, when you read Tyndale's translations, we still hold onto some of the beauty of his language to this day. You see it was Tyndale who wrote the words seek and you shall find.
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Judge not that you be not judged, you are the salt of the earth. It was Tyndale's translation that says, in Him we live and move and have our being. Isn't that beautiful?
John Bradshaw: That is beautiful.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: You know...
John Bradshaw: That's powerful too.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes, it's very, very powerful. So the language that Tyndale used was poetic, and elevating, and challenging, and inspiring all at the same time.
John Bradshaw: Luther when he translated the Bible into German altered the German language.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Mm-hmm, yes.
John Bradshaw: And really his work with, with the German language changed the way the language was used.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Absolutely.
John Bradshaw: So Tyndale as he was translating, I suppose most translators, when he was translating then and bringing the Bible into English, it's evident that he stopped and thought and prayed, and chose very carefully words that he believed would, would truly the human heart. He achieved that, didn't he?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes he did. He absolutely did. Um, I'll give you another example of a Tyndale translation. You know, the word that we have now for passover, right? Um, that word didn't exist. That was Tyndale, Tyndale added that word to our Lexicon passover, because before everybody was using the, the Hebrew word. But just think about the beauty of, of that word, passover.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: You know, the angel passes over.
John Bradshaw: That's right.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: I mean, I mean Tyndale was absolutely, uh, a wonderful and masterful... matter of fact, one of his translations says, uh, the spirit is, is willing but the flesh is weak. Well you know, um, when you read others translations, Luther's translations, it says, Luther says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is sick.
John Bradshaw: Uuh.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: You know, but Tyndale the spirit is willing but we are weak. You know, and so in that translation I'm willing but I'm weak, it points me back to the source of my strength.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: The source of my strength in Jesus Christ, he's my Lord and savior. So I love what Tyndale did with language, and I love how that language, uh, throughout the centuries still resonates with Christians today.
John Bradshaw: Tyndale had to leave England in order to get this job done. The priest, uh, the bishop said no.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Off he went. So, so what happened then? He's essentially in exile, how did he, how did he go about translating a Bible into English 500 years ago.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, he found himself in Wittenberg and he found himself in Worms, and he found himself in Antwerp, um, all along the way doing bits and pieces of translation. Um, when he first, uh, began to publish a portion of that New Testament and get it out, um, and some of the copies finally made its way back to England. You know, those copies were seized and burned and, you know, he was, you know, railed as a hieratic. But what really got Tyndale in trouble, um, apart from his translations was some of his writings. So for example, when he wrote a book called The Obedience of Man, right? In that he rails against the, the traditions of the church. And then he wrote another book called The Practice of Prelates. And that really got him into trouble with king Henry VIII.
John Bradshaw: Yeah, what did he talk about there that fired up the king so much?
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, you know king Henry the VIII has gone down the history as, as quite an amorous king.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right? And, uh, he was married at the time to Catherine of, Aragon, but he wanted the pope to give him an annulment, and the pope refused to give him an annulment, uh, so that he could marry Ann Boleyn. Um, and so at that time, as Tyndale was watching this, Tyndale begins to rail against the king for his amorous ways, and, and says to the king that you have no authority on scriptures upon which to file for annulment. It's against the word of God. And for that, the eye of the king is, is really raised at that point against him. He was already not happy with him, but now the eyer of the king is really raised against him for that particular point. And the king wanted him exiled and brought back to, to, England to stand trial.
John Bradshaw: Interesting that he came out against the king, because in other ways he's so very, Tyndale was so very supportive of the monarchy.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Talk to me about that.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, that's, that's the great contradiction I think. You know, he supports the right of the king to rule, and he takes his position that the king has been given these powers by God to rule. However, um, as it is today, most people do not want to have their sins called out.
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: If you want to get someone upset with you, then tell them what they are doing wrong.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: And, um, prosecution usually comes when you take a position against someone who is entrenched in their position that is obviously wrong and yours is overwhelmingly correct. And if they have the power, they persecute you.
John Bradshaw: And that's what happened to Tyndale ultimately, paid for his faithfulness to God by being strangled and burned at the stake, at a little suburban northern part of Brussels not far from the airport Vilvoorde.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yes.
John Bradshaw: And, uh, in a certain sense he's a sort of a forgotten figure. In a certain sense, I mean there is a publishing house named after the man for goodness' sakes, that not nothing.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right.
John Bradshaw: I think today if you ask people to recall the great heroes of the reformation, Luther, some of the other luminaries-
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Mm-hmm.
John Bradshaw: Tyndale is probably down the list a little bit. After all he did was translate the Bible, but without his work the work of the other reformers would have been almost nothing.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: I think, I think Tyndale deserves a great, uh, place in history. Um, not only for translating the Bible into English, but look at what ultimately happens because of, because of that. Uh, the English society was basically illiterate. When the Bible gets translated into English, now all of a sudden an illiterate mass becomes literate.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: That changes forever the trajectory of England, and changes the trajectory of the world. None of that would have happened without Tyndale.
John Bradshaw: The Bible says the entrance of thy word brings light.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right.
John Bradshaw: Bringing the Word of God unto the people brought light in lots of different ways.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: It absolutely did. It absolutely did. And it, and it changed the way people think as, as well about, about, uh, the church and about government.
John Bradshaw: So Tyndale translates the Bible.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Yeah.
John Bradshaw: The printing press is, uh, is invented, uh, and, and, and the Bible starts to find its way into the hands of the people, the price comes down. Today you can buy one at the dollar store.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right.
John Bradshaw: How should be relating to the Bible today? You couldn't get it 500 years ago.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Right, right.
John Bradshaw: And now it's everywhere, bestselling book in the world. So, so for us today, Tyndale is dead and gone, his work lives on, it impacts even translations of the Bible today. But we have the Bible, talk about our, uh, not a responsibility but our privilege as believers, now that this work has been done, we have the Bible in our hands.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Well, you know, we have this sacred text, because there were people who were willing to actually lay down their lives to give us that opportunity. It sort of reminds me of, uh, of our children. If you give them everything sometimes they don't value it. And I think sometimes you've been given this great gift and we don't value it, because we didn't have to pay for it. Um, but there are others who did pay for it. If we take a look at where the Bible is most cherished these days, it is not in the western world, but it's in those parts of the world where people have not had access to the Word of God.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: And now as they're gaining access, they're seeing these wonderful, precious truths that have been hidden for them, hidden from them for ages. Those of us who have this precious word in our hands right now, we not only have an obligation to serve those who went before us, but to reread it for ourselves, to be reintroduced to this God that Tyndale was willing to give his life for. To catch the same vision that Tyndale had. Tyndale was a strong believer in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. He loved to talk about the imminent return of Jesus Christ. We live in a world right now of earthquakes, and floods and tornadoes, on the verge of war, and if there was ever time when the people of God need to look beyond this world to something greater it's now. That word of God points us to this Jesus Christ who loves us so much, he's coming back to get us, and it points us to the Jesus Christ, who loves us so much he's willing to speak to us in our own language.
John Bradshaw: Amen. Dr. Blue thanks so much. It's been wonderful. I appreciate it gratefully.
Dr. Dedrick Blue: Thank you very much John.
John Bradshaw: And thank you for joining us and be sure to join us next time on 500 for Rome and the reformation. We'll take you to Rome and to the Vatican City and you'll be blessed, and you'll be encouraged in Your faith. Let's pray together before we close.
Our father in heaven we are grateful for people like William Tyndale, and the men and women of great faith who valued Your word, the Bible. Uh, contact with you, a relationship with Christ, more than they valued life itself, we today are the beneficiaries of their great commitment. I pray Lord that you would let a fire of faith burn inside of us, that we'd be committed to you. Oh, the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. So we pray that you'd give us the strength of Jesus. The strength of Your Holy Spirit. We look forward as Tyndale did to the day when Jesus returns we want to go home and experience eternity with you. Keep us now, keep us until then and let Your word go around this world and do Your work in powerful ways. And if you can use us to be part of that, Lord we would be forever grateful. We thank you, we love you, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.