Saturday, March 25, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 13    William Tyndale Part 2

     While Tyndale was in hiding trying to finish his English translation of the Bible, the king of England, Henry VIII, was trying to divorce Catherine of Aragon (daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain; and niece of Emperor Charles V), the first of his six wives ("divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived"), because she had provided him with no male heir. Henry appealed to the pope for annulment, arguing that he had violated Leviticus 20:21, “If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…. They shall die childless.” What Henry really wanted was to marry Anne Boleyn, with whom he had been having an affair.

     The question of the legality of Henry’s marriage was considered by the universities; and scholars decided that the king was justified in pursuing divorce. But the pope (for political reasons) refused to give in; and threatened excommunication.

     After reading a copy of Tyndale’s Obedience of the Christian Man, given to him by Anne Boleyn, Henry decided he needed a “scholar like Tyndale to advance his cause of gaining a divorce from his first wife, and establishing himself as a higher authority in England than the pope, so he sent agents after Tyndale to offer him a salary and safe passage back to England. Tyndale respectfully refused this offer, saying he would return to England only if the king granted approval and made arrangements for the Bible to be translated into the English language” (Christian History #16).

     On Jan. 25, 1533, Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn. In May, Thomas Cranmer, the newly installed Archbishop of Canterbury, pronounced the king’s marriage to Catherine null and void. On June 1, 1533, Cranmer crowned Anne as queen (shortly thereafter she gave birth to Elizabeth). In 1534, Henry had Parliament pass the Law of Supremacy, which decreed that the king, not the pope, “justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme Head of the Church of England.”

     In 1535, while Tyndale was living in Antwerp, Belgium, “he was betrayed into the hands of local authorities and agents of Charles V by Henry Phillips, a down-and-out student who professed to be sympathetic to Tyndale’s work” (DeMar, 220).

     Tyndale was imprisoned for more than a year at Vilvorde Castle near Brussels. At his trial, acting as his own lawyer, Tyndale maintained that faith alone justifies before God. He was condemned as a heretic to be strangled and then burned. On October 6, 1536, when the executioner was attaching the wire around his throat, Tyndale’s last words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
     Less than two years later, King Henry “decreed that a copy of the English Bible be placed in every church in the kingdom…. Not long after Tyndale’s death, an English bishop declared to a gathering of churchmen, ‘The common people now know the Holy Scripture better than most of us’.” (Trial and Triumph, 130).

     “Tyndale’s English translation took the English language and turned it into beautiful prose. He coined new terms like ‘scapegoat,’ ‘longsuffering,’ and ‘peacemaker’.” (DeMar, 218). It is estimated “that ninety percent of Tyndale is reproduced in the King James Version of the New Testament” (Our English Bible, 26).

Also during 1534-1536, John Calvin was converted and published the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. To Calvin we turn next.

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 William Tyndale Pt 2

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 13

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

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