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William Tyndale, Priest

Throughout history, our lives have often been changed by the dedicated actions of individuals. Many such people are so famous that their names and achievements are well known, such as Einstein, Edison, Shakespeare, da Vinci and Mozart. Others, not so much. Unless you are a student of Church history, you have probably never heard of William Law, who in 1728 wrote a book titled A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. His work laid the foundation for the religious revival of the 18th century led by John and Charles Wesley.

Today we honor another such man, William Tyndale, who is little known outside of theological circles, but who had tremendous influence in his time that resonates even today. “At Oxford, as a student, and at Cambridge as a teacher, he had found great truth and guidance for his life from the Scriptures, which were then available only to those who could read Latin, or in the partial and sometimes inaccurate version of John Wycliffe.” (Saints Galore, Forward Movement Publications, Cincinnati, Ohio 1972)   

Ordained a priest in England in the 1520s, he became “a man of a single passion, to translate the Bible into English; so that, as he said to a prominent Churchman, ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more scripture than thou doest.’ Some eighty percent of his version has survived in the language of later and more familiar versions, such as the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611.” (Lesser Feasts and Fasts 1997, Church Publishing Incorporated, New York)

Yet in the early 1500s, his ideas put him at odds with King Henry VIII, Cardinal Walpole and others, and he became a hunted man. Betrayed by a friend, he was captured in Brussels and, on this day in 1536, was strangled at the stake and his body burned. Yet, his legacy lives on and in scores of countries around the world, the Bible can be read in English and in the myriad native languages of the people of the world. Today we honor him with a day in the Church Calendar.

As you read your Bible today, remember William Tyndale, ponder how great a price he paid for your ability to open the Bible and read for yourself the marvelous stories of God’s love and saving grace, and thank God for his life.
The Rev. John R. Bentley, Jr.
Pastoral Associate
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