William Tyndale was born about 1495 in Gloucestershire. He studied from 1510 to 1515 at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, taking the Bachelor of Arts and the Master of Arts. He spent some time in study at Cambridge as well. After his ordination to the priesthood, about 1521, he entered the service of Sir John Walsh at Little Sodbury, Gloucestershire, as domestic chaplain and tutor. In 1523 he went up to London and obtained a similar position in the household of a rich cloth merchant, Humphrey Monmouth.
About 1522 Tyndale conceived the project of translating the Bible into English, but when Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of London, refused his support, Tyndale left for Germany, settling at Hamburg. He never returned to his native land. The printing of his first translation of the New Testament in 1525 at Cologne was interrupted by the local magistrates, but was completed at Worms later that year. On the translation’s arrival in England the following year, it was bitterly attacked by William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Tunstall and Thomas More. Tyndale spent most of his remaining years at Antwerp, where he frequently revised his New Testament translation and worked on other writings, including A Prologue on…Romans (1526) and Obedience of a Christian Man (1528). He wrote against Cardinal Wolsey and Henry the Eighth’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and against Sir Thomas More, his ablest opponent. Like Luther, he insisted on the authority of Holy Scripture, but in the course of his work on translation he moved away from Luther’s teaching on justification by faith towards an idea of justification by faith and works. Besides his New Testament translation, Tyndale also published translations of the Pentateuch (1530) and Jonah (1531), and left Joshua through Second Chronicles unpublished in manuscript form. His biblical translations, made directly from the Greek and Hebrew into straightforward, vigorous English, remain the basis of the Authorized (King James) Version and those versions that follow in that translation tradition (including the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and the English Standard Version).
Tyndale was arrested in 1535, imprisoned at Vilvorde, near Brussels, and strangled and burned at the stake, probably on October 6, 1536. His last words were prophetic: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
and The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servant William Tyndale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and endowed him with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of William Tyndale, Priest, are published on the Lectionary Page website.