William Tyndale was a brilliant scholar. He was fluent in eight languages. He studied the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew at Oxford.
Tyndale was committed to evaluate every teaching of the established church in the light of Scripture. As he read and studied the Scripture, he developed a passion to translate the Bible from the original languages (Greek and Hebrew) into English so that ordinary people could read the Bible for themselves. However, and this is a big however, it was illegal to possess a copy of the Bible in English.
When word got out about Tyndale’s English New Testament project, many set out to arrest him and to stop him from completing the work. So in 1524, he was forced to flee to Germany. Over the next five years, 15,000 copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were smuggled from Germany to England in bales of cotton and in sacks of flour.
Church authorities, as well as the King, banned and confiscated Tyndale’s New Testaments wherever they were found. There were public burnings of the books, but copies kept getting in.
Tyndale was eventually betrayed, arrested and imprisoned for 15 months near Brussels. He was finally tried and condemned to death. He was burned at the stake on Oct 6, 1536. His final words were a prayer, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” That prayer was answered three years later when King Henry VIII finally approved and funded the printing of an English Bible.
There’s no way to overstate Tyndale’s influence. I’m thankful for him. And when you look at your Bible, breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for the ready availability of Scripture. “Take up and read” was the message to Augustine and it’s still a good message to hear. Take up and read, and when you do, you will meet the mind, the heart and the Spirit of God in Scripture.