William Tyndale and Bible SundayDear Friends,
In the Church’s calendar October includes both the remembrance of William Tyndale (6th) and Bible Sunday (28th). For me Tyndale has always been something of a hero of the church. Born around 1494, he got caught up with the fervour of the Reformation as it spread from Europe, and developed a vision to see the Bible translated into English from the Greek and Hebrew so that everybody could read it. At the time the possession of a Bible in English carried the death penalty.
When the Bishop of London refused to support him, he moved to Germany to continue the work of translating. Printing of his first New Testament began in Cologne in 1525 and was completed in Worms. Encouraged by the leaders of the English church, Henry VIII sent agents to capture him and prevent its publication. Tyndale kept on the move, eventually settling in Antwerp, where he continued to revise his New Testament, translated and published the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) and Jonah, with Joshua – 2 Chronicles in manuscript. Henry VIII’s agents eventually caught up with him and in 1536 he was arrested, tried and executed for heresy. However, his New Testament and other translations lived on, eventually becoming core building blocks for the development of what became the King James Bible.
The work of Tyndale, Wycliffe (an earlier translator) and the team of 54 scholars who put together the King James Bible, lives on in the work of the Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators and others, who share a vision that all people should be able to read the Bible in their own language. Currently the whole Bible is available in nearly 700 languages, and the New Testament in a further 1500, but with over 7000 languages in the world, many of which have never been written down, there is a long way to go. Bible Sunday is an opportunity to be reminded of the importance of the Bible to us and across the world, and to pray for and consider how we might support this important work both of literacy, and of making the Bible available to everyone. The Bible helps people to encounter God in Jesus Christ, and that changes lives.
Revd Stephen Cooper