One of the most precious gifts of the Reformation was restoring the access of
God’s people to God’s word. In the middle ages the bible was only available in
Latin, which common people could not understand. In England, a man named
William Tyndale took up the challenge of translating a version of the New
Testament from the Greek into the English language. But Tyndale’s great gift to
English speaking people came at a great cost.
Tyndale soon discovered his project would be resist ed by both the religious
and state authorities, who were keen to keep control over the church. So
Tyndale fled to continental Europe, and upon completing his translation in
1525, his New Testament was smuggled back into England where it quickly
became a best-seller.
The authorities were not amused and responded with plans to silence Tyndale.
This came about in Antwerp, where Tyndale was befriended by a man named
Henry Phillips. Phillips was a regular guest of Tyndale’s and gained a
privileged access to his writings. However Tyndale was betrayed by his friend;
Phillips lured him into a trap where he was seized by soldiers and put under
arrest. For his crime of translating the bible, Tyndale was charged with heresy
and burnt at the stake.
However, Tyndale’s translation fueled the fires of reform. For as God’s word
became understandable and available, desire grew in the church to reform
doctrine and practice in line with the bible’s teaching. As we gather to worship
God today, thank him that we have access to his word in a language we can
understand! It came at a great cost, and is a most precious gift.