For the Love of God's Word
Updated: Jan 30, 2020
by Pastor Aaron Adame
October 31 is almost here! And while many will be celebrating with costumes and candy, hopefully, we will also remember that October 31 means something even more special for those of us who are Christians. It is well known that on that day and month in 1517, a man named Martin Luther started a movement that changed the course of human history—certainly church history—when he posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
But Luther wasn’t alone. In fact, there were many who were coming to the same conclusions, either at the same time or soon after, all throughout Europe. God was raising up men and women to rediscover the gospel of justification by faith apart from works.
One of these people was an Englishman, William Tyndale. Tyndale was born in 1494 and was a native of Gloucester. He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge. He was a priest in the Catholic Church and sought the opportunity from his bishop to translate the Latin Bible into English, the language of his countrymen—He was denied.
Compelled by this single desire to see people read the Bible in their own language, he sought out regions throughout Europe where he could devote his time to translate the New Testament into English. Upon completion, and after smuggling it back into the country, it was not well received when it was published.
A man by the name of Sir Thomas More made this assessment: [It was] “not worthy to be called Christ’s testament, but either Tyndale’s own testament or the testament of his master Antichrist.”
At this time, Bible translation was not practiced by the Catholic Church, nor was it something they were ready to accept. But Tyndale’s passion led him to escape again and work on his translation of the Old Testament. Fluent in seven languages and proficient in ancient Greek and Hebrew, Tyndale was the man God used to bring His Word to the people of the English-speaking world. His translation, a work done all by himself, was so good that even the later translators of what we know today as the King James Version agreed eight out of ten that Tyndale’s translation was the best.
All this came at a price—a great price. Tyndale was betrayed by a man named Henry Philips. Philips led Tyndale away from safety and into the arms of his captors, who then put him on public trial. As a result, Tyndale was accused of heresy. After nearly a year, Tyndale was condemned as a heretic and sentenced to death. On October 6, 1536, Tyndale was burned at the stake in the public square. Like the Lord Jesus, who prayed for His executioners even as He was crucified, John Foxe (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) recounts that Tyndale prayed while on the stake: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”
Nearly 500 years later, we fail to realize the price that great Christians paid in order to get the Bible into the hands of regular folks like us. They understood something about the Bible that, unfortunately, very few Christians tap into: The Bible gives life and truth and hope and renewal to God’s people!
It’s important to remember these historical events because we can become so blind by our own situation. And it’s possible that many who are reading this have several translations in their home or even on a digital device. But when was the last time you read, knowing that this privilege has come to us at such a great price? How might this change how we read, how often we read, and why we read the Word of God!
Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,”131 Christians Everyone Should Know(Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 349.