I suppose it is possible to simply label everything I have presented thus far as semantics. To ignore it as nothing more than a flight of fancy from some guy who is trying to prove something by putting together a Hodge-podge of sources and placing them on a string to dangle in front of those who are not happy with “church as usual”. I am certain we all know some folks who fall into that category. So, to be fair to each of you, the readers, I have to admit that it would have been easy for me to dismiss all of the previous information presented in the first 3 chapters of this little saga; had it not been for 3 things.
I wasn't looking for any of this. I happened across a small notation, in one of my favorite Chronological Gospels, which mentioned William Tyndale and his having been martyred for, among many reasons, not translating Scripture in a way which was satisfactory to the Vatican of his day. We'll discuss him at some length in this chapter.
The fact that I when researched William Tyndale something inspired me to find out how the institution we call church got its name. From there I followed clues using the same method I'd been trained in while in law enforcement. I was using the same investigative method I'd used many times as an officer, during years of narcotics interdiction, and as a background investigator. Simply following the facts and evidence and allowing them to lead me where they may; while dismissing any preconceived ideas or notions I had from teaching which was different than what I was finding. Detailing areas which I may personally find absurd (which is how I first felt about the word search in Chapter 1), in order to create parameters into which all the evidence might fall. In other words, digging into areas in which I had no previous knowledge or experience in order to see if any (or even all) of what I might find may somehow explain the origin of some of the theories I was running across.
Lastly, this is not new! William Tyndale happened across this very dilemma of the ekklesia in the 16th century. Two centuries before him John Wycliffe was fighting the same battle, though through very differing means and for different reasons.
This is the thread I began to pull and follow....
As we delve into Tyndale, which is to be the focus of this chapter, we need to understand his objective and his history with the matter of the ekklesia.
Tyndale set out to translate the entire Bible into the common vernacular of his day. It is said that he, in one of his many debates with fellow priests, told a priest something to the affect of “if God should permit me to live long enough, I shall see to it that a plow-boy (ploughboy in the spelling of his day) shall know more of Scripture than you!”.
Let's take a short step back though.... John Wycliffe (a Catholic priest in the late 1300's with ideas which may have later spawned the Reformation) is recorded as the first to create an English Bible. He, however, did so using the Latin Vulgate. He was not a Biblical linguist as was Tyndale.
According to some sources Tyndale was around 12 years old when he went to Oxford University (modern day location of Hertford College) to learn “theology” and eventually became an Ordained Catholic Priest in 1515. I appears he spent about 10 years studying there and left for Cambridge following the receipt of a Master of Arts because, while he'd learned much of the theology offered by this Catholic institution, he complained that he had not learned anything of the Bible itself. This is important because we see early on that William Tyndale was a man with a passion for God's Word. While at Cambridge, he was exposed to Biblical Greek and the translation methods of an Dutch Catholic Scholar named Erasmus. This too is important because Erasmus became the one man who appears to have been allowed by the Catholic Church of the time to put the Greek of the Bible into print. It eventually became the basis for what we now know as the Textus Receptus (Received Text). Not only did he create a Greek "New Testament", but at some point Erasmus put it in a parallel Bible with one column in Greek and the other the in Latin. After more than 40 years experience with ancient Biblical Manuscripts, no one was more qualified to do so. Why is the format important? Because in this format, many priests, Tyndale possibly among them, began to feel the fires of the Reformation burning inside of them. For the first time, they could read and compare the teachings of the “church” with the Greek texts. Though it is unclear if Tyndale ever read the parallel Bible, we can be certain he read Erasmus Greek New Testament in some form while at Cambridge University. This Textus Receptus and parallel Bible were seemingly influential in causing many to question the teachings they'd received and ask a single question “Which is truth?”.
NOTE: some argue that Erasmus set out to create a new Greek and a new Latin text to reform the corrupted Latin Bible of the "church" of his day. I could not find many sources to corroborate this story though. Since I am not a fluent linguist, I am left to wonder, at this point, if he did write a new Greek or copied it from existing manuscripts and did he create an entirely new Latin text in the parallel Bible of 1519?
Obviously history bears out that a great many priests decided that they would believe Scripture above teaching. Thus the birth of the doctrine “sola Scriptura” (Latin: "by scripture
alone"). It was not likely penned before Martin Luther did so in his “95 Theses” in 1517, but the sentiment had most certainly been seeded into the hearts of formerly dedicated priests throughout the English speaking world, and beyond. It eventually made its way into Germany (home of Martin Luther), France, Italy and other European states. Little is known of whether or not Erasmus met with any reprisal over this work. I could not find any direct mention of it as I researched this.
Though it is unclear if Tyndale had ever actually studied under Erasmus, it is clear that he had dedicated himself to the lessons taught by those passing on the methods of translation Erasmus developed and used. While at Cambridge he mastered the translation of 8 languages including Greek and Latin. Hebrew would become a lesson for a later time. After leaving Cambridge, Tyndale took a position as the tutor for several children of an English Lord by the name of Sir John Walsh, in the countryside manor of Little Sodbury. It was at Little Sodbury manor that Tyndale had a number of debates over dinner with the local clergy. One particular occasion, in the heat of debate, a priest said in rebuke of Tyndale's perspective “we are better without God's Law than the Pope's” (as recorded by numerous accounts of the event) to which Tyndale made his famous reply from above “I defy the Pope and all his laws, and if God spare my life, in many years I shall cause the boy that driveth the plough to know more of Scripture than thou dost”. He also began preaching publicly during this part of his life. Lord and Lady Walsh were quite sympathetic to his views and due to their money, they could be insulated for a time, and so they encouraged Tyndale to leave their employ to find a place where he could perhaps pursue his endeavor to translate the Bible from the Greek into the vernacular of the commoners. With their assistance, he made his way to London and due to his scholarly reputation was being considered for a position, so to speak, under the Bishop of London - Cuthbert Tunstall.
Bishop Tunstall looked at Tyndale's translation of Isocrates and was so impressed he agreed to meet with Tyndale. He acknowledged Tyndale's brilliance as a translator in the meeting so Tyndale broached the subject of translating the Greek Bible into the common language. Bishop Tunstall denied his request simply because he worked under Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a man who'd worked his way up through the ranks and held tremendous authority in the court of King Henry VIII. Tunstall knew that Cardinal Wolsey would follow the edict of the Vatican which had declared it illegal to make the Bible available to just anyone, under the pretense that it must be interpreted by those who are qualified in order for the masses to understand it's true meaning. Oddly, England was the last of the European states to allow translation into the English vernacular, Germany, France, Holland, all had Bibles the commoner could read for themselves. Tyndale eventually took his one remaining opportunity. He stayed in London but pursued a life of preaching for a time. Many of the congregation became enamored with Tyndale's preaching/teaching. One man in particular became that one last opportunity which I imagine Tyndale viewed as providence. Henry Monmouth, a rich merchant, was in complete agreement with the vision Tyndale believed God had given him as a calling. It was certain that the work could never be completed anywhere in England, so Monmouth financed a journey that would set in motion events which would put Tyndale on a run for his life, for the rest of his life.
At the same time Tyndale was about to leave for Germany, maybe the very day he left, it is documented a man in Norwich (north of London) was burned at the stake for having in his possession a single scrap of paper with the “Lord's Prayer” written in English. It seems there was a lot of that happening. A movement had begun, which became popular; people were teaching their children the prayer in English so they could understand God cared about each of them personally.
It was in Cologne, Germany that Tyndale began his work. A printer of great renown took up the quest. Surely he knew this would likely make him a lot of money, but it was a risk nonetheless, and not just for monetary reasons. Tyndale knew, presumably due to his education at Cambridge, that the language of the “Old Testament” was not Greek but Hebrew. So he began his work with what he knew – Greek - the "New Testament". The print shop was raided before even the book of Matthew was completed. So less than 1/20th of the “New Testament” was printed there. He and his assistant made a narrow escape by boat to Worms, Germany. It was here that Tyndale finished his first work on the “New Testament” and printed 6,000 copies which were smuggled down the Rhine River and into England. The arrival of these made such a stir that Bishop Tunstall got word of it and set up a sort of sting operation.
Using his private police force they strong-armed the smugglers into giving up some names. Those names led to more, which led to more and so on until nearly every copy could be accounted for and they were burned in a massive bonfire in London. Many of the believers (or at least the men of the house) were martyred/murdered by Bishop Tunstall simply for owning a copy of Tyndale's New Testament. Copies of the Tyndale New Testament were made pocket sized to they could be easily concealed. A first in the production of Bibles. That simply wasn't enough to keep the possessors of such contraband safe. During the bonfire Tunstall preached a sermon declaring the "church" refused this Bible because there were 2,000 heretical errors in it. But this begs the question, “which Bible was he comparing it to?”. If comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, then yes that would be likely, but there are a number of errors in the Latin Vulgate which can now be proven by anyone who reads Latin and can use a Greek Lexicon. That is a topic for another time...
We'll come back to some of the “errors and heresy” later though.
Over another 8 years, some 14,000 additional copies were printed and smuggled into England. Obviously the method and smugglers had been revised.
An amazing “coincidence” in Tyndale's life was his need to flee to Worms. It just so happens that Worms, Germany was a center of Rabbinic Learning in that day. So he befriended the Rabbinic Scholars of the city and was taught Biblical Hebrew from world -leading experts in the language. His arsenal now complete, Tyndale eventually went to Antwerp, Belgium.
From Antwerp he printed the first ever versions of Hebrew “Old Testament” books into English. He first translated, printed and smuggled copies of the Torah (Pentateuch), or the 5 Books of Moses, into England.
According to Yale University Press:
"He also translated and printed the Book of Jonah, probably in 1531. In addition, there is now little doubt that after translating the Pentateuch, Tyndale went on to translate the historical books of the Old Testament—Joshua to 2 Chronicles—for there is overwhelming evidence that those books, as they appeared in the 1537 "Matthew's" Bible, were Tyndale's work."
He also later revised his Greek “New Testament” and an unknown number were printed and smuggled into England. Sadly, he never completed the translation of the “Old Testament”.
It's a long story from here and the rest can be shared later, but the abridged version is that he had mistakenly befriended a man who was hired to track him down and bring him to "justice". This man gained his confidence and met with him on numerous occasions before springing the trap. It's said they'd agreed to meet for a meal, while Tyndale was hiding in an apartment complex which housed foreign merchants. Most were English speaking so it was a good place for him to blend in. However, it also narrowed down the number of places which would require a search for an Englishman. At any rate, his traitor had arranged for guards to wait in hiding on either side of a narrow alleyway which he and Tyndale would walk through. If he entered the passageway and Tyndale was the man with him he would ask to borrow some money. Apparently this is something he'd worked out previously, as part of his cover, so he could get Tyndale used to such a request. As they walked into the road the man explained to Tyndale he'd forgotten his purse but fully intended to pay for the lunch. Tyndale said he could borrow the sum and return it to him at his convenience. The trap was sprung and Tyndale was taken into custody. He was eventually murdered by the same priesthood for whom he previously worked. His crimes? Heresy, disobeying an edict from the Pope against translating Bibles into the common vernacular, and I'm certain a plethora of other contrived nonsense. Because he had been a priest he we first ceremonially defrocked, and as an “act of mercy for his service” strangled, before being burned at the stake.
Some sources say witnesses claimed he had not died when strangled.
Very few copies of the Tyndale Bible exist today. I've read estimates as few as 3 of his "Old" and "New" Testament works have survived. While he never finished the "Old Testament", as much of 87% of the New Testament and approximately 80% of the Old Testament in the Authorized King James Bible and some say the same of the Geneva Bible (the one used by the Puritans and subsequently the Pilgrims who came to the Americas) are nearly identical to his work. Not to mention a number of others such as the Mathews Bible cited above - which many believe was definitely his work finished by his good friend.
Tyndale's list of heresies was apparently quite large, and a complete list doesn't seem to have survived, so I won't attempt to list many. I do however, want to focus on some of the “translation heresies” he was accused of committing:
presbuteros as “elder” and not 'priest'
metanoeo as “repent” and not 'do penance'
exomologeo as “acknowledge” and not 'confess'
agape as “love and not 'charity'
ekklesia as “congregation” and not 'church'
NOTE: Exomologesis (related to number 3 above) is a penitential rite with public confession of sins that was practiced in the early Catholic Church. It's modern application is the confessional booth used today. This Catholic practice includes confession of sins, satisfaction of wrong doing, absolution and restoration to the church body of the person who is repentant.
In regard to ekklesia (number 5 above), Tyndale made an exception in his translation, he went so far as to only translate it twice as “church”, actually “chirche” which you may remember from Chapter 1. He translated it this way in Acts 14:13 and Acts 19:37 referring to pagan temples.
Copied from 'Christianforums.com' we find:
"In the Wyclife 1382 English Bible, translated from Latin, circe became
chirche, pronounced "Kirkee." The English translations that followed were: Tyndale's Bible (1526) - used "congregation" consistently for
ekklesia except for Acts 14: 13 and Acts 19:37 where he used chirche,
meaning a pagan place of worship."
This chapter would be incomplete without some indication as to the weight of influence the anointed words of William Tyndale have had on the centuries of development in Scriptural Translation into English. While there is a provable and concerted effort to change Scripture in order to make a 'Bible the Whole World can Accept'. I did a short E-Book specifically on this (with many verifiable and linked sources) which is available Free of Charge HERE
Many, if not all of you, will recognize the "phrases" and "sentences" he chose as he translated the Hebrew Masoretic Texts (those which would have been available for him obtain a copy of) and the Textus Receptus. Several newer translations still use similar wording.
Just copy and pasting these gems would not do them justice, so they are here in picture form - since "a picture is worth a thousand words"...
As I started this chapter, I felt a great weight upon me. I had to consider what the consequences of this chapter might mean. You see, while I am not likely to lose my life as Tyndale did in exposing people to the truth, the modern church has not gone all that far from its roots. The modern church often martyrs the character or reputation of those whom they believe are bringing a “new idea” to light especially when it doesn't line up with mainstream mentality. Like Tyndale, I have a burning passion within me. To bring the Body-Bride back to a place of innocence in Yeshua. Fully trusting Him as the head of the ekklesia. To bring this wonderful Body-Bride of the “Way, Truth, and Life” back to a First Century understanding of His teachings. To adorn her with the purity He deserves in a Bride. This means we have to have courage to set our eyes so fully on Him that anything which might interfere with that message, that doctrine, that theology which He left to our charge but has been altered by man-made doctrine, theology, and messages can and will be changed back to the pure “faith" He left.
So who and what is the ekklesia?
We'll dive into that in the next chapter. This is just beginning.
<<<<< Go to Part 5