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Tyndale and the Bible

David Teems has penned a very good book on the figure of William Tyndale, which most people know as the translator and editor of the Tyndale Bible. Teems begins with the upbringing of Tyndale and his schooling at Oxford. Early on in the work he writes, "John Foxe used the word addicted when speaking of Tyndale and the Scripture in the same sentence" (13). Therefore, from the earliest on, Tyndale was enamored with the Bible and its depiction of God, it was his book in such a way that he left its side. Teem goes on to indicate that the unversity was not a place where spiritual fervor was recognized going on to say, "A student would not be allowed to preach, he said, until all traces of spirituality were squeezed out of his voice" (17). Tyndale goes onto indicate that it was not until after 8 or 9 years that a student could readily study the Scriptures. To put it succintly, Tyndale's passion and the setting in which he lived stood from the earliest on as opposing forces, ready to do battle in the arena of faith and tradition.

In the Parable of the Wicked Mammon, we see the heart of Tyndale to encourage his fellow believers about the proper place of works in the Christian life. Tyndale was not surprised at the reaction of this book, for his New Testament was met with vileness and scathing remarks also. Yet, as Teems indicates, this parable was an attempt to delineate the justification by faith as part of the heart of the Christian message. In writing about so clearly about justification and works, Tyndale says in a marginal note "God's grace is to be exercised in us" (113). Before any good works for Tyndale, there must be a planting of the Word of God in the soul of man, reminding the readers of the good news of Jesus Christ and the power of the Spirit (114). Teems does not get into the details of the debate concerning justification within the church at the time, but suffice it to say Tyndale's view weighted much more with the idea of grace being evidenced in God's work and his work alone.

My favorite part of the book was Teem's discussion about the debate and response of Sir Thomas More. More was the author of Utopia and a mighty figure in English church and court duties. Yet, for all of More's efforts, his vitriolic attitude toward Tyndale (also Luther) was a consuming fire for him. Labeling them (luther and Tyndale) as "no less than prophets of the great beast" (167), More was in the position of a lawyer contending with canon law against an arch heretic, or so he thought. As Teems metions, it was in 1529 that More penned A Dialogue Concerning Heresies that was his long apologetic for the Catholic church. Yet, as others point out, the work is long and yet adds nothing to the theological conversation about the church. Rather, it provides endless repetition about the perfection of the Catholic church with no criticism (181). I comment on this part because it was the way in which Tyndale handled his words with More that gave him his greatest advantage. For in the end, More was more concerned with lawyer talk than engaging the Scriptures over the matter of truth on issues of the church, justification, and the role of works in the Christian life. We finally see the portrait of a man in desperate need (in a jail cell) at the end of the book, writing a letter for the bare necessities, a warmer coat, leggings and a shirt (256).

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice
by David Teems

What we see is the portrait of a man captivated by the word of God, who felt it his duty to get the Word to the people, no longer keeping it hidden under the lamp of priestly eyes. This biography did not take the sharp critical edge that some biographies of Tynale do, but it does not find itself in the place of hagiography either. Rather, it is a biography that takes the essential elements of his life and displays the faith of a man given over to the grace of God. I was greatly encouraged by this book and I hope it will have a long shelf life.

Much thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Book Sneeze program for this complimentary copy of the book.


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