THE STORY OF
AND THE FIRST PRINTED ENGLISH
TRANSLATION OF OUR BIBLE
-- 1525 A. D. --
Historic Facts Everybody Ought To
Know -- Tyndale, An Ana-Baptist,
Was Hanged -- His Body Burned --
For Translating The Bible Into English
"...I suffer trouble, as an evil doer,
even unto bonds [Paul was in jail]; but
the word of God is not bound. Therefore
I endure all things for the elect's sakes,
that they may also obtain the salvation
which is in Christ Jesus...."
II Timothy 2:9,10
NEARLY 500 YEARS AGO
Nearly one hundred years before Columbus discovered
America, there was a boy named John Gooseflesh, living in
the old town of Mentz. His mother helped to make a living for
the family by preparing parchment for the priests to write on.
John liked very much to carve and cut with his knife. One day
he was sitting beside the fire watching a pot of purple dye that
his mother was heating and amusing himself by carving and
cutting his name in wood. Suddenly one of the pieces of
wood, with a letter cut on it, fell into the dye pot. He snatched
at it, caught it, but dropped it again, this time onto a piece of
parchment lying nearby. It fell upside down, and when he
picked it up, there on the parchment, was the letter "h"
Years went by. The boy of Mentz did not forget what hap-
pened that day by the fire in his old home. It had given him an
idea that some way could be found to make books more easily
than to copy them all out by hand as had always been done.
So he cut little wooden blocks and dipped them in dye, setting
them this way and that, making forms for them to be placed in
and he finally had the first printing press the world had ever
seen. You will find his name in every history ever written--
John Gutenberg, it is in German.
NO ENGLISH BIBLE
That happened in 1454. That very same year, a great battle
was fought in Constantinople between the Christians [Romanists] and the
Turks and the Christians were driven out of the city, at that
time the greatest city in the world, where most of the schools
of learning were located. Greek scholars came to live in all
parts of Europe. All at once these wise men became very
much interested in the Greek New Testament and began to
read it instead of the old Latin one they had always read. They
made many people think about how wonderful it would be to
have the Bible in the language of the people, so everyone
could read it. With the new study of the language and the new
printing press, things began to happen.
It began first in an old school in England where a young
man named William Tyndale was studying. He was a good
Greek scholar and had read the New Testament in the very
language in which it was written. It had come to mean so
much to him that he wanted it to mean something to all the
people around him.
One day some students were talking about all this new
interest in the Bible, and one man said very positively: "The
Bible is not necessary. It is all foolishness to talk about
translating it into English for the people to read. All they
need is the word of the pope. We had better be without God's
laws than the pope's laws!"
William Tyndale rose from his chair, and striking his
clenched fist on the table shouted, "I defy the pope and all
his laws; and, if God spares me, I will one day make the boy
that drives the plow in England to know more of the
Scriptures than the pope does!"
NOT AN IDLE BOAST
It was not an idle boast. William Tyndale went right to
work to make an English Bible that all the people could read.
A rich merchant, Humphrey Monmouth, gave him his home
to work in and day and night he worked, hoping some
publisher would print it when he had it ready.
POPE -- VERY POWERFUL
By Tyndale had forgotten that the pope was very power-
ful. A Bible in the English language was just what the pope
did not want. Presently all the authorities of England turned
against him and soon, even his friend Monmouth dared not
help him. Tyndale sadly said, "In England there is no room
for attempting the translation of the Scriptures."
Did he quit? No, William Tyndale was no quitter. He just
left England and went to live in Hamburg, Germany. Here he
could never be sure his life was safe, for the English Catholic
bishops and priests were so angry with him for going on with
his work that they hired spies to hinder him, to keep him from
making friends and to prevent his ever getting his Bible
There was a printing press at Cologne. So over there he
went and found printers ready to go to work on his first
English Bible. He tried to keep his work a secret for he knew
the English Catholic bishops would arrest him, if they knew
the book was nearly done.
One day a warning came to him to flee for his life. A Catho-
lic priest had found out from a drunken printer that his En-
glish Bible was nearly off the press, and had come to arrest
him. He snatched his precious sheets of paper, and fled from
the town, going to Worms, where Martin Luther lived.
PRINTED IN GERMANY
There the first English Bible was printed, two sizes being
made, one large and one small, for he thought if the English
Catholic bishops found the large ones, he might be able to
hide the smaller ones.
Now they must be gotten to England. In barrels all cover-
ed with cloth and articles for sale, in bales that looked like
cloth, in sacks of flour, in every way that could be found to
hide them, they were sent across to England.
Did they get across? They did, in large numbers, and the
Catholic bishops found out they were being sold. Every sea-
port was carefully watched, and many a package of Bibles
was found by the officers and burned. But more Bibles came.
They could not stop them, and some of them would always
get to people who wanted to read them.
Finally the Catholic bishop of London had a bright idea!
He decided he would buy all the copies that were printed,
through a merchant in Germany! Then there would be no
more Bibles to come across the water. He did not know that
the merchant he asked to do this was a friend of Tyndale.
This friend thought he saw a way to help Tyndale. He knew
that right at that time Tyndale needed money more than
anything else, to pay his printers for the work they had done,
and start a new printing of the Bibles. So he said, "My lord, I
will be glad to attend to this matter. But it will take money to
do it, for the men who have these books in Germany hold
them at a high price."
"My dear Sir," said the bishop, "do your best to get them
for me, all of them, for they are very bad books. I will gladly
pay you whatever they cost, for I intend to burn them all and
end this matter."
What fun it was to the merchant! He went to Tyndale,
bought his books at a good price and brought them over to
England, while Tyndale went right to work on a new printing,
for he now had plenty of money. The poor Catholic bishop
thought when he burned all these Bibles, there would never
be another English Bible! Imagine how he felt when he learn-
ed that more Bibles than ever before were coming into
England. So many came that the officers simply could not
"How can this be?" a man who had been arrested for
helping Tyndale, was asked.
"I will tell you truly, my lord," the man replied, "Tis
yourself that gave us the money to print the Bibles!"
That's a good one. Wasn't he mad, though?
TYNDALE, AN ANA-BAPTIST, IS HANGED AND
BURNED -- FOR TRANSLATING THE WORD OF GOD!
He was so mad that he stirred up all England against
Tyndale. All the great Catholic [t]eachers began to preach
about it, most of them thinking it would do a great deal of
harm to have the Bible in the language of the people, a few
very brave and wise men saying it would be much better for
England. At last Tyndale won, for the Bible was every-
where. One old bishop said sadly, "It passeth my power, or
that of any man, to hinder it now!"
So the Bible came to England, and from England to all the
world. But the man who gave it to the world never knew what
a glorious victory he had won. Away in a little German town,
afraid to walk in the street for fear some spy of the English
Catholic bishops, or the pope of Rome should see him, work-
ing night and day that everybody might have the Bible, he
longed for his home in England. He loved England better
than his life. His enemies sent men to make him believe they
were his friends, and persuade him to come home. But he
knew what they wanted. He knew, once in England, they
would arrest and kill him.
Not all his enemies were in England, however. There was
a man named Phillips, whom he believed to be loyal and
true. But Phillips was a spy sent by the pope to trap Tyndale.
One night as Tyndale walked out from his home to enjoy the
evening air, a band of men set upon him, bound him, and
carried him away to a dark prison.
There was no trial. They knew they were going to kill him.
He knew it, too. Gladly he laid down his life, for he had done
the work he had set himself to do. The Bible was in England,
in the language all the people could read. One day they led
him out to a stake. They hanged him and then burned his
body. He asked them if he might send a message to England
and they told him no.
Then he closed his eyes and prayed earnestly, "Lord,
open the king of England's eyes."
Brave William Tyndale! No man ever gave more than he!
The Bible we read he made possible for us, for from that first
translation, all the translations since have been made.
I never think of him without thinking of Jesus' words
about Himself, "He laid down His life for His sheep."
Surely William Tyndale followed the footsteps of Jesus.
--From Ashland Avenue Baptist
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