Ward's Book of Days.

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On this day in history in 1536, died William Tyndale.

Tyndale was an academic who believed that the bible should be available for all to read. He translated the bible into English, much of the work being done on the Continent, and published it in England, before he was captured and executed.

William Tyndale was born about 1490, at North Nibley, Gloucestershire, and was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), where he studied languages, taking a Bachelor’s degree in 1512, and a Master’s degree in 1515. He was about to embark on a course on theology, when he discovered, to his horror, that the study of scripture was not included in the Oxford syllabus. His response was to leave Oxford for Cambridge, where he organised a group of scholars, who met regularly at the White Horse Inn, in order to translate, interpret and discuss the bible. Tyndale and his group discovered that the scriptures were not concerned with, priests, ceremonies, sacraments, dogma and the like. He became convinced that the established church was covering up the truth, and that people had the right to know what was contained in scripture, and that it should be translated into English.

Tyndale, now determined to translate the whole bible into English, went to ask certain prominent churchman for help. This was a great mistake. He was rejected at each turn and was told by Bishop Tunstall, an eminent classicist, that there was no place for scripture in the vernacular, and that scripture was the preserve of the church, and that the laity had no business to read the bible, and that, furthermore, if Tyndale persisted, he would be prosecuted for heresy. Disillusioned but still determined, Tyndale left for Germany in 1524, where he hoped to work unseen by the authorities.

In 1525, he published an English version of the New Testament at Cologne, but the church establishment had it suppressed. An edition printed at Worms had more success and hundreds of copies were smuggled into England and Scotland. His translation introduced numerous new words and expressions into the English language. Examples of Tyndale’s creations are ‘atone’, literally ‘at one’, ‘Passover’ and ‘scapegoat’. He also invented English idioms such as ‘the apple of his eye’, ‘filthy lucre’, and ‘the powers that be’.

When the works arrived in England, they were roundly condemned by Bishop Tunstall, who had copies publicly burned. Cardinal Wolsey condemned Tyndale as a heretic, and he was obliged to go into hiding in Antwerp. In 1535, he was betrayed, and in 1536 was put on trial for heresy. Despite a plea for clemency from the English chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, Tyndale was burned at the stake at Vilvoorde, Belgium, on 6th October 1536. At the time of his death, several thousand copies of his New Testament had been printed, but only one intact copy survives at the British Library, London. Much of Tyndale's work eventually found its way into the Authorised Version of the Bible, published in 1611.

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