Prior to reading this biography of William Tyndale I knew very little about him and now he enters the ranks as one of my heroes of the faith.
It is an odd twist of history that Tyndale is so relatively unknown given his immense contribution to the English language and the reformation in England. As the first translator of the Bible into English (and yes I do know about Wycliffe) every English Bible I own owes a huge debt to Tyndale, they are all his descendants. Not only that but my very Protestant faith owes as much to Tyndale as it does to Luther or Calvin. It is simply astonishing that in so many places that no one has been able to improve upon his English translation in nearly 500 years, which bears testimony both to his abilities as a Greek scholar and to his ability to capture that in English.
The bare facts are that the Word of God captured Tyndale and put within him a burning desire to translate the Bible so the ‘plowboys’ of England could read and understand the Scriptures for themselves. As a result Tyndale went into exile and was eventually captured in Belgium and executed after nearly two years in jail (strangled and then burnt) by the Catholic Church.
Despite their being relatively scant information about Tyndale (in part due to his long years in exile and on the run), David Teems has done a creditable job in putting a together a readable and enjoyable biography.
This is more than a simple chronological timeline of his life, as Teems takes various detours to explore the enormous impact of Tyndale upon the English language and uses various other artists to try to shed light upon the passion of this very determined translator. It is usually in those chapters however that the book becomes heavier going and loses both pace and focus. It is as though the author, so aware and admiring of Tyndale’s English tries hard to write in a style worthy of the great man and ends up labouring under the weight of trying to make every sentence Tyndalian. Yet at times Teems has a great turn of phrase and is devastating in his withering assessment of Henry Phillips who betrayed Tyndale to the authorities.
Where the book succeeds is in the more conventional portrayals of the life and times of its subject and in particular the contest with Sir Thomas More (who as an aside it’s hard to believe became a Catholic saint with his penchant for burning people at the stake). Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII make impressive cameos all adding colour to an already vivid picture.
Yet it is Tyndale and his willingness to choose exile, his willingness to face death, his determination to let the Scriptures loose on the English and to preach Christ and him crucified that impresses the most. A true martyr of the faith of whom, ‘the world was not worthy’ and although Tyndale did not live to see the fruit of his immense labours but ‘blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’
I haven’t read any other biographies of Tyndale so it’s hard to place this one, but it has made me want to read another not because this one is bad but because it has created an interest in its subject and that’s what good biographies should do.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.