Reformation Views of Church History

By Glanmor Williams | Go to book overview

II
THE ENGLISH PIONEER: WILLIAM TYNDALE

ON OCTOBER 31, 1517, the then obscure friar-professor, Martin Luther, had pinned up his ninety-five arguments on the church door at Wittenberg. He was, unbeknown to himself, proclaiming doctrines which were to find an echo in all corners of Europe in a remarkably short space of time. Among those who were most gladly to receive and propagate the Lutheran message was a young Englishman, William Tyndale, the outstanding English reformer of the first generation and a major figure among English reformers of any generation.

Tyndale was born probably about 1491 or 1492 somewhere in or near the Marches of Wales, possibly indeed on the western bank of the River Severn and not, as used to be thought, on its eastern bank. He went up to the university of Oxford in 1506 and remained there until 1519 when he migrated to Cambridge. There he stayed until 1521. In that year Luther's books were publicly burned at the university and young Tyndale may have decided that the atmosphere there had become too uncongenial, if not indeed positively dangerous, for him. It is not certainly known when, where or from whom he received the new reforming doctrines. But it seems reasonable to assume that he had done so at the university. What is more important is that, having encountered them, he should so readily and wholeheartedly have embraced them. In the words of one of his biographers, Demaus:

One thing is certain, the seed of Protestantism however or whenever sown, took deep root in his mind. He seems to have subjected all his religious beliefs to a searching examination and to have applied to them with rigorous logic the standard he found in holy Scripture. His progress was more rapid and definite than that of his great contemporaries Latimer and Cranmer; and he never exhibited the same reluctance to abandon opinions or practices which had nothing to plead in their favour but custom and the practice of the ages.1

After the banning of Luther's books at Cambridge, Tyndale withdrew to the country to become the tutor to the children of a Gloucestershire squire. But this, as might be imagined, was unrewarding work for

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Reformation Views of Church History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Ecumenical Studies in History 4
  • Preface 5
  • I - The Continental Background 7
  • II - The English Pioneer: William Tyndale 22
  • III - The Link: John Bale 33
  • IV - The Consummation: John Foxe 46
  • V - Aftermath and Conclusions 63
  • Bibliography 75
  • Notes 78
  • Index 82
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