Victor Perry: Some Publications on Tyndale

The Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research held its jubilee conference in July 1994. Some of the papers have been published under the title A pathway into the Holy Scripture, ed. P.E. Satterthwaite and D. F. Wright (Eerdmans/Gracewing, ISBN 0-8028-4078-7, viii, 344 pp., £16.99). The first paper is ‘Pathway to Reformation: William Tyndale and the Importance of the Scriptures’ by Carl R. Trueman (pp 11-29.) The author's summary is as follows:

For William Tyndale, there was an unbreakable link between the vernacular Scriptures and the reformation of the church. His doctrine of Scripture is similar to that of Luther in several ways: Nevertheless, close examination of Tyndale's writings reveals that it isnot the radical opposition of law and gospel, in the strict Lutheran sense, which shapes his theology, but that of nature and grace.

Trueman writes of “the two principal concerns of Tyndale's life, the desire to make the Bible comprehensible and the desire to promote godly living, [which are] united in the one biblical concept of covenant”, and says “we are dealing with one who reworks Lutheran themes and categories to give them a meaning closer to the Augustinian-Reformed tradition than would have been acceptable in Wittenberg”. Incidentally, Trueman accepts Tyndale's residence in Cambridge and Wittenberg without question. In the same volume Anthony C. Thiselton briefly, but interestingly, discusses Tyndale's hermeneutics in his lecture, ‘Authority and hermeneutics’, and David F. Wright contributes an introductory essay on ‘William Tyndale and the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research’, in which he refers to Tyndale's translation work and his understanding of the nature and purpose of the Bible.

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The 1994 Westminster Conference in London also featured a lecture on Tyndale. This was ‘William Tyndale and justification by faith: “Answer to Sir Thomas More”’ by Mark E. Dever. After sketching in the historical background Dever sets out ‘the problem’ (“The problem which Tyndale knew keenly was the problem of human sinfulness.” Here he quotes and expounds Tyndale:

Faith, the mother of all good works, justifieth us, before we can bring forth any good work: as the husband marrieth not his wife that she should continue unfruitful as before, and as she was in the state of virginity, (wherein it was impossible for her to bear fruit) but contrariwise to make her fruitful; even so faith justifieth as not, that is to say, marrieth us not to God, that we should continue unfruitful as before, but that he should put the seed of his holy Spirit in us... and to make us fruitful. For, saith Paul,... “By grace are ye made safe through faith, and that not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God, and cometh not of works, lest any man should boast himself. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath ordained that we should walk in them.”

Dever next discusses the confusion that surrounded the words ‘justification’, ‘faith’ and ‘alone’, before ending with “several implications [that] emerge which help us to make more sense of Tyndale's time and of our own”. In this section he mentions the perspicuity of Scripture, the translation of Scripture, the responsibility of teaching Scripture and the priority of Scripture. Unless one's interest in Tyndale is purely antiquarian, this is a most relevant section. The conference papers, published under the title Building on a sure foundation can be ordered from J. Harris, 8 Back Knowl Road, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, WF14 9SA [UK] @ £3.75.

The other lectures printed in A pathway into the Holy Scripture deal with various aspects of biblical studies, while those in Building on a sure foundation, are mainly on historical theology. (Following Mark Dever's lecture Philip H. Eveson discusses ‘The Council of Trent and modern views of justification by faith’)

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The 1995 Westminster Conference will be held at Westminster Chapel, London, on 12 and 13 December. The last of the six lectures will be given by Dr David Samuel on Thomas Bilney. The conference registration fee is £8, and lunch and tea will be available at a daily rate of £7.50. Brochures can be had from John Harris, from whom the papers may be ordered at £4.50, to be published next summer.

Two articles published in 1994, which deal with Tyndale are Peter Newman Brooks, ‘William Tyndale (?1494-1994): a quincentennial tribute’ (Expository times 106/1 (Oct 1994) 14-16), and Ian Stackhouse, ‘The native roots of early English reformation theology’ (Evangelical quarterly 66/1 (Jan 1994) 19-35). Ian Stackhouse believes that in relation to the Reformation in England “there is a tendency ... to ignore, or at least, underestimate, the survival of a very strong influence in the form of Wycliffite or Lollard dissent”, and argues that “it is not necessary to look solely to the continent for the origins of Tyndale's theology”. Stackhouse ends his abstract by stating that he has “focus[ed] on the works of William Tyndale and present[ed] him in the final analysis as more a disciple of Wycliffe than Luther”.

Two books that are not recent but are not as well known as they should be, are Lewis Lupton, Tyndale the Translator (The Olive Tree, 1986, 176 pp.). These two books, Volumes 18 and 19 (!) of Lupton, A History of the Geneva Bible, reproduced from the author's manuscript and profusely illustrated with line drawings, are a joy to read and a delight to handle. A colleague who read them, said they made him feel as if he were there. Donald Smeeton, author of Lollard themes in the Reformation theology of William Tyndale, contributes a foreward to the first volume, which he ends with these sentences: “In these pages you will discover some of the character and greatness of the man (sc. Tyndale). Reading about the lives of great Christians has value, Tyndale observed, if it challenges the reader to a trust in God's promises and to godly living. If you reading of this biography contributes to these ends, Tyndale would have another significant and worthy memorial.” The books can be ordered from The Olive Tree, 2 Milnthorpe Road, London, W4 3DX [UK] @ £15 each.

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The United Bible Societies Bulletin no 170/1 1994, is devoted to current trends in Bible translation. Of particular interest to Tyndale readers are the introduction by Basil A Rebera, and an article by Euan McG Fry entitled ‘The Legacy of William Tyndale’. The bulletin can be ordered from the British and Foreign Bible Society, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon, SN5 7DG [UK], for £3.10.

Finally, a paperback for younger readers — Louise A. Vernon, The Bible smuggler (Herald Press, 0-8361-1557, 140 pp.). This is the story of Tyndale down to 1526 (a final paragraph rounds the story off), as told through the eyes of his fictional young companion, Collin. This is a well written book, a fine gift for any youngster — a ten-year old, on whom I tried it, found it a good read. In Britain it is most easily obtained from Metanoia Book Service, 14 Shepherd Hill, London, N6 5AQ, for £4.75 plus postage.

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