Stuttgart Tyndale Bible

After the British Library had purchased the 1526 Tyndale New Testament from the Bristol Baptist College, for one million pounds, another copy was found in Stuttgart.

There are four things this title page reveals to us: its journeys: its printer Tyndale the man: and, Tyndale the theologian.

The title page of this New Testament is important because of the many bits of information it supplies to us about the printing, and also the travels of this book. Its value begins with the fact that it is the only known copy of the title page, and although it is not beyond the realms of chance that another copy has survived, the probability is very remote.

The Journeys and Preservation
The story of its travels sounds stranger than fiction, and yet it can be attested almost from the time it left the printing press. It is not the purpose of this article to follow this volume in its exciting journeys and the miracle of its survival. This New Testament is in such good condition because many of its owners were unable to read English and its value was not recognised. The Elector Ottheinrich of the Palatinate had all his books bound with his gold stamped portrait on the front cover and his arms on the back cover. His bookbinder dated them with the date he carried out the work and not the date the book was printed, and so the 1526 New Testament was not recognised because of the bookbinder's date of 1550 was assumed to be the date of the printing each time it was catalogued.

We find that there are two later additions which have been made, and these have verified the journeys this New Testament has made during its lifetime. The first of these dates from the time it was in the Cistercian Abbey of Schonthal. The second is a stamp which tells of its days in King Friedrich I's library.

The margins are large and this volume was bound using untrimmed pages from the printing press, possibly because they were to be kept at the printer's either as a record of what they had produced, or as samples of the kind of work they had carried out.

The Printer
The New Testament was printed by Peter Schoeffer and the woodcut was obviously a favourite of his as it is found on other books he printed. One can almost imagine the person whose book was being printed being shown a selection of borders and being asked, 'Which pattern border do you want for the title page?'

The central panel was left for the title and author's name to be inserted. The border itself is not one which is entirely appropriate for the New Testament, and one can imagine William Tyndale and Peter Schoeffer discussing the production and the cost.

In the discussion I am certain that Tyndale would have been more interested in getting the maximum number of copies at the lowest cost. The words inserted in the panel are important and they tell us about William Tyndale the man and theologian as much as about the contents of the book.

The newe Testament
As it was written, and 
caused to be written,
by them which her-
de yt. To whom
also oure Sa-
Christ Jesus
commaunded that
they shulde pre-
ache it vnto al

William Tyndale the Man
The first thing we notice is that William Tyndale did not have his name mentioned as the translator. I think this says much for Tyndale's theology and humility. Theologically it was right, for it was not 'Tyndale's New Testament', but the word of God, and therefore in the title it would have been wrong to have included the name of a man even as translator.

Only when he was forced to do so because of Joye's New Testament did Tyndale allow his name to be used so that people could know it was his translation and not that of another person. I do not think Tyndale would have responded as he did if joye's translation had been a true translation of God's word.

His humility shows in the fact that he was not even mentioned as being the one who translated it from the original languages. The important people were 'them which herde yt.' They were the ones who wrote or 'caused to be written' God's words which bring life to His people. The translator was not part of that process. William Tyndale did not want his name to take anything from the glory of God and the fact that what people had in their hands was the holy Scriptures, the word of God.

The title page proclaims clearly that the New Testament alone has the words of life, and therefore the glosses of the medieval church hid the truth from the reader. Tyndale wanted the Bible alone to speak to the people with the prophetic voice, 'Thus saith the Lord', and this would have been weakened if his name had appeared in the title page.

Tyndale the Theologian
Oure Saveoure Christ Jesus commaunded that they shulde preache, not the glosses of the Roman Church but the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the pure word of God.

Give diligence, reader. I exhort thee, that thou come with a pure mind, and, as the scripture saith, with a single eye, unto the words of health and of eternal life; by the which, if we repent and believe them, we are born anew, created afresh, and enjoy the fruits of the blood of Christ: which blood crieth not for vengeance, as the blood of Abel, but hath purchased life, love. favour, grace, blessing, and whatsoever is promised in the scriptures to them that believe and obey God: and standeth between us and wrath, vengeance, curse, and whatsoever the scripture threateneth against the unbelievers and disobedient, which resist and consent not in their hearts to the law of God, that it is right, holy, just. and ought so to be.

Those opening words of the Epistle to the Reader belonging to this edition of the New Testament tell us many of the things Tyndale believed were preached through the scriptures. The wording, which has an affinity with the Dutch Delft translation, shows that it belongs to the Reformation and its evangelical tone would not endear it to the conservative bishops who, even without this, were opposed to the Bible being translated into the vernacular.

The difficulty facing people who wanted to have an English New Testament went back to the Constitutions of Arundel where the translation of any text of the Bible into English, and the ownership of any translation made in the time of Wyclif, or later, was forbidden. 'It is a dangerous thing, as witnesseth blessed St. Jerome, to translate the text of the holy Scripture out of the tongue into another; for in the translation the same sense is not always easily kept ... we therefore decree and ordain, that no man, hereafter, by his own authority translate any text of the Scripture into English or any other tongue, by way of a book, libel, or treatise; and that no man read any such book, libel, or treatise, now lately set forth in the time of John Wickliff, or since, or hereafter to be set forth, in part or in whole, privily or apertly, upon pain of greater excommunication, until the said translation be allowed by the ordinary of the place, or if the case so require, by the council provincial.' (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vol. iii, p. 245). This led to the burning of the New Testament when it was found and accounts for the fact that so few 1526 New Testaments of Tyndale's translation still exist.

The miraculous preservation of the Stuttgart copy of the 1526 New Testament has allowed us to see the book as it was printed, and to see the title page. To me the wording of the title have not added anything to my knowledge, they are so obviously the words Tyndale would have written that they have only confirmed what I know of Tyndale the man and the theologian.

Ralph Werrell

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