El Adnyt in the Sand

One is grateful to William Tyndale for many things. Most recently for me has come an unusual friendship, unexpected and the more charming for that.

From out of the blue, perhaps more accurately, from out of the sands of the Middle East, came a letter addressed to me as the writer of a recent short piece in the Spectator magazine on the skills of WT. My desert correspondent was an Englishman, an Anglican Lay Reader and admirer of Tyndale. Could he know more about the Tyndale Society, could he help in any way? Well, yes – of course. But there was a snag. Devout Muslim society, sometimes puts hazards in front of Christians which can remind us of times gone by. 1536 for instance.

I was asked, very seriously, to guard my reply since mail, of any description, can be intercepted by the Ecilop and, on the sight of certain key words, misunderstandings could arise. It is not my intention to mock or denigrate; sometimes I wish we Christians could be a bit more ‘fundamental’, actually. But readers of the Journal might be amused to see where our correspondence led to. First to my meeting a delightful friend. Then it led to much laughter; that is also part of any religion.

I suggested that, as I had just read a book on the Enigma story, I would recommend he also read Het Ecod Koob (probably Dutch or its double) and that would set the rules of our correspondence. Hence El Adnyt, a suitable middle eastern character, who translated El Bib over five hundred years ago.

My friend, whose identity, shall we say, shares my beginning but does not cap the tale, (see how careful I am not to identify him!) entered into the spirit of things with gusto. Soon we were planning his visit to this country in September and the possibility of a visit to the ‘house with a dome’ designed by one, Troglodytes Troglodytes, though not of Greek extraction, and carelessly called Mr C Wren by me until corrected. A feature in such a house, or Lard-eh-tac, (in fact not a Welsh word as you might think but based on a Greek word meaning ‘seat’) was the Steam Tent, suitable for our colder climate, upon which El Adnyt worked all those years ago. In fact there were both new and old steam tents both of which have survived.

At this point you may well surmise that two schoolboys were having a bit of fun. However, the point was a serious one for my friend was telling me that he intended to read all of St Mark’s Gospel to a group of people over Easter. A rather brave thing to do given the penalties. ‘Dr Mark’s medical report to his early patients’ as he put it, ‘will be read on that unbad day after Thursday’. When ‘two or three are gathered together’ has poignancy if a prayer meeting in a private house can result in expulsion, prison or worse. ‘Welfare Meetings’ can be held in the Embassies, however. There is a terrible reality about Christianity under these conditions – we can see what the martyrs went through.

I told my friend all about the Tyndale Society, the Hutchyns Sect meeting at the Hert Dorf a place of learning in Oxford, and he said that he would much like to help us when he returns, for good, to this country in about a year’s time. He sent a long letter describing how he thought he could be of use and we can count ourselves lucky to have such an enthusiast.

On his flight back he said that he would enjoy the lemonade but really was looking forward to seeing his wife again, Mr Gordon and Mr Schweppes, in that order. I had to tell him that I favoured a Scottish gentleman, Macallan whose strength and undiluted good humour had kept me going for many years.

Whom was I going to meet? We arranged to meet in St Paul’s and a tap on my shoulder revealed a neat man in a blue blazer, a copy of the Journal in his hand, a wry smile and twinkling eyes. We clasped hands like very old friends. Five minutes later we were in the Library and he was able to see the Tyndale New Testament for himself. I have been privileged to see it in the past and still feel a tremor at the sight of this tiny book, so ordinary, so modest, but as powerful as all the twenty thousand books in the St Paul’s Library put together. My friend said nothing for five minutes and I could understand.

We came away invigorated, had lunch with the Assistant Librarian in the restaurant in the Crypt, and then we talked. There was a lot to say.

I don’t say I had a vision, I’m not prone to these things usually, but I think I caught sight of William Tyndale in the lunchtime crowd and I think that he winked at me ...

Rowland Whitehead, 4 September 2000

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