‘William Tyndale’ Replies to David Ireson

A.D.H. Thomas
14 May 2002

Dear Revd. Ireson,

You have invited responses to your thoughts on a modern ploughboy’s reading of the Bible. As you have assumed the role of ploughboy I have assumed the part of William Tyndale, and the following is a watered down response he may have given to your article.

“Thou art correct in assuming that the ploughboy whom I had in mind would indeed believe the accounts recorded and the words of Jesus in those Scriptures, which I translated into English, as authentic and literally true. The ploughboy whom I had in mind would be of that straightforward uncomplicated faith that accepted the words of Scripture as a little child. He would, Sir, have struggled to understand the point you are seeking to make, as I confess, I do also. You use words that I take to mean one thing, and which you may claim to mean another as, for example, your use of the word myth in relation to the account of Creation, and the word “gospel” as inapplicable to every sentence or phrase in the Scriptures.

My friend the ploughman did not recognise you as a fellow ploughman in describing the Scripturally recorded account of creation as a myth. He is a simple and straightforward fellow, not one for wrapping things up, but speaketh his mind plainly.

He avows that your rejection of the Genesis account of Creation as literal, and your unwillingness to accept all Scripture as “true,” if indeed that is what you mean by your use of the word “gospel”, dishonours His Word, which saith the Psalmist, He “hast magnified above all His name”. He has been diligently reading my translation of the New Testament into English and quoted the words of Jesus that “if they believe not Moses (who wrote the words of Genesis under God’s inspiration) and the Prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead”. He wholeheartedly believes in the creation of Adam and Eve and the events recorded concerning them, and he is of course in good company, indeed the best company, for he knows that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul specifically endorsed this Godgiven record as a factual account.

That is not to say he does not appreciate the poetry of the Psalms and Song of Songs, or understand the allegorical significance of certain things, but he follows the principle laid down by the Apostle Paul, that “first that which is natural, then that which is spiritual”. By allowing the Scriptures, not Jewish midrash, to guide his understanding of spiritual things, he does not ‘get into deep water’. He was, to say the least, puzzled by your claim that the Hebrews thought that water had nothing to do with washing. “What”, he asked me, “can the man be thinking of; has he not read of the washing of animals offered in sacrifice, of the priests, and of those Israelites who needed to be washed from their uncleanness, as required under the Mosaic ordinances?” He drew my attention to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers and his reference to the figurative washing of the ecclesia by the Word (you will know my mind as to the wrong connotation of the word “church”) and how that Eve, who was literally formed out of Adam, was allegorical of the ecclesia, who is being formed out of Christ, to be presented to him as his bride, when he returns.

I take issue with you, Sir, that part of the Biblical record is the result of stories fermented over time and the poetic interpretation of events, as apparently discovered by a later “body of scholarship”. It is not so much that “I could not know” these things but that I cannot accept that this scholarly portrayal has more fact than theory for its basis.

I appeal to the testimony of the Apostles Paul and Peter for my authority. They declare the Scriptures to be of Divine Inspiration, not “of any private interpretation”, but the writing of Spirit Inspired men.

I also take issue with you, Sir, that water is the source of life. This is not what the Scriptures say. Water is one of the elements that sustains life, but it was the Spirit of God that produced life. This misunderstanding may, I fear, have led you into ‘deep water’.

I am, like my ploughboy friend, puzzled by your linking of certain events which have water as common theme. It must not be lost sight of that water is used to represent different things in the Bible. There is undoubtedly a link between the literal passage of the children of Israel through the Red Sea and the later passage of the survivors from the forty-year wilderness wanderings, through the river Jordan. The link is supplied by the Apostle Paul who wrote that “Israel were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea”. Likewise the literal passage through the river Jordan under Joshua was a typical baptism relating to that day when the children of Israel, on recognising Jesus as their Messiah, will be baptised into Jesus before entering the land of promise and the kingdom.

This, however, is not what water represents in the account of Jesus literally walking on the sea, or stilling the waves. The God-inspired Hebrew prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ himself show us that water, in these instances, represents the angry nations, i.e. “the sea and the waves roaring”, which will be conquered, subdued or “stilled” by him when he returns.

And finally, do you not recognise in your quotation of Paul’s letter to the Romans, concerning baptism, that this ordinance, in so far as it represents a typical burial, requires according to the plain figure of burial, a total immersion in water, not the sprinkling of a few drops of ‘holy’water upon the head? You will know my mind on this subject also, which is that a puling infant has not developed the thinking of what Paul describes as “the old man of the flesh” which is figuratively put to death and buried by baptism, nor is such a one capable of exercising that necessary faith in a future resurrection, which the Apostle says must accompany the rising out of the water, and which it prefigures.

I know not whether those who publish the magazine under my name will tolerate my epistle to you. They will know that, though gentle to all, I reserve the right to “earnestly contend” with a good sprinkling of salt, those principles of truth enshrined in the Word of God.”

Your faithful witness to the authenticity of the Scriptures, 
A.D.H. Thomas alias 
William Tyndale 

Editor’s note:

This refers to David Ireson’s article ‘Getting into Deep Water …’ which was published in Tyndale Society Journal no 21 April 2002. We have printed comments from another member, Mary Clow, who was similarly moved to commit pen to paper on the subject. Also David Ireson has replied in this issue to the above letter.

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