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Letters to the Editor

Dear Valerie,

I hope that you will be able to use this letter [printed below]. I recognize that it is critical of a piece published in the Journal, and thus differs from most letters sent in, which are friendlier. But perhaps it helps balance the representation of this edition of the Answer to More, I think underestimated by Mostyn Roberts. Of course it reflects my opinion, not that of the Tyndale Society Journal. But I believe Mr Roberts’ review reflects his opinion too, and can be addressed, if at all, only in the Journal’s pages.

Spurred by the review in No. 26 I am reading The Boy King Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation. I wish you a happy summer.

Anne, 7 May 2004.

To the Editor:
Mostyn Roberts, in The Tyndale Society Journal 26 (January 2004), 41-43, reviews An Answere vnto Sir Thomas More’s Dialoge not as a critical edition, still less as a book by William Tyndale, but as a bungled theological hijacking. Sparing Tyndale’s text, he issues a “health warning” for the introduction and commentary (the latter of which he refers to as “interpretative notes”). He finds in the editors’ contributions distortion of Tyndale’s views and collusion with the Catholic revisionist movement.

Roberts’ most serious and potentially most alienating charge is that “[Tyndale’s] insistence on works as the evidence of true faith is interpreted as teaching that works are integral to justification”. Nowhere in the volume is such an assertion made. On the contrary, the editors soundly explore and discuss Tyndale’s opposition to “works-righteousness”. Elsewhere, from a statement that “some friars became notable reformers,” he teases out “the revisionism whereby the Roman church reclaims the Reformers as reforming and slightly aberrant members of their own communion”. He must forego complaining that the editors’ crusade for Thomas More’s reputation, because there are simply no data for such an intent. He does denounce “an apparent attempt to rehabilitate Fisher”. Indeed, the editors’ principal note on Bishop John Fisher does not express the glee some of us may feel at Tyndale’ s satirical examination of Fisher’s 1521 sermon in the Obedience. But Roberts compromises his own argument, I think, by misquoting Fisher’s translation of Gal. 5:6 and by confusing the 1521 sermon with that of 1526.

The provenance of this Answer to More is unusual: its editors, Anne M. O’Donnell and Jared Wicks, are both members of Catholic religious orders, and its publisher is the Catholic University of America Press. Perhaps these facts edged Roberts into an account dominated by sectarian concerns and remarkably inattentive to such features of the book as the original spelling (probably Tyndale’s own) and unique completeness (Henry Walter’s 1850 version having been bowdlerized). I share with Roberts his evident view that we are all confessionally shaped. It may be impossible for a Protestant to edit a Tyndale work in the same way as a Catholic would; or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a freethinker – but vive la différence. Can Tyndale, who chivalrously defended the marital rights of Catherine of Aragon, be understood only by Protestants? O’Donnell and Wicks offer the asset of a full, rich commentary steeped in the same fathers, councils, orders, sacraments and liturgy that governed Tyndale’s formation.

Anne Richardson, Albany, California, 24 September 2003.

Dear Valerie,

No. 26 arrived last week, and as usual was ‘full of good things’. Please accept my compliments on keeping things lively when they might in other hands be dull.

I assume you will soon have a review of Brian Moynahan’s If God Spare my Life published here under the title ‘God’s Bestseller’. I think it is a bibliographical crime to publish a book under different titles in the UK and the USA but it is an excellent book.

I hope you may also publish a review of The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg. It is an extremely good book and has a first rate chapter on Tyndale.

Ronald Mansbridge, Connecticut, USA, 29 February 2004.

Editor’s comment
It is always a pleasure to hear from Ronald, one of our faithful American readers, and his choice of date for his letter has not escaped me. For the record a very full review of Brian Moynahan’s book (English edition) by Professor Donald Millus of Coastal Carolina University, USA appeared in the TSJ no 23 December 2002 pp 56/58 and the Society also held a meeting in London ‘An evening with Moynahan’ in December 2002 (see report by Mary Clow TSJ no 24 April 2003 p.39) when Brian answered questions on his controversial Tyndale hypothesis and members were able to buy copies of his book.

However, Ronald has pinpointed one of my concerns as editor namely that there are so many books being published that a choice has to be made and a review should be done quickly to be relevant (I always regret not finding the time to review Eamon Duffy The Voices of Morebath. By the time I got round to it the book had become a bestseller and a prize winner, rendering a review irrelevant!). Another very practical reason for not being able to include a review on readers’ pet subjects is simply that we need more reviewers. Please let me know if you are willing to undertake this task for the Journal and I will do my utmost to obtain a review copy from the publishers. Any offers for the Melvyn Bragg book?

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