Hertford College welcomed the participants in the Fourth Oxford Tyndale Conference with generous hospitality in bright autumn sunshine. This proved to be yet another memorable occasion: the international panel of speakers gave excellent papers, the topics were complementary, and hard choices had to be made when there were parallel sessions.
In his introduction, Prof. David Daniell relayed greetings from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Patron of the Tyndale Society, who described William Tyndale as a ‘formative figure through whom the Word was heard by the World in the vernacular’. The activities of the Society ensured increasing publicity for William Tyndale, and it was with sadness that Prof. Daniell reported the recent deaths of several supporters, especially Prof. Carsten Peter Thiede, and the serious illness of Jaroslav Pelikan (Yale) which prevented his attendance at this conference.
The keynote paper was then given by Prof. Morna Hooker (Cambridge) on Translating the New Testament: The Trials of a Translator in which she recounted her experiences in the revision of the New English Bible (N.E.B.) and the Revised English Bible (R.E.B.). She stressed the rewards of the translator’s task as closed texts were opened to otherwise deprived readers. St Paul deplored utterances in strange tongues which could not help those without understanding, and this was the situation in medieval Europe when services in Latin provided little spiritual nourishment to the illiterate masses—although Latin had once been the vulgar tongue.
Prof. Hooker enlarged on the difficulties and dangers encountered, especially the loss of dignity and debasement of language in modernisation, e.g. ‘How lovely are thy dwellings, Lord’ (Ps. 84, E.S.V.) becomes ‘Nice place you’ve got here, God’! Because English is a hybrid language, there is the advantage of flexibility, and William Tyndale’s choice of words always sounded attractive, while retaining accuracy. There were benefits from comparison with earlier translations, and additional slants were given by consulting Syriac and Coptic texts now available. The aim of the revision of the N.E.B. was to enhance worship, hence the ‘dynamic equivalent’ was chosen, word order might be rearranged and ambiguities omitted, e.g. the double entendre of St Paul in 2 Cor. 11: 25 ‘Once I was stoned’! The context often indicated the correct choice when a Greek word had several meanings, but was Christ moved by ‘compassion’ or ‘anger’ when healing the leper in Mark 1: 41 — ‘moved to anger’ was the compromise reached, indicating Christ’s indignation at the injustice of suffering. The difficulties encountered by idioms and synonyms were discussed, e.g. ‘overcoming’ and ‘comprehending’ darkness in John 1, and ‘will’, ‘testament’, ‘covenant’, but if the choice is open, one should go for clarity—no one has a problem with ‘Big Toe’ or ‘Grand Piano’! If interpretation is involved, there is inevitably some distortion of the original, hence the Italian aphorism, ‘The translator is a traitor’. The Bible was written by multiple authors with varying styles, e.g. compare the simplicity of Mark with the complexity of Paul’s arguments and syntax. Changes in culture and customs create problems as in the relationship between authority and a woman having her head covered.
The question of so many recent new translations was raised; the growth of political correctness and omission of ‘sexist’ language since the 1980’s has resulted in loss of personality and status in some translations—‘sons of God’ is included in R.E.B. to give the sense of inheritance and to differentiate from slaves, women and Gentiles.
The incomparable A.V. of Psalm 8:4 ‘What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?’ may be substituted correctly by ‘What are humans (mortals) that you care for them?’ but the magic has gone! Prof. Hooker thus revealed ‘the temptations of a Translator’ as well as the ‘Trials’!
Friday offered lectures all day, with parallel sessions in the afternoon.
First, Prof. Francis Higman (Geneva) presented a paper entitled The Genevan Context of the Geneva Bible in which he described the part played by the Marian Exiles from England, who included many eminent theologians such as Whittingham and Coverdale. They received rich teaching from Calvin’s vast output of sermons, and copies of these were brought to England when they returned to Elizabethan liberty. Prof. Higman then spoke of the many contemporary French language Bibles from the time of Francis I, with details of the fine woodcuts and illustrations, e.g. Estienne, 1553. Some were study Bibles, incorporating notes and maps, and some included Calvin’s Catechism and the Liturgy of the Geneva Church, which were used with profit by the 2000 Reformed Communities in France, many being without a Pastor. There were Catholic editions of the Geneva Bible in 1556, and the Louvain edition of 1570 formed the basis of subsequent Catholic Bibles.
The Geneva Bible in English of April 1560 was also a study Bible with clear type, numbered verses and changes in type face for added clarity. Interesting examples from both the Old and the New Testaments were given of how ambiguities were eliminated. Many clergy in England were ignorant of the Scriptures, and the Geneva Bible was used by Anglicans, including Archbishop Laud, Puritans and Separatists, until superseded by the King James Version of 1611: the K.J.V. (Authorised Version) had no notes and was a plain text designed to be read in churches. The Geneva Bible continued to be used in the late 17th century and copies combined with the Book of Common Prayer (1662) survive in Charles II binding—a complete compendium!
Next, Prof. Peter Auksi (Canada) gave a fascinating paper on William Tyndale’s Imagination: a Weapon of the Reformation. He suggested that the aims of the Ploughboy Group to make Tyndale’s legacy accessible to nonspecialists mirrored Tyndale’s own choice of homely metaphors which were designed to spread understanding of his views of the Reformed Faith—cf. John Donne who rarely referred to nature or children. Imagination may be a reflection of life as seen in a mirror, but Blake and Milton had an ‘inner lamp’ which lit up the universe of their prophetic imaginations. This idea was explored further in relation to Shakespeare’s real world in real time, and the ability to suppress self to enter the mind of another person (or Keats’s garden sparrow), while accepting that imagery reveals the mind of the writer, often unconsciously. As the Bible was increasingly read, the analogies of the Christian warrior and wayfaring pilgrim, elaborated by Milton, Spenser and Bunyan, became an integral part of Western spiritual life, and were used by Tyndale to give authority to his devotional and exegetical writings. Rudy Almasy was quoted regarding Tyndale’s ‘language of proximity’ i.e. “one should wait on God’s will and commandment” because “what is important is close at hand”. Tyndale’s themes were dominated by restraint, control, rest, patience and staying at home to do works of love and obedience. God is active in seeking out individuals, and passivity leads to increased receptiveness of Salvation and Truth. Comparison was made between the complex meditations of erudite scholars such as Thomas Aquinas and the simplicity of Tyndale addressing the common people, embracing all as ‘We English........’. Tyndale’s genius was to translate theological issues into the images and analogies of the popular imagination, but he decried using imagination to distort the Scriptures — ‘a man’s deeds declare what he is within’ and one needed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to produce love, grace, etc. He appealed to the five senses, included hunger and thirst, used animals for analogies (not always complimentary to the Catholic clergy, e.g. barking curs, drone bees) and likened the attitude of bishops to foxes caring for geese! Examples from the kitchen were used: regeneration is a slow process just as leaven permeates the dough, but eventually the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident. Family relationships, parents and children (who may be wayward) illustrate the love of God to humans. Tyndale regarded love as the direct growth from faith, e.g, ‘Deeds are the fruits of love; and love is the fruit of faith’—and this was the antithesis of attaining salvation through works; although the evil habits and heresies must be weeded out.
While disparaging the hyperbole of Thomas More, Tyndale himself used dramatic imagery involving war, storms, pits—but no pit was so deep that God could not pull up a fallen believer from the depths. ‘Tie thy ship to the anchor of faith in Christ’s blood ..... cast it out against all tempests .....and set sail in the sea of God’s word’. Such language has reanimated the spiritual imagination of Reformation Christians for many generations.
The after-lunch lecture riveted everyone’s attention as 93-year-old Rev. Dr Edwin Robertson (London), author and previously religious broadcaster with the BBC, spoke on Taking the Word to the World. (This was the title he used when he wrote the Jubilee History of the United Bible Societies in 1996, an informative and accessible book.) Dr Robertson considered the world geographically and linguistically, and said that William Tyndale’s English Bible (true to the original and expressed in worthy language) was the inspiration of the Bible Society, in its global and multilinguistic task – ‘No Tyndale, No Bible Society’. The Society’s intention was that everyone should have direct access to the Bible without opposition.
He traced the growth of Bible availability in the Protestant countries of Europe, and the introduction of the Bible to the non-Christian areas of the British Empire in the 19th century e.g. India: the British & Foreign Bible Society was formed in 1804, producing versions without notes or comments, followed by the American Bible Society in 1810 and soon the Scriptures were available in 1000 languages. Always the aim was for better language and wider distribution.
The attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to possession of the Bible by the laity had been negative generally, with prohibition in Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages, to some relaxation in the 18th century when approved versions with notes were allowed—although the church claimed ‘to venerate the divine Scriptures, just as she venerated the body of the Lord’. In World War II Pope Pius XII advocated the stimulus of daily Bible reading, but the dangers of secular interpretation were indicated in 1950 when he deplored the new enthusiasm for Bible reading! The Second Vatican Council in 1962 approved easy access to the Sacred Scriptures, provided correct translations were made from original texts. With the increasing involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in the Ecumenical Movement under Cardinal Bea (‘the Cardinal for Unity’) it was acknowledged that unless there were agreement on the Bible, the Movement for Christian Unity had no future, and cooperation between the churches has continued.
Difficulties in the Communist lands of Eastern Europe and China were described, but the Bible Society aimed to work within the law and not resort to smuggling Bibles in—with the fall of Communism, translations and printing of Bibles flourished, although State presses had to be used in China. At the same time literacy programmes, often using the Bible as a “text book”, including versions for the blind, have multiplied, so that the 141 Bible Societies united to publish in 2,377 languages.
Dr Robertson summarised the events in North America, using the illustration of the Mohawks’ preservation of Queen Anne’s gift of a Bible and Communion set when her church was destroyed during the War of Independence, to their possession of St John’s Gospel in their own language by 1804 and then the use of the (rebuilt) Royal chapel of the Mohawks for the Jubilee Service in 1994. Thus is the Bible taken to the world.
There was then a choice of parallel sessions—in (A) 3 papers were presented. Dr Tatiana String (Bristol) spoke on Spreading the Verbum Dei: Henry VIII and the Printed Image investigating the communicative potential of the visual arts to promote the English Reformation, given the popularity of the illustrated Coverdale and Great Bibles (the failure to develop a campaign of reformist iconography). Prof. Richard Duerden (USA) showed in Inventing Politics: Authority, Activism and the Bible that the translation of the Bible into English introduced new forms of social authority in England and over the course of the 16th century, Scripture’s political authority passed from Rome, to the monarch, to the ministry, and finally to the people. Modern secular political activism is, ironically, an inheritance from early modern religious radicalism. Prof. Andrew Hadfield (Sussex) asked Was Shakespeare Religious? It is currently suggested that Shakespeare’s religious affiliation was Catholic, but he notably wrote less about religion than his contemporaries — for what reason?
In the alternative session (B) 4 papers were given. Valerie Offord (Geneva) began with Geneva Bibles and Briefs—Continuity and Acquaintanceship in the work of the Geneva Marian Exiles. After their return to England the Marian exiles kept in close contact with Geneva and Elizabeth I supported the city financially against the threat of a Catholic invasion. John Bodley, a wealthy Exeter merchant, had financed and printed the Geneva Bible, and in the 1580’s he was delegated to convey the considerable funds, which had been raised through a brief issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury to all the dioceses under his jurisdiction, to Geneva. He felt indebted to the city which had sheltered him and was able to negotiate safe passage and good exchange rates for the money through his trading agents and contacts in continental Europe. This paper, using hitherto unpublished primary documents in the Geneva State Archives, demonstrated aspects of social history such as travel, diplomacy, banking and personal ties.
The next paper was theological—Tyndale’s Christ by Dr Thomas Betteridge (Kingston). The medieval antecedents contended that Truth cannot be learned outside the Church and Dr Betteridge contrasted the pre-Reformation Christ with the victorious Christ of George Herbert’s Easter Wings, who imparts victory to the believer. Tyndale had played an important part in that change, stressing the necessity for the individual to believe in Christ rather than the church and to participate actively in faith. Even Bishop Fisher had likened the church to the multitude preventing the blind man from coming to Christ for healing, whereas Tyndale had used a more derogatory metaphor that prelates were as ivy strangling a tree and a habitat for birds and owls, of which ‘Christ needs not’. Tyndale’s Christ was disruptive of abuses in the social order, a true reformer.
Then Andreas Mikesy (Budapest) spoke on Tyndale and Luther on the Epistle to the Romans. He analysed the suggestion that Tyndale had followed Luther’s text in his prologue and produced diagrams illustrating each one’s individual contribution and the common text: Tyndale’s own was by far the greatest—not only because of stylistic differences, but also theological shifts of emphasis. Tyndale used synonyms to accentuate, e.g. ‘freedom and liberty’, and also stressed the incapacity of mankind, the role of the Holy Spirit in renewal of the heart, and the importance of love. Tyndale’s Prologue was therefore not a translation from Luther’s.
Finally, Kaoru Yamazaki (Tokyo) used her computer expertise to compare the Bible of the Reformation and the Open Source Movement. Richard Stallman (1983) advised ‘4 Freedoms’ for computer users to ensure programmes could be used for any purpose, could be adapted to meet needs, could be distributed to help neighbours and improved for the benefit of the community — and in this he shared Tyndale’s vision. The Bible was beyond “copyright”, and whereas Thomas More wished to restrict distribution, Tyndale (and Stallman) wanted good news (information) to reach everyone by the printed word or technology.
After dinner, the Rev. Dr Simon Oliver (Wales), a former chaplain of Hertford College, spoke on William Tyndale and the Politics of Grace. The full text of his paper appears in this issue of the Journal (pp.8-20).
Saturday was busy with many parallel sessions and in addition a special Ploughboy Programme was arranged by the Rev. David Ireson, designed to illustrate the life of Tyndale and show the impact of the Reformation on an English village and its Parish Church. An interactive lecture was given by Dr David Norton (New Zealand) on Recent unusual and amusing translations of the Bible from across the World.
The plenary lecture was given by Andrew Hope (author UK) on The Publication History of William Tyndale’s English New Testament asking why Tyndale went initially to the ‘inhospitable’ city of Cologne with its many censorship regulations and then to Antwerp in 1526, settling there for the last 10 years of his life. Andrew Hope described the current printing, publishing and distribution procedures, based on the life of Franz Byrckman and the networks by marriage among the printing families of Europe, at a time when many Latin service books and home almanacs were printed abroad and imported into England. Franz Byrckman had a dispute over finances with Erasmus, but maintained the reputation of an ‘honest merchant’, participating in the Frankfurt bookfair: from his new office in Antwerp, the English New Testament was printed, Byrckman and the printer sharing the cost as was the custom. So did Byrckman become Tyndale’s publisher as a result of previous contact in Cologne? Andrew Hope suggested the numbers of New Testaments smuggled in to England were relatively small and that Thomas More concentrated his prosecution on heretical merchants (friends of Tyndale) rather than the booksellers. It was ironic that the personal Psalter used by More in the Tower had been published by Byrckman, but the page saying ‘Franz Byrckman, Honest Merchant’ had been removed!
Then there was a choice of lectures —
- Prof. David Norton (New Zealand) speaking on Re-opening the King James Bible to the World with
reference to the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, which
he edited. He described his attempts to make his ideal KJV
that had authenticity, readability and studiability i.e.
William Tyndale’s ‘process, order and meaning of the
text’. The overriding principle was to retain the
translator’s text, but make it accessible to modern readers,
both religious and secular. Modernisation, by changes in
spelling and punctuation, must not compromise the text’s
authentic voice: spelling was not standardised in the 16th
century, nor was pronunciation. Regarding meanings, one of
the examples given was ‘bewray’ which became ‘betray’ by the
18th century although ‘bewray’ is derived from ‘to reveal’
(cf. Peter and the servant maid) and ‘betray’ means ‘to hand
over’ from its Latin roots. .An interesting example of
changes in sound is ‘knowen/known’, but ‘knowen’ is still
heard in New Zealand English and to change the number of
syllables alters the rhythm of the text. ‘Spake’ can be
changed to ‘spoke’, but changing ‘Thou shalt’ to ‘You shall’
involves a change in the character of the language, and a new
translation emerges. Consistency is difficult! The KJV
translators did not always indicate punctuation and the
printer’s judgment resulted in confusion. For example whether
the wives and children of the ‘brethren in Tobie’ were killed
with the men or carried away captive depends on the
punctuation placing—the former was chosen in 1611 but the
latter selected now after studying the Greek text which is
Speech marks indicating the end are deemed essential for clarity although absent in the KJV, and similarly paragraphs, but ideas do not always divide readily into paragraphs. Hebrew poetry was often translated as prose in the KJV, with faint suggestions of verse—this can be indicated by the style of printing while retaining the prose. David Norton did not feel his ideal KJV had been attained in the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, but was reading the Scriptures with new understanding and appreciation when using the N.C.P.B., as barriers to reading the KJV had been overcome.
- The parallel lecture was given by Dr Korey Maas (Oxford and USA) on History as Handmaiden: Sola Scriptura and early evangelical historiography. Did opening the Word necessarily mean closing the chronicles (i.e. history)?
To Tyndale, Sola Scriptura was foundational, as demonstrated in his disputations with Thomas More, but he also urged his readers ‘to look in the chronicles’ and learn from history. Robert Barnes, who was as equally implicated theologically as Tyndale in Catholic eyes and who endorsed Henry VIII’s rejection of Papal authority, did not personally analyse scripture but frequently called on the testimony of history. The differing views of John Bale were noted, leading to the conclusion that there was no one Protestant view of history but several, depending on the local circumstances, but all had the objective of opening the Word.
Again there were parallel sessions in the afternoon and 4 papers were presented in each. In ‘A’, Dr Helen Parish (Reading) spoke on ‘To conseile with elde dyuynis of harde wordis and harde sentencis’ Translations and interpretations of the Book of Daniel in 16th century England.’ Daniel 11: 37, referring to Antichrist, states that ‘Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women .............. He shall magnify himself above all’ (KJV, 1611). At that time, the Papacy with its doctrinal errors was considered to be the Antichrist, so the phrase ‘desire of women’ referred to the forced celibacy of the clergy, which was a feigned chastity, concealing immoral conduct. Other theologians believed this interpretation to be a distortion of the text which could be translated as ‘lust upon women’ (Coverdale, 1535) or non regard of ‘conjugal love in wedlock’ (George Joye), while Melanchthon’s Commentary referred to 1 Timothy 4: 1- 3, seducing teachers ‘forbidding to marry’. Henry VIII approved of clerical celibacy, although he experienced a sensational marital life! Continental theologians saw the characteristics of Antichrist in the rejection of Christ by Islam.
Secondly, Dr Guido Latré (Louvain) Images, Allegories and the Word in the Context of Tyndale’s Bible Translations transported us back 500 years to the Antwerp of Tyndale’s day, dominated by the Church of our Lady, now the Cathedral. As he walked from the English House (home of Thomas Poyntz) to de Keyser’s printing works, Tyndale would have passed by the West Door with its sculpture of the Last Judgment, the scales weighing a person’s good and evil deeds and the result deciding the future, whether spent in Heaven or Hell.
The Old Testament was interpreted allegorically at this time, so Jerusalem, the city of David, represented and described not only the Jerusalem Jesus knew and later the moral state of the souls of the church members, but ultimately the New Jerusalem the Heavenly City. Exegesis using typology gave four senses of scriptural interpretation—the literal or historical, the allegorical, the moral or tropological, and the anagogical. The Middle Ages were a visual age and people believed that God communicated by signs, e.g. the rainbow and pillar of cloud, hence the action of the Mystery Plays. But to Tyndale, John I spoke not only of Christ but also of the power of the written word, the Scriptures. Examples of allegories discussed in the New Testament were cited, e.g. Sara and Hagar, and Noah’s Ark. Tyndale’s distrust of allegory was noted (see his chapter on ‘The Four Senses of Scripture’ in The Obedience of a Christian Man, Antwerp, 1528): it was argued that the historical and moral interpretations were for those whose faith was rudimentary, while the solid bread of allegory was for those with mature faith, but Tyndale felt that the literal interpretation gave the most nourishing spiritual food, although recognising that illustrations in the form of woodcuts were useful. There was a sharp dichotomy between images and words in his mind, but poetics of later generations succeeded in combining the two.
Then the Rev. Dr Ralph Werrell (UK) contended that William Tyndale was never Luther’s Protégé. Some 16th century theologians attributed Tyndale’s views to Luther’s teaching, and certainly some of Tyndale’s early publications were translations of Luther’s works without acknowledging the source for obvious reasons - even Thomas More thought his theology was more like Wyclif than the continental reformers. Dr Werrell showed where they differed on Scripture. (Tyndale rejected the Apocrypha) God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—Luther’s God was remote from sinners, but Tyndale’s a loving, forgiving Father, and the key to Man’s salvation was emphasis of the Cross in Luther’s eyes, while the sacrificial blood of Christ featured more in Tyndale’s. Similarly, Tyndale believed that the work of the Holy Spirit was responsible for a person’s restoration, first by awakening out of sleep and then giving faith to believe. The two reformers differed over the fall of Man, Luther saying it prevented a man from living a godly life, while Tyndale stressed the element of separation from God. Regarding Flesh and Spirit to Luther flesh was the absence of the Spirit, while to Tyndale a spiritual man was one renewed in Christ. Both accepted the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but differed over confession, Luther regarding it as a useful discipline. Confirmation was a sacramental ceremony to Luther, but Tyndale regarded it as a reminder of the promises of God in Christ. Luther rejected transubstantiation, but said the sacrament conveyed a great treasure, the forgiveness of sins, while Tyndale said it was a sign not a reality: and similarly with the rite of Baptism which was only symbolic of death and new life to Tyndale. Tyndale denied Purgatory but admitted that there was no scriptural indication of the state between death and resurrection, but Luther was undecided. Finally, the Temporal and Spiritual Regiments were mentioned, Luther confining secular punishment for sin to non-Christians, but Tyndale felt it was a creation ordinance involving all. The conclusion reached was that Tyndale’s theology was independent of Luther’s.
The last lecture was given by Judge Thomas Martin (USA) on Tyndale’s Choice of Terms for Translation of New Testament References to Law and the Legal System when he reminded us that Roman Law applied to the Mediterranean countries in the 1st century, when the New Testament was written. However, William Tyndale in Western Europe translated in the context of the Common Law of England in the early 16th century. Judge Martin examined Tyndale’s choice of terms in relation to jurisprudence and showed he selected with precision, whereas Shakespeare sometimes chose wrongly, e.g. a moiety (half ) suggests a third in Henry IV. Law in the New Testament differed from the Old Testament commands and prohibitions, e.g. Jesus’s teaching on doing “extra” as in the Sermon on the Mount, and correct use of legal examples in ‘adversary’, ‘judge’, ‘jailor’ (minister) and paying the fine ‘to the uttermost farthing’. The Anabaptists, Amish and Mennonites had a distaste for law and government, and the differences in UK and USA legal systems can be related to the English law applying in the early 16th century. Regarding divorce, a woman could be expelled and left destitute, so Moses’ Bill of Divorcement was a “testimonial” more than libel and provided a woman with the liberation to remarry (although Jesus advised a higher standard). In Luke 16 Jesus commended the unjust steward for dealing wisely, although not justly - Wyclif had used the term ‘bailiff ’, denoting a trustee of personal property. Finally testament and the death of the testator were mentioned, and Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. 6 that Christians should not appeal to secular law.
In the alternative programme (B), 4 papers were given. Prof. Don Millus (USA) spoke on The Wycliffite Text : De Ecclesia et Membris Ejus (his paper is published in full in this issue of the Journal) which dealt with the question of who is and who is not a member of the true church of Christ. Tyndale translated this commentary into English to make it available to non-churchmen — an indication of the importance he attached to the subject.
Dr Anne O’Donnell (USA) in speaking on Tyndale on 1 John: Water, Blood, Antichrist, Sin, Faith and Love selected 5 topics from Tyndale’s Exposition of 1 John (1531) in which he offered original interpretations. Water refers both to the baptism of Christ and of the Christian, and the law written in our hearts being the two Great Commandments (to love God and our neighbour) rather than the Decalogue. Blood is Christ’s Passion and Death, through which peace is made between God and mortals. ‘Antichrist’ was the 4th century Pelagian teaching of reliance on human works as exemplified in the Papacy. Mortal sin is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and every other sin is pardonable. Faith and Love, termed ‘John’s Song’ by Tyndale, are as inseparable as Mother and child.
Thirdly, Dr Tibor Fabiny (Budapest) gave another complementary paper when speaking on ‘“Christ but figured”—Tyndale, the Literal Sense & Typology’. Tyndale rejected allegory and claimed there is only a literal sense to Scripture, but as God is spirit, His literal is spiritual. He agreed with Luther that the spirit is to be discerned within the letter, hence there is a typological or figurative sense of Scripture.
Finally, Dr Tina Wray, (USA) in The Fire Within: a comparison of the Prophetic Vocations of Jeremiah and William Tyndale compared the Hebrew prophet and 16th century scholar William Tyndale. Though of different eras, both reformers addressed a ‘stiff-necked’ and recalcitrant people and encountered opposition from their peers, ending in their being branded heretics, imprisonment and martyrdom. Using Jeremiah’s prophetic vocation as a backdrop, the parallels in the labours of the Weeping Prophet and Great Translator were traced.
After tea, there was a plenary lecture by Dr John Court (Kent) on The Seer of Revelation. William Tyndale was silent regarding the meaning of much of the Book of Revelation, but applied his principle that ‘the text means what it says: revelation may disclose meanings but just as different materials have different functions, all can be used to tell the story of the truths of Christian Faith. Tyndale included the letters to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor which some theologians omitted. The book has urgency - ‘ events which must shortly come to pass........ the time is at hand’. John, the seer of Patmos, was the Apostle and author of the three Epistles, full of pastoral teaching, but in the book of Revelation he speaks as did the Old Testament prophets. Five aspects of his life were examined:
- His sense of Authority, although the authority of pastor and seer differ, both apply here. The unity between pastor and people as seen in the Epistles mirrors the relationship between God and Christ (John 17) and Christ and the Church, culminating in the ‘New Jerusalem’ of Rev. 21.
- The historical situation of persecution—both of individuals and the Church by the Jews and politicians of Asia Minor: this was actual and threatened, and illustrated the cosmic battle occurring between good and evil. Meanwhile, the saints were waiting for the downfall of their enemies, often with hope against hope. The seven Letters offer ethical recommendations, but apocalyptic writings are not ethical.
- The Visionary, whose communications need decoding. John, “in the spirit on a Sunday” (W.T.) had a spontaneous experience, an authentic vision of the Risen Christ and the events of the last days, e.g. the Holy City. But during the transition period, practical questions of daily church life need to be addressed.
- The Seer as a Theologian—taking a wider view of Creation, then Recreation, questions arise—‘Who rules the world now?’ ‘What are the meanings of the events of history?’ ‘Why does God not control evil?’- He will! Christ will appear triumphant on a white horse, Jesus will be Lord and God Almighty will reign! God’s care of the church is past, present and future
- The Christian Prophet—the witness of the seer is a true testimony leading to martyrdom, but eventually exultation. The two witnesses of Rev. 11 show the use of human agency to declare the judgments and authority of the sovereign God, and finally, we have the picture of ‘the Kingdoms of the world are our Lord’s and his Christ’s’ amid dramatic scenes. Much of this can be applied to the world wide church today suffering persecution and terror, while visionary artists have been inspired, such as Blake and Robin Bradbury’s Outlook from Patmos, 1998.
Saturday evening was a memorable occasion, when the English Chamber Choir under their conductor Guy Protheroe gave a recital in Hertford College Chapel. The music was mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries (Tallis, Coverdale, Sweelinck, Luther, Bach and Shepherd, choirmaster at Magdalen College), with tributes to Shakespeare by Vaughan Williams and New England Psalmody (Billings), all beautifully rendered and an insight into Reformation Worship. This was followed by a Formal Dinner in Hertford Hall when we relaxed under the scrutiny of William Tyndale and John Donne among the portraits.
On Sunday there was the Morning Service in Hertford College Chapel conducted by the Rev. David Ireson, using Tyndale’s translation for Lesson and Canticle; a collect by Erasmus on Christ being the Way, Truth and Life was appropriate to the theme of the day—“The Past is History—The Future is Mystery—What matters is God’s gift of the Present”. The address was given by Dr John Landers, Hertford Principal Elect, on the lost art of “listening” with reference to David Mamet’s play Oceanna. He extended this to global atrocities, some sadly inflicted in the name of God, and the need for all to acknowledge that they could be wrong. Now our knowledge is imperfect—as with St Paul ‘we see through a glass darkly’—but face to face understanding is attainable both through the written word and spoken message.
The final lecture was given by Prof. David Daniell, Chairman of the Tyndale Society, on Shakespeare and the New Testament, which is the title of his forthcoming book. By Shakespeare’s time, Church of England services were in English, Bible passages were read from the Geneva Bible, the people were involved in the responses and the priest addressed the people just as an actor did. Half a million Bibles and New Testaments were owned, so Shakespeare was well acquainted with the Geneva Bible. Many allusions are recognisable in his plays (examples were given) and the qualities of compelling narrative, central and strong characters, high ideals, direct speech and conflict reaching a climax, etc. are reminiscent of many Gospel narratives. There was no longer the fear of accusation of heresy, so thought was liberated, ideas were explored, innovations introduced regarding narrative mystery with increasing artistic freedoms. Whereas the Rabbinic parables had expected ends, the Gospel Parables did not and they provided a source of inspiration and insight to Shakespeare with situations applicable to daily life, e.g. suffering, the loss of identity and terrors in darkness, descent into madness, and forgiveness because of the human experience of Christ.
Prof. Daniell then brought the Conference to a close with warm thanks to Hertford College for providing facilities and hospitality. He commented on the unforgettable papers, which had shown balance and cohesion, the international friendships made and renewed, and requested prayers for the future of the Society as it entered its second decade. The Conference had “buzzed” thanks to the untiring efforts of Mary Clow and her team from the UK and USA.
Editor’s note: A full report by Ann Manly on the concert given by the English Chamber Choir appears in this Journal.
Prof. Donald Millus’s lecture The Wycliffite text: De Ecclesia et Membris Eijus and Dr Simon Oliver’s lecture William Tyndale: Theologian of the Christian Life are printed in this issue. We are hoping to print some more of the papers given at this Conference in subsequent issues.
It is planned to include in the next issue of the TSJ No 31 August 2006 Prof. Morna Hooker’s keynote lecture The Trials of a Translator, Prof. Francis Higman’s presentation The Geneva Context of the Geneva Bible and Mrs Valerie Offord’s paper Geneva Bibles and Briefs: Continuity and Acquaintanceship in the work of the Geneva Marian Exiles.