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Let Your Light Shine

I love Brits like William Tyndale, because he was in some ways so touchingly human, and so darn brave.

Tyndale was born in 1495, studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, and learned to speak seven languages perfectly, including Greek and Hebrew. When he was still quite young he decided there was just one thing he wanted to do. He wanted the boy in Britain who walked behind the plough to be able to read the Bible on his own, in his own language, and decide for himself what it meant.

So Tyndale set to work translating the Bible into English. Unfortunately due to their theological differences, this was not at all what Henry VIII, the King of England wanted, and Tyndale escaped to the continent. He lived there in poverty, but managed to finish his manuscript and find a publisher. The agents of the King pursued him, but Tyndale escaped by boat up the Rhine with one copy of his exhilarating English translation of the New Testament.

Reprinted, Tyndale's translation was smuggled into England in shiploads of corn though every port was watched. Copies that were found were torched.

Turning to the Old Testament, Tyndale completed his translation, but was shipwrecked outside Hamburg, his boat smashed to pieces, and his entire manuscript lost. Beginning all over again, he was betrayed for a handful of silver by a man he had befriended, and imprisoned in a castle outside Brussels.

Cold, so cold, he asked for a piece of cloth to patch his leggings, and “a lamp in the evening, for it is worrisome to sit alone in the dark.” With the lamp, he kept on working to recover what he had lost. He must have known he would run out of time.

Tyndale managed to complete his translation of the Old Testament from Joshua through 2 Chronicles before he was found guilty of heresy, and executed on October 6, 1536.

“Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” Tyndale cried just before he died.

Perhaps the Lord did. Within twelve months of his death, Tyndale’s translation, “which had been denounced, proscribed, and repeatedly burned at St. Paul’s Cross,” was formally approved by Henry VIII and published under a fictitious name. Benson Bobrick's Wide as the Waters gives a gripping account of how the Bible inspired the quest for freedom.

The green wood of Tyndale’s words survived: the song of songs, the apple of his eye, the living God, forgive us our trespasses, stranger in a strange land, the gate of heaven, and the light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not. You are the salt of the earth. . .You are the light of the world. . .Let your light shine. . .