On BBC2 Tonight – The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England

Posted By on June 6, 2013

The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor EnglandJust a reminder to those in the UK, The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England is on tonight on BBC2 at 9pm. Here is the blurb from the BBC website:

“Melvyn Bragg explores the dramatic story of William Tyndale and his mission to translate the Bible into English. Melvyn reveals the story of a man whose life and legacy have been hidden from history but whose impact on Christianity in Britain and on the English language endures today. His radical translation of the Bible into English made him a profound threat to the authority of the church and state, and set him on a fateful collision course with Henry VIII’s heretic hunters and those of the pope.”

Anne Boleyn owned a copy of Tyndale’s “The Obedience of a Christian Man”, the book which she persuaded Henry VIII to read and which stated that a monarch was only accountable to God, and therefore not the Pope. Anne also owned a copy of Tyndale’s 1534 New Testament and displayed it in her apartments so that her ladies could read it.

For those of you outside the UK, if it turns up on YouTube then I will add a link to The Anne Boleyn Files Facebook page.

4 thoughts on “On BBC2 Tonight – The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England”

  1. BanditQueen says:

    Forced to turn off after first 20 mins as angered by this prejudicial tosh! The Catholic Church was not afraid of the Bible in English: it was worried about it being used to spread error and heretical teachings. It was also worried that people would insult the Bible in taverns and so on. Actually translations in English did exist. Primers were also used to teach people the Bible in Latin and for translation. It is not true that the majority of people could not understand the Latin and did not read well. Work at Liverpool University has shown that a greater number of people than is claimed were able to read well enough to get the basics of Latin and to read some of the scripture.

    The stories were explained to people and local priests ran schools to help children learn the faith in both Latin and English. The scholars may have known the Bible better and monks and nuns obviously did. When Queen Anne came to the nuns in London they were better Latinists than she as they were from good families. Some translations also existed of the Bible in English as can be seen in Father Gausart book The Eve of the Reformation; I will quote it later when I find the reference. Thomas More was encouraged from early in the reign to put some works into English for people to read them. The ordinary people may not have had the scholarly training of the Church and the wealthy but they were not stupid or ignorent either.

    The pictures in Church explained the scritpures to people and priests and teachers explained the Bible to ordinary people. The Bible was the Church’s treasure and it was the Guardian of sacred scripture. Under the guidence of the Holy Spirit the Church explained the truth to people and her doctrines came from both Scripture and Tradition, that which had been the teaching of the doctors of the Church.

    Popes did not make decisions on Church doctrine: councils did and the Pope made the final decision based on their prayers and deliberations.

    I did agree that William Tyndale made an important translation of the Bible and contribution to the English language, but that was not what he was burnt for. He was burnt as he also did not agree with many fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church and that his translation was full of errors. He also wrote against the divorce of Henry VIII and I have no doubt that his books like the Obediance of A Christian Man that argued amongst many other things that Emperors and Kings had no need of Popes and were answerable only to God, must have caused a stir in Europe and in England. Henry certainly found it useful, but only parts of it that were useful for his divorce and making himself Head of the Church of England.

    This made William Tyndale very dangerous as the documentary said, not only as his version of the Bible was being smuggled into England but that he was giving Kings weapons to set themselves above the law of the Church and the State. Henry was able to protect and patronize William Tyndale while he was useful but after Anne was executed he could not do this and he struck back at him. As Tyndale did not support his divorce he took his protection from him and allowed him to be hunted abroad. He waa hunted down and in an obscure part of the Holy Roman Empire he was burnt for heresy.

    The documentary now also stated that Sir Thomas More was a relentless hunter of heretics. He actually only oversaw the execution of five heretics and a sixth died while moving from one prison to another. Yes he did hunt them in England and cause many to be exiled, but he did not use the ultimate censor very often and most were let go. That was his job and normal for the time. It was in the late 1530s onwards and 1540s that most of the 47 heretics executed in Henry VIII’s time died or were imprisoned. Henry had the Six Articles of Faith drawn up and these carried the death penalty. Of particular importance was the belief that the bread and the wine in the sacrament of the Alter are the true Body and Blood of Christ during consecration of the Sacrament in Holy Communion or the Mass; and not as Protestants believe a mere memorial of the action taken by Jesus at the Last Supper. People who denied this were called Sacramentarians.

    The most famous of these Sacramentarians was John Lambert, a friend of Thomas Cromwell who was burnt for his beliefs under Cromwell. Several small groups of people died from 1540 onwards; under the watchful eye of Stephen Gardiner. The point being that all of these had nothing to do with Thomas More as he had been murdered for refusing to ackknowledge Henry as Head of the Church and the marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1535. He was beheaded as where the monks who were accused of the same thing and Cardinal John Fisher.

    We may have a great legacy in the Bible in English but it was not all Tyndale. It fact the Bilble developed over the next few years. Much of the original script he wrote was incorporated into a work encouraged by Cranmer and Cromwell and given the blessing of the King: but much is also translated by someone called Coverdale. This person is a mystery, and some believe it was mostly the Tyndale translation. But Henry did not want the Holy Bible read just by anyone. He limited its reading to prevent it from being used in the wrong way and quoted or read in the taverns. He gave his blessing to the Great Bilbe, but he changed the way it was presented and who could read it, making sure that only educatied people read it without the guidence of the Church.

    More translations followed; included one for Queen Elizabeth in 1562, and one in 1599. These translations had serious flaws and James I and VI was not happy with the way it was not a pure translation and the Puritans did not want it. They wanted the Geneva Bible, but James did not want this as the notes encouraged the rebuking of KIngs who were not Godly. In a famous Conference to bring all parties together and solve the doctrinal differences in the English Church and the flaws in the various translations of the Bible: held at Hampton Court in 1604; James commissioned a new translation of the Bible in English using the original documents and older commentaries from Hebrew and Greek.

    The King James Bible was not perfect but it brings a lot of varied traditions together un unity. There are parts of even the original Vulgate, the Medieval Vulgate, the Rheims Douuie Version both Catholic English Bibles; the Bishop Bible and the Great Bible and the revised translation of William Tyndale. The English Bible came full circle. The 1611 is called the Authorized but it was not officially sanctioned by King James, just given his blessing. It had printing errors and was recalled. The more perfect translation that we have now was published in 1613. The legacy of William Tyndale was vindicated.

    I agree that William Tyndale made a great contribution to the publishing of the Bible in English and an official version: I do not agree that the Church was afraid of the Bible in the common tongue, nore do I agree that he was either the first or the only one to make a translation. I do not agree that he was burnt just as he wanted to translate the Bible. He was killed as he said stuff that the most powerful monarch in Europe and our own King Henry did not want to hear. He challenged the authority of the Papacy and the doctrines of the Catholci Church. He misused the Bible to back up his arguments and made his translation seem that it supported his arguments. The documentary is prejudiced as it just blurts out the same rubbish Protestant myths that Melvin Bragg and others blindly follow, without checking their research first. There are two sides of the story but the other side was not explored. We live in a Protestant country and the winners write history. Some on the site here will not agree with my analysis, and I may feel differently when I watch all of the documetary, but I have the gift of discernment and I know when something is not correct. I have read enough on Tyndale to know that there is more to him that Melvin Bragg put in this documentary and i do not feel that this prejudice did the man justice, nor did it present a true picture of the times in which he lived.

    This is a great pity as people are forced to conclude that the Church of the 1530s was some kind of spiritualless and bland ignorent silly club and its members blind. That is not true. England had a viberant spiritual Church and its people were devout, The Church was not tyranical and it did not command people what to think. Yes, the hours marked the day, but willingly and not out of fear. People were devout as they wanted to be devout and the fact that many practices remained active after they were abolished proves this. The Church was full of life and local men and women of good learning interpreted the Word of God with love and the guidance of the Spirit. They did not live in ignorence and Protestants did not invent learning. In fact it was the Reformation that destroyed places of learning, the libraries of thousands of years of manuscriots were burnt by them; many works were lost. Schools for the poor were closed and had to be re-opened by the King. That was the other legacy of William Tyndale; author not just of an English Translation of the Bible but of the works that caused Henry VIII to cease to be a true son of the Church and instead to become its enemy and destroyer. That also is unfortunate.

  2. This was a fascinating programme, and a reminder of just how Henry used religion for his own personal ends. Tyndale was perceived as a threat, not just in England where Henry was turning using a text from Leviticus (ironically Tyndale’s translation) to justify his divorce from Catharine, but across Europe.

    Tyndale, like Wycliffe before him, believed that the Bible should be available to everyone so returned to the original Hebrew and Greek texts to produce the first printed version in English. These were printed in Europe and then smuggled into England. This was at the same time as Erasmus was writing and Luther was causing a rumpus with his Diet of Worms. Tyndale believed passionately in the right of every Englishman man to be able to read or hear the worlds of the Bible in English. However, Latin was the language of the Church and those in power, so if a man were able to read or hear the words contained in the Bible for himself, he would see that nowhere does it state that there are to be Popes or bishops, or priests, or any other form of heirarchy that the Catholic Church stated was necessary for a man to save his soul. No wonder the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and our own Henry VIII felt heresy was to be stamped out. These reformers were challenging the seats of both temporal and spiritual power. If an English plough boy were able to have the Bible read to him in his own language, then the whole edifice of monarchy might come tumbling down.

    The Coverdale Bible, the first officially sanctioned version in English with an illustration by Hans Holbein showing Henry III as the Defender of the Faith seated on a throne, was printed in 1535. Bragg reveals that Coverdale had been a colleague of Tyndale’s and used much of Tyndale’s translation into English in his own version. Nowhere does Coverdale credit Tyndale with this translation, quite possibly because he wanted to keep his head.

    Tyndale was betrayed by an Englishman, Henry Phillips, to the imperial authorities and burnt at the stake in Antwerp in October 1536, only months after Anne Boleyn.

    What is even more intriguing is how recent research has revealed that the King James’s Bible (published in 1611), previously thought to have been the work of a large committee who, like Tyndale, had returned to the original texts for their translation, is not so. The majority of this translation is the work of William Tyndale and many of his phrases have passed into everyday speech.

    I do hope this programme becomes available worldwide as it throws light on just how threatened the European princes of power felt by the translations of the Bible into their own languages and especially our own Henry.

  3. Denise Hansen says:

    Here is the link to the program on youtube.


    I found it quite interesting, The first posted comment here was also illuminating.

    1. Fran Banks says:

      They have closed the link on youtube

      I love history, especially this period so I’d like to say thanks to the site owner, I’m looking forward to reading and learning about Anne and the times around her.

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