The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England – A Review and Rundown

Posted By on June 7, 2013

The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England Having studied the history of Christianity at university, I was really looking forward to watching this programme on Bible translator and condemned heretic William Tyndale. As Melvyn Bragg stated, Tyndale is one of the greatest men in English history, yet not many people have even heard of him. This programme set out to put that right. The following rundown is based on notes I took from the programme, so is not my own work.

The introduction set the scene. Viewers were told of Tyndale’s end, his execution in Vilvoorde, Belgium in 1536 when he was tied to a stake and burned to death for translating the Bible into English. This was a man who had immeasurable influence, whose work on translating the Bible resulted in “a Protestant ascendancy that went throughout the world”. He fired the English Reformation and, with William Shakespeare, is the co-creator of the English language as we know it today. He was a “matchless scholar”, a hero, a courageous pioneer who wanted the word of God made accessible to everyone, yet his name has been written out of history.

Bragg then took us back to 1494 and Tyndale’s birth in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. He was born amongst the “Commons”, the common people of England, in a world which was dominated by religion. The ritual and calendar of the Church dominated people’s lives – people went to mass every Sunday, they confessed and did penance – but the Bible was in Latin and therefore beyond most people’s comprehension. The fact that the common people could not read the Bible gave the Church control and people couldn’t challenge the key concepts of purgatory, penance, pilgrimage and confession, and say that they were not in the Bible. It was illegal to translate the Bible and was heresy.

Tyndale was educated at Oxford University from the ages of 12 to 18, and while he was at Oxford a new king came to the throne: Henry VIII. Henry’s early reign saw the rise of Thomas Wosley, who became Lord Chancellor and then Cardinal, and Thomas More, a devoted Catholic who was to become the most feared heretic hunter in England and Tyndale’s “arch enemy”. It was at Oxford that Tyndale began to reject the ancient and unchallenged approach to the Bible and the way that it was studied by looking at individual verses rather than the Bible as a whole. He was inspired by Erasmus who believed that ancient texts should be studied in their original language and he started preparing a new Greek edition of the New Testament. Tyndale’s eyes were opened by Erasmus’ work but this was a time when it was believed that you should not “mess” with the Bible because it was a sacred text and the word of God.

Bragg then went on to talk about Martin Luther who launched an attack on the Pope in 1517 and who translated the Bible into German. Luther’s work on the Bible led him to radical new beliefs about how to attain eternal life and to the belief that people could be justified by faith, the doctrine of grace. A war of words began, a battle between Luther and the Church, because if Luther was right then there was no need for penance, pilgrimages and other concepts practised by the Church. Henry VIII was awarded the title of Defender of the Faith for publishing a rebuttal of Luther’s teachings and was, at that time, “the Pope’s avenging sword”. This put Tyndale, who was interested in Luther’s teachings, on a collision course with the Tudors.

Bragg then took the viewer to 1522 in Little Sodbury in Gloucestershire and explained that Tyndale was ordained as a priest and worked as tutor and chaplain to the Walsh family. There, he had heated discussions with local clergy due to his “subversive beliefs”. Tyndale was appalled when a clergyman told him “that it would be better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s” because he believed that the whole point was that the Bible contained the word of God rather than rules made by Popes. Tyndale believed that the only way a person could save their soul was to listen to the word of God and to understand it and he was, therefore, determined to translate the Bible so that it could be understood by everyone. He felt that the clergy were unfit to interpret God’s word and that the common people needed to be able to read it for themselves.

Things got difficult in Gloucestershire, so Tyndale travelled to London. It wasn’t the best place to go on search of sponsorship for an English Bible when the city was full of spies and heretic hunters, and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London and a friend of Thomas More, was not the best person to approach. Tunstall showed Tyndale the door. So, in 1524, Tyndale left London behind and travelled to Germany. As Bragg pointed out, it was an exile that would last until his death and Tyndale would never see England again. Tyndale then appears to have disappeared for a couple of years, going into hiding as he started work on his English New Testament. He then headed to Cologne in 1525 to find a printer. Cologne was known for its printing presses but the local Bishop kept an eye on what was being printed. Tyndale found Peter Quentell’s printing press and got funding from English merchants in the city. Quentell was willing to print Tyndale’s work but a friend of Bishop Tunstall, known as Cochleaus, was in Cologne and heard about Tyndale’s publication from colleagues of Quentell. They told him that 3,000 copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were going to be shipped to England. Quentell’s workshop was raided and Wolsey and Henry VIII were warned to keep an eye out for “pernicious merchandise”, heretical works, coming into England. Bragg states that Tyndale was “derisory” about those who tried to stop him, saying “Who would be so bedlam mad as to keep people in dark ignorance when they could have access to true light by reading the word of God.”

Tyndale managed to salvage some of his work and took it to Worms to get it printed. Although thousands of copies of Tyndale’s New Testament were printed, there is now only one complete copy of it in existence and Bragg went to see it at Wuerttemberg State Library, Stuttgart. It was incredibly small and this was on purpose, so that it could be hidden away, hidden in clothes, because you could be tortured and even executed for owning it. This little book changed Tudor history, English history and world history for ever, and Tyndale didn’t even put his name on the title page because he didn’t want his name to get between the reader and God. Bragg talked about the language Tyndale used in his translation. He kept it “simple and resonant” and used short sentences. Phrases he used are still in our common tongue today – “eat, drink and be merry” and “Our Father which art in Heaven”. The darkness was illuminated by the publication of this book because people could now read God’s word and discuss it. Henry VIII was dismayed by this later on in his reign and commented that even a “pot boy” could now have an opinion. Tyndale’s choice of words was radical and his words actually were an attack on the Church. For “Ecclesia”, he used “Congregation”, the people, instead of “Church”, and for “Presbiterus” he did not use “Priest” but “Elder”. He stripped away and undermined the hierarchy of the Church; the message could no longer be controlled. Bragg also commented that he showed Henry VIII to be a tyrant and hypocrite.

Bragg then explained that in 1526 copies of Tyndale’s translation began to arrive in England and that it was an instant bestseller, even though it cost the equivalent of two and a half weeks of a servant’s wages. Thomas More ordered a raid on a steelyard and arrested four merchants for heresy after texts by Martin Luther were found. On 11th February 1526, the four men were forced to process through the city to St Paul’s where firewood was lashed to their backs and they had to kneel and beg for forgiveness. The firewood was then used to burn the heretical texts. Tyndale’s New Testament was also burned and Bishop Tunstall attacked the translation saying that it contained over 2000 errors and was an untrue translation. But this was God’s word they were burning now and this was a deeply unsettling act to some people. A line, Bragg said, had been crossed.

Tyndale was convinced that the Catholic hierarchy was perverting the word of God and his translation of the Bible was an act of war on the Church. Thomas More knew that Tyndale had to be silenced and he made it his mission to do so. Bragg explained that the feud between the two men began a war of words and generated three quarters of a million words. More’s greatest work against Tyndale was “The Dialogue Concerning Heresies” which explained why More considered Tyndale to be “the most dangerous man in Tudor England”. Bragg then spoke to historian John Guy who explained that More saw Tyndale as a serious threat and he likened the situation to the Soviet Union and America staring at each other across the world in the Cold War. Guy explained that if Tyndale was right about authority then half the institutions across the world would collapse because authority would be based on scripture and not the Catholic Church, it would be a “brave new world”. More’s point was that scripture couldn’t be interpreted by everyone because everyone had different views and this would lead to the collapse of the Church and State, which he saw as working together. More saw Tyndale’s New Testament as an invitation for anarchy.

Bragg then went on to discuss Henry falling in love with Anne Boleyn. He said that Henry met her at Hever Castle [I’m not sure where he got that from] and that Anne was “sexually shrewd and intelligent”, and Protestant [not really the right label]. In 1528 Henry VIII appealed to the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, based on a verse from Leviticus, but the Pope refused. Hope came from Tyndale, though. In 1528, in Belgium, Tyndale had published “The Obedience of a Christian Man” and a copy of this work found its way into Henry VIII’s hands. Bragg then discussed this with Nasim Tadghighi (hello Nasim!). Nasim explained that Tyndale had two key points: the supremacy of scripture over any authority, including “the false authority of the Pope”, and the supremacy of King. To Tyndale, God was the highest authority and God appointed Kings so Kings were the highest authority in the land. He wrote about the King being “judge overall and over him is there no judge”. Nasim explained that there is a story that Anne Boleyn gave Henry a copy of this book and that Henry said that this was a book for him and all kings to read. Tyndale’s book confirmed Henry VIII’s divine authority and he welcome that. However, Tyndale also published a book called “The Practice of Prelates” in 1530 in which he discussed the King’s campaign for an annulment. Henry had based his campaign for an annulment of Leviticus but Tyndale pointed out that there were other passages in the Bible that contradicted Leviticus and giving the commandment that a man should marry his brother’s widow, e.g. Deuteronomy. Obviously this wasn’t good news for Henry.

Henry VIII offered Tyndale an appointment at his court and in 1530 Thomas Cromwell sent Stephen Vaughan to Antwerp to meet Tyndale and to lure him back to England. Tyndale did meet Vaughan and after a number of refusals finally told Vaughan that he would return to England, even if he had to endure torture and death, if the King brought out a Bible in English. Henry wouldn’t have it.

In 1531, Henry addressed Parliament and demanded that he be recognised as Sole Protector and Supreme Head of the English Church. He had rejected the Pope but he had not rejected the Catholic faith, he remained a conservative Catholic and was committed to the Bible in Latin. Bragg went on to explain that Tyndale’s war of words with More came to a crescendo at that time. More believed that the Bible needed the filter of the Church’s teaching, whereas Tyndale believed that man was born with a spiritual sense; More wrote of Tyndale “You kiss the arse of Luther, the shit-devil, look, my fingers are smeared with shit when I try to clean your filthy mouth” (nice!) and Tyndale called More a lying papist and said that the Church was of the devil; More felt that the Bible was only parchment compared to the Church, but Tyndale saw the Bible as the word of God… and so on. More started executing Tyndale’s supporters but Tyndale carried on with his mission and began translating the Old Testament from Hebrew to English.

With the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, the Protestants gained ground and Thomas More fell and was beheaded for treason on 6th July 1535. He died fearing for the future of the Catholic Church. Heretic hunting began in Antwerp because it was under the control of Emperor Charles V. Tyndale befriended a new arrival, Harry Phillips, who claimed to be an Oxford graduate interested in Reform. However, Phillips was actually colluding with the Imperial Court and he betrayed Tyndale. On 21st May 1535, Phillips visited the English House in Antwerp, where Tyndale was living, and said he had no money, Tyndale offered to take him out for a meal and as they walked down an alley two guard arrested Tyndale. Phillips had acted as Judas. Tyndale was imprisoned in the Castle of Vilvoorde for 14 months and there is a record of him asking for a hat and coat because he was suffering from catarrh. He also requested a lamp, his Hebrew Bible and Hebrew grammar so that he could study. His commitment to making the Bible accessible to all never left him.

Tyndale was executed on 6th October 1536. Cromwell had tried to secure his release, but Anne Boleyn’s execution had led to Henry VIII growing cool towards Protestants. Tyndale was meant to be strangled to death, as an act of mercy, before being burned but unfortunately he was still alive when he was burned. His last words were “Lord, Open the King of England’s eyes.” Bragg commented that his refusal to give up his beliefs had led to his destruction but he was successful in taking the Bible away from the elite. By the time of his death, he had translated the New Testament and translated the first five books of the Old Testament. Bragg went on to say that his dying wish was also granted when Henry became the patron of the 1535 English Bible by Miles Coverdale and 8500 Bibles were produced to be put in every church in England. Bragg spoke of Tyndale being one of England’s best kept secrets but that his words and phrases have endured. According to Bragg, 84% of the 1611 King James Bible’s New Testament was actually written by Tyndale and 85% of the first five books of the Old Testament, therefore, his words still echo down the centuries and were the beginning of English as we know it today. Our language is made up of Shakespeare’s words and Tyndale’s idioms, phrases like “rise and shine” and “sign of the times”. Interestingly, these sayings are all monosyllabic and that is because Tyndale believed in saying things simply, he chose the most basic language so that even a humble plough boy could understand it. But his name does not appear on the King James Bible. This is because the translators used Coverdale’s work and Coverdale ripped off Tyndale. Henry VIII wanted no mention of Tyndale on the Coverdale Bible, so no credit was given.

Bragg ended the programme by saying that Tyndale’s purpose was to bring alive the word of God and to save souls and that his work unlocked the English language and gave people “the liberty to think, rather than the duty to believe.”

Don’t forget to watch the second part of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England tonight at 9pm on BBC2, it’s on the Rich this week.

33 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England – A Review and Rundown”

  1. Laura says:

    I knew little about Tyndale so was eagerly awaiting this programe. I thought it was interesting and brilliant to watch. I was hooked from the start. Something nice about Melvyn Bragg as well. I’d recommend this. I loved it.

    1. Claire says:

      I was hooked too and I thought Bragg did a really good job at presenting it. It was also nice to see John Guy and Nasim, who has written article for The AB Files.

  2. Tracy says:

    I enjoyed the programme and had the same issues about what was said about Anne Boleyn at the start. Sorry to be picky, but a wasn’t Tyndall executed in 1536 not 1535?

    1. Claire says:

      I thought that’s what I put as it was after Anne, I’ll check and edit. Thanks!

      1. Claire says:

        Ah, I’d put 1536 in the first paragraph and then 1535 by accident later. Thanks!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Claire,
    Thank you for making the program available to watch on You Tube. It is greatly appreciated. It was a wonderful presentation.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Cynthia,
      I didn’t put it there, I just found it on YouTube but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Sheena says:

    I loved being able to watch this program! I wish they’d be aired here in the US, but watching them on YouTube is such a treat! Thank you for writing this, and making the YouTube program available to us Yanks! <3

  5. Alison says:

    I know alot of him coming from a Protestant Evangelical family and knowing the Fox’s book of Martyrs inside out like the bible. I live in Wales not far from where Bishop William Morgan lived who translated the bible into Welsh language, I love the history of religion . I am now a Celtic Christian/Pagan mix and a lover of bells and smells and icons myself.

  6. Deadman says:

    Erasmus “translating the New Testament into Greek” should be “translating the New Testament from Greek”. surely. Erasmus did translate a few verses of the NT into Greek to match the Latin but, for the most part he edited the Greek text and revised the Vulgate Latin therefrom.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, sorry, serves me right for scribbling like a maniac trying to get it all down.

      1. Claire says:

        I’ve just checked and Bragg says “he started preparing a new Greek edition of the New Testament” so I’ve changed it accordingly so that it makes sense.

        1. Mary Heneghan says:

          Claire, I just do not know how you can give such well-written, thorough and accurate accounts of these programmes, and then post them so promptly for us. Thank you very much.

  7. Cindy says:

    Thank you again Claire for finding us more fascinating bits of history to read about. Seems the world has been at war over religion right back to the very begining. What a dark and frightening time to live in. I can imagine the frenzy and dissaproval of those in high places like Henry who were elite, and wanted to stay that way, in part by not allowing the low common folk the privilege of understanding the Bible at the time.

    Thank you for sharing and making the rest of the world aware of Tyndale & his amazing contirbution to history.
    Cindy

  8. Many thanks for a brilliant summary Claire.

  9. Paul Beckley says:

    Thank you! I have long been interested in Tyndale. For me. this was an a great treat. Is there any way to get a hard copy of it?

  10. LaOriental says:

    Thank you, Claire for another fabulous and informative post. I find it amusing that Henry was against this man, then changed his mind after reading TOOACM. I knew something of Tyndale, and this book given to Henry by Anne, but did not realize how persecuted he was, nor of his contribution to the English language. Absolutely fascinating!

    I look forward to watching the video…. Not nearly enough time to read and learn all of
    this great stuff, thanks again!!!

  11. Elizabeth smith says:

    This is so interesting. Can’t get enough of this on the American side of the pond.

  12. Rowan says:

    Re “He said that Henry met her at Hever Castle [I’m not sure where he got that from]”

    I’m currently reading Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes, and it also has Henry meeting Anne at Hever. It’s fiction, but she presumably has some source for it (which of course doesn’t mean it’s correct).

    1. Sonetka says:

      The source is probably Agnes Strickland, who in her “Lives Of The Queens Of England” said that Henry met Anne in a garden at Hever — hence, the enormous number of novelists who show her doing just that. (A lot of Anne fiction tropes come from or were popularized by Strickland, including Anne’s stepmother and the sixth finger).

      1. Rowan says:

        That makes sense. Brief Gaudy Hour does indeed have them meeting in a garden
        at Hever, and it also has the 6th finger (in minimal form, not much more than an extra nail) and the step-mother, somewhat oddly named Jocunda (though that’s perhaps less odd then it seems, since Katherine Howard’s mother was named Jocasta).

    2. BanditQueen says:

      Anne is believed have officially met Henry at a pageant at Court: The Castle of Desire or something like that when she played one of the Graces and Henry one of the young men that attacks the castle where Anne and other ladies are held captive. He finds her fascinating and things move from there. Her father was also well known and an ambassador abroad for the King so the family were well known in any event. Henry also had an affair with her sister Mary, so again must have become aware of Anne as a result of that as well. Fiction is great for establishing ideals about meetings, but it is only fiction.

      1. Claire says:

        Historians argue over when Henry first became attracted to Anne. David Starkey believes that it was around Christmas and New Year 1524/1525, shortly after he had stopped sleeping with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and at the “Castle of Loyalty” or the Château Blanc pageant in the tiltyard at Greenwich Palace (not to be confused with the Chateau Vert pageant in 1522 when Anne played Perseverance). Although the names of the maidens are not recorded, Starkey believes that one may have been Anne because Thomas Wyatt was listed as a defender, Henry Percy as an attacker and a disguised Henry VIII took part. This fits in with Cavendish’s account of Wolsey breaking up the relationship between Anne and Percy because of the King’s interest in Anne. However, other historians, for example Eric Ives, believe that Henry’s relationship with Anne didn’t begin until Spring 1526. See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/henry-viii-falls-in-love-with-anne-boleyn/ for more on this.

  13. Richard Danks says:

    Thanks Claire for taking the time to summarise this program and for the link. Although I have studied this part of biblical history, it was refreshing to read it again from a different source. Sadly, just as freedom within a democracy can be prone to abuse (ie carrying of guns in USA) so can enlightenment. The seemingly innocent granting to the people the ability to not only read the bible (or Koran) but to put one’s own interpretation upon it can have horrific consequences. Particularly when read out of context by religious extremists. Whilst more an opportunist than an extremist, King Henry Vlll found it expedient to interpret the bible in a manner which conveniently justified his actions. On the other hand, ignorance of the Word of God and a blind reliance upon the pronunciations from the Pope were the basis for the senseless persecutions by Mary 1.
    We must be thankful that Tynedale stood by his convictions and relentlessly translated the Bible and set people free from the bondage of man-made centralised doctrines

  14. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks, Claire, for this wonderful, insightful summary and for the link. I’m in the middle of a move but will watch it in a few weeks once I’m all settled into my new place. I think Henry’s fears were true–once the Bible was in every person’s hands, it became open to lots of opinions and interpretations. That must have been frightening to those who had worshipped one way all of their lives. All that change back and forth must have really seemed strange and uncomfortable–what a century! Again, thanks!

  15. Gerald Little says:

    I always felt that it was interesting that Tyndale made the offer to cease and desist so-to-speak if the King would put forth a Bible in English. Well the King did approve of Coverdale’s bible being made available to his subjects in 1535. And it was in 1535 that Tyndale was arrested. I wonder if there is a connection.

  16. Kaz says:

    We blindly take so many things for granted, like the English translated Bible…for example, my family is South American and my parents have a Spanish Bible – no way could I have read the Bible back when I was little…it has only been recently (a few years ago now) that I bought a youth version of the Bible so that I would be able to understand it easily….and to think this was Tyndale’s vision…and it all relates to King Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn and then their daughter who passed the reign on to King James who continued this project….so that we could all independently think of the Word of God for ourselves….it’s truly fascinating 🙂 Kind regards, thankyou as well for the summary of the program, always welcome here as live in Oz 🙂

  17. Tudor rose says:

    We have the break with Rome to thank for what happened if it was not for this Tudor England would have been a much better as well as safer place.

  18. BanditQueen says:

    As I have put in an earlier post: Tyndale was not executed for translating the Bible into English: he was executed as the European powers saw him as trouble. They executed him for general heretical beliefs and perverting what they saw as the ancient truth of the word of God as preserved in the Holy Catholic Church. He was also in trouble with Henry VIII as he disapproved of Henry’s divorce and said so.

    The ironic thing about Henry helping to co-operate with the capture of Tyndale is that Henry found him very convenient when he read his Obedience of a Christian Man, which in parts pointed out that Kings and not Popes make laws and that Kings are not subject to the laws of the Church. It was one of the texts that gave Henry the idea that he could separate himself from Rome and set up his own Church. Then with Anne as his new wife, for a short period William Tyndale had a royal patron and his Bible was available at the English Court at least. With the death of Anne in May 1536, any hope of protection that he may have had was gone and Henry encouraged the authorities to hunt him down, take him captive and execute him. That was ten years after his Bible was published so he was not directly executed just for translating the Bible and in any event what did the European powers care about the Bible being in English? No, but they cared that he was helping to spread the usual heresies of the day.

    The Tyndale English New Testament was the first printed Bible in 1526: it was not the first effort to put a Bible into English and it was not the only one done at the time. Sir Thomas More commented in 1523 that there existed in England many good and approved Catholic editions of the Bible in English. There were many private English Bibles in existence. Since the time of Alfred the Great there had been partial translations into first Anglo Saxon and then English. However after the conquest in 1066 there was less need for the Scriptures in English as the educated could read it in French and in Latin and the uneducated could have it read to them in Latin. Parts of the Scripture were translated to people being taught the faith and in schools in the parish set up. It is not correct that people did not understand the Latin, of course they did if it was taught to them. There is enough evidence to suggest that even ordinary people long before Wycliffe came along had enough Latin to sue their neighbours over even petty stuff. Scrawl on walls and other places in Latin and crude English show that people had a grasp of both languages in common use.

    There is also a lot of doubt about the known facts that point to Wycliffe translating the Bible into English. It is now believed that he gathered together the various partial translations and brought them together, adding commentary and his own version to the completed volume. Father Gasquet has done a lot of research in this area and later scholars agree with him. He cites in great detail many fine examples in The Early English Bible.

    I also find it very annoying that a known scholar and great presenter of the English language like Melvin Bragg should subscribe to the old fashioned Protestant platitudes about the Catholic Church withholding the Bible from the people. Hogwash!

    There was no formal policy in England to do this. There was a policy of caution against heretical errors being highlighted in versions that were not correct and a Bible could be translated in such a way as to point out beliefs that were not orthodox. The sacred scriptures could also be abused by being used to debate and argue in a crude manner in the taverns, as it is today. Children, however, were taught the Bible in the common tongue and how to translate it from Latin to English and back again. How else are they meant to know what it says? Priests, monks and nuns guided and taught people from Scripture to help them and to edify them. Private scriptures were allowed to edify an individual in whatever language they chose. It was not encouraged wide official versions of the scriptures in English as there was considered to be no need for it and it was feared it would encourage heretical writings. This proved to be true.

    However, there were in existence many partial translations of the psalms and the gospels and the paintings on the walls of churches were there to teach people who could not read the scripture and the lives of the saints. Readings were done in church both in Latin and in English by the sixteenth century. There was also a chained Bible or Breviary in the Church which was there for anyone to come into the Church and to read. If they could not read it then they could ask for it to be read to them. Libraries contained many religious books and translations in many languages of Books of the Bible: these were very expensive to produce, but they were also there for people to come and to read under supervision. In some cases rolls have been found with many names on them of people who actually borrowed the books and then returned them. These included Bibles or Gospel Books.

    William Tyndale had to go abroad not as he could not translate the Bible at all, but he could not find a sponsor to assist him or permission form Bishop Tunstall, who quite frankly in my opinion was a bit of a stick in the mud who was easily persuaded to Henry’s divorce. He does not represent the entire Catholic Church in England. In order to get his Bible done he had to take an assistant with him, an Augustine friar; but it was believed that his translation contained many errors and this was why it was banned in England. It was burnt, which is a great pity as I would have liked to have seen it debated actually to see what was wrong with it, but that was the way in those days and it would have been the same anywhere. Let us not forget that many great Catholic manuscripts were burnt and destroyed when the monastic houses were destroyed, many of them over 1000 years old.

    Even when King Henry and Thomas Cromwell got down to business and decided it was time to have an authorized translation of the Bible: part of which may have contained some of William Tyndale: it was not to be read by all. There had to be a copy of the Great Bible in every parish church, which they actually had to by a copy, so a money spinner for Cromwell and the Bible had more emphasis on the giving of the Word of God by the King and his supremacy than on the actual edifying use of sacred scripture. I suspect that Henry was as much flattered by the front page as he was by the contents. Then in 1539 Henry made new laws that allowed the reading of scripture but that forbade certain people not to read it: that included women who had to read with the supervision of their husbands. The educated class were alone in being allowed to read it and later in 1546 Henry complained that ‘precious jewel the Word of God’ was being abused in the taverns and abused by common people who used rude words when speaking about it. They were looking up the bits in the Song of Songs and laughing at them. He was sad and wanted it to be only used to raise the spirit. He was proved correct.

    The first printed Bibles may have after some time and corrections have led to the King James but they were full of errors and better translations have been made since then, as the original documents have been found. The Bible was authorized also by the Catholic Church as there were a number of brethren who were denied any spiritual comfort under Elizabeth due to persecution by her. But once the Bible was admitted to not just this country in the common tongue, but many others, Spain, Italy, France and Germany all had their own official versions first: there was no retreat from it and on the whole that was a good thing. As long as the sacred scripture is read for private devotion and under the authority of the Church so as it is kept from error and wild abuse, then it is a good thing having it now in many languages. I do not like to see it abused though or people to make wild claims about the scriptures for their own selfish ends. It is also best to read a version that is closer to the true meaning and the original languages than the King James. The KJ may be a beautiful and fine piece of literature, but it has many errors in it still. At the time of its publication it had to be recalled to amend it twice. King James VI and I had it made as he did not like the Geneva version but as it was brought together by so many scholars from the finest versions and commentaries we have a really good Bible.

    Having said this, though, now we have better documents for our use and translations can get us closer to the true and original meaning and if possible you should try to read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek and Tanaks are available in duel translation. The Word of God is for the lifting up of the soul and not for stupid debate or abuse. Unfortunately the fears of the Church have proven to be correct, and it is still that the Church is the guardian of Scripture and not the other way around.

    God bless.

  19. Valerie says:

    I thought this was was a great programme, very interesting, Bit annoyed at the misinformation about Anne and found myself shouting at the TV during that part, but apart from that it was very good. I have a copy of Tyndale’s New Testament and I’m in awe of his dedication and his devotion to bringing the Word of God to people in their own language. He knew what a risk he was taking but he still devoted his life to it. I don’t think I could be that brave.

  20. Denise says:

    Is there somewhere that one can view this? It is not on the BBC website and Youtube has removed it also.

    1. Claire says:

      No, sorry, not if it has been removed from YouTube.

  21. Tim Hosking says:

    I was disappointed that there was no mention made of Tyndale restoring God’s name to the Bible and that he used the name Jehovah which has become the accepted English version of that name.

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