Book Review: “William Tyndale” by Brian Moynahan


William Tyndale: If God Spare My Life
, by Brian Moynahan, Abacus, 2003.

William Tyndale was a pioneering Bible translator, whose work on the English Bible indirectly became 84 percent of the King James Version. Tyndale was converted to Lutheranism after studying at Cambridge – in fact he arrived at Cambridge one year before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg castle church door. His conversion to what was commonly known as the “evangelical” faith led him to leave England in order to translate the Word of God into English, from the original languages.

Once he left England, his work became infamous, and Tyndale himself became a wanted fugitive. The story of his life is one of hiding, working under cover of disguise and intrigue, and releasing his work into England from the Continent. His writings included direct attacks on the papacy, the clergy, commentaries, and treatises on King Henry VIII’s marriage issues. His greatest work was his monumental translation of all of the New Testament and a large part of the Old Testament. All the while, Tyndale was being relentlessly pursued by Sir Thomas More,  who was a powerful figure in the English state and a heretic-hunter. This tale becomes a dual biography of sorts, of both Tyndale and More.

While this biography is hardly hot off the press, it is excellent. Moynahan writes with energy and accuracy. The book is meticulously researched, with a stack of quotes from primary sources. It reads much like a thriller, and Moynahan’s depiction of the cat-and-mouse game between the Papist More and the Lutheran Tyndale, is exciting and intriguing. Apart from being a great read, Tyndale is a valuable window into the lives of Reformation Christians, and will help any reader better understand the times in which Tyndale lived. There are numerous lessons to be learned regarding the actions and attitudes of the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII, and even some of the Reformers.

The persecution and suffering undergone by the men and women who fought for the burgeoning Protestant faith was enormous, and Tyndale’s life exhibits this in spades. His faithfulness to his mission, his faith in his God, his love of the word of God, and his love of the English people, are wonderful examples. Tyndale’s life is an inspiration, and his work and legacy are extraordinary.

Highly recommended.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: “William Tyndale” by Brian Moynahan”

  1. Simon,
    I have Wycliffe on the brain just now. Your post is of course about Tyndale!
    When I think of Tyndale, I always think of Wycliffe too, and appreciate his contribution as a translator for the reasons outlined above.
    Perhaps this would be a worthy future topic.
    Rgds
    SDG

    1. Hi SDG,
      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that Wycliffe was also a huge figure in the English Reformation. He actually features at the beginning of this book, as a forerunner to Tyndale. Both he and Tyndale were burned for their heresy against the Roman church, though Wycliffe was burned after he had been dead and buried for some time. Unusual, I know, but that was the practice. I would thoroughly enjoy reading on Wycliffe, so if you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

  2. Simon,
    Its not my intention to stay ‘off topic’, but since you ask, and since this is such a good subject:

    A good ‘recent’ readable biography would be “John Wycliffe: The Dawn of the Reformation” by friend (long since gone to Glory) David Fountain. In my head I can still hear his soft voice urging the lessons of Wycliffe on my conscience! Rightly so when you read Wycliffe speaking about the Scriptures:

    “To be ignorant of the Scripture is the same thing as to be ignorant of Christ.” (On the Truth of the Holy Scripture, 1378).

    Wycliffe is so pithy, you could imagine him preaching today with clarity and great effect. But that is because he was a very ‘down to earth’ man, who only wanted to help those around him without his learning and language skills to hear Christ’s words for themselves.

    I think the time might be right for someone to write a new popular article on this great forerunner of the Reformation.

    I’d lend you my copy of DF’s helpful book, but it has gone the way of so many ‘loan copies’! Koorong have one if you are interested. There are also a number of downloadable old biographies around if you want them (http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biorpwycliffe.html)

    Now back to Tyndale ….. another worthy fellow countryman of enormous intellect and gift, who spent his life for his Master and the good of not only the English speaking peoples but the world. His work has stood the test of time, and his last words (open the King of Englands eyes) are as poignant as Latimer’s “….we shall this day light such a candle by Gods grace in England as I trust shall never be put out”. We are familiar with bush fires in Australia, and I think it is true to say that this candle in time set other parts of the world on fire with the Modern Missionary Movement which essentially started with Carey.
    Church and Christian history is such a useful and encouraging subject…
    SDG

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