William Tyndale

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It is impossible to preach Christ, except you preach against antichrist; that is to say, them which with their false doctrine and violence of sword enforce to quench the true doctrine of Christ.

William Tyndale (sometimes spelled Tindale, Tindall, Tindill, or Tyndall) (c. 1494 – 1536-09-06) was a 16th-century religious reformer and scholar who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day. On 6 September 1536, he was executed in Belgium by strangulation and then burned at the stake. Much of Tyndale's work eventually found its way to the King James Version (or Authorised Version) of the Bible, published in 1611, which, though the work of 54 independent scholars, is based primarily on Tyndale's translations.

See also Tyndale Bible


I never altered one syllable of God's Word against my conscience, nor would do this day, if all that is in earth, whether it be honor, pleasure, or riches, might be given me.
  • I had perceived by experience, how that it was impossible to stablish the lay people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text.
  • This word church has diverse significations.
    • An answer unto sir Thomas More's dialogue (1531).
  • Take heed, therefore, wicked prelates, blind leaders of the blind; indurate and obstinate hypocrites, take heed …. Ye will be the chiefest in Christ's flock, and yet will not keep one jot of the right way of his doctrine …ye keep thereof almost naught at all, but whatsoever soundeth to make of your bellies, to maintain your honour, whether in the Scripture, or in your own traditions, or in the pope's law, that ye compel the lay-people to observe; violently threatening them with your excommunications and curses, that they shall be damned, body and soul, if they keep them not. And if that help you not, then ye murder them mercilessly with the sword of the temporal powers, whom ye have made so blind that they be ready to slay whom ye command, and will not hear his cause examined, nor give him room to answer for himself.
    • Preface to The Practice of Prelates (1531).
  • I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus, that I never altered one syllable of God's Word against my conscience, nor would do this day, if all that is in earth, whether it be honor, pleasure, or riches, might be given me.
    • As quoted in the Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
  • Lord ope the King of England's eies.
    • Reputedly Tyndale's last words while tied to the stake, as quoted in the Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. Contemporary accounts do not mention this statement: "Contemporaries noted no such words, however, only that the strangling was bungled and that he suffered terribly." Brian Moynahan, in God’s Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible — A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal (2002) p. 377.
  • Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man's heart glad and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.
    • Selected Writings (2003) edited by David Daniell
  • He threatened me grievously, and reviled me.
    • Note: Tyndale had to appear before the administrator of the Worcester diocese on trumped-up heresy charges. Tyndale later recalled, adding that he had been treated like “a dog.” But there was no evidence to convict Tyndale of heresy.
    • The Watchtower 1995, 11/15. William Tyndale—A Man of Vision.

The Obedience of A Christian Man (1528)

If God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?
  • Christ is with us until the world’s end. Let his little flock be bold therefore.
    For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?
  • Mark this also, if God send thee to the sea, and promise to go with thee, and to bring thee safe to land, he will raise up a tempest against thee, to prove whether thou wilt abide by his word, and that thou mayest feel thy faith, and perceive his goodness. For if it were always fair weather, and thou never brought into such jeopardy, whence his mercy only delivered thee, thy faith should be but a presumption, and thou shouldest be ever unthankful to God and merciless unto thy neighbor.
  • If God promise riches, the way thereto is poverty. Whom he loveth, him he chasteneth: whom he exalteth, he casteth, down: whom he saveth, he damneth first. He bringeth no man to heaven, except he send him to hell first. If he promise life, he slayeth first: when he buildeth, he casteth all down first. He is no patcher; he cannot build on another man’s foundation.
    He will not work until all be past remedy, and brought unto such a case, that men may see, how that his hand, his power, his mercy, his goodness and truth, hath wrought altogether. He will let no man be partaker with him of his praise and glory. His works are wonderful, and contrary unto man’s works.
  • The preaching of God’s word is hateful and contrary unto them. Why? For it is impossible to preach Christ, except thou preach against antichrist; that is to say, them which with their false doctrine and violence of sword enforce to quench the true doctrine of Christ. And as thou canst heal no disease, except thou begin at the root; even so canst thou preach against no mischief, except thou begin at the bishops.
  • As Christ compareth the understanding of scripture to a key, so compareth he it to a net, and unto leaven, and unto many other things for certain properties. I marvel, therefore, that they boast not themselves of their net and leaven, as well as of their keys; for they are all one thing. But as Christ biddeth us beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, so beware of their counterfeited keys, and of their false net; which are their traditions and ceremonies, their hypocrisy and false doctrine, wherewith they catch, not souls unto Christ, but authority and riches unto themselves.
  • Let Christian kings therefore keep their faith and truth, and all lawful promises and bonds, not one with another only, but even with the Turk or whatsoever infidel it be. For so it is right before God; as the scriptures and ensamples of the bible testify.
Christ forbiddeth his disciples and that oft... to exalt themselves one above another in the kingdom of God
  • Christ forbiddeth his disciples and that oft... not only to climb above lords, kings, and emperors in worldly rule, but also to exalt themselves one above another in the kingdom of God: but in vain; for the pope would not hear it, though he had commanded it ten thousand times.
  • Understand therefore, that one thing in the scripture representeth divers things. A serpent figureth Christ in one place, and the devil in another; and a lion doth likewise. Christ by leaven signifieth God’s word in one place; and in another signifieth thereby the traditions of the Pharisees, which soured and altered God’s word for their advantage.
  • Though that at the beginning miracles were shewed through such ceremonies, to move the infidels to believe the word of God, as thou readest how the apostles anointed the sick with oil, and healed them; and Paul sent his pertelet or jerkin to the sick, and healed them also; yet was it not the ceremony that did the miracle, but faith of the preacher and the truth of God, which had promised to confirm and stablish his gospel with such miracles.
  • Where no promise of God is, there can be no faith, nor justifying, nor forgiveness of sins: for it is more than madness to look for any thing of God, save that he hath promised. How far he hath promised, so far is he bound to them that believe; and further not. To have a faith, therefore, or a trust in any thing, where God hath not promised, is plain idolatry, and a worshipping of thine own imagination instead of God. Let us see the pith of a ceremony or two, to judge the rest by. In conjuring of holy water, they pray that whosoever be sprinkled therewith may receive health as well of body as of soul: and likewise in making holy bread, and so forth in the conjurations of other ceremonies. Now we see by daily experience, that half their prayer is unheard. For no man receiveth health of body thereby.
    No more, of likelihood, do they of soul. Yea, we see also by experience, that no man receiveth health of soul thereby. For no man by sprinkling himself with holy water, and with eating holy bread, is more merciful than before, or forgiveth wrong, or becometh at one with his enemy, or is more patient, and less covetous, and so forth; which are the sure tokens of the soul-health.
By grace I understand the favor of God, and also the gifts and working of his Spirit in us...
  • By grace I understand the favor of God, and also the gifts and working of his Spirit in us; as love, kindness, patience, obedience, mercifulness, despising of worldly things, peace, concord, and such like. If after thou hast heard so many masses, matins, and evensongs, and after thou hast received holy bread, holy water, and the bishop’s blessing, or a cardinal’s or the pope’s, if thou wilt be more kind to thy neighbor, and love him better than before; if thou be more obedient unto thy superiors; more merciful, more ready to forgive wrong; done unto thee, more despisest the world, and more athirst after spiritual things; if after that a priest hath taken orders he be less covetous than before; if a wife, after so many and oft pilgrimages, be more chaste, more obedient unto her husband, more kind to her maids and other servants; if gentlemen, knights, lords, and kings and emperors, after they have said so often daily service with their chaplains, know more of Christ than before, and can better skill to rule their tenants, subjects, and realms christianly than before, and be content with their duties; then do such things increase grace. If not, it is a lie. Whether it be so or no, I report me to experience. If they have any other interpretations of justifying or grace, I pray them to teach it me; for I would gladly learn it.

Tyndale's translations

English phrases (with modernized spelling) that originate in Tyndale's translations of books of the Bible
Let there be lyghte.
  • In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
    • Genesis 1:1; archaic spelling: In the begynnynge God created heaven and erth.
  • Let there be light.
    • Genesis 1:3; archaic spelling: Let there be lyghte.
  • Am I my brother’s keeper?
    • Genesis 4:9.
  • The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
    • Numbers 6:24-26.
  • Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.
    • Matthew 5:4.
  • Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
    • Matthew 6:9
Fight the good fight.
  • The signs of the times.
    • Matthew 16:3.
  • The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
    • Matthew 26:41.
  • He went out . . . and wept bitterly.
    • Matthew 26:75.
  • In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...
    • John 1:1; archaic spelling: In the beginnynge was the worde and the worde was with God: and the worde was God. The same was in the beginnynge with God. All thinges were made by it and with out it was made nothinge that was made. In it was lyfe and the lyfe was ye lyght of men and the lyght shyneth in the darcknes but the darcknes comprehended it not.
  • In him we live, move and have our being.
    • Acts 17:28; archaic spelling: In him we lyve move and have oure beynge.
  • A law unto themselves.
    • Romans 2:14.
  • Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and yet had no love I were even as the sounding brass or as a tinkling cymbal.
    • 1 Corinthians 13:1.
  • Fight the good fight.
    • 1 Timothy 6:12; archaic spelling: Fyght ye good fyght of fayth.


  • Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.
    • This was used as an abolitionist and feminist slogan in the 19th century and has sometimes been attributed to Tyndale, but more frequently to Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, who has been cited as having wanted it to be the motto of the United States, as well as to Susan B. Anthony, who cited it as an "old Revolutionary maxim". The earliest definite citations of a source yet found in research for Wikiquote indicates that it was declared by Massachusetts Governor Simon Bradstreet after the overthrow of Dominion of New England Governor Edmund Andros in relation to the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, as quoted in Official Report of the Debates and Proceedings in the State Convention: assembled May 4th, 1853 (1853) by the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, p. 502. It is also quoted as a maxim that arose after the overthrow of Andros in A Book of New England Legends and Folk Lore (1883) by Samuel Adams Drake. p. 426

Quotes about Tyndale

  • Except for Geoffrey Chaucer I would think someone who comes closest to being authentically of Shakespeare's greatness, that is William Tyndale...who is the principal translator of [the King James Bible] ... I am not quite sure that I would agree that even Shakespeare could write more powerfully than William Tyndale in Tyndale's Bible, in his version of the story of Joseph. Unfortunately it vanishes in King James even though they use so much of Tyndale. There is a wonderful sentence, "And the Lord was with Joseph and he was a lucky fellow", which is superb and worthy of Shakespeare.
  • Tyndale founded English Puritanism as the theological, religious, and moral system that univocally regarded scripture as God's law for everyman, binding everyman and God together in a contract that enjoined and rewarded strict morality.
    • William A. Clebsch, England's Earliest Protestants, 1520–1535 (1980), p. 317
  • Tyndale, coming out of the remote Forest of Dean, hard by the Welsh border, somehow or other (and it remains a mystery to me how he did it, but it was an achievement comparable to Martin Luther's, in his German Bible) fashioned, in the pages of his New Testament, the English which we still speak and write; an English employing a vocabulary which if not at first universally understood and assimilated soon was; an English partly derived from the word order and sentence structure of the Greek and especially of the Hebrew biblical texts in which Tyndale, a remarkable and precocious classical philologist, was thoroughly proficient. Tyndale had an intuitive and strong sense of the affinity of English with these ancient tongues, an affinity which he believed was not to be found in the Latin language and in the Latin Bible.
    • Patrick Collinson, 'Introduction', This England: Essays on the English Nation and Commonwealth in the Sixteenth Century (2011), p. 6
  • [N]ow everyone learned what those specialists had always known: that for those parts of the Bible which Tyndale translated, the whole of the New Testament and much of the Old Testament, more than eighty per cent of the words in what we call the Authorised Version of 1611 are his. Such altogether memorable passages as the account of the Nativity in Matthew ('shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night'), and the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke ('father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son') are wholly his. It was Tyndale who gave us 'the burden and heat of the day', 'filthy lucre', 'God forbid', 'the salt of the earth', 'the powers that be', 'eat, drink and be merry'. The list is endless. What is extraordinary is that Tyndale's English is actually a more English English, more demotic in its language and tone, than the version of 1611 of three generations later, where a committee has smoothed over many rough edges and produced something more stately, more ecclesiastical, safer.
    • Patrick Collinson, 'Introduction', This England: Essays on the English Nation and Commonwealth in the Sixteenth Century (2011), pp. 6-7
  • Tyndall (who assuredlie sheweth himself in myn opynyon rather to be replete with venymous envye rancour and malice then with any good lerning vertue knowlage or discression).
    • Thomas Cromwell to Stephen Vaughan (May 1531), quoted in Roger Bigelow Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Volume I: Life, Letters to 1535 (1902), p. 336
  • William Tyndale gave us our English Bible. The sages assembled by King James to prepare the Authorised Version of 1611...took over Tyndale's work. Nine-tenths of the Authorised Version's New Testament is Tyndale's. The same is true of the first half of the Old Testament... William Tyndale was a most remarkable scholar and linguist, whose eight languages included skill in Greek and Hebrew far above the ordinary for an Englishman of the time... His unsurpassed ability was to work as a translator with the sounds and rhythms as well as the senses of English, to create unforgettable words, phrases, paragraphs and chapters, and to do so in a way that, again unusually for the time, is still, even today, direct and living: newspaper headlines still quote Tyndale, though unknowingly, and he has reached more people than even Shakespeare.
  • These opening chapters of Genesis are the first translations — not just the first printed, but the first translations — from Hebrew into English. This needs to be emphasized. Not only was the Hebrew language only known in England in 1529 and 1530 by, at the most, a tiny handful of scholars in Oxford and Cambridge, and quite possibly by none; that there was a language called Hebrew at all, or that it had any connection whatsoever with the Bible, would have been news to most of the ordinary population.
  • Tyndale was more than a mildly theological thinker. He is at last being understood as, theologically as well as linguistically, well ahead of his time. For him, as several decades later for Calvin... and in the 20th century Karl Barth) the overriding message of the New Testament is the sovereignty of God. Everything is contained in that. It must never, as he wrote, be lost from sight... Tyndale, we are now being shown, was original and new — except that he was also old, demonstrating the understanding of God as revealed in the whole New Testament. For Tyndale, God is, above all, sovereign, active in the individual and in history. He is the one as he put it, in whom alone is found salvation and flourishing.
  • Most important was Tyndale's Bible translation...which gave currency to Erasmian and Lutheran revisions of such crucial established concepts as ecclesia (church or congregation?) and presbyter (priest or elder?), and which was accompanied by powerfully reformist prefaces and prologues. Tunstall's attempt to stamp out this dangerous New Testament had greatly amused the reformers who financed further operations out of the money the bishop paid over in buying up the offending edition. In 1528 Tyndale also entered the lists as a theorist of politics when in his Obedience of a Christian Man he elaborated Luther's teaching on the subject's duty of submission to his secular ruler in ways highly satisfactory to Henry who read the book with pleasure; next year, however, Tyndale cast himself into outer darkness again by violently attacking the Divorce in a work, The Practice of Prelates, mainly concerned to blast Wolsey and the English hierarchy in general.
    • Geoffrey Elton, Reform and Reformation: England 1509–1558 (1977; 1984), p. 126
  • For this book is for me and all kings to read.
    • Henry VIII on Tyndale's The Obedience of a Christian Man (c. 1528), quoted in John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials: Relating Chiefly to Religion, and Its Reformation Under the Reigns of King Henry VIII., King Edward VI., and Queen Mary the First, Volume I (1816), p. 177
  • [H]is writing is the bedrock of English language and literature... Tyndale's best memorial is that whenever anyone writes or speaks well in English, she or he echoes the simple but majestic rhythms that Tyndale introduced. He showed that plain English was a mighty tongue. His voice is the forgotten ghost in the language... Tyndale had the revolutionary idea that the English of ordinary folk could be the finest literary language in the world. He was a passionate populist and democrat, as well as a rich scholar... [H]is words are blood and bone of the English language.
    • Philip Howard, 'Martyr for the common tongue', The Times (25 April 1992), p. 70
  • By sanctifying cruelty, early Christianity set a precedent for more than a millennium of systematic torture in Christian Europe. If you understand the expressions to burn at the stake, to hold his feet to the fire, to break a butterfly on the wheel, to be racked with pain, to be drawn and quartered, to disembowel, to flay, to press, the thumbscrew, the garrote, a slow burn, and the iron maiden (a hollow hinged statue lined with nails, later taken as the name of a heavy-metal rock band), you are familiar with a fraction of the ways that heretics were brutalized during the Middle Ages and early modern period. During the Spanish Inquisition, church officials concluded that the conversions of thousands of former Jews didn’t take. To compel the conversos to confess their hidden apostasy, the inquisitors tied their arms behind their backs, hoisted them by their wrists, and dropped them in a series of violent jerks, rupturing their tendons and pulling their arms out of their sockets. Many others were burned alive, a fate that also befell Michael Servetus for questioning the trinity, Giordano Bruno for believing (among other things) that the earth went around the sun, and William Tyndale for translating the Bible into English. Galileo, perhaps the most famous victim of the Inquisition, got off easy: he was only shown the instruments of torture (in particular, the rack) and was given the opportunity to recant for “having held and believed that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves.”


  • lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
  • knock and it shall be opened unto you
  • twinkling of an eye
  • a moment in time
  • fashion not yourselves to the world
  • seek and you shall find
  • eat, drink and be merry
  • ask and it shall be given you
  • judge not that you not be judged
  • the word of God which liveth and lasteth forever
  • let there be light
  • the powers that be
  • my brother's keeper
  • the salt of the earth
  • a law unto themselves
  • filthy lucre
  • it came to pass
  • gave up the ghost
  • the signs of the times
  • the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (which is like Luther's translation of Mathew 26,41: der Geist ist willig, aber das Fleisch ist schwach; Wyclif for example translated it with: for the spirit is ready, but the flesh is sick.)
  • live and move and have our being
  • fight the good fight
    • Shaheen, Naseeb (1999), Biblical references in Shakespeare's plays, University of Delaware Press, p. 18.
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