Keith Sisman Ramsey church of Christ, England - Traces of the Kingdom


Tyndale, Bibles, Bishops and Guns!





2Ti 3:12  ‘Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’


When Tyndale’s New Testament first appeared in 1526, Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London employed Augustine Packington (the son of Sir John and Lady Ann Packington) to purchase all he could find for the purpose of having the translation burned.

Meanwhile, in Antwerp, Tyndale was greatly distressed. He had printed many copies of his New Testament and was aware of serious mistakes in translation and sought to make a better version, but his money had been spent on the first edition. For Tyndale the problem was irresolvable, and then into this dilemma Packington arrived. He explained his purpose, to purchase Tyndale’s translation for the purpose of burning. Both were happy, Tyndale having now the required financing for a second printing, and Packington having purchased the Bibles demanded by the Lord Bishop of London, Tunstall. All three were delighted, the Bishop of London had the Bibles for burning, Packington had the thanks from both, and Tyndale had the money, his cash-flow problems solved. Duly the Bibles were burned by the clergy in a big show for Londoners in Cheapside, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the Church of Christ that met in Bow Lane, who helped finance the translation.

In this era Bibles would have been a pile of sheets of paper, the owner would then take them to a book binder who would bind them. Depending on how much the owner was prepared to pay the finished result could vary considerably. If budget was limited the page edges would be torn (poorly cut) and the binding basic. If funds were available the finish was much superior. In this era a person could be burned for owning a Bible, it was banned for public ownership. Two scriptures tell us why; Eph 6:17 ‘And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ Heb 4:12 ‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ In debate in a deeply superstitious and theological society a person who knew the scriptures could prove their case. Later the famous atheist Voltaire (1694-1776) said of these Christians “their cause was just.” The answer against those in this “just cause” was to ban the scriptures. An able person with the scriptures could defeat with ease the State Church and its many errors. 2Ti 3:16; ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’ 2Ti 4:2 ‘Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.’


Now with the needed funding Tyndale was able to correct the New Testament and within months they were coming into England. The Bishop learning this sent for Packington, and said to him: ‘How comes it that there be so many New Testaments abroad? You promised me that you had bought all.’ Replied Packington, ‘Surely, I bought all there was to be had, but I perceive they have printed more since. I see it will never be better so long as they have letters and presses. Wherefore you were best to buy the presses too, and so you shall be sure.’ at which the Bishop smiled, and so the matter for Packington ended.

Soon after, George Constantine was apprehended by Sir Thomas More who was then Chancellor of England. Constantine was a member it seems of the church. Before interrogation More had Constantine shown and demonstrated various torture and interrogation techniques, as was the practise of the time. A good torturer seeking to make his victim amenable to discussing the matter at hand would demonstrate the tools of his trade and the skills he had to use his tools. Most of those thus having been spoken too were only too happy to oblige in sharing whatever needed sharing.

More then asks ‘Constantine, I would have thee plain with me in one thing that I will ask, and I promise thee I will shew thee favour in all other things whereof thou are accused. There is beyond the sea, Tyndale, Joye, and a great many more of you. I know they cannot live without help. There are some that help and succour them with money, and thou being one of them hadst thy part thereof and therefore knowest from whence it came. I pray thee tell me, who be they that help them thus?’ ‘My lord,’ said Constantine, ‘I will tell you truly. It is the Bishop of London that hath holpen us, for he hath bestowed among us a great deal of money upon the Testaments to burn them. And that hath been, and yet is, our only succour and comfort.’ ‘Now by my troth,’ quoth More, ‘I think even the same, for so much I told the Bishop before he went about it’. It is recorded by the historian Burnet that at Constantine’s answer all in the room erupted in laughter. 

Constantine walked free, Packington had kept to his contract and Tyndale was producing Bibles, having been financed generously by his enemy, the Lord Bishop of London. One way to make any work popular is to proclaim again it in public, having it burned which Tunstall had done. An aside to this story is Robert, another son of Sir John and Lady Ann Packington, was the first man to be murdered with a gun in London. On the 13th November 1536, Robert was shot. The plot was organised by Doctor Vincent, Dean of St. Paul's, who hired a stranger for sixty crowns to do the deed. Was this a revenge killing on Augustine, Robert being shot by mistake, we do not know but intrigue is a fascinating subject! Why would we can ask did Doctor Vincent order his death? St. Paul’s Cathedral was burned down in 1666 (Great Fire of London) and rebuilt later. Cheapside is about a minute’s walk away and Bow Lane, where the church met about five minutes walk. St. Paul’s was built on the former site of the temple to Diana on Ludgate Hill. Ludgate, one of the entrances into London was named after King Lud, who died in 743 BC. This area is known as the City of London, or the Square Mile. Greater London is made up of cities such as Westminster and various towns and villages, now all merged into one great city known simply as London.


Two revised versions were published in 1534 and 1536, both personally revised by Tyndale himself.  Tyndale was executed 1536 after strangling. Burning a person that era is one piece of evidence they were a member of the church. Tyndale’s dying prayer was that the King of England's eyes would be opened. Within two years Henry VIII authorised  the Great Bible for the Church of England, which was based on Tyndale’s translation. Slowly owning a Bible became legal, the King James Bible of 1611 was based on largely Tyndale’s Bible. 


Tyndale’s translation retained the words baptism and baptized, this may cause confusion but in that era it meant and only meant to immerse. Whilst the mode was correct the candidate was wrong, being an infant. Tyndale mocked infant Baptism which has caused problems with historians who thought he was being serious. Tyndale can be spelt Tindale; there was no standard spelling in the late Middle Ages.


Before Tyndale’s printed Bible came along, Bibles were copied by hand, along with inevitable mistakes. Those who had the scriptures had them in books, such as James. Tyndale changed this, the older Bibles were in Middle England, Tyndale’s version was in Early Modern English, and hence was easier to understand. Being printed it was affordable, these were huge steps forward. Tyndale use the Greek of Erasmus to correct his translation, which in prose is an updated version of the old Lollard Bible. Modern historians do their best to make Tyndale a Reformer and his Bible a product of the Reformation. They could not be further wrong. Tyndale’s Bible was not a result of the Reformation, it was a product of the then Churches of Christ whose members were persecuted and killed to give us the Bible in English. It was an updated Bible which the Churches of Christ had been using for centuries. Tyndale continued that tradition, which is continued today with versions such as the NKJ and MKJ. English is a evolving language and as such Bible versions need to kept up to date with modern English, which the NKJ and MKJ do very well.



Next page - Dr. Daniel Featley, one of the King James Bible translators and an adversary and witness of the Lord's Church in England in the early to mid 1600s. From Featley we can learn much from his book opposing the church of Christ - The Dippers dipt. Click on his portrait below to enter his page: