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Impediments to Biblical Literacy
Volume 75, Program 27
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William Tyndale’s dream that common ploughboys would know more about the Bible than educated gentlemen must have seemed impossible. Learn more as Michael Farris reads an excerpt from his new book, From Tyndale to Madison, on today’s Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Farris:
The impediments for a ploughboy or any other layman to obtain a Bible, or knowledge of the Bible, in Tyndale’s day were daunting. As a result of the Constitutions of Oxford of 1408, it was illegal to translate any portion of the Bible into English without permission from a bishop. This enactment also prohibited anyone from owning such an English Bible. Violation of the law was considered heresy, a crime traditionally punishable by being burned at the stake.

But Tyndale successfully completed and printed his first translation of the New Testament early in 1526.

That summer, Cardinal Wolsey convened the bishops to consider the new threat. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that the translation should be burned. Orders were issued to booksellers to stop selling the work.

John Tewkesbury, a tradesman, was one of those arrested in this wave of heretic hunting. He was so badly tortured at the rack that he was nearly unable to walk. It was reported that Tewkesbury was so well-versed in “the doctrine of justification and all other articles of faith . . . that Bishop Tunstall and all his learned men, were ashamed that a leather-seller should [be able to] dispute with them, and with such power of the Scriptures and heavenly wisdom, that they were not able to resist him.” Despite this, he was burned at the stake.

Tewkesbury’s ability to defend the truth of scripture, demonstrates that Tyndale’s dream was being realized—he was succeeding in training up the common people to understand the Word of God.

I’m Mike Farris.

Program Offer

From Tyndale to Madison

Michael Farris

From the remarkable translation work of William Tyndale to the court intrigues of Henry VIII and Thomas More, the battle for the English Bible culminates in the venerable King James Version. Also detailed is the spread of the Reformation through the eyes of Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin—in their own, often surprising words. Read their incredible story.

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