William Tyndale, English Bible Smuggler
Why Smuggle Bibles?
Jesus said, “Go into all the world and spread the gospel.” (See Mark 16:15.) He knew some places in the world would have laws against obeying his command. When officials told Peter and the other apostles not to teach people about Jesus, the apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Bible smugglers through the centuries have agreed with the apostles. They have taken Bibles into countries where officials do not approve of their activity.
A long time ago, nobody in England could read the Bible in English. Bibles were written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, but not English. Church leaders could read the Bible, because they had studied different languages in school. But few others knew what God’s Word really said.
The king of England and the church leaders did not want just anybody reading the Bible. “If anyone teaches the Bible in English, they must be punished!” the leaders said.
Needed: Bibles Anybody Can Read
William Tyndale lived in England in the 1500s. He could read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. But he was sad that most people would never know what the Bible said. “Everybody should have the opportunity to read God’s Word, even a plowman,” William thought. (A “plowman” is someone who plows, usually with a machine called a plow, or otherwise works on a farm. A plow breaks up the soil and turns it over to prepare the ground for planting seeds.)
William wanted to translate the Bible into English so more people could read it. Others had worked on English translations before. But few people had the opportunity to read them. A translation by John Wycliffe from the 1300s used old-fashioned language that was hard to understand.
William visited important church leaders to try to talk them into changing their minds about allowing an English Bible to be printed. “We need to have Bibles in English so all the people in England can learn more about God,” he told the leaders.
“Common people reading the Bible in English?” the leaders said. “That’s ridiculous! They would never understand it.”
Tyndale decided to move to Germany where he began translating the Bible into English without permission of the leaders. A printer helped him print many copies of small New Testaments. Then the books were secretly smuggled into England on ships, hidden inside bales of cotton and other goods.
Tyndale faced many hardships as he continued his work. Those who eagerly read his translations of God’s Word in English suffered punishment and persecution.
William was caught, imprisoned, and executed for his faithfulness to God. Before he died, he prayed, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!” A few years later, the king ordered that all churches display a Bible in English! Tyndale’s prayer was answered.
Today printing presses print millions of English Bibles every year. But in some places around the world, Christians are still not allowed to have Bibles in their own language. And courageous Christians are still persecuted for taking God’s Word to those places.
For more information about Bible Smuggling, download the 2nd quarter Kids of Courage newsletter in the free Downloads section of this site.
The William Tyndale story is featured on the children’s DVD Torchlighters: The William Tyndale Story, available at www.vombooks.com. Check www.torghlighters.org for related study guides and coloring pages.