In England in the 1500s, most parents could not read the Christmas story from the Bible to their children. Parents were not allowed to teach their children the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments in English, because it was against the law. Children did not learn the 23rd Psalm or any other Bible verses in English.
(Source: The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book, available at VOMBooks.com.)
Read below about one of the courageous Christians who made it possible for us to read the Bible in English today.
(The review that follows of the Torchlighters DVD The William Tyndale Story is by Elise Wixtrom, an American youth who writes reviews of VOM resources for readers of kidsofcourage.com. Enter “Elise” in the search box to read about Elise and to find more of her reviews.)
In the early 1500s, the Church of England did not allow the Bible to be taught in English. Instead, all of the sermons and hymns were in Latin. None of the working-class, common people knew what the Bible really said. They had to take the priests’ word for it. Since it was a crime to translate and teach the Bible, many brave men and women died trying to get the Word of God into the hands of the people who needed it the most. William Tyndale was one of those brave men.
William Tyndale was a language scholar and member of the Church of England. He saw how much the people of England needed the Word of God in their day-to-day lives. He saw how, because they didn’t understand the Bible, they couldn’t truly live by it. William Tyndale knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew very well, so he understood that the Bible said that, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). He began to translate the scriptures for the common man. He started with the Old Testament, which took him a very long time to complete.
Tyndale always hid from the Church the fact that he was translating the Bible into English, afraid that they would stop him from continuing. So when he finished his translations, he secretly passed them out to the people who wanted them. The government ordered book burnings of all the English translations they could find. At that point, Tyndale realized that he was no longer safe in England. So he fled to Germany with his New Testament translations, in order to complete the work that he had started.
While in Germany, he paid shipmen to smuggle New Testaments and other Christian literature back to England. It worked for a while, but soon enough King Henry of England found out about the work Tyndale was doing and sent someone to spy on him. The spy and his men arrested Tyndale for heresy. After many days of hearings, Tyndale was sentenced to death by burning at the stake. But he knew that he was doing God’s will by translating the Bible so that everyone could read the words of life.
William Tyndale was executed because he believed that everyone should have access to truth and wisdom. He believed that if a person did not have the right to gain knowledge, that person was enslaved. His story shows us how we all have a responsibility to defend the truth. We must not be quiet when we see something bad or untruthful happening. You must speak up when you know what is right.
Read more about William Tyndale and watch a trailer from The William Tyndale Storyhere.