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 Vol. 5, No. 12 

December 2003

~ Page 12 ~

I Am a Debtor

By Hugo McCord

Image The apostle Paul said that "I am a debtor both to the Greeks and foreigners, both to the wise and the unwise" (Romans 1:14). Hugo is a debtor to Paul and to countless others, living and dead. I have found, along with Jeremiah, "that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (10:23). Consequently, I am in debt to the Author of the one book of directions in this world that came from heaven. And I rejoice with David in saying,

The law of Yahweh is complete, refreshing the soul. The testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Yahweh are upright, rejoicing the heart. The commandments of Yahweh are clean, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7-8).

The ordinances of Yahweh are truth, and are altogether righteous. More to be desired are they than gold, even much refined gold; sweeter than honey, even the drippings of honeycombs. Moreover, by them is your servant admonished, and by observing them is a great reward (Psalm 19:9-11).

And I rejoice that Paul could say,

Every Scripture is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that God's man may be equipped and completely ready for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

John Wycliffe (1324-1384)

But for over 1200 years, after the apostle John wrote the last book of the New Testament about 96 A.D., there was no English translation. I am a debtor to John Wycliffe (1324-1384) who, from a Latin translation in the year he died, with a pen had written a translation of the New Testament in English. Yes, Wycliffe had to hand-write the 27 New Testament books, for John Gutenberg's printing press was yet 72 years in the future (1456). If you visit the British Museum in London, ask someone to show you the original handwritten New Testament, the first in the English language. In 1976, I was allowed to see that document!

But the Roman Catholic Church did not want the Bible put into English! Wycliffe died in 1384, but 44 years after his death the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Constance [Konstanz] in Switzerland, ordered that Wycliffe's tomb be opened, his bones removed and burnt, and the ashes thrown on the River Swift, which was done. In 1456, when John Gutenberg invented the printing press, he printed 100 copies of Jerome's Latin Vulgate in Latin, but none of Wycliffe's English New Testament.

William Tyndale (1484-1536)

I am a debtor to William Tyndale, born in Gloucestershire, England, a graduate of Oxford University, an expert in foreign languages, an ordained Roman Catholic priest. He found that, though the New Testament had been translated into English by John Wycliffe in 1384 from Jerome's Latin Vulgate, the New Testament had never been translated into English from the original Greek.

In 1516, Tyndale appealed to the Roman Catholic Bishop of London to produce an English version of the New Testament from the original Greek, but his request was turned down. Then Tyndale determined that he himself would translate the original Greek New Testament into English. One day he said to a fellow priest,

I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spares my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.

He wrote a letter to the king of England, Henry VIII, "offering my body to suffer what pain or torture, yea, what death his Grace will, so that this [an English translation from the Greek] may be obtained."

Tyndale had to give up trying to get any help in England, and went over to the European continent to continue his one-man efforts. As it developed, he would never see his homeland again.

In Cologne, Germany, he completed his English translation, and took his manuscript up the Rhine River to a printer in Worms. A year later, 6000 copies of his English New Testament were finally produced.

The pope did not want him to do it. Nor did the King of England. Or the Holy Roman Emperor. Yet, despite their formidable opposition, William Tyndale, an ordained priest, went ahead and did the unthinkable -- translate the Bible into English (Chuck Myers, Knight-Ridder News Service, The Oregonian, 8-23-97).

Smugglers managed to get a number of Tyndale's New Testament, shipped in hay, clothing and grain. However, most of them were confiscated by the custom agents in England, and then were burned outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London. English people were asked to contribute to what was called the "Bishops' Burn the Bible Fund," causing most of three editions to be burned.

In 1535, in Antwerp in Belgium, Tyndale was kidnapped by men loyal to the German emperor Charles V, a man loyal to the Pope. He was imprisoned for 16 months. Amazingly, in prison he began work on translating the Old Testament Hebrew in English! But a court convicted Tyndale of "heresy" and sentenced him to death. Charles V had made it a crime, punishable by torture, burning or burial alive, for anyone to read, purchase or possess any proscribed book or any New Testament prohibited by the theologians.

On October 6, 1536, Tyndale was tied to a stake in Antwerp, Belgium. According to John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Tyndale "cried with fervent zeal and a loud voice, 'Lord, open the eyes of the king of England!'" Soon the flames stopped his mouth.

Nearly a hundred years after Tyndale's prayer, the eyes of another king of England, James I, were open, and in 1611, he allowed what is called the King James Version to be published. The king's scholars used Tyndale's translation in many places:

And God said, LET THERE BE LIGHT (Genesis 1:3)


LET MY PEOPLE GO (Exodus 5:1)

Ye are the SALT OF THE EARTH (Matthew 5:13)

But can ye not discern THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES (Matthew 16:3)


Take thine ease, EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY (Luke 12:19)


THE POWERS THAT BE are ordained of God (Romans 13:1)

FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH (1 Timothy 6:12) (Chuck Myers, Knight-Ridder News Service, The Oregonian, 8-23-97).Image

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