The vast majority of church-goers today understand very little about biblical history much less church history … that is the history of the church recorded since the New Testament through the present day. Many people read the New Testament and fail to realize the good, the bad and the ugly that has occurred since the first century and the impact that history has had on what we have come to know as ‘church’ today.
In Romans 15:4, Paul writes, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction.” Of course in this case he was specifically speaking of the Old Testament … Scripture. And yet, I am also a firm believer that all that has been recorded re: church history over the last two millennia is also for our instruction … we have as much to learn from our Christian forefathers as we do our Jewish forefathers.
This is not a new sentiment for me … but it is one that has been recently rekindled by the sermon series BRAND: New we are watching by Andy Stanley at North Point online … specifically Part 3 ‘Recycled’ on www.brandnewseries.org … A reference to William Tyndale in that message prompted me to also pick up and start reading the new book by Dr. Steven Lawson … The Daring Mission of William Tyndale from the series A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles.
And then today as I continued reading Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear I once again ran into a short but insightful passage on William Tyndale (1494-1536) … I share it here hoping that it might spark a little bit of interest into delving deeper into church history …
“… a young theological student name William Tyndale, devoted much of his life to translating the Bible into English. Every time Tyndale came to the word ekklesia in the Greek New Testament he translated it ‘congregation’ instead of ‘church’ because he wanted to reclaim the idea that the church was not a place to go but a movement to join.”
“This infuriated the authorities, because in so doing Tyndale had undercut their power, controlling the ‘places’ of worship meant controlling the people, and so when Tyndale downplayed the ‘place,’ he diminished their control. Places you could control; movements you cannot. They tried Tyndale as a heretic.”
“During his trial, Tyndale said to one church leader, ‘If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do.’ As he was burning at the stake, Tyndale’s last words were ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.’ (If you have a copy of the King James Bible (1611), you can see that God answered that prayer!)”
FYI … this little blurb, while very insightful, does very little to truly reveal what Tyndale’s lifetime devotion to translating the Bible really encompassed … you would not believe the risks and great lengths he had to go to translate, print and distribute the Bible to his English countrymen … his life story reads more like an espionage tale than Christian history.
Note: He was burned at the stake by Christians … let that soak in a minute. The authorities that were so infuriated were primarily from the Church of England but also from the Catholic Church as well.
Don’t underestimate the price paid by believers like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale and others that you might have and hold your own personal and readable English copy of the Bible. Too much blood has been shed to grant you and I such a privilege for our Bibles to sit dust covered and unopened in our closets and on our bookshelves.
A little bit of trivia and we’ll call it a post: I once read that the highest literacy rate ever experienced in the United States occurred while Thomas Jefferson was President. Why? One of the main reasons was that people wanted to be able to read their cherished personal Bibles (sorry, don’t have the reference for this bit of trivia … just the memory. But here is a link to an article about that high literacy rate).
Hope this peaks your interest a bit in chasing the history of the church and Christianity …