Christians In History: William Tyndale

Christians In History: William Tyndale (1494-1536)

If you read any of the most popular translations of the New Testament, whether the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or New American Bible (NAB), you will read the work of William Tyndale. Often called the Father of the English Bible, he may be the single most important Bible translator in history.

Tyndale lived during The Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, which were periods of religious, artistic, political and economic upheaval in Europe following the Middle Ages. He was a brilliant linguist who was adept in many languages, including the original languages of the New Testament (Greek) and Old Testament (Hebrew).

In Tyndale’s time it was forbidden to produce an English language Bible. The Word of God was controlled by religious authorities who could read and understand Latin. Tyndale, like his contemporary Martin Luther, believed that all people should have access to sacred texts. He once promised that he would “cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures” than the clergy.

Seeking to make good on that promise, Tyndale went to continental Europe where he consulted with Martin Luther. Tyndale translated the New Testament into English using the same Greek text from which Luther made his German translation. Parts of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch and Jonah) also were translated from a Hebrew text. In order to complete these translations, Tyndale actually had to create new words, such as Jehovah, Passover, atonement, and scapegoat – to name a few. He also coined the familiar phrases: “let there be light,” “the powers that be,” “my brother’s keeper,” “it came to pass,” and many others.

By 1526, German printers had produced the Tyndale Bible and copies were being smuggled into England. Religious authorities were so alarmed that they made a practice of confiscating and buying up all of the copies they could find and burning them. In spite of this, Tyndale’s Bible continued to circulate.

Tyndale eventually incurred the wrath of King Henry VIII when he criticized the king’s divorce and remarriage. Charged with multiple heresies, Tyndale was hunted down and found in Antwerp, Belgium, where government authorities had him strangled and burned at the stake.

Ironically, shortly after Tyndale’s death, Henry VIII ordered the publication and countrywide distribution of The Great Bible, which borrows heavily from the Tyndale Bible. Subsequent English versions, like the Geneva Bible (1560) which the Pilgrims in 1620 brought to America on the Mayflower, and the ever popular King James Bible (1611), use about eighty (80) percent of Tyndale’s work. Even today, almost 500 years later, modern translators of the most popular English versions have retained many of Tyndale’s words, tones, cadences, and idioms.

Overconfidence In Recovery

Overconfidence In Recovery

If you’ve been in recovery for any period of time, you’ve probably been to a meeting attended by Mr. Recovery. Confident, witty, and quick to turn a phrase, he commands the respect of the entire room. Women love him, and men want to be like him. His breathtaking rise to the top of the AA/NA food chain took almost no time at all. He knows the program, and he feels just great. His life is back on track. Nothing and nobody can stop him. The group hangs on his every word as Mr. Recovery shares his pearls of wisdom for the advancement of all mankind.

There is only one problem. Shortly afterwards he relapses. Some of us, upon hearing that Mr. Recovery is in rehab throwing up on the detox techs, are left in dismay wringing our hands and telling ourselves that, gosh, it can happen to anybody.

Not so. In fact, relapse need never happen to anybody. Regardless of outward appearances, we will stay clean and sober if and only if we prayerfully rely on God.

None of us has the superpower within ourselves to overcome alcoholism and addiction. They are a chronic, physical disease that cannot be cured. We are powerless, as evidenced by our past personal histories based on hundreds or even thousands of experiences. We have to accept this. Not even the well-meaning people in our lives can supply this power deficit for us.

Make no mistake: not using always must be our first order of business – anywhere, any time, and under any circumstances. But we can only do this with God’s help. We “simply do not stop . . . so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.” Big Book, at 98. It is only when we express “a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves,” that “we commenced to get results.” Id., at 46.

Real recovery looks not so much like a hero’s rise to stardom as it does Paul’s experience with the thorn in the flesh described in 2 Corinthians. Although Paul pleaded for this physical malady to be taken away, God’s answer was a resounding no. In time, however, Paul came to understand not only that God’s grace was sufficient, but also that His power was made perfect in Paul’s weakness. Id. 12:8 – 9. Paul concluded the matter by stating that he might as well brag about his weaknesses, “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Id. Paul’s example is our blueprint for a lifetime of recovery with confidence.

Importantly, our reliance on God entails prayer. Its necessity cannot be overemphasized. Too often we reach for the formalities of AA without developing our relationship with God. We learn the protocol for meetings, memorize the steps and various sayings, and immerse ourselves in the recovery culture, and we assume that these things keep us sober. If we do this, we risk falling into the same trap that so many religious people do when their spirituality rests solely upon holding the right beliefs about God and belonging to the right churches. They become spectators, not participants, in faith. We can not pretend that any of these things substitute for the actual relationship with God that comes through prayer.

In Step 11 we improve our conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation, praying:
only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

We should take a minute to let the pointed simplicity of this step wash over us. It is worth noting here, too, that the Lord, on the only two recorded occasions where he expressly praises people for having faith, neither involves individuals who believe the right sacred facts, espouse the appropriate doctrines, or are members of the right religious denominations. In fact, it’s obvious they don’t. See Matthew 8:5-13 (faith of the Centurion) and Matthew 15:21-28 (faith of the Canaanite woman). What distinguished these people is that they sought the power of God in circumstances that everybody else thought impossible. They made their requests with humility and in faith, and they were not disappointed. Our experience today is no different. We can enjoy a lifetime of recovery, with complete confidence, when our recovery is based on God.