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William Tyndale

Today, 7 October, is yet another enigma in the Calendar of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Everyone else who commemorates William Tyndale follows John Foxe in assigning that celebration to 6 October. Since this provinces Revised Calendar of 1972, 6 October has had the celebration of The Saints and Martyrs of Asia. We know about this province’s doctrine of only one celebration per day (no choice in the Anglican Church of Or!!!) – but, I have asked people who were actually involved in this decisions, and I have not been able to find out why 6 October has been chosen for The Saints and Martyrs of Asia, and why that then has bumped William Tyndale to the next day, 7 October.

William Tyndale (c. 1494 – 1536) was an English priest. He was the first person to produce an English translation of the Bible directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts. Erasmus had made the Greek New Testament available in Europe. Tyndale was also the first English translator of the Bible to be able to use the printing press – a huge advantage. A strong linguist, there was no one good enough to teach him Hebrew – so he went to contintental Europe to learn that.

In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Chapter XII) Tyndale meets a scholar who says, “We were better to be without God’s laws than the pope’s.” Foxe records Tyndale’s reply: “”I defy the pope, and all his laws;” and added, “If God spared him life, ere many years he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than he did.””

Henry VIII’s men pursued him to continental Europe. In 1535, Tyndale was arrested for heresy. He was imprisoned near Brussels for over a year. He was tried, strangled, and burnt at the stake. His last words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

It is estimated that in the King James New Testament 84% comes from Tyndale’s Bible, and in the Old Testament 76% does.

These are some of the phrases we regularly use that go back to Tyndale:
* lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
* knock and it shall be opened unto you
* twinkling of an eye
* a moment in time
* fashion not yourselves to the world
* seek and you shall find
* ask and it shall be given you
* judge not that you not be judged
* the word of God which liveth and lasteth forever
* let there be light
* the powers that be
* my brother’s keeper
* the salt of the earth
* a law unto themselves
* filthy lucre
* it came to pass
* gave up the ghost
* the signs of the times
* the spirit is willing
* live and move and have our being
* fight the good fight
Tyndale also created some new words: Jehovah, Passover, scapegoat.

Tyndale used “overseer” where the church previously would have understood “bishop,” “elder” for “priest”, “congregation” rather than “Church”, and “love” rather than “charity”. These choices are taken up in the history of the King James Bible.

Foxe gives 6 October as the date of commemoration (his left-hand date column), but gives no date of death (his right-hand date column). Churches celebrate William Tyndale on 6 October. A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa celebrates “The Saints and Martyrs of Asia” on 6 October – why? I do not know. That Prayer Book also originally (mostly!) followed a doctrine of only one celebration per day, and so moved Tyndale’s celebration to 7 October. I do not know, even within the only-one-celebration-a-day doctrine, why Tyndale was not left on 6 October. Why could The Saints and Martyrs of Asia not be celebrated on 7 October? What is so special about 6 October in relation to The Saints and Martyrs of Asia that Tyndale was moved from his international celebration to make way for The Saints and Martyrs of Asia?

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4 thoughts on “William Tyndale”

  1. Dear Bosco,
    The obsession with only celebrating one person on each day led to me bringing a petition to the fist General Synod of which I was a member. For some reason those revising the Calendar decided in 1981 to give November 17 to Hugh of Lincoln and displace Hilda from that date, which was her traditional date, to another. My aunt Stella, who had attended St Hilda’s Collegiate back in the days of the Sisters, had taught there, and then been on the Board, was outraged and organised a petition, getting signatures particularly from school old girls [and boys – it used to have boys in the Junior School] and those parishes with that dedication, and asked me to present it, which I duly did at the start of the 1982 GS [“The Cold GS”], and eventually St Hilda was moved back to the 17th. Perhaps a petition to the GSTHW ?
    Tony Fitchett

    1. Thanks, Tony. Good story!

      All this, obviously doesn’t compare with Covid or Climate Change (my blog post today), and will reinforce some people’s impression that liturgy is about gnats rather than camels, but… [I’m imagining Monday’s meeting in the Vatican not having the same resonance if we did not recognise it being St Francis’ Day…]

      I am beginning to suspect we are the only province that has these: The Saints and Martyrs of Africa/The Americas/ Europe/ Asia/ The Pacific – am I correct? And, furthermore/hence, mostly their dates appear just randomly generated. In the case of Tyndale, it seems he was kicked off his feast day by a randomly-generated (as far as I can see) celebration of The Saints and Martyrs of Asia…

      I no longer share your sanguine attitude to GSTHW in relation to liturgy in our province: the 1989 A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa was passed by the twice-round formulary process of our Church. The book published in 2020, with the same name, has gone through no such process, and, in fact, defies GSTHW. [This is not even beginning to talk about liturgical practices of significant members of our GSTHW…]


  2. Dear Bosco,
    AS you say, climate change is a much more threatening issue than liturgical ill-discipline. But that doesn’t excuse the latter.
    I must admit I haven’t seen the new version of ANZPBHKMoA, but I still have vivid memories of the process that preceded the original publication – I was Clerk of Committee of General Synod, and the few days of the 1987 Special Session of GS at College House involved the hardest work in my life, not excluding being a paediatric house surgeon in Waikato in the winter in the early 1970s [quite different from nowadays – we worked ‘one in two’]. We worked all day, almost all of it in Committee, [so I had to concentrate all the time] going through the Prayerbook Commission’s text, at times word by word, and I had to record every change [and attempts at change] in the Committee Book. We worked till about 10.00pm or later, then adjourned so everyone could have a drink and go to bed, but George Connor and I would go through the text checking word for word that the Maori was accurate. Then George went to bed and I got down to transferring the changes to the ‘Deposited Copy’ for the printer to work from. I usually got to bed at about 4.00pm, and was up again by 8.00am at the latest to do it all over again. As well as that I had my own agenda, including opposing the proposed removal of The Churching of Women from being a formulary [successful], and adding a prayer for the birth mother in the case of adoption to the Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child [unsuccessful – for some unexplained reason Bp Brian Carroll was adamantly opposed].
    The Session finished about noon on the last day, and there was a Standing Committee meeting set down for the afternoon, after which I was to drive back to Dunedin giving Ken Booth and Stephen Brooker a lift. I got to the SC meeting, but right at the beginning John Paterson [then Provincial Secretary] said “I don’t think we’ve been looking after our Clerk of Committee very well” and moved that I be excused the meeting to get some sleep. So Ken and Stephen drove me [sleeping in the back seat] back to Dunedin that afternoon.
    I sometimes joke that I “wrote” ANZPBHKMoA.

    1. I was an observer at the GS 1987 Special Session, Tony [see the photo in my thesis page 68, and note 43 page 171].

      In a break at that, I suggested to the Chair of the Provincial Commission on Prayer Book Revision that, as GS was going through the book line by line, the “Eastertide” option in the Daily Services be changed from “Alleluia, Amen.” to “Amen, Alleluia.” so that, in the Easter Season, we wouldn’t get some saying “Amen”, others “Alleluia, Amen”, and yet others adding “Alleluia” after the Amen as they remembered it was Easter. I guess he though me forward and suggested I make the change when I was on the committee for the next prayer book.

      The Nicene Creed before that GS 1987 was a trial translation by ICET/ELLC – the final was soon to be produced. In a break, I suggested to the Chair that there be some possibility of having the final rather than this trial version in the published book. He said that the final would be in the published book and that the GS vote was simply for a placeholder. I contended that’s not how the voting works to which he responded that when the published book is out we will see which of us is correct. You know who is as we, as a Church, hold to a unique translation of the Nicene Creed shared by no one else.

      The 2020 book with the same name as ANZPBHKMoA is online here. As the Foreword of that book indicates, it is a collection of formularies and lots of other non-formularies. Even before the publication of this 2020 book, George Connor and Michael Hughes (the General Secretary of our Church) contended that the “ANZPBHKMoA” we vow and sign up to, and referred to in the Constitution, is not any of the physically published books of that name (the latest, as I indicated, defying GSTHW itself), but refers to all our liturgical formularies after BCP 1662. I think this highlights some of the confusions in our province.


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