Interview with Dr. Andre Gazal on William Tyndale

Published on November 3, 2017 by Joshua R Monroe

Greetings! I’m Fred Zaspel, executive editor here at Books At a Glance, and today we continue our discussion with Dr. Andre Gazal about the English Reformation.

Andre, welcome back!

Gazal:
Thank you, Fred; good to be back with you again.

 

Zaspel:
Today we want to talk about William Tyndale. First, maybe you could just introduce him to us. Who was William Tyndale?

Gazal:
William Tyndale was an English biblical scholar who, at the very risk of his life – and eventually he did pay the price for this – translated the entire New Testament directly from Greek into English. He was the first English scholar to have done that for us.

 

Zaspel:
Tell us about Tyndale’s dispute with George Joye. What’s that all about?

Gazal:
George Joye was one of Tyndale’s assistants on the Continent, helping him with his translation work. From what we understand, George Joye had some emotional problems, maybe some mental problems, but be that as it may, there was a falling out between the two of them resulting in a parting of ways. Eventually George Joye pirated some of Tyndale’s translations of the New Testament, which incurred Tyndale’s displeasure and very sharp response. Not only did he pirate them, but he also changed some of the translation, especially where it pertained to the doctrine of the resurrection. Rather than use the word resurrection of the body or of the flesh, Joye simply translated that as life coming back to life or words to that effect. So essentially Joye seemed to be denying physical resurrection, or at least that’s how Tyndale perceived it. This, in addition to the fact that he very improperly took it upon himself to alter Tyndale’s translation which he was not authorized to do in the first place.

 

Zaspel:
I expect that wouldn’t go over too well with Tyndale!
How much of the Authorized Version contains Tyndale’s work?

Gazal:
From what we understand, about nine tenths of the Authorized Version contains Tyndale’s work. As a matter of fact, let me read you a portion from Tyndale’s translation of 1 Corinthians 13. Tell me if it sounds familiar. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and yet had no love, I were even as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.”  Now, let’s move on to the authorized King James version: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I have become as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.”

 

Zaspel:
So, William Tyndale had as much to do with the King James version as King James did?

Gazal:
Actually, more so.

 

Zaspel:
Did Tyndale translate other portions of Scripture besides the New Testament?

Gazal:
Yes, he did – the Pentateuch in the book of Jonah.

 

Zaspel:
But he didn’t do any of the rest of the Old Testament?

Gazal:
No. He was intending to, but, unfortunately, he was captured in Belgium and was burned at the stake in 1536.

Miles Coverdale, one of his former assistants with whom he had a very good relationship, finished that work.

 

Zaspel:
Did Tyndale and George Joye ever have any other dealings together after the dispute you mentioned earlier? Or was that pretty much the end of it?

Gazal:
That was pretty much the end of it.

 

Zaspel:
Let’s talk about his theology: was Tyndale really a “Lutheran,” or was he a more independent thinker?

Gazal:
Well, certainly, while Tyndale agreed with Luther on many things, we cannot really say he was a Lutheran. In many ways, and in most instances, I would say he was more of an independent thinker. One author who has done a splendid job of demonstrating that has been Ralph Werrell in his important work, The Roots of William Tyndale’s Theology. We see, for instance, if you were to compare Tyndale’s prologue to the book of Romans with Luther’s, whereas some scholars say that all he did was just repeated it word for word, yet a close analysis of the two prologues shows that they are actually quite different. Tyndale actually goes beyond Luther on certain points with respect to the prologue. So Tyndale’s prologue to the book of Romans is very much different at many points than Luther’s. Secondly, one very telling difference between Tyndale and Luther, actually establishing Tyndale as something of a far more independent thinker, is his emphasis on the covenant as an interpretive paradigm throughout the Scriptures. And also, probably even more telling than that, is that he does not hold to as clear a distinction of law and gospel as Luther does. With that said, we could say that Tyndale in many instances probably had more in common with Wycliffite thought than with Lutheran thought on many counts. And that is largely due to the fact that in Gloucestershire, where he was from, there was a sizable Wycliffite presence.

 

Zaspel:
Would he have had more commonalities with Calvin than Luther?

Gazal:
To identify him with Calvin might be somewhat anachronistic, because Calvin is considered a second-generation reformer; but certainly, if we’re speaking in terms of anticipation, Tyndale would have far more in common with what would later become Reformed theology than Lutheran theology. And certainly, you could already see glimmers of that in his emphasis on the covenant and his emphasis on the Word of God as God’s law. Which is also a category that he most likely appropriated from some kind of a Wycliffite influence.

 

Zaspel:
What was the chief tool Tyndale used in his translation work?

Gazal:
Erasmus’s Novum Instrumentum Testamentum, which was his printed edition of the Greek New Testament, published in 1516.

 

Zaspel:
Maybe we should have planned to have a separate discussion on the influence of the printing press on the Reformation, right?

Gazal:
Oh, definitely.

 

Zaspel:
Did Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament challenge the ecclesiastical establishment?  If so, how?

Gazal:
It most certainly did, especially when he departed deliberately from a certain set of ecclesiastical translations of certain New Testament words. For instance, when it came to the word ecclesia, Tyndale translated that word as congregation rather than church, which would have been the traditional ecclesiastical rendering of that word. Another example of this is his translation of presbuteros, as senior or elder, rather than priest, which, again, during the late Middle Ages and certainly during the first part of the 16th century was the traditional ecclesiastical rendering of that word.

 

Zaspel:
What would you say is Tyndale’s most important work besides his translation of the New Testament?

Gazal:
His 1528 treatise entitled, The Obedience of the Christian Man.

 

Zaspel:
What’s that all about?

Gazal:
It’s the biblical doctrine of the idea of obedience. The polemical context is that he is vindicating Luther, going back to that discussion that we had just a moment ago. It was a vindication of Luther who was being accused by a very well-known Catholic critic at the time, John Fisher, of encouraging rebellion and disobedience to the civil order. Tyndale argues that all that Luther was doing (and then Tyndale goes beyond Luther) was exposing the illegitimate claims of authority made by the Pope. From there he goes on to say that the Bible, the Word of God, stipulates obedience to the following parties: first, to the King, given that context, and other princes; then obedience of service to masters, tenants to landlords, wives to husbands and then children to parents.

 

Zaspel:
We’re talking to Dr. Andre Gazal about the English Reformation. Next time he will be back with us talking about the role of Ann Boleyn.

Andre, thanks a lot for your help.

Gazal:
Thank you, Fred; it’s a pleasure to be on here with you.