We have in William Tyndale an example of a faithful servant who did not shrink from trying to better his conditions, yet he was nevertheless content to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ, if necessary. At length, however, we read of the translator’s true desire: “But most of all I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary, that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study.”
The climax of William Tyndale’s brief life occurred along a narrow alleyway leading to the home of Thomas Poyntz, the Englishman who had been his good patron. It was there, in Antwerp, that Tyndale’s traitor, Henry Philips, had befriended him — in a city friendly both to English merchants and Lutherans.
Now, with Tyndale’s benefactor away on business for a month, and Philips being invited for dinner, the stage was set for the treacherous young man to capture the English Lutheran so hated by Rome.
The alleyway that led to Poyntz’s home (and Tyndale’s lodgings) was too narrow for both men to enter at once, so Tyndale entered first, unaware of the two guards hidden on either side of the entrance to the house. The taller Philips followed behind him and, as recounted by John Foxe, ‘pointed with his finger over Master Tyndale’s head down to him, that the officers who sat at the door might see that it was he whom they should take.’
The translator had thus been betrayed in a manner uncannily similar to that of his Savior. Philips handed Tyndale over to the authorities, who seized his manuscripts and promptly imprisoned him at the well-fortified castle of Vilvoorde, just outside Brussels.
In a single moment, the decade-long flight of William Tyndale was over. Though the officers ‘pitied to see his simplicity when they took him in,’ Tyndale had foreseen his own fate earlier in life:
If they shall burn me, they shall do none other thing than I looked for. There is none other way into the kingdom of life than through persecution and suffering of pain, and of very death after the example of Christ.
Throughout much of sixteenth-century Europe, those who dared to translate the Word of God and thereby unchain it from its Latin coffin, faced the possibility of being burned alive. But the seeds of Lollardy, implanted in English soil a century and a half earlier by John Wycliffe, had come to sprout green shoots that gave fruit in the form of Tyndale’s Bible. For his efforts, the gifted linguist would suffer greatly for the sake of Christ.