William Tyndale and the Vernacular Bible

Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) Annual Meeting

Washington, DC

My connection with William Tyndale and the English Standard Version, published by Crossway, which really is the inspiration of this hour, together goes back to 1961 when I was 15 years old. My parents gave me a copy of the Scofield Reference Bible on my fifteenth birthday. They wrote in it. I can picture my mother’s script so clearly, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book. Love mommy and daddy.” I underlined every page of that New Testament. I looked at it the other day. It’s the King James Version, of course. And it was my Bible until I turned 19. So, four years.

When I turned 19, I was at Wheaton College. And I can remember standing in the bookstore, being discontent with the antiquity of the language of the King James, in part. To this day, I can scarcely quote John 3:16 without saying whosoever. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not.” Whosoever, that’s the word I wanted to say. I can hardly not say whosoever. No translations use whosoever anymore. I still say whosoever.

So there it was, I had learned so much of it, and I was disillusioned, in part. There was, on the bottom shelf to my left, a stack of Bibles. I picked one up. It was the Revised Standard Version, and I bought it. And for the next thirty years, read it every day, same edition. I bought two others in the same edition with the same pagination and memorized it for thirty years. And it went out of print. And the New Revised Standard Version was not usable because it was not faithful enough to the original. And therefore I was stuck in leading my church and having the same Bible that I had to use.

And so, I was thrilled several years ago when I found out that Crossway was in negotiations with the National Council of Churches to purchase the copyright of the Revised Standard Version and make it the basis of the English Standard Version, which is what it is so that as I read the English Standard Version, I feel at home. This is my legacy, Revised Standard Version, King James Version, William Tyndale. I didn’t know that about William Tyndale until a year or so ago. But that’s my connection. And you’ll see the amazing influence of William Tyndale on the English Standard Version in just a moment.

William Tyndale’s Legacy

In 1531, Tyndale was 37 years old, and he was in hiding on the continent. His homeland, of course, was England. If he had come home, Thomas More, A Man of All Seasons, would have burned him alive because he hated him with a rabid hatred. And he hated his doctrines, which are Reformation doctrines, and he wrote a letter to the King from the Netherlands that went like this,

I assure you, if it would stand with the king’s most gracious pleasure to grant only a bare text of the Scriptures. [That means without any explanatory notes.] To put forth among the subjects of the emperor in these parts, and of other Christian princes, I shall immediately make a faithful promise never to write more, and not abide two days in these parts after the same but immediately to repair unto his realm, and there most humbly submit myself at the feet of his royal majesty. [He’s talking to King Henry VIII.]

His royal majesty, offering my body to suffer what pain or torture, yea, what death his grace will, so this translation be obtained. Until that time I will abide the asperity of all chances whatsoever shall come, and endure my life in as many pains as it is able to bear and suffer.

In other words, “I will come back to England, as you have mandated me to under one condition, that you will authorize an English translation of the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament. I will come back to you and give myself up if you will do that.” And of course, the King would not do it, and More would not do it, and Tyndale would pay five years later with his life.

Every day, nine years earlier, he was a kind of counselor or mentor in the house of a man in England, as he was reading the Greek New Testament of Erasmus. And as he was reading this, he was falling in love with the doctrines of the Reformation as a Catholic priest. And he began to get a reputation of being a dangerous person. And Catholic priests would come through and have dinner with him. And he would get into disputes with them in England.

And there was one famous encounter that you’ve all heard of because he spoke his second most famous words in this encounter. An exasperated Catholic priest said to him, “We were better to be without God’s law than the pope’s law.” And in response to that, Tyndale said, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God should spare my life for many years, I will cause a boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.”

And four years later, he finished his Greek New Testament translation into English and began to smuggle it into England from the Netherlands in bales of cotton. And it was burned by Bishop Tunstall and declared against the law. And five pirated additions occurred in the next eight years, 3000 copies were in the hands of people quickly. And there was no stopping the English New Testament after that.

For the first time in history, there was a translation in English of the Greek New Testament. Wycliffe’s efforts, 130 years earlier, were all from the Latin Vulgate, and this was the first printed English New Testament. Before he was martyred in 1536, he had completed not only the New Testament, but all of the Pentateuch, all of Joshua to 2 Chronicles and Jonah. All of that went into the Great Bible, Myles Coverdale. All of it went into the Geneva Bible, the Bible of the Nation. One million copies sold while it was in print. And all of it went into the King James Version of the Bible.

We cannot overstate, well, I suppose we could, but we seldom do, the influence of William Tyndale on our language. And to give you a flavor of the extent of his influence in the translation of the King James Version, let me read this quote from David Daniell. He’s the one who wrote the main biography, that’s recent and it was so good. I could hardly put it down. I’ve commended it very, very highly. He said this,

William Tyndale gave us our English Bible. The sages assembled by King James to prepare the Authorized Version of 1611, so often praised for unlikely corporate inspiration, took over Tyndale’s work. Nine-tenths of the Authorized Version’s New Testament is Tyndale’s. The same is true of the first half of the Old Testament, which was as far as he was able to get before he was executed outside Brussels in 1536.

Let me give you a sampling of the words that are virtually unchanged, little teeny changes of the thees and thous, and that sort of change still in the ESV to this day.

  • Let there be light (Genesis 1:3).
  • Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
  • The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24–26)

I get really moved. I use that almost every Sunday in my church, and to think I’m using the very words of William Tyndale, who was burned to put it in English for me, it’s really moving to me. Those are his very words. He thought up that translation five hundred years ago, and we still use it verbatim today, minus the thee.

  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
  • There were shepherds abiding in the field (Luke 2:8).
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
  • Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9).
  • The signs of the times (Matthew 16:3).
  • The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
  • He went out and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75).
  • A law unto themselves (Romans 2:14).
  • In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)
  • Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (1 Corinthians 13:1).
  • Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12).

Every word from William Tyndale, and thousands more. Here’s what Daniell said, to quote, “Newspaper headlines still quote Tyndale, though unknowingly, and he has reached more people than even Shakespeare.” Now, that was not only an amazing literary accomplishment, it was an amazing theological experience. It was, in fact, a theological explosion. And the explosion cost him his life. It was precisely the theological explosion that cost him his life.

So, how did he do this? What was the nature of this man, the nature of his theology that was driving him? Was it just this antiquarian interest, that this is a classic? And it’s good to have classics around. Or was it something deeper than that?

Tyndale and Erasmus

Now, to get a flavor for this man’s commitments, I found it helpful to contrast him and compare him with Erasmus. A new book was just published on it by Erasmus, trying to redeem him from some of his hiddenness. And I like William Tyndale.

Erasmus was 28 years older than William Tyndale. They both died in 1536. Tyndale was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church. Erasmus, a respected leader of the murdering church. They both had been in Oxford. And we don’t know if they met each other, perhaps, perhaps not. The similarities are remarkable as are the differences. Both were incredible linguists.

Erasmus, a Latin scholar printed the first Greek New Testament. Tyndale knew eight languages: Latin, Greek, German, French, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, and English. Both men loved the power of language and used it to the full. Both were craftsmen in the way they thought through their use of the English language and were very creative in their expressions and very compelling.

Both loved the thought of a vernacular translation. Erasmus wasn’t eager to burn anybody for doing this as Thomas More was and did in his backyard. Erasmus said he longed that every woman and every boy and man would read in their own language the New Testament. And so, on that, they were agreed.

They were both agreed that the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in morality and in the monasteries were abominable and needed to be reformed. However, there was a massive difference between these men. And the difference lay in their deep, deep spiritual responses to biblical truth.

Erasmus and Luther had clashed, as you know, over the issue of the freedom of the will, writing their respective books. Luther arguing that the will was in bondage to sin. And we were incapable of remedying our condition. And Erasmus defending self-determination.

Tyndale loved Luther. And he loved what he stood for. And he loved his doctrines, and he lived for them. So he wrote this,

Our will is locked and knit faster under the will of the devil than could a hundred thousand chains bind a man to a post, because by nature we are evil. Therefore, we both think and do evil, and are under vengeance under the law, condemned to eternal damnation by the law, and are contrary to the will of God in all our will and in all things consent to the will of the fiend. It is not possible for a natural man to consent to the law, that it should be good, or that God should be righteous, which maketh the law.

Now, that view of human sin and bondage to it set the stage for the seriousness with which he took the gospel and set him apart tremendously from Erasmus and Thomas More. These men did not see the seriousness of the human condition the way William Tyndale and Martin Luther did. And therefore, their apprehension of, and love for, the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace and the salvation of sinners was thin.

When Tyndale spoke these words with explosive power, as he saw the Reformers doctrines reflected in the New Testament, whereas when Erasmus wrote, he wrote of what he called the Philosopia Christi, the Philosophy of Christ. And there was a massive difference between that and the horrible condition that we humans are in and the glorious blood-bought salvation that was wrought in Jesus Christ for enslaved and hopeless sinners.

Erasmus does not live in this atmosphere. He doesn’t live in the atmosphere of the Reformation, and what was being seen about the nature of the human condition, and what was being wrought by God in the cross, and what was being purchased by his blood. Erasmus has the appearance of reform, but something is missing.

To walk from Erasmus to Tyndale, and here, I think back on my Western civ classes at Wheaton. And I get a little bit ticked, because while it is most certainly true that Erasmus should be read as the premier humanist of that century, it would have been helpful to have pointed out to me that there was an alternative view. And for some reason I missed it, maybe it was pointed out. It was my fault that this man stood for doctrines that would get William Tyndale burned at the stake, and cruised to his death in old age without being burned himself.

When you move from Erasmus to Tyndale, to use the words of Mark Twain, you move from a lightning bug to a lightning bolt. David Daniell put it like this, “Something in the Enchiridion.” And William Tyndale translated the Enchiridion into English, which Erasmus wrote.

Something in Enchiridion is missing. It is a masterpiece of humanist piety, but the activity of Christ in the gospels, and especially his work of salvation, so strongly detailed there in the Epistles of Paul, is largely missing. Christologically, where Luther thunders, Erasmus makes a sweet sound. What to Tyndale was an impregnable stronghold, feels in the Enchiridion like a summer pavilion.

Where Luther and Tyndale were blood earnest about our desperate condition in bondage to sin and the glory and the gore of the salvation that was wrought for us at Calvary, Erasmus and Thomas More joked and bantered in their letters back and forth about these things. When Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door at the risk of his life, Erasmus wrote and sent a copy of them to Thomas More in a jocular letter, including the anti-papal games and witty satirical diatribes, and so on.

Now, the reason I linger here in this contrast between Tyndale and Erasmus, is because I don’t think we can understand what was driving the translation of the New Testament without this. There is no humanist, antiquarian interest in classical documents, driving William Tyndale. You don’t get burned for that. This was a matter of absolutely infinite importance to William Tyndale, that people understand the difference between him and Erasmus, between him and Thomas More. It was huge.

There was an elitist layered nuancing of church tradition and biblical talk with the kind of Erasmus, Thomas More, high-brow academic talk. They satirize the monasteries. They didn’t groan over the monasteries. And in this, they were very much like a lot of people today. A lot of notable spokesmen for the evangelical cause are like Erasmus, and not Tyndale. Key writers for the emergent church sound to me, just like Erasmus, and worlds apart from William Tyndale. I could name other certain movements.

Listen to this word from Daniell, the biographer. See if you don’t hear anybody, hear any 21st-century evangelical writers in this:

Not only is there no fully realized Christ or devil in Erasmus’s book, there’s a touch of irony about it all. With the feeling of the writer cultivating a faintly superior ambiguity, as if to be dogmatic, for example, about the full theology of the work of Christ was to be rather distasteful. By contrast William Tyndale is ferociously single-minded. The matter in hand, the immediate access of the soul to God without intermediary, is far too important for hints of faintly ironic superiority. Tyndale is as four-square as a carpenter’s tool, but in Erasmus’s account of the origins of his book, there is a touch of the sort of layering of ironies found in the games with personae.

What drove Tyndale to sing one note, all of his life to the grave, was his rock-solid conviction that all humans are in bondage to sin, blind, dead, damned, hell-bound, and helpless. And that God had acted in Christ at the cost of his son’s blood to liberate human beings from his own damnation and wrath. He was simply gripped by the glory of this blood-bought salvation. And he saw it locked up and invisible in the Latin Bible and the church structures, intentionally kept from the people.

There was only one hope. And that was liberation from the bonds of sin through the preaching of the full old gospel revealed in the Bible. And that had to be made available. And the church would not let it be made available. So, he wrote, this is Tyndale:

By grace . . . we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed [sic] in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel: and when the gospel is preached to us [it] openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfill it and sorrow because we do not.

In other words, this massive dose of bondage to sin, awareness of damnation, awareness of hell, and awareness of wrath caused him to so sweetly embrace the salvation offered by God in the gospel. Erasmus, Thomas More, and the elites weren’t operating in this sphere. There was no lightning bolt of blood-bought gospel in Erasmus, scarcely a hint of the blood. But for Tyndale, it was everything.

The Gospel According to an Idolater of the First-Order

In much of evangelicalism today, the doctrine of hell, sin, damnation, wrath are swept away, and with them, the penal substitutionary atonement must go, and with it, the gospel. For example, thank you, Justin, I had seen this the day before you sent, you sent this morning, probably put it up last night on your blog. So, Hugh Hughett, would be happy of what’s happening right now. That I won’t name any names here. Though, I’m really tempted to because I could really implicate a lot of people.

But I’ll just give you the quote from a well-known youth spokesman published in a well-known mainline youth ministries magazine just said this,

Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff [like God’s sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc.], remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell. . . . I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am. (“The Limits of God’s Grace”)

That’s Erasmus to the core. That’s the spirit of Erasmus. Only worse, perhaps. Flying under the banner of evangelical youth ministry. Hell, sin, atonement, sovereign grace were not weighty realities for Erasmus and Thomas More. They were everything for William Tyndale, which is why he was burned at the stake, especially the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

When all is said and done, there were numerous reasons. This is the main one. This is what he wrote about that:

By faith are we saved only in believing the promises. And though faith be never without love and good works, yet is our saving imputed neither to love nor unto good works but unto faith only

That’s what he died for. And I’ll show you that in a few minutes. Man is lost, condemned, hell-bound, under wrath, Christ bears everything, provides everything, and is embraced by faith alone as our total sufficiency. And that got him killed. And that’s why he wanted to translate the Bible. That’s the main reason he wanted to translate the Bible.

Prohibition on Translating the Bible

If you ask, as I did in reading this history, I just asked, I find it incomprehensible that the church could burn people alive for reading an English Bible. That’s incomprehensible, is it not? And yet, it happened.

For example, the dramatist John Bale, 1495 to 1563, as a boy of 11, watched the burning of a young man of Norwich for possessing the Lord’s Prayer in English. John Fox records seven Lollards burned at Coventry in 1519 for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer in English. The Roman Catholic Church burned people alive for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer in English. You got to ask, why? Why hatred for the Bible in the vernacular? What is going on?

There were reasons. Some were surface reasons and some were the real reasons. I’ll give you the surface reasons as I found them articulated in the defenses of killing Bible readers.

  1. The English language is rude and unworthy of the exalted language of God’s word.
  2. When one translates, errors creep in. So, it is safer not to translate.
  3. The Bible, if it is in English, each man will become his own interpreter and they may go astray into heresy and perish. Therefore, it is a loving thing, not to subject them to that damnable possibility.
  4. Holy priests are given the divine grace to understand the Scriptures, but not the lay people.
  5. Special sacramental value adheres to the Latin service in which the people cannot understand but receive grace.

Those are the superficial reasons given for why they stood so lovingly against the translation of the Bible into English. There were real reasons, deeper reasons. They were both power reasons, ecclesiastical reasons, and ultimately theological reasons.

Thomas More, who hated William Tyndale and burned Bible lovers in his backyard, wrote three-fourths of a million words against William Tyndale using language that we usually associate with Martin Luther, only worse. He hated him and he hated what he stood for. And it boiled down to the translation of five words, which if they were translated the way Tyndale translated them would undermine Thomas More’s job and life, and the Roman Catholic system. And these were the words.

He translated presbuteros as elder, not priest. He translated ekklésia as congregation, not church. He translated metanoeó as repent and not do penance. He translated exomologeó as acknowledge or admit instead of confess. And he translated agape as love, not charity.

And David Daniell, the biographer, comments like this, “He cannot possibly have been unaware that those words in particular undercut the entire sacramental structure of the thousand-year church throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was the Greek New Testament that was doing the undercutting.”

So, with the doctrinal undermining of these ecclesiastical pillars of priesthood, penance, and confession, the power would be broken. And in fact, it was broken. And Britain did not become a Catholic nation, but a Puritan nation because of the Bible.

The Cost of Bible Translation

On May 21st, 1535, he came to the end of his freedom. And I’ll move to the end of his life here and try to point out in the way he died, how central the doctrine of justification by faith alone was in what he believed, and why he translated, and why he was burned at the stake. It was May 21st, 1535, he was in Antwerp. And Henry Phillips, an Englishman at the instigation of the powers that betrayed him into the hands of the church.

He had been living in exile hidden for twelve years. And now he was caught. And he was taken to the Castle of Vilvoorde, six miles north of Brussels. And there he stayed for 18 months until he was burned. The charge was heresy, with not agreeing with the Holy Roman Emperor. In a nutshell, with being a Lutheran. The Catholic center in Louvain, a few miles away, provided a four-man commissioning team to investigate and demonstrate his heresy. They spent from May through the fall, examining him. One of them named LaThomas, filled three books with his observations concerning William Tyndale. And Tyndale wrote one book in his defense during those months. And as you might guess, it had this title Sola Fides Justificat apud Deum — faith alone Justifies before God. That was the issue.

And that’s what he wrote his last book defending. And that is why his fate was sealed and he would be burned alive because he would not compromise that our works had no hand in the ground of our salvation. These are not easy months in prison. It was a long, slow dying. We have one sweet letter, is so good. We have one letter from that period. It was September 1535 beginning to get cool in the prison. He’d been there since May. It was in the midst of all this grilling.

And he wrote this to the man in charge of the prison because they had confiscated all of his stuff and had it in storage somewhere. He still dreamed that there might be a possibility he would get out. And this is what he wrote,

I beg your lordship, and that of the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter, you will request the commissary to have the kindness to send me, from the goods of mine which he has, a warmer cap. For I suffer greatly from cold in my head, and am afflicted greatly by a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased in this cell; a warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin; a piece of cloth too, to patch my leggings.

My overcoat is worn out. My shirts are also worn out. He has a woolen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth to put on above. He also has warmer night-caps, and I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening. It is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark.

But most of all, I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary that I will be kindly permitted to have a Hebrew Bible, a Hebrew grammar, and a Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study. [In other words, his work wasn’t done yet. He hadn’t finished the Old Testament.]

That I may pass the time in that study. In return, may you obtain what you most desire, so only that it be for the salvation of your soul. But if any other decision has been taken concerning me to be carried out before winter, I will be patient, abiding the will of God, to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit, I pray, may ever direct your heart. Amen. William Tyndale.

We don’t know if that request was ever fulfilled. What we know is that August of the next year, he was degraded from the priesthood. And then in October, traditionally, the date is set on October 6, he was tied to the stake. And because he had been a priest, was granted the mercy of being strangled by the executioner, and then burned.

His last words, according to John Fox, were probably the most famous: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Do you know that three years later, the Bible was published in English? The very Tunstall, who burned William Tyndale’s Bible in 1526, authorized it, sheer politics, the shifting of the vagaries of power. He will do whatever he has to do.

Well, what shall we learn from this? I have three concluding exhortations for the Evangelical Theological Society, and for those of us who love being a part of it, love the name evangelical, and love the church of Jesus Christ and the mission that we’ve been given. So, here are a few pastoral exhortations.

Pastoral Exhortations

1. Don’t play games here. Don’t play Erasmian games here. Don’t be cool, clever-hit, nuanced, rhetorically impressive Erasmuses. Be blood earnest Tyndales. It matters. This is the evangelical gospel blood-bought, agonizingly bought Evangelical Theological Society. You are not like any society in the world. No games here. It’s just too serious. Erasmus couldn’t be serious. And some academics are constitutionally incapable of seriousness, it seems. And I’m pleading with you, no games here. That’s number one.

2. Don’t minimize truth or doctrine, especially the doctrines of sin and wrath, and hell and grace, and justification by faith alone apart from works of the law. Give yourself to your great calling, ETS.

There was a generation that paid with its blood just to put the Bible, just to put this book in English. They paid with their blood. Eighteen months of shivering cold with a constant cough, unwilling to sign off on the doctrine of justification or stop translating the Bible in such a way that would make it plain, cost him his life. So, brothers and sisters, please be willing to pay that academically, relationally, physically. Be willing to pay that, to preserve it, defend it, explain it, apply it, and live it.

I was reflecting this afternoon. I thought I might say, and I’ll say what I thought. I might say without saying it because I’m not sure it’s true. But I think this might be the most important group of people in America that comes to these meetings. I think that might be true. I mean, not because you’re anybody, just because you handle the most important thing and you teach people how to handle it. I think if I just think that through who are the most important people in the world, they are the ones who handle the most important treasures and teach others how to handle them and live them. So, I just don’t think it gets much more significant than you are.

And so, any thought of making light of this, I mean, I was talking to my assistant earlier about when I was an academic back at Bethel, how unbelievably strong was the temptation, “Just get your name in one of these seminars. It’s the academic thing to do, a notch in your gun. I read a paper at so-and-so.” What a vile motivation? And it’s rampant. It’s just rampant.

And Wayne Grudem, bless his heart, said to me a few years ago, “Piper, you’re not coming to these things often enough.” Because I’m a pastor and I don’t know if I belong anymore. And he said, “You need to come because you’re just too powerful. Everybody around you likes you. And they all agree with you. Nobody’s going to criticize you at Bethlehem. And you come here, you’re going to get criticized. You need that.”

So, I started coming. And it just occurs to me that if I were to read a paper, and this just tells you I’m going to stop right now. If I were to read a paper, I would try not to fill the time up, because I really need to hear back from people. Because if I come here, it’s not to impress anybody with the paper. I got more important things to do than impress people with reading papers. But I really do want to get things right. I don’t want to mislead my people. I don’t want to get into doctrines wrong. So many plates will break if I drop the tray. So, let me pray. And then I think we can take about 10 minutes for questions.

So, this wasn’t planned to have a Q&A, but I finished early. So, raise your hand. And I will say I don’t know, probably, but go ahead and try me.

What’s the third point?

I did have three. You know what I did? I combined one and two. I had games, earnest, and doctrine written in the margin. Don’t play games. That’s a negative-positive. Do be earnest. Don’t minimize doctrine and truth. And then, be willing to pay. Maybe that would be the third one. Be willing to suffer and pay the price.

The relationship of the Greek text and the Erasmus text, is that what Tyndale used? Just called him into the grace of God.

Yes, indeed. Isn’t that wonderful? That he’s pointing out the grace of God and in these kinds of differences, that it was Erasmus’ texts that Tyndale was using to translate the Bible. God will use whom he will in ways he pleases. Well said.

A question about the Erasmus and emergent church comparison. Paul became all things to all people. Well, maybe we have to be mean. Maybe we have to be vulgar. What would you say to that?

That wasn’t the point of the emergent that I criticized. If you couldn’t hear what he said, if I’m going to try to draw an analogy between Erasmus, and I said some writers in the emergent movement, not all for sure. I wasn’t thinking Mark Driscoll when I said that. He said, “What about the Bible’s call to become all things to all people? Contextualization issues.” I’m not going to get on anybody’s case about contextualization issues at this point.

The analogy I drew was a non-seriousness about blood-earnest realities: hell, wrath, atonement. These things are being downplayed and minimized. And there is a kind of breeziness about the way certain people are writing. And it doesn’t have the bloody feel of the cross about it. It doesn’t have the hotness of hell about it. They don’t believe in hell. I don’t mean everybody called emerging, I just mean those who don’t, don’t. And that’s really serious. That’s really serious because it wrecks the gospel.

You can watch it happen as this author that I just read to you pulls the plug on hell, pulls the plug on wrath, because God’s got to be better than he is. And he wouldn’t send anybody to hell. If he pulls the plug on those, you’ve got to re-interpret the cross. Now, what was that about? And there it comes down.

So, that’s the flavor that I want to help young people like you. However you contextualize, don’t abandon those things. Take the hard job. The easy job is to dumb down the gospel, get rid of all of its hard pieces and then be relevant to young people. That is so easy. Good grief, do the hard work.

How are you going to preach hell and wrath and substitutionary atonement to people with piercings all over their body and tattoos everywhere, so that they come back week after week? That’s a challenge. And it can be done. It can be done. They’re ready and eager. If somebody can be the right kind of William Tyndale-like person, they’ll come back. They’ll listen. So I’ve just, I abominate the dumbing down, the stripping of the gospel of these glorious realities, calling it in an elitist kind of nuanced way, a kingdom message for our time, as though it’s new. It is so unbelievably old. Ask me another kind of question.

In Tyndale’s translation, like you said in Matthew 18, it doesn’t use “church.” Instead, it says to tell it to the “congregation.” But King James distorted it and made it much less clear and said, “they won’t hear you, tell it to church.” I find that the ESV, what did the ESV say at that?

It has “church.” So, it didn’t try to base its translation on Tyndale, but on the RSV. So, whether or not that’s a good call, you’ll have to ask J.I. Packer. RSV, sure, not a perfect translation. Everybody in this room knows there’s no such thing. You’re all Greek readers and you know, you all get frustrated reading every single version that’s out there.

And so, what I love about the ESV that will keep me reading up to the day I die, and keep my church reading is because as I assessed the whole landscape of translations, I think for the next 25–50 years, it has the greatest potential of doing the full range, I would like to see done by a version in English, getting children on the same page with their parents and teenagers on the same page, and missions on the same page, and study and memory, and reading, and in worship. I think this, on balance, this way of doing it has the potential of the church use of the Bible, the personal use of Bible, the academic use of the Bible comes together here in a way that I think has the best chance of being the Bible of the church again.

I mean, isn’t it incredible that when I give the lineage that I’m happy to be a part of, it goes Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, King James. And what’s the next one I’m going to mention? American Standard. No, I’ll go one before they, RSV, American Standard. Just breathtaking the gap between those two, because of the King James, having such a wonderful hegemony. Meaning, the church had one Bible in the English language. I would love to be there again. I just love to be there again. But I mean, I’m not politically out to make that happen. If God wants to make it happen, let it happen. But I think maybe time for one more, then you got to scoot to the banquet.

Is there a tension between original sin and common grace?

The question is, is there tension between the doctrine of original sin, as I read the quotes from Tyndale, and the doctrine of common grace, by which people who have bondage to sin are able to have good insights and do good things? And yes, there’s a tension. And yes, it’s real. And we have to live with it and acknowledge that they’re both distorted. They’re both fallen. They’re both flawed. And yes, they can get us to the moon and solve smallpox. I mean, that’s a glorious thing. And we should give God credit for it. So, I don’t have time to navigate the way between the two, but I just affirmed the tension that you highlighted. I think we’re done unless you want to say something.