Feast of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale (October 6)   1 comment

Above:  William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale

Images in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM TYNDALE (1497-OCTOBER 6, 1536)

English Reformer, Bible Translator, and Martyr

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MILES COVERDALE (1488-JANUARY 20, 1569)

English Reformer, Bible Translator, and Bishop of Exeter

Also known as Myles Coverdale

October 6 is, on many Anglican calendars, the Feast of William Tyndale.  It is also Tyndale’s feast in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).  October 7 is an alternative feast day for Tyndale, as in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

At the General Convention of 2009, when The Episcopal Church approved Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), supplemental to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (2007), it added Coverdale to Tyndale’s feast.  The combined feast transferred into A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), successor to Holy Women, Holy Men.  Neither Tyndale nor Coverdale have transferred to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, however.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016) remains an approved resource, of course.

Miles Coverdale, born in Yorkshire circa 1488, collaborated with William Tyndale, born in Gloucestershire in 1497.  Tyndale, influenced indirectly by the late John Wycliffe (circa 1320-1384), while growing up, studied at Oxford (B.A., 1512; M.A., 1515) then at Cambridge.  Other influential figures in his life included Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), who had published the first published Greek New Testament in 1516, as well as Martin Luther (1483-1546), who had published his German translation of the Bible in 1522.  Tyndale, in 1522-1523 the tutor in the household of Sir John Walsh in Gloucestershire, became an alleged heretic by debating visiting clergymen.  He became convinced of the necessity of an English translation of the Bible.

Coverdale had been an Augustinian friar.  His mentor and prior had been Robert Barnes (circa 1495-1540).  At Cambridge Coverdale had begun to adopt Lutheran opinions.  He almost certainly met Tyndale at the White Horse tavern, where many Protestants gathered for discussion.

Tyndale, having left the Walsh household, to protect them, arrived in Wittenberg on May 27, 1524.  He spent the rest of his life in Europe.  By 1525 he was in Cologne.  There he planned to publish the new translation of the New Testament.  However, he and his secretary had to flee when Johannes Cochlaeus, archfoe of Luther, acted to prevent the publication of the English-language New Testament in that city.  Tyndale published his New Testament in Worms in 1526, though.  English ecclesiastical authorities, including St. Thomas More (1487-1535), ordered the burning of copies.

Meanwhile, Coverdale continued his Biblical studies at Cambridge.  He also became a radical.  His mentor, Robert Barnes, tried for heresy in 1526, recanted under pressure.  Coverdale left the abbey in 1528.  He, dressed as a secular priest, preached against images, confession, and the Mass.  He was in Hamburg the following year.  There, at Tyndale’s invitation, Coverdale was helping to translate the Torah.  Both men subsequently moved to Antwerp.  Tyndale published the new translation of the Torah in 1530 (Julian Calendar)/1531 (Gregorian Calendar).  Before he died Tyndale had translated the Old Testament through Nehemiah, as well as Jonah.  Some of his translation choices were controversial and purposefully contrary to current orthodoxy.  He preferred “congregation” to “church” and “love” to “charity,” for example.

Tyndale wrote original texts, too.  Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (1530) was a polemic.  The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1528) argued for justification by faith.  The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) influenced the English Reformation.  More, a staunch Roman Catholic who, like Tyndale, opposed the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Queen Catherine of Aragon, identified Tyndale as one of the leaders of the Reformation.

Meanwhile Coverdale was translating and writing, also.  He translated the Book of Psalms from Latin to English in 1534 then translated more of the Old Testament.  The following year Coverdale published the complete English Bible, dedicated to Henry VIII.  Coverdale worked from five translations, including Tyndale’s.  He was a fine stylist of the English language; his Psalter graced editions of The Book of Common Prayer from the first one (1549) into the twentieth century.  The Coverdale and Tyndale translations constituted at least half of the Thomas Matthew Bible (1537) and therefore influenced the Great Bible (1539), the Bishop’s Bible (1568), the Authorized Version (1611), and its successors, including the American Standard Version (1901) and the branching lines of translations derived from it, starting with the Revised Standard Version (New Testament, 1946; Old Testament, 1952; Apocrypha, 1957; RSV II, 1971).

Tyndale, betrayed in Antwerp by Henry Phillips in May 1535, spent the final phase of his life as a prisoner at the castle of Vilvoorde, near Brussels.  There he died by strangling on October 6, 1536.  Authorities burned his corpse.

Coverdale was in peril, also.  He, moving back and forth between England and the continent, compiled the concordance (1535) to Tyndale’s New Testament and edited the Great Bible (1539), placed in every church in the realm.  In 1539 he fled Paris, to escape the French Inquisition.  Then, in 1540, Henry VIII began to preside over a crackdown.  Barnes died via burning at the stake that year.  Coverdale and his wife, Elizabeth Macheson (Sutherland) spent 1540-1543 in Strasbourg.  There he translated tracts and earned his D.D. degree from Tübingen University.  The Coverdales spent 1543-1548 in Bergzabern, 40 miles away from Strasbourg.  There Coverdale served as the headmaster of the town school and the assistant minister of the town church.  Meanwhile, in 1546, English authorities were burning his writings.

1548-1559 were years of changing political fortunes for Coverdale.  The Coverdales spent 1548-1553 in England.  Henry VIII had died and Edward VI had succeeded his father.  Coverdale, a royal chaplain, helped to suppress a rebellion before becoming the Bishop of Exeter (1551-1553).  Then Edward VI died and his sister, Mary I, succeeded him.  The Coverdales spent 1553-1559 in exile in Europe.  They eventually settled in Switzerland, where Coverdale helped to translate the Geneva Bible (1560).

Coverdale spent his final years back in England.  In 1558 Mary I had died and her sister, Elizabeth I, had succeeded her.  The course of the English Reformation changed; Elizabeth I presided over the birth of Anglicanism per se.  Coverdale, who had become a leading Puritan, declined to become the Bishop of Exeter again.  He had evolved theologically to the point that he could no longer approve of the ritual.  Coverdale, a much sought-after preacher, stayed busy, if not prosperous.  Elizabeth, his first wife, died in 1565.  He married Katharine the following year.

Coverdale, aged 80 or 81 years, died on January 20, 1569.

Tyndale and Coverdale were pioneers in the development of the English Bible.  Many generations of English-speaking Christians have been in their debt.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC SCHOLAR, PHILOSOPHER, AND BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

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Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servants William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale

a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue,

and endowed them with the gift of powerful and graceful expression

and with strength to persevere against all obstacles:

Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures,

and hear them calling us to repentance and life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 8:10-17

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

John 12:44-50

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 625

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One response to “Feast of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale (October 6)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Patrick Hamilton (February 29) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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