Lawson, Steven J. The Daring Mission of William Tyndale. A Long Line of Godly Men Profile. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015. 184 pp.
He was a fugitive for twelve years. He lived a life hiding in various parts of the European mainland to escape the clutches of the English throne, a government which constantly pursued him for his capital crime. Ultimately, he was betrayed, imprisoned, and asphyxiated to death before his corpse was blown up with gunpowder and then burned. Why was William Tyndale a fugitive on the run from the King of England? Why was he so grotesquely killed? For you, if you can read English. William Tyndale desperately wanted his fellow Englishmen to be able to read the Bible in their own language, in English, so that they might know the gospel of Jesus Christ and so that they might be saved from their sins. He wanted the English plowboy to be as knowledgeable about the word of God as the Pope, so he became the first man to translate the New Testament and much of the Old Testament into English from Hebrew and Greek at the price of his life when such a translation was outlawed (78). He suffered and died in service to Christ so that you, reader, could understand God’s word in your own language in order to find eternal joy in the LORD. His blood was shed so that you might believe the gospel. His body was tortured so that you might taste in your own tongue that the LORD is good. If you are an English-speaking Christian, you owe much to William Tyndale starting with knowing who he was and how he served you so well nearly five hundred years ago.
In The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, Steven Lawson pens a biographical sketch of the life and ministry of William Tyndale in his pursuit of translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English. Lawson begins the book with a brief overview of Tyndale’s life in order to give the reader the big picture of Tyndale’s story and of the dangerous passion he pursued. Following the overview, Lawson demonstrates, from primary sources, that Tyndale adhered to the doctrines of grace and that such a theological adherence drove Tyndale’s work. The remainder of the book traces in detail the historical progress of Tyndale’s Bible translation and printing unto his death: move to Germany to begin the work in 1524, the New Testament completed and printed in 1525-6, publishing of the Pentateuch in 1530, revised editions in 1534-35, and death in 1536.
One of the appealing aspects of Lawson’s book is its conciseness. While biographies often contain numerous personal stories that fill pages with ink but do not provide noteworthy information regarding the person being studied or his/her life, Lawson’s book provides engaging details for the reader to grasp rapidly Tyndale’s person and life plotline. For people who do not read much, the length of Lawson’s book will not be overbearing. Furthermore, Lawson’s use of language will appeal to Christians of all educational backgrounds because Lawson writes in the style of Tyndale: as a man who desires all readers—not merely academicians—to understand the story.
Lawson also draws out well the doggedly-determined, courageous tenacity of William Tyndale in his pursuit of an English Bible. When the first printing of the New Testament was foiled in 1525, Tyndale did not quit. He pursued another printing in a different city (12, 73). When his Hebrew translations were lost, Tyndale did not throw in the towel. He started over because he knew that his countrymen’s lives would be changed by the power of God if the people were given access to the Bible in their own language (17). Even when he was arrested and imprisoned, Lawson informs us that Tyndale had the boldness to request Hebrew books so that he might finish translating the Old Testament as he awaited death (23-24). Tyndale’s gospel-wrought courage unto death is a needed example to a present culture where courage is needed but is often substituted for safety. We need more Tyndales, more men and women of gospel conviction who will gladly give up their lives for the sake of the advance of the gospel to the ends of the earth among people who have no meaningful access to the word of God.
As a minor critique, the reader would have been a little better served by getting a glimpse into the emotional life of Tyndale during his many trials. How did he apply the gospel to being pursued by the English crown? How did he feel being constantly on the run? How did he deal with discouragement when his Old Testament papers were lost? There is as much encouragement to be gained from seeing a godly man wrestle faithfully through trials during weakness as there is in seeing the same man act strongly by tenaciously pursuing a translation of the Bible.
The Daring Mission of William Tyndale rouses up thankfulness and courage as Tyndale’s pursuit of an English Bible for his people—for me—is concisely captured. I encourage all English-speaking Christians to read the volume so as to gain appreciation for a likely unknown man, dying in faithful to Jesus Christ, who ought to be a hero. May many more Tyndale’s be raised up for the sake of the gospel to the ends of the earth among those who have no written copy of God’s word in their language so that peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation may rightly praise the Lamb who was slain.