“Master Tyndale, why do you have to go?”
William tussled Anthony’s hair and glanced over at John playing at sword fighting with an imaginary opponent. He would surely miss these boys. “I must go. A friend of mine in Antwerp is offering to print the books that I’ve been working on these last few years.”
John paused mid-parry and rested his sword on his shoulder. “You mean the Bible that you are translating into English, right?”
Anthony tipped his head up at his tutor. “I don’t want you to go to Antwerp and live with Uncle Thomas. What if the pope gets you and puts you in prison?”
William smiled. “I will just have to leave that to God. I pray that someday every peasant will own his own copy of God’s Word—that hearts blinded by sin will be opened. I will continue translating the Bible until the day I die.”
“But I don’t want you to die!”
William squatted down to the boy’s eye-level. “Anthony, what did I teach you about death and heaven?”
“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
“Exactly!” Tyndale lifted the boy to his shoulder. “I am not afraid of what man can do unto me. Now, let’s continue your botany lesson.”
A few years later, after dinner, their father invited John for a walk around the Little Sodbury estate. “John, I have a job for you. I need you to be brave and strong.”
John pulled his shoulders back. “I can do that, Father.”
“You must be able to hold your tongue.”
“Is it about Master Tyndale, Father?”
“A man named Henry Phillips has betrayed him, and he’s in prison.”
John turned a worried face to his father. “What can I do?”
“Your mother has gathered some food and clothes for William. I also have some papers and a Hebrew study book that he requested. I’m sure the guards will not allow him to have the book, so you must get it past them or…”
“Or what, Father?”
“It could cost your life, if they find it.”
A cold wind blew over the pastures, spitting drops of rain at their cheeks.
“Yes, Father, I know, but I will do it for Master Tyndale.”
The fog hugged the ground and curled around John’s legs as he bridled his stallion. He strapped on the bundle of clothes and food securely behind the saddle. A thin packet of parchments, ink powders, and the forbidden book lay beneath John’s waistcoat. He felt it crackle with every move.
Mother cried and kissed his forehead. Father shook his hand. “God speed, my son. Be sure to take the gifts to William personally.”
“God bless you, Son.”
The horse splashed through streams and galloped through dark woods. Vilvorde prison walls loomed before him. John’s heart pounded as he rode up to the iron gate.
The guard lowered his spear. “Who goes there?”
John dismounted and removed the bundle from the saddle. “My name is John Walsh. I would like to visit William Tyndale.”
“What do you hold in your hands?”
“This is only food and clothes for him.”
The guard snatched the bundle from John and tore at the strings. An apple bounced on the ground and rolled to John’s feet. He picked it up and a knitted hat, also, that fell in a puddle. The guard took them from John and wadded them all into a lumpy ball. “You may leave. I will give these to him.”
“No! I must see him. I want to give them to him myself!” He reached for the clothes.
John felt the spear against his chest, pressing against the book. He felt the packet slip, and he gasped. He clutched his waist. Lord God, please let me get through. He took a deep breath and looked the guard in the eyes. “Sir, may I please give these to Tyndale?”
“Oh, be quick about it! I don’t have time to argue with the likes of you.”
The guard tossed the clothes to John and opened the door. John hastened down the alleys lit with smoking torches. Phew! That was close.
“John Walsh? Is that you?”
“I have some clothes and things for you.” He glanced over his shoulder and slipped the thin package from his shirt.
“God be praised!”
“Sir, the God that makes blind men see can also make seeing eyes blind.”
~ ~ ~
William Tyndale completed a translation of the New Testament from the Greek in 1525, which church authorities in England tried their best to confiscate and burn. After issuing a revised edition in 1535, he was arrested, spent over a year in jail, and was then strangled and burned at the stake near Brussels in October 6th, 1536. It is estimated today that some 90 percent of the New Testament in the 1611 King James Bible is the work of Tyndale. Tyndale was unable to complete his translation of the Old Testament before his death.
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