John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384).1 An Oxford theologian, Wycliffe was a severe critic of what he believed was a corrupt Church. He hoped that people could be called back to a more biblical faith, and for this to happen he was convinced that they needed to read the Bible in their own language.
Tyndale was aware of the dangers of embarking on the translation project he was contemplating. However, he was convinced that the common people must be able to read the Bible in order to be called back to the biblical gospel. In one debate with a cleric, he vowed that if God spared his life, he would see to it that the plowboy would know more about Scripture than untutored priests.
“I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”
Tyndale’s final prayer, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,” is said to have been directed to English King Henry VIII (1491-1547). His prayer was a hope that the king would allow copies of the Bible in English to be circulated. Tyndale’s prayer had already been answered. An English version of the Bible that drew on his translation work was in circulation before his death. Three years after Tyndale’s death, Henry required every English parish church to make a copy of the English Bible available to parishioners.