What merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English?

And what merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English? For William Tyndale’s “sin”, in 1535 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake. The Catholic Church had found him a dangerous threat to their existence.


In practice, the Catholic Church refused to allow the Scriptures to be available in any language other than Latin. Everyday parishioners could not question the priests’ teachings. Few people other than priests could read Latin. The Church could not get away with selling indulgences (the forgiveness of sins) or selling the release of loved ones from purgatory if people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue. Without these sources of income, the church’s power would crumble.


Furthermore, understanding the contradictions between what God’s Word said, and what the priests taught, would set people free from the grip of fear held by the institutional church. Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would be understood. For this “heresy”, Tyndale was martyred. He gave his life to help produce the English Bible, a version of what may be gathering dust on your bookshelf.


Obedience to God always carries a price. Each time I read the tortuous account in John 19:1-16, I hear the agony which paid for my salvation.  Every tear, scream, and mockery of justice, propelled Jesus Christ toward the cross. Jesus chose to travel through a week of hell. The events in this passage are horrifying to read. Under Pilate’s authority, the soldiers are permitted to use Jesus for a punching bag, scream obscenities into His face and grind a crown of thorns on His head. All of this took place in the lower room of the home of the Chief Priest, the head of the “religious” Jews. They were out for blood.

Pilate, the head of the local Roman government, seems to be scratching his head when he responds to the demands of the Jewish officials, I find no reason to crucify Him. A paraphrase of his following response to them could be, “Do it on your own time. I can’t do it legally.”

Jesus of course, is of no help to Pilate in coming to His own defense. Jesus reminds Pilate, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. 


The Jews threatened Pilate. If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar. Pilate knows that kind of talk can lead to his personal demise.  He is only there by the appointment of the Roman government and if word gets to Rome that Pilate has allowed an insurrection in Israel, Pilate is toast. Pilate gives in to the pressure, sets up court, and ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified.  Understand that the Jewish religious leaders hated being under the rulership of Rome, except they made an exception when it was convenient to their own agenda, which was to murder Jesus.

Pilate again asks, Shall I crucify your king?

The chief priests answer, We have no king but Caesar. So, we have torture, lies, betrayals, a death sentence and a Messiah Who doesn’t call down fire from heaven. How does one process that?


That week was a lesson in total obedience that led to the payment for our sins on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection.  Obedience is the unique mark of true followers of Christ through the centuries. Are you willing to pay the price? To sacrifice your comfort zones and let God plan the agenda? Tyndale paid the price for people to have the Bible in their own language. Jesus gave up His life willingly in the midst of chaos so we can be made new creatures in Christ. Take the challenge: begin to discover what real obedience is by carefully reading that Bible and learning the truth. Afterall, this is the book which so many gave up their lives for you to read.

For further information, strongly suggest listening to “Introduction to the Marian Martyrs” from the podcast, Men Who Rocked the World, by Steven J Lawson