Tyndale’s Last Request

TYNDALE-William

If you were condemned to die (for translating the Bible, of all things), and could only request a few items of comfort during the long and hard winter in your prison cell, what would you ask for? In a letter addressed to an unnamed officer, William Tyndale asked the following:

I beg your lordship, and that of the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter, you will request the commissary to have the kindness to send me, from the goods of mine which he has, a warmer cap; for I suffer greatly from cold in the head, and am afflicted by a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased in this cell; a warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin; a piece of cloth too to patch my leggings. My overcoat is worn out; my shirts are also worn out. He has a woolen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth to put on above; he has also warmer night-caps. And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark. But most of all I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary, that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study. In return may you obtain what you most desire, so only that it be for the salvation of your soul. But if any other decision has been taken concerning me, to be carried out before winter, I will be patient, abiding the will of God, to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ: whose spirit (I pray) may ever direct your heart. Amen W. Tindalus

Of all that he might have requested, less than a year before his certain death, Tyndale pleaded for a Hebrew Bible. What a remarkable example for students in biblical languages. Even at the close of his life in a cold and lonely prison cell, he wanted to work on his Hebrew. Why? Because it was for Jesus and his church that Tyndale ultimately lived and died to translate the Word of God. He would not live differently even though death drew close.

David Daniell, William Tyndale: A Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 379.

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