William Tyndale was born 100 years after John Wycliffe’s death and had the advantage of the most important invention since the wheel, the invention of the printing press. Tyndale was both a scholar and reformer. Tyndale once remarked to a critic, “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plough in England to know more of the Scriptures than you do.”
Because of England’s prohibition of English translations, Tyndale had to leave his homeland in 1524 and never see it again. That would be comparable for you or me leaving the USA in order to help spread God’s Word. In Germany, Tyndale, printed and published in 1525 the first complete NT in English from the Greek. Within a year, friends were smuggling the small copies into England in bales of cloth, in sacks of flour, and in other imported goods and thus into the hands and hearts of the people.
Tyndale was viciously betrayed by a friend who turned Tyndale over to the authorities. Tyndale was imprisoned in 1536 in a dungeon near Brussels. Tyndale wrote this despondent letter,
I suffer extremely from the cold in the head being afflicted with a perpetual cough. My overcoat has been worn out. My shirts also are worn out. I also wish my jailor’s permission to have a candle in the evening for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark. But above all things, I entreat and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the Procureur, that he may kindly suffer me to have my Hebrew Bible, Grammar, and Dictionary that I may spend my time with that study.”
The RCC found Tyndale guilty of heresy and handed him over to the secular government for execution. On October 6th, 1536 governmental authorities led him to the stake and strangled and burned him in the prison yard. In a loud voice, his dying words rang out, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
God answered Tyndale’s prayer. The next English Version had a picture in the front, showing King Henry VIII approving of and giving out the English Bible, The Great Bible of 1539. Even before Tyndale’s death, German printers had published the Coverdale Bible translated into English based largely on Tyndale’s Bible.
Various publishers disseminated approximately 50,000 copies of Tyndale’s own Bible before his death. Tyndale’s translation forms the basis of the KJV in phasing, vocabulary, and musical rhythm and constitutes 4/5’s of the KJV.
God wants His Word in the common language of the people so we can read and interpret God’s Word. That is why the New KJV and other accurate, modern translations like the ESV are necessary today.
Step Six: Interpretation
When Philip heard the Ethiopian bachlor reading the Book of Isaiah, he asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He answered, “How can I except some man should guide (Acts 8:31)?” The doctrine of perspicuity or clarity of Scripture is the Biblical truth that God’s people can understand the Bible. But very often, a “man” or teacher is necessary to help “guide” others to learn. We are blessed with a skillful team of Sunday School teachers who would guide you to better understanding God’s Word. My primary ministry as Pastor/Teacher (Ephesians 4:11) is to help you in this area.
Here are some basic principles of interpretation that will help you in your reading and interpreting God’s Word.
1. Each text must be interpreted literally (in the normal sense of language grammar).
A. When God speaks, He makes sense (Job 38).
B. This is how the Bible interprets itself (Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:6).
2. Each text must be interpreted according the historical setting.
A. What the text meant to the original audience must first be found out, before what does it mean to me.
B. This is the historical-grammatical method of interpretation.
C. Is Matthew 10:5-6 for me?
3. Each text must be interpreted in its cultural setting. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is dealing with a church crisis in a first century culture. Today the issue is not women wearing a head covering but an unwillingness to follow male leadership in the church.
4. Each text must be interpreted in its context. What does it mean to “endure unto the end” in Matthew 24:13. The context is the seven year Tribulation Period not today.
5. Each text must be interpreted according to its literary characteristics.
A. There is General Hermeneutics: Principles of interpretation for all Scripture which we have just considered.
B. There is Special Hermeneutics: Principles of interpretation for specific kinds or genres of Scripture. For example, narratives are different from Hebrew poetry. Narratives have plots or story lines and Hebrew poetry has tight parallelism.
6. Each text must be interpreted according to the principle of non-contradiction. Obscure passages are interpreted by clear passages. Acts 2:38 does not teach salvation by works i.e., water baptism, because many other passages clearing teach salvation by grace and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28).
Step Seven: Application
After we answer the questions, “What does the passage say?” from our reading and rereading of Scripture and the question, “What does the passage mean?” from the principles of interpretation we have been taught and seen applied, then we are ready to answer the question, “How can this passage change my life?”
Step Eight: Communication
Now, I am ready to share with others what God has taught me and used to changed in my life. This was Ezra’s method of Bible study as recorded in Ezra 7:10: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek (study) the law of the LORD, and to do it (apply), and to teach (communicate) in Israel statutes and judgments.