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Bible Study: The Tyndale Way

William Tyndale (Victoria Embankment) by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm
William Tyndale (Victoria Embankment) by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm

On the subject of practical theology and bible study, J.I. Packer wrote that William Tyndale may justly be called the grandfather of Puritan practical theology. Tyndale was indeed ahead of his time. He was a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation and is well known for his translation of the Bible into English. Tyndale’s translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts, the first to take advantage of the printing press, and the first of the new modern English Bibles of the Reformation. Much of Tyndale’s work eventually found it’s way to the King James Bible as it was largely based on Tyndale’s translations. He desired that everyone, even those of the most modest of circumstances, know Scripture.

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!

History records well his efforts for everyone to know the scriptures because of his translations. However, what’s often overlooked is Tyndale’s hermeneutic. Tyndale’s Puritan method of Bible study far preceded and greatly influenced the Puritan methods. For the Puritan hermeneutic, Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) were a God-given lens through which all scripture passed for light and truth. So says Tyndale:

Which two points, that is to wit, the law spiritually interpreted, how that all is damnable sin that is not unfeigned love out of the ground and bottom of the heart…and that the promises be given unto a repenting soul, that thirsteth and cryeth for them out of the fatherly mercy of God, through our faith only, without all deserving of our deeds or merits of our works, but for Christ’s sake alone, and for the merits and deserving of his works…which two points, I say, if they be written in thine heart, are the keys which so open all the scripture unto thee…

This is classic Puritan Law and Grace Bible study. First, we see the Law and how we hopelessly fall short of the Glory of God. There is nothing in and of ourselves and in creation that we can do to escape damnation. Then comes Grace and God’s promises: namely, the promise that salvation is ours as an unmerited gift from God on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, received by faith alone. The result is submission to Christ’s Lordship and good works because of what he does for us. Tyndale adduces from 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11 directions for the study of scripture:

Seek therefore in the scripture as thou readest it, first the law, what God commandeth us to do, and secondly, the promises…in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then seek ensamples, first of comfort, how God, purgeth all them, that submit themselves to walk in his ways, (in the purgatory of tribulation…never suffering any of them to perish that cleave fast to his promises.

And, finally, note the ensamples which are written to fear the flesh, that we sin not; that is, how God suffereth the ungodly and wicked sinners…to continue in their wickedness…they harden their hearts against the truth, and God destroyeth them utterly.

Tyndale says that once these principles are applied, Scripture becomes self-interpreting. The Bible in its entirety is about Christ. Law and Grace are constants throughout. The key is Sola Fide: faith alone.

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Joshua Ambrose

Joshua Ambrose is a restless disciple of Christ and sometimes whimsical mischief-maker. When not writing about theology, he writes about philosophy, history, economics, finance and basically anything that involves being a good neighbor in a way that honors his Lord.

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