480 years ago today, one of the greatest Englishmen to have ever lived was first strangled, then burned at the stake in Flanders.
William Tyndale's terrible crime was to have translated the New Testament, and large parts of the old into the English language. His mission, simply for ordinary Englishmen to be able to hear the scriptures in their own tongue, and therefore understand the gospel for themselves.
Tyndale's big idea was a terrible threat to the Catholic monopoly, their need for control meaning that most of the population never understood a word that was being said by Priests. More significantly than just understanding the words spoken, the gospel itself was shrouded in medieval mystery and superstition.
That psychotic monster Henry VIII was the worst player in all of this. Remembered wrongly for his reforming zeal, Henry's earlier years were defined by a robust defence of the Pope and violence against reformers. The royal title,'Defender of the faith' which remains to this day, arose from Henry's own flawed theological ramblings as the head of a steadfastly Catholic English nation.
The irony for Henry is that within a year of murdering Tyndale, he was publishing Tyndale's Great Bible in English anyway. This effort watered down a little for the preference of weak Bishops, but made up almost entirely of Tyndale's earlier banned work! No one has shaped our English bibles, and perhaps the English language more than William Tyndale, who died a traitor's death in exile, away from the country who should have lauded him.
Today, Mr Tyndale, we salute you!