In 1523, William Tyndale, being greatly influenced by Martin Luther, sought official permission to translate the Bible into the common tongue of his homeland, England. His request was denied. Tyndale however would not be dissuaded from this course of action and fled to Europe where he completed his English New Testament, publishing it at Worms in 1526.
This effort would ultimately cost him his life. Whilst in Antwerp he was arrested after being betrayed by a friend, before being strangled and burned to death as a “heretic” in 1536.
What would drive someone to take such a risk to translate a book?
For Tyndale, and so many throughout the centuries, the answer is that this is not just any book. The Bible is the inspired revelation of God for humanity. The words inside it are transformative.
Martin Luther in reflecting on Romans 1: 17 understood God and the nature of righteousness with God. It changed him and sparked what we now know as the Reformation.
St Augustine heard a voice telling him to ‘pick up and read’. He did, and reading Romans 13: 13-14 understood why his search for satisfaction in philosophy, hedonism and even the moral life had failed to provide rest for his soul. He saw himself more clearly because of this and understood true satisfaction is only found in Jesus. For the remainder of his life, Augustine took up and read the Bible, becoming one of the most influential Christian thinkers of his time.
Francis Chan in his book, Multiply, writes, “If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be much more than a book that we are familiar with. It ought to shape every aspect of our existence.”
That is the invitation of Scripture. It not only enables us to understand God, but as in the case of Augustine, helps us understand ourselves more clearly. In it God also invites us to live life to the full. A life in sync with Him, and as Chan suggests, we ought to let it “shape every aspect of our existence.”
If you haven’t picked up your Bible in a while, maybe it’s time to “take up and read.” However, be warned, if you do, it might just change you.