Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The James Bond of Scripture Spies / William Tyndale

Big Idea: William Tyndale was inspired by Martin Luther to get the Bible into the hands of the Average Joe, at any cost.

The Dangerous Secret that can Change Hearts

Like James Bond, William Tyndale (c. 1492-1536) was an Englishman. They were both brave and cautious with dangerous secrets, for a higher calling.

Like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale was an Oxford man. He was a smart scholar, ordained as a priest.

Tyndale believed the Bible would change man’s heart.

Tyndale’s single-minded passion

His single-minded passion was to put an English Bible in every household.

A fellow scholar told Tyndale people are better without God’s law, than without the Pope.

“If God spares my life,” Tyndale retorted, “I will cause the boy that drives a plow to know more of Scripture than you do!”

Trouble with King Henry VIII

Reformers such as Luther and Tyndale prepared a Bible of original language accuracy, to be available for everyone to read.

The Catholic hierarchy saw new Biblical translations emerging with concern because they were not given the opportunity to verify these new works. They wondered how the uneducated would interpret what they read.

Infamous, gluttonous Henry VIII, who went through six wives, was King of England then. The King broke with the Pope, and declared himself over England’s church.

At first, King Henry liked Tyndale translating the Bible into understandable English. But when Tyndale criticized the frivolous way King Henry got rid of wives, King Henry was incensed.

Ultimately King Henry VIII was behind Tyndale’s death.

The Pocket New Testament

Few people, except for scholars, could read. A congregation was lucky to have a huge Latin Bible chained to the pulpit.

Tyndale fled England with his translation in progress. Martin Luther’s small German New Testament was recently printed. Tyndale coveted a pocket English New Testament for England.

Smuggled Bibles, close calls

First Tyndale went to Cologne, Germany, and got the New Testament printing started. English agents found and destroyed it and Tyndale escaped with just a few portions.

A year later it printed successfully in Worms, Germany. Portions of New Testaments were hidden in wine barrels and as cloth goods and smuggled into England.

The head bishop in England discovered the contraband Bible and bought up all they could find, burning them.

By the next year Tyndale used the earnings to finance the next printing. 3000 New Testaments showed up around England.

English agents constantly tried to catch and arrest him. Tyndale, constantly on the move, was translating the Old Testament. Moving by sea he was shipwrecked, losing precious books and Old Testament manuscripts, having to start all over again.

A couple years later the first five books of the Old Testament showed up around England.

The wolf in sheep’s clothing

One of King Henry’s agents found Tyndale and befriended him, feigning common interest. Tyndale was trapped when his host was away, arrested and thrown into a Belgium prison for over a year.

After a short trial, he was strangled to death and then burned at the stake.

The Legacy

Upon his death Encyclopedia Britannica says over 18,000 Tyndale New Testaments had been printed. Very few remain after being hunted down and burned.

Still, Tyndale’s Bible was consulted as the Geneva Bible and King James Version were translated a century later.

Tyndale balanced a translation with scholarly accuracy, worded plainly and literarily pleasing. Quite a feat!


Up next: See you next September!
Previous post: How the Bible went viral in the 1500s! / Martin Luther


1. What would you consider the hardest experience Tyndale had to endure?

2. Tyndale’s translation was “balanced the translation with scholarly accuracy, worded for plain understanding and literarily pleasing.” Why are each of these points important in a Bible?


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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

How the Bible Went Viral in the 1500s / Martin Luther

Big Idea: Martin Luther desired every person to read the Bible which he called “the clear pure Word of God,” and people snatched up his German Bible in great numbers.

Larger-than-life World Changer

There are thousands of books and articles on the larger-than-life, bold world changer, Martin Luther (1483-1546) who inadvertently kicked off the Protestant Reformation.

This Scripture Spy’s greatest effort was getting the Bible into the hands of average citizens.

Law student, Martin Luther, became a monk as a vow while in peril.

“St. Ann, if you deliver me from this storm I’ll become a monk!”

Six Simple Words

In monastic studies he read Wycliffe’s and Hus’ writings who desired to get the Bible to the people, have less worldly power to church hierarchy and stop selling salvation for money (Indulgences).

Selling indulgences to grant a pass out of hell for anyone dead or alive infuriated him.

He didn’t intend to leave the Catholic Church. He wanted to reform the insane hold the Church had in that era on money, power and truth.

However six simple words changed him forever.

The just shall live by faith. Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:7, Galatians 3:11

His obsession to earn God’s favor melted away in simple faith. He became obsessed for others to read and know Biblical simple truths to live by.

Critical dynamics for Luther’s German Bible Success

1. Hidden in a Castle

When Luther wrote the great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” he was most likely visualizing the Wartburg Castle where he was hidden almost 3 years.

Luther nailed 95 Challenges (Theses) against the Catholic Church on the door of a German Church. The incensed Pope responded to stand down or be excommunicated. Heresy penalty: burned at the stake.

Incorrigible Luther burned the Pope’s bulletin. He was ordered to a major hearing (The Diet of Worms).

The meeting was intense. His final statement was “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me, Amen.”
The room and desk where Luther worked

A hood was thrown over his startled head, and he was “kidnapped” to a Castle arranged by a worried benefactor.

He was an outlaw now of church and state with a death threat. Like a spy he was given the alias "Sir George" during seclusion at the Castle.

With time on his hands he translated the Bible into German.

Unexpected time sometimes gives busy people the opportunity to do what’s important.

2. Straight from the Source

John Wycliffe’s English Bible translation was based on the Latin Vulgate Bible. Jan Hus did the same with the Czech Bible.

Desiderious Erasmus (1466-1536), a Dutch priest, also wanted the Bible to be understood and useful. His skill was languages, philosophy and theology; a Renaissance man.

He made the Greek New Testament user friendly for scholars. He corresponded often with Luther.

Luther used Erasmus’ Greek New Testament to translate it into German. He used Hebrew for the Old Testament. This crafted a more reliable translation since it was from its’ original source.

3. The Printing Press

Only a few years prior to the completion of Luther’s New Testament, Guttenberg created the movable type printing press. It allowed mass production of books, articles and announcements.

Luther’s 95 theses got translated to German and printed copies were distributed among the people before the Pope ever saw it. 

It went viral (spreading very quickly).

People could not get enough of Luther’s writing!

Luther’s German New Testament, then the entire German Bible was mass produced. It got into German homes everywhere. It changed people creating longing for the Bible.

Luther’s most popular book next to the Bible, Indulgences and Grace was reprinted 22 times in his lifetime.

Coming out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance Period, people were ripe for truth and power given to the average person to gain knowledge and understanding. 

It was the 1500s and it was time for the Bible to go viral.

Got Questions: Who Was Martin Luther?
Several movies
Luther (2003) Full length
Martin Luther  Full length


Up next: The James Bond of Scripture Spies / William Tyndale
Previous post: The Goose is Cooked / Jan Hus


1. Did you have extra time on your hands during the Covid lockdown? What did you do with this unexpected time?

My times are in your hands; deliver me… Psalm 31:15a NIV

2. Consider a new appreciation for the Bible in your language. What would it be like to receive it for the first time?

When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight. Nehemiah 15:16 NLT



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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Goose is Cooked / Jan Hus


Big Idea: Bohemian priest Jan Hus was burned at the stake because of criticism of Catholic church leader lifestyle and a push for Bible teaching in local languages.

Brave Scripture Spy Burned at the Stake

Jan Hus (~1372-1415) was a Bohemian priest in Medieval times.

Born in poverty, he became a priest seeking a better life. At the University of Prague he was a sharp minded student.

Studying the Bible, the discrepancy between the Bible and the practice of church leaders accumulating property and lavish living bothered him.

The princess mail-order bride

King Richard II of England, just 15 years old, was encouraged to marry. He heard about Princess Anne of Bohemia’s kindness and love of reading. He sent a messenger requesting her hand.

They were both 15 when they married (1382) . They were inseparable. She died 12 years later of the Black Plague. The king was inconsolable.

The Queen Anne connection brought Czech students to study at Oxford where they met John Wycliffe and read his writings. His works were brought back to Prague.

Jan Hus read Wycliffe’s writings which resonated with his beliefs about the lavishness of the church and the need for the common man to hear the Bible. It emboldened him.

Bethlehem Chapel

Bethlehem Chapel in Prague became Jan’s first position as a priest where all preaching and teaching was done in Czech, which was unusual in that day.

The sale of indulgences where the church made money forgiving sins vexed him.

Writing and speaking against these outrageous practices brought him under fire from the church. He was excommunicated numerous times.

The End

At the Council of Constance (1414-1418) he was promised safe passage but got thrown into prison. Jan hope to defend himself using Scripture among Biblical scholars.

Seen as a threat to the church, they demanded he take back his beliefs. He would not.

He was brought out of town and burned at the stake (July 1315), singing Psalms, and forgiving his captors.


Shocked, the Bohemian church separated from the Roman Church. That lead a period called the Hussite wars (~1419-1478) killing those who followed Jan Hus and John Wycliffe and burning their works.

Almost a century later, Martin Luther read Jan Hus’ works and resonated with it. The call for church reform and a Bible to be understood by the people was as a chain of events from Wycliffe to Hus,  Luther and others.

The name Hus means “goose” in Czech. Luther’s family crest includes a swan. Martin Luther noted that near Hus’death, he stated,  “You may kill a goose today but 100 years from now will come a swan you cannot burn.”

Luther considered this to be prophetic of him. Today Lutheran churches in Europe have a swan upon the steeple.

Movie: John Huss: A Journey of No Return
More information: Got Questions? Who is Jan Hus?

Up next: How the Bible Went Viral in the 1500s
Previous post: First Prize Goes to the Oxford Man


1. What do you see in common between John Wycliffe and Jan Hus?

2. How might Jan Hus inspire you?


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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

First Prize Goes to the Oxford Man! / John Wycliffe

 Painting of John Wycliffe with a blue ribbon

The Big Idea: Dark Ages Oxford professor John Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible into English, convicted that people needed it in their own language.

Better Than Being Burned Alive!

The first English Bible was translated by John Wycliffe (1330-1384) and his students during the 1380s. But it was not without peril.

Wycliffe was lucky not to have been burned as a heretic in his lifetime.

                                                                                            The British Library 

His influence angered the Catholic Church so much, thirty-four years after his death his bones were ordered dug up and burned.

…which, I must admit, seems far preferable to being burned alive.

                                                                                  Christian History Made Easy, Jones, T.P.

A devastating era

England was in its 100 year war with France. The Black Plague lasted for YEARS. The Peasant’s Revolt began, killing authority figures.

A Pope was in Rome. Another established himself in Avignon, France. Avignon was building a huge glorious palace for their Pope.

Most Popular Professor

Teenage Wycliffe went to Oxford. Oxford spanned his life from being a student to a beloved popular professor.

He specialized in Biblical studies, making the Bible alive and relevant. He was convinced it represented God and His authoritative word.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

He was an Englishman and a Franciscan. He was both loved and hated.

He was loved. He was hated.

He was loved by a wide mix of people. His students hung on his every word. Country preachers gathered around him to be mentored.

Prominent people had his back and rescued him on numerous dangerous occasions, like John of Guant, and both King Richard II’s mother, and first wife, Queen Anne of Bohemia.

As he discerned the Papacy and church hierarchy to be out of step with the Bible in its opulence and control, he infuriated every Pope during his ministry with his writings.


John Wycliffe's strong conviction of the Bible

1. Wycliffe believed the Bible is our highest authority.

Forasmuch as the Bible contains Christ, that is all that is necessary for salvation, it is necessary for all men, not for priests alone. It alone is the supreme law that is to rule Church, State, and Christian life, without human traditions and statutes.
                                                  John Wycliffe

2. Wycliffe believed God wants everyone to hear the Bible in their mother tongue.

Englishmen learn Christ's law best in English. Moses heard God's law in his own tongue; so did Christ's apostles.                                                                                                                                 John Wycliffe

3. Wycliffe’s 5-step method of Bible study was similar to our Inductive Bible Study.

Obtain a reliable text, understand the logic of Scripture, compare the parts of Scripture with one another, maintain an attitude of humble seeking, and receive the instruction of the Spirit.

                                                                                                 John Wycliffe

Wycliffe translated the Bible into English

Wycliffe spent his last years translating the Bible into English with the help of his followers. He died of a stroke when he was in his 50s (1384). His followers completed it.

The Bible translation agency that has been instrumental in translating the Bible around the world, Wycliffe Bible Translators, named their organization after him.

Long lasting impact

Wycliffe organized his followers to go to country villages two-by-two while barefoot, simply dressed with little in their possession. They preached in English quoting the Bible in English, with practical instruction.

After Wycliffe died, these men carried out the message and passion of Wycliffe for the Bible so intensely, church authorities harassed them and killed several of them. 

Finally in 1428 the Pope ordered the Church to dig up and burn his bones.

Wycliffe was a Catholic priest who intended to bring holiness and Bible relevancy to the Catholic Church in Medieval times. 

Over a century before Martin Luther was born, Wycliffe championed a message that forever changed the church for access to the Bible and a simple life guided by the Bible. 

He is often referred to as the Morningstar of the Reformation.

For more on his life:
Got Questions?  Who was John Wycliffe?
Full movie (1hr 15 min)  John Wycliffe: The Morning Star


Up next: The Goose is Cooked
Previous post: Imagine not being able to read the Bible


1. What are your impressions of John Wycliffe? 

2. Can you visualize how groundbreaking his teaching was for the everyday person? What do you think life was like from what you know of the Dark Ages? Do you think he was able to bring light into darkness?

3. Spend a little time reflecting on these two verses from Isaiah.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2 NASB

I will lead those who are blind by a way they have not known, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them and uneven land into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” Isaiah 42:16 NASB


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