Why Study Biographies?

In the past, I have studied biographies when required; like when I studied Kierkegaard for my masters in Philosophical Theology. Sometimes, by accident, like when I purchased a book on Bonhoeffer (nineteen years ago, I’m finally willing to admit that yes, I am growing old) because I had lately read Cost of Discipleship and loved it. Two years ago I began to read a series of biographies to my son (I love homeschooling!). This summer, I brushed up on a few I had already studied, and then read a new one on William Tyndale (also spelled Tyndall, and either way rhyming with “spindle”. I highly recommend reading the biography by David Teems. 1


My encouragement to you is that reading biographies of those who have gone before, and have loved Jesus well, really will edify you. I know, someone reading this may say “loved Jesus well? can anyone claim to have done anything well? Are we not all sinners?” Ugh–yes, we are. But look at how Paul speaks to the Colossians, praising them for being steadfast in their faith! Reading biographies of those who have also been steadfast in their faith is like inviting them to be your teacher, your mentor, your friend. And as you listen in to their stories, you will grow.

Reading about Tyndale, I found a friend whom I cannot wait to meet someday, when I go home. Reading of his life and his passions reenergized me to enjoy the passions God has given me. This is abundant life here friends, to delight in God and enjoy what He is doing in you, around you. All things are from Him, through Him, and to Him! (Romans 11:36). Tyndale’s ruling passion was: since the Catholic Church had shut up the knowledge of God so that none could access it–he would translate Scripture from the original languages (rather than Latin) into English, unlocking the knowledge. He would see to it that the person working out in the fields knew the Word of God better than any priest. He wanted Christians to be able to pray without the Pope inventing mediators. He wanted Christians to no longer fear the Catholic invention of purgatory, paying money to the Pope that they might escape–he wanted them to see that Christ really had drank the cup of God’s wrath fully, they need not worry about paying off any of their sins. He wanted Christians to be able to read, talk about, and sing the Word of God; rather than continuing on in the darkness that the Catholic Church had shut them up in. He wanted the good news of justification by faith (not works) to be known by all English speaking Christians. He wanted them to read of the love of God, rejoice in that love, share that love (he rightly translated the Greek agape into the English ‘love’ rather than ‘charity’ as Jerome and Wycliff had done. God is love–and now all England could know! And many years later, we can rejoice that Tyndale translated–though he was a hunted man for doing so. He burned at the stake (after being strangled) for the heretical act of translating Scripture into a language that common people could read.

While on the run, living in Germany and the Netherlands, he wrote much to edify the church, worked at translating (he only made it through about half of the Old Testament), and studied, five days a week. He was supported financially by merchants who loved the Lord and also wanted to see reform from within. Tyndale spent much of what they provided him with on others even more poor than himself. He spent his other two days (being banned from Catholic Churches and there being no Protestant churches yet) preaching, teaching, meeting pressing needs of neighbors, encouraging whomever he could.

Know the Word

Do you take for granted that you have a copy of the Scriptures? Or that it is memorable, beautifully translated into our vernacular? O praise the LORD for Tyndale’s love of languages and literature! He believed Hebrews and Thessalonians, that the Word is powerful, alive, and active; the best weapon for God’s work–the only sword we need to advance His kingdom. Studying Tyndale’s life will challenge us all to love the Word, believe the Word, hide it in our hearts, let it shape us and propel us.

  1. David Teems, Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice, (Thomas Nelson, 2012).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *