'If God spare my life, 'ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.' So spoke William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for heresy on this day in 1536, to a priest whose ignorance of the bible was typical of many clerics of the time.
Tyndale was as good as his word. His translation of the New Testament was the first to be printed in English, in 1526, and his painstaking work later formed the basis for around 90 per cent of the King James Version of the bible.
The early 16th-century church establishment, which opposed all translations of the bible, hated him for it. Tyndale's bibles were pronounced heretical in England, and Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of London, had piles of them heaped up and burnt outside St Paul's cathedral.
In 1536 Tyndale himself was burnt at the stake. But the ploughboy could now read the bible in his own language - and the power of the priesthood would never be the same again.
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