Reading a Banned Book

LET IT NOT MAKE THEE DESPAIR, neither yet discourage thee, O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods, or that it is made breaking of the king’s peace, or treason unto his highness, to read the Word of thy soul’s health; ... for if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes ...

Five Objections: Answered

1. They tell you that Scripture ought not to be in the mother tongue, but that is only because they fear the light, and desire to lead you blindfold and in captivity...

2. They say that Scripture needs a pure and quiet mind, and that laymen are too cumbered with worldly business to understand it. This weapon strikes themselves: for who is so tangled with worldly matters as the prelates?

3. They say that laymen would interpret it each after his own way. Why then do the curates not teach the people the right way? The Scripture would be a basis for such teaching and a test of it. At present their lives and their teaching are so contrary that the people do not believe them, even when they preach truth...

4. They say our tongue is too rude. It is not so. Greek and Hebrew go more easily into English than into Latin. Has not God made the English tongue as well as others? They suffer you to read in English of Robin Hood, Bevis of Hampton, Hercules, Troilus, and a thousand ribald or filthy tales. It is only the Scripture that is forbidden. It is therefore clearer than the sun that this forbiddal is not “for love of your souls, which they care for as the fox doth for the geese.”

5. They say we need doctors to interpret Scripture [because] it is so hard... There are errors even in Origen and Augustine; how can we test them save by the Scripture?... We do not wish to abolish teaching and to make every man his own master, but if the curates will not teach the gospel, the layman must have the Scripture, and read it for himself, taking God for his teacher.

By William Tyndale

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #43 in 1994]

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