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William Tyndale

(2 posts)

Puritan Interpretation of Scripture

Wednesday··2009·10·07
Leland Ryken on Puritan hermeneutics: The logical starting place is the Puritans belief that the Bible must ordinarily be interpreted literally or historically, not arbitrarily allegorized. To understand why the Puritans made so much of the literal or single interpretation of Scripture, we need to know something about the centuries-long Catholic practice of attributing allegorical interpretations to virtually all of Scripture. Catholic interpreters, for example, claimed that in the story of Rebekah, Rebekahs drawing water for Abrahams servant really means that we must daily come to the Bible to meet Christ. The six water pots at the marriage in Cana refer to the creation of the world in six days. The womans comment in the Song of Solomon that my beloved is to me a bag of myrrh, that lies between my breasts was interpreted as meaning the Old and New Testaments, between which stands Christ. Another commentator found the breasts to denote the learned teachers of the church, and yet another thought the verse referred to the crucifixion of Christ, which the believer keeps in eternal remembrance between his breasts, that is, in his heart. To the Puritans, such allegorizing was ridiculous and unreliable. The Scripture hath but one sense, claimed Tyndale, which is the literal sense, and that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth. Thomas Gataker agreed: Sir, we dare not allegorize the Scriptures, where the letter of it yields us a clear and proper Sense. We should pause to note what the Puritans did not mean when they insisted on the literal or plain interpretation of Scripture. They did not mean that the Bible is literal rather than figurative. William Bridge, for example, commented that though the sense of the Scripture be but one entire sense, yet sometimes the Scripture is to be understood literally, sometimes figuratively and metaphorically. The Puritans did not even deny that there were allegorical passages in the Bible. James Durham wrote, There is great difference betwixt an allegoric exposition of Scripture, and an exposition of allegoric Scripture. Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Academie Books, 1986), 145.

Monergist Reformer: William Tyndale

Friday··2018·10·05
William Tyndale (ca. 1494–1536) is most famous for producing the first English translation of the Bible, a crime for which he was finally burned. It is no overstatement, I believe, to say that it was Tyndale’s work, before anything else but the sovereign decree of God, that made the English Reformation possible. Influenced first by Luther, and then by Zwingli and other Swiss reformers, he has been called “the mighty mainspring of the English Reformation” and “the first of the Puritans, or, at least their grandfather.” Tyndale stands firmly in what Lawson calls “a long line of godly men” who learned and held fast to the doctrines of grace through the darkest years of church history. In advising the best way to read the Scriptures, Tyndale writes, “First note with strong faith the power of God, in creating all of nought.” . . . Further, he asserted that God possesses the supreme right to do with His creation as He pleases, saying, “God has power over all His creatures of right, to do with them what He will, or to make of every one of them as He wills.” . . . “God is free, and no further bound than He bindeth Himself.” . . . Tyndale maintained that man is so depraved he cannot see his need for grace. He writes, “We are as it were asleep in so deep blindness, that we can neither see nor feel what misery, thraldom, and wretchedness we are in.” . . . Tyndale was firmly convinced that God, acting in eternal, unconditional love, chose a people out of fallen humanity to be His own possession. He says, “Predestination . . . and salvation are clean taken out of our hands, and put in the hands of God only . . . for we are so weak and so uncertain, that if it stood in us, there would of a truth be no man saved; the devil, no doubt, would deceive us.” Salvation is impossible apart from divine election. Furthermore, it was not based on any supposed foreseen choice of God by man. Tyndale writes, “God chose them [the elect] first, and they not God.” . . . “In Christ God chose us, and elected us before the beginning of the world, created us anew by the word of the gospel, and put His Spirit in us, . . . that we should do good works. . . . Tyndale believed that divine election is inseparably linked to the irresistible call of the Spirit. All whom the Father has chosen, he maintained, are divinely brought to saving faith in Christ. This is a work God must do because man is dead in his sin and cannot choose to believe the gospel. Before anyone can believe, Tyndale writes, “the Spirit must first come, and wake him out of his sleep with the thunder of the law, and fear Him, and show him his miserable estate and wretchedness; and make him abhor and hate himself, and to desire help; and then comfort him again with the pleasant rain of the gospel.” Elsewhere he restates this work of the Spirit in these terms: “Note now the order: first God gives me light to see the goodness and righteousness of the law, and my own sin and unrighteousness; out of which knowledge springs repentance. . . . Then the same Spirit works in my heart trust and confidence, to believe the mercy of God and His truth, that He will do as He has promised; which belief saves me.” . . . Tyndale held that it is an evil thing to teach that man has free will to believe in Christ. He states: “Is it not a froward and perverse blindness, to teach how a man can do nothing of his own self; and yet presumptuously take upon them the greatest and highest work of God, even to make faith in themselves of their own power, and of their own false imagination and thoughts.” . . . “Beware of the leaven that says, we have power in our free-will, before the preaching of the gospel, to deserve grace, to keep the law of congruity, or God to be unrighteous. . . . And when they say our deeds with grace deserve heaven, say thou with Paul, (Romans 6) that ‘everlasting life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’” . . . Tyndale affirmed that no elect believer will lose his salvation. All who truly repent and trust Christ will never fall from grace. He says, “God’s elect cannot so fall that they rise not again, because that the mercy of God ever waits upon them, to deliver them from evil, as the care of a kind father waits upon his son to warn him and to keep him from occasions, and to call him back again if he be gone too far.” . . . “Life eternal and all good things are promised unto faith and belief; so that he that believes on Christ shall be safe.” —Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 464, 466–467, 469–471.

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