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17. Prologue to Tyndale’s New Testament (Cologne, 1525).

This is the prologue to the New Testament written by Tyndale in Cologne in 1525, during the reign of Henry VIII. At the beginning of the 16th century, a new religious stream appeared in Europe: the Protestant Reformation. It was led by a German man, Martin Luther, who preached about the corruption of the Catholic Church and the need of a reform. Luther gained

international popularity and many people joined his cause. Lutherans found the many Catholic sacraments excessive and believed in the Bible as the only source of knowledge of God; they called it “Sola Scriptura”. They gave big importance to the individual reading of the Bible, but as it was only written in non-vernacular languages, so the mass of uneducated people in Europe had no access to it but through the reading of preachers. Protestants promoted the translation of the Bible into vernacular

languages. The first translation was done by Martin Luther in Germany, and others followed. In England, Henry VIII was a devout Catholic and so was his wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Kings of Spain. Henry was known as “Defender of the Faith” for the fame his book “The Defence of the Seven Sacraments” gave him, a book with which he tried to counter-act the attacks of the Lutherans to the Catholic forms. Due to this, the first English Protestants took refuge in Germany, and there the

translations to English began. One of them was William Tyndale, who printed his translations from Greek and Hebrew of certain books of the Bible in Gutenberg’s printing press. In the first paragraph of the text there is a recurrent idea: humans are naturally evil. Tyndale explains that we are inheritors of Adam’s and Eve’s sins, who disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. Therefore, we are sinful and condemned to keep on

committing sin. Through many examples typical of the religious texts (a serpent on line 7, and adder and a toad on line 10, a venomous worm on line 12...) he argues that it is not our sins that make us evil; but our nature is evil, and we therefore have no option but to sin when the occasion comes. This idea is a Lutheran one. Tyndale adopted many

of the Lutheran ideas, and they are present in his translations.

In the second paragraph, however, Tyndale gives a ray of hope; with a new metaphor, says that, just like humans pluck and graft a plant, God has taken them away from the evil of Adam and brought them the goodness through Jesus Christ. He talks of the “elect and chosen” (line 22) referring to those who believe in Protestantism. 

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