“Know Thyself” and Christian Art: The Dispute Between William Tyndale and Thomas More
Abrief debate carried on between England and the Low Countries at the beginning of the Reformation illustrated some effects of enforcing religious conformity as a common denominator of government. Though he himself was a priest, William Tyndale (ca. 1492–1536) came so much under Martin Luther’s inspiration that he undertook a new translation of the Scriptures into English as a first step toward reforming the clergy. The threshold of the Reformation in England, King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, was still in the future. Translation of the Scriptures was condemned as heresy. The period 1521–1536, led Tyndale ever more deeply into Protestantism. He was hounded out of England and found refuge in Germany, where he was both encouraged by Luther and pursued by agents of Henry VIII, acting as “defender of the faith,” and his bishops. Persisting in his translation despite crushing losses, he challenged and debated Thomas More, from what he considered a safe haven, Antwerp. But, even after Henry VIII cast off his obedience to the papacy (1532), Tyndale was betrayed to his agents and executed.
KeywordsComplete Work Human Work Henry VIII Visual Imagination Spiritual Exercise
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- 2.Thomas More, Utopia, in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, 14 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963–1997) [henceforth Complete Works], ed. Edward Surtz and J.H. Hexter, 4:230–33.Google Scholar
- 7.Cf. his reference to humility as a “painters pencil” with which believers would be marked with Christ’s blood for the great Passover. Thomas More, Treatise upon the Passion, ch. 1, lecture 1, in The Tower Works: Devotional Works, ed. Garry E. Haupt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), p. 67.Google Scholar
- 9.William Roper, The Life of Sir Thomas More, Knight, in Lives of Saint Thomas More, ed. E.E. Reynolds (London: Dent, 1963), p. 14.Google Scholar
- 20.On Books of Hours in general, see the excellent introduction in Roger S. Wieck, Painted Prayers: The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art (New York: George Braziller, 1998), esp. pp. 9–25, 99–108.Google Scholar
- 21.Roger S. Wieck, William M. Voelkle, and K. Michelle Hearne, The Hours of Henry VIII: A Renaissance Masterpiece by Jean Poyet (New York: George Braziller, 2000).Google Scholar
- 22.Louis L. Martz and Richard S. Sylvester, eds., Thomas More’s Prayer Book: A Facsimile Reproduction of the Annotated Pages, Elizabethan Club Series 4 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969). I am grateful to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, for the opportunity to inspect the volume, and to Ms. Ellen Cordes for her generous assistance.Google Scholar
- 29.Thomas More, Letter 206 in The Correspondence of SirThomas More, ed. Elizabeth Frances Rogers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), p. 206.Google Scholar
- 31.William Tyndale, An Answere unto Sir Thomas Mores Dialoge, ed. Anne M. O’Donnell and Jared Wicks (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), p. 14. See also p. 194.Google Scholar
- 41.William Tyndale, An Answer unto Sir Thomas Mores Dialogue, in The Works of the English Reformers: William Tyndale and John Frith, vol. 1, ed. Thomas Russell (London: Ebenezer Palmer, 1831), pp. 190–93. Tyndale, An Answere, pp. 103, 183–84.Google Scholar