“Know Thyself” and Christian Art: The Dispute Between William Tyndale and Thomas More

  • Karl F. Morrison
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


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.


Complete Work Human Work Henry VIII Visual Imagination Spiritual Exercise 
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    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
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    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
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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • Karl F. Morrison

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