Tyndale’s Letter from Prison

2nd-Tim-4-13-cloak-parchment-1534NT

2 Timothy 4:13 (Tyndale New Testament, 1534)

The cloke that I lefte at Troada with Carpus/ when thou commest/ brynge with the/ and the bokes / but specially the partchement.

William Tyndale was arrested in 1535 and spent nearly 500 days in Vilvorde Prison. One letter from him, written in Latin, has survived. The English translation of his letter is below. 2 Timothy 4:13 seemed an appropriate caption. The letter speaks volumes about the terrible conditions which Tyndale endured. It is a moving letter.

I believe, most excellent Sir, that you are not unacquainted with the decision reached concerning me. On which account, I beseech your lordship, even by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to pass the winter here, to urge upon the lord commissary, if he will deign, to send me from my goods in his keeping a warmer cap, for I suffer greatly from cold in the head, being troubled with a continual catarrh, which is aggravated in this prison vault. A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin. Also cloth for repairing my leggings. My overcoat is worn out; the shirts also are worn out. He has a woolen shirt of mine, if he will please send it. I have also with him leggings of heavier cloth for overwear. He likewise has warmer nightcaps: I also ask for leave to use a lamp in the evening, for it is tiresome to sit alone in the dark. But above all, I beg and entreat your clemency earnestly to intercede with the lord commissary, that he would deign to allow me the use of my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Lexicon, and that I might employ my time with that study. Thus likewise may you obtain what you most desire, saving that it further the salvation of your soul. But if, before the end of winter, a different decision be reached concerning me, I shall be patient, and submit to the will of God to the glory of the grace of Jesus Christ my Lord, whose spirit may ever direct your heart. Amen.

W. Tyndale

This translation comes from an 1884 book written by Jacob Isidor Mombert: William Tyndale’s Five Books of Moses Called the Pentateuch: Being a Verbatim Reprint of the Edition of M.CCCCC.XXX. (New York and London, 1884), pp. li-lii.

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