William Tyndale was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his translation of the Bible into English. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther. While a number of partial and incomplete translations had been made from the seventh century onward, the grass-roots spread of Wycliffe's Bible resulted in a death sentence for any unlicensed possession of Scripture in English—even though all the major European languages had been translated and made available. Tyndale's translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English one to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation. It was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and English Laws to maintain church rulings. In 1530, Tyndale also wrote The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII's divorce on the grounds that it contravened Scripture.
Tyndale had to learn Hebrew in Germany due to England's active Edict of Expulsion against the Jews. He worked in an age where Greek was available to the European scholarly community for the first time in centuries. Erasmus compiled and edited Greek Scriptures into the Textus Receptus—ironically, to improve upon the Latin Vulgate—following the Renaissance-fueling Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the dispersion of Greek-speaking intellectuals and texts into a Europe which previously had access to none. Sharing Erasmus' translation ideals, Tyndale took the ill-regarded, unpopular and awkward Middle-English "vulgar" tongue, improved upon it using Greek and Hebrew syntaxes and idioms, and formed an Early Modern English basis that Shakespeare and others would later follow and build upon as Tyndale-inspired vernacular forms took over. When a copy of his paradigm shifting "The Obedience of a Christian Man" fell into the hands of Henry VIII, the king found the rationale to break the Church in England from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534.
Feast of William Tyndale, Translator of the Scriptures, Martyr, 1536 Now go to, reader, and according to the order of Paul's writing [in Romans], even so do thou. First behold thyself diligently in the law of God, and see there thy just damnation. Secondarily, turn thine eyes to Christ, and see there the exceeding mercy of thy most kind and loving Father. Thirdly, remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again; neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest return (as a swine) unto thine old puddle again: but that thou shouldest be a new creature and live a new life after the will of God and not of the flesh. And be diligent lest through thine own negligence and unthankfulness thou lose this favor and mercy again.