AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

The Authority of Scripture, the Church and the King in the debate between Thomas More and William Tyndale 1528-1533

by Atte-Veikko Kemppainen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2015
Keywords: Yleinen kirkkohistoria
Record ID: 1134429
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/154715


This thesis examines the literal debate between Thomas More (1478–1535) and William Tyndale (1494-1535) between 1528–1533. The main theme is authority and what Tyndale and More believe to be the highest authority concerning all matters of faith: The Scriptures, the Church or the King. After the historical background this thesis is divided into three analysis sections: In the first section we examine the need for English vernacular Scriptures and Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament (1525) and especially the meaning of ekklesia and presbyteros in English. In the second section we examine the foundation of the Church, infallibility of the Church, the relationship between written and unwritten word and the interpreting and defining of the Scriptures. In the third part we examine earthly authority and King Henry VIII’s divorce and Tyndale and More’s relationship with the king. The sources selected for this thesis are Tyndale’s The Obedience of a Christian man (1528), More’s A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1529), Tyndale’s An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (1531) and More’s Confutation to Tyndale’s Answer (1532-33). The method applied to the sources is close reading. The sources are presented in chronological order in each of the subjects and Tyndale’s and More’s views are also compared to Erasmus Desiderius and Martin Luther. Erasmus and Christian humanism is a common theological context for Tyndale and More. Tyndale was influenced by Erasmus and More was a collaborator and a friend of Erasmus. Tyndale is compared to Luther in order to examine his dependence on the German reformer. As a result this thesis shows that the highest authority concerning all matters of faith for Tyndale is the Scriptures and for More the Church. Tyndale believes that all matters that we need to know about faith have been written down and there can be no unwritten tradition or doctrine that contradicts the Scriptures. However, More believes that since Christ promised to be with his Church it is guided by his word both written and unwritten.