Sir Thomas More


One of William Tyndale’s bitterest opponents, and one of the best-known men in 16th-century England—for his power, his intellect and his religious convictions. His was the central character in the prize-winning play and movie, A Man for All Seasons. A devout and intelligent Roman Catholic layman, he was appointed to the post of Lord Chancellor, then was commissioned by the king and the church to refute William Tyndale’s arguments and to discredit his character. He wrote nine books against Tyndale, filling more than 1,000 pages with arguments and invective against the reformer, and always defending the ultimate authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church (see “The Pen-and-Ink Wars,”).

Ironically, though More had many people executed because they denied the pope’s authority, his immovable commitment to that authority eventually led to his own death. When King Henry insisted on getting a divorce contrary to papal proclamations, then went on to declare that the pope no longer had authority in England, More told the king that he disagreed and would have to resign his post. Henry could not tolerate the public humiliation of having his closest advisor visibly questioning his wisdom, so he had More executed on trumped-up charges.

Cuthbert Tunstall

The bishop of London to whom Tyndale went in 1524, seeking patronage for his work of translating the New Testament into English. As far as the church hierarchy went, Tunstall was a shrewd choice on Tyndale’s part. Tunstall was a learned man, a language scholar of some ability himself, and he had declared his affection for some of Erasmus’s reform oriented ideas.

But Tyndale’s request came at a time when things done in the name of reform were creating havoc in Europe: ...

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