William Tyndale on the Sabbath

William Tyndale, just before being burned at t...

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Thomas More (the Roman Catholic apologist eventually executed by Henry VIII, in his 1529 work Dialogue Concerning Heresies, argues against the principle of sola scriptura, a doctrine which he calls “the foundation and ground of all his [i.e., Martin Luther‘s] great heresies”. Part of his argument focuses on the the religious observance of the first day of the week, which he asserts is grounded only in church tradition, and not written revelation, and therefore must be abandoned by one who holds to sola scriptura. More writes,

Now must he by that means condemn the church of Christ for that they sanctify not the Saturday, which was the sabaoth day institute by God among the Jews, commanding the sabaoth day to be kept holy. And albeit the matter of the precept is moral and the day legal, so that it may be changed, yet will there, I wene, no man think that ever the church would take upon them to change it without special ordinance of God, whereof we find no remembrance at all in holy scripture….Many things are there like, which as holy doctors agree, were taught the apostles by Christ, and the church by the apostles, and so comen down to our days by continual succession from theirs.

William Tyndale, the first generation English Reformer, Bible translator, and ultimately martyr for Christ, responded to More in his 1531 book, An Answer unto Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue. Regarding the Sabbath-Sunday change, Tyndale does not assert an exegetical argument for the change of day. In fact, he adopts a position so radical it would bar him from ministry and even membership in many modern day “confessional” Reformed congregations. Tyndale writes,

And as for the Saboth, a great matter, we be lords over the Saboth; and may yet change it into the Monday, or any other day, as we see need; or may make every tenth day holy day only, if we see a cause why. We may make two every week, if it were expedient, and one not enough to teach the people. Neither was there any cause to change it from the Saturday, than to put difference between us and the Jews; and lest we should become servants unto the day, after their superstition. Neither needed we any holy day at all, if the people might be taught without it.

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