1st Sunday in Advent 2002
This Advent in Geneva a new bell named Hope (L`Espérance) embossed with the words `I will sing praise to the Lord morning and evening` was installed, using mediaeval methods, in the tower of St Pierre’s Cathedral. This ceremony took place exactly a century after the installation of another bell named La Clémence (Compassionate Mercy). It was an interesting event in a year which is witnessing the Genevois celebrate with year-long fervour 400 years of the success of their reformation, something that is usually confined to a weekend of pageantry in December. Their struggle began in 1536 and was essentially ended in 1602 when they defeated the Savoyards in a battle on the night of 11/12 December, thus establishing their right to exist as an independent Protestant state. This night of defeat for the Savoyards (and incidentally Italians and Spaniards as well) has become known as ‘L`Escalade’ because the enemy attempted to scale the city walls by using long ladders. Thus, even now, the Reformation and its consequences are still a very live issue here in ‘la Rome Protestante’. It has also been a year when the names of John Wycliffe and his mentor, Jan Hus of Bohemia, have been added to the International Reformation Monument erected in 1902. Thus they join the illustrious company of Jean Calvin, John Knox, Théodore de Bèze, Ulrich Zwingli, Guillaume Farel, Roger Williams, Martin Bucer and many other stars of the 16th century fight for religious reform in Europe.
Tyndale may have been eclipsed by Wycliffe as far as the Geneva Reformation Wall is concerned but it can be stated, without doubt, that in 2002 he has transmutated from martyr to media star. This autumn witnessed an unprecedented focus of attention on him – spoken of on the radio, mentioned in the press, voted on as one of the hundred Greatest Britons, seen on TV, figured in a major exhibition in Belgium, written of in a new biography and the subject of an apology by a Roman Catholic Bishop in Antwerp Cathedral. Truly a momentous year for a man who, until his quincentenary in 1994, was largely unfêted and unacknowledged by all but the most academic of historians and theologians.
One of Tyndale’s ardent followers and publicists, Dr Guido Latré, the mentor of the greatly admired exhibition `Tyndale’s Testament` at Antwerp’s Plantin-Moretus Museum and the organizer of the Society’s extraordinarily successful Antwerp Conference, has also become a media star in his own right. During the Conference itself he gave many interviews to Belgian and European radio and TV stations and, even as I write, he is consulting and working with a BBC documentary film unit in Belgium on a programme scheduled for showing in early spring 2003.
As editor I was able to cash in on the infectious enthusiasm of the Antwerp Conference participants and persuade several of them to write reports. There is a comprehensive and very readable account by Eunice Burton of the five memorable days in Belgium; our new American representative, Dr Joe Johnson, has contributed a very original article on a Yankee’s view of the events; Mary Clow was moved to report on the historic service of Evensong which preceded the opening ceremony of the exhibition. Brian Johnson, a comparatively new member, has written an enthusiastic overview of the exhibition `Tyndale’s Testament` urging us to buy the catalogue if we are unable to go to see it. So good is his sales pitch that it crossed my mind to claim for the Journal the royalties of the subsequent sales from the publishing firm!
It has not been possible to do justice to the Conference in this one issue and it is hoped to include further reports and even some papers from it next year although most of the main lectures should eventually appear in Reformation. As a compromise I have taken the unusual decision to print the programme and abstracts.
Antwerp has not completely stolen the limelight. Our lead article `Tyndale and the Ordeal of Bartolomeo Platina` by Anne Richardson is an interesting and, to my knowledge, quite novel slant on Tyndalian studies. It urges us to take into account his debt to the Italian writer, historian and Vatican librarian, Platina. To accompany and broaden this Ralph Werrell has allowed us to reprint his paper entitled `Tyndale’s Theology`.
Our reviewing stalwart, Neil Inglis, has triumphed yet again with his thoughts on Jasper Ridley`s recent book Bloody Mary’s Martyrs. He is joined in this issue by another reviewer from America, Prof Don Millus, to whom we attributed the task of assessing Brian Moynahan`s new book on Tyndale If God Spare My Life. There is also a shorter review of Judith Middleton Stewart’s book Inward Purity and Outward Splendour: Death and Remembrance in the Deanery of Dunwich, Suffolk 1370-1547. Incidentally, all three book reviews provide essential homework for future Tyndale Society events – that of Inglis for the 3rd Geneva Tyndale Conference `Not for Burning; The Marian Exiles in 16th Century Europe` in October 2003, that of Millus for Brian Moynahan`s question and answer session at the Tyndale Society Christmas party in London in mid-December and that of Litten for the East Anglian Day Conference in Norwich this coming March.
Our ploughboys have been frantically writing and learning as well as reading! Limited space has forced your editor to make tough selection decisions on their letters and contributions whilst fervently hoping that this will not discourage further efforts on their part. Indeed, some communications are already scheduled to appear in the next issue. A surfeit of articles is surely a sign of a healthy Society. Meanwhile, keep on reading your journal. There are a host of possibilities for meetings and research projects in it.
Those among you who are assiduous readers of cornflake packets, the inside covers of journals and so on will already have noted that Judith Munzinger has kindly agreed to become my official editorial assistant. I am extremely grateful to her. Mind you, if my postbag continues to expand as it has recently I shall have to clone her sooner than planned! Your new media star, a certain William Tyndale, is becoming difficult to manage. If there is anyone else who would like to join our editorial team we should be only too glad to hear from them – proof reading is very time consuming even though it can be done in unlikely places such as trains, tennis clubs, mountain chalets and airports.
At this season of hope, stars (be they astronomical or media ones) and bells may I wish all Tyndalians a friendly, joyful Christmas and may we ring in yet another successful year of exciting research.