1st April 2003
Attempting to put pen to paper, or rather more truthfully finger to keyboard, I realized with a start that this past week has been the week of April Fools, traditionally the season of mayhem and misrule. Endeavouring to write an editorial against a barrage of turmoil in the world is not easy. An investigation into the origins of the custom did little to soothe my thoughts.
Springtime has, since antiquity, been associated with foolery and trickery often involving temporary inversions of the social order. During the Middle Ages a number of celebrations developed which served as predecessors to April Fools’ Day. Perhaps the most important was the Festus Fatuorum (Feast of Fools) which evolved from the Roman Saturnalia. For the observance of this day, mostly in France, celebrants elected a mock pope and parodied church rituals. Needless to say the church was not overdelighted by this but it lingered on until the 16th century. Whereupon another theory/pretext is postulated for the existence of these festivities namely the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar (established by the Council of Trent in 1563 and adopted by France in 1582). Those who failed to keep up with the change of New Year’s Day to 1 January and stubbornly clung to celebrating the start of the year during the week that fell between 25 March and 1 April had various jokes played on them. Unfortunately, this theory will not really do for England, which adopted the new calendar much later. Frankly no theory is really watertight but the fact that these celebrations appear in slightly different forms in different countries seems to indicate that people need a safety valve to vent their social antagonisms in a harmless way.
Thomas Poyntz, the subject of the first article in this issue, certainly lived in uncertain times when values and ideas were being overturned, tossed about and tormented over. However, in his case it was for an indefinite period of time, not simply for the finite duration of an April Fool week. Brian Buxton’s exciting new research into Poyntz’s life shows how the direction and prosperity of a man and his family was permanently changed, largely for the worse, by his courageous support of William Tyndale. He was imprisoned, separated from his family, and brought to near penury and despair for taking by what he perceived to be an honourable stand. ‘Thomas Poyntz: Brought unto Misery for so Godly a Cause’ breaks new ground and makes a really interesting story.
Ralph Werrell writing on ‘John Trevisa and William Tyndale’ teases us with some thoughts and theories about the roots of Tyndale’s theology. He freely acknowledges that this is a cautious beginning to a preliminary look at the subject and invites further comments and suggestions from his readers. He identified this area of further research when working on his doctoral dissertation.
For many of us computers will always bring chaos and confusion to our lives. Deborah Pollard is an able master – or rather mistress – at calming our panic. She has written a paper, based on the practical demonstration she presented at the Antwerp Conference, ‘The Tyndale Bible Concordance’, in which she explains things so clearly that we will all wonder why these infernal machines tantalize us so.
By sheer coincidence in these uncertain times we have had two lectures in recent months with but tenuous links to Tyndale but airing the issues that confront us in this century. Eunice Burton, whom your editor has now trained in Pavlovian fashion to attend all events with pen flowing and pencil sharpened at the ready, has succinctly presented a report on the 8th Lambeth Lecture given by the Rt Hon Chris Patten last November entitled ‘Ethics and the National Interest – Is there a Contradiction?’ We Tyndalians seem with suspicious frequency to be avant garde in our choice of speakers and subjects. Who could have predicted then how thought provoking this lecture would prove in the maelstrom of events we are currently embroiled in? The other very pertinent lecture was given by Chas Raws at Gloucester Cathedral entitled ‘Humanity as Victim’, a reflection on the role of torture throughout the ages and our progress in abolishing it.
The Christmas Service and discussion with Brian Moynahan on his new book provided a lighter interlude to our philosophical ponderings and has been reported on by the event’s ever efficient and cheerful organiser, Mary Clow. The editor’s postbag becomes larger with each issue – usually appreciative but not unfailingly! We have reproduced here but a few letters on subjects ranging from a possible theory that reading the Journal can cure a cold to an enquiry as to the site of Tarshish. Do keep writing.
The book reviews were selected long before the present upheavals so no political message is intended. Nonetheless, Geoffrey Moorhouse’s ‘The Pilgrimage of Grace’ spells out what can happen to those who revolt against a perceived tyrant. In this instance, Robert Aske led a motley, but very disciplined, band against the King’s enormous army. And never fear dear Inglis fans, our in house reviewer will return from sabbatical soon!
It is very cheering to learn that our American membership is expanding under the enthusiastic guidance of its new officer, Dr Joe Johnson. We wish him great success and hope to welcome many more members and contributors to this Journal. Let us know of your plans. Indeed, Patrick Gabridge from Maryland has already given a splendid example by reporting in on his recently completed play about Tyndale and the English Bible ‘God’s Voice’.
The Ploughboys are still not up to full strength but are working very hard indeed. They continue to provide Notes and News for the Journal. Robin Everitt’s contribution to this issue, ‘Tyndale’s Translation and Theology’ cites some lesser-known sources to explore this theme.
There are many local and international events in the coming months so please read your Journals assiduously. The 3rd Geneva Tyndale Conference ‘Not for Burning: The Marian Exiles in 16th century Europe’ will take place in October this year and you can read all about it in this issue. Those who attended two years ago are signing up and encouraging their friends to do so. It may not be on the scale of Antwerp but the speakers are definitely an ‘A’ team and some of their subjects a departure from or important sidelights on the well beaten Reformation theme. A further exciting event is the publication by Yale University Press this June of Prof David Daniell’s remarkable new book ‘The Bible in English’.
Some dinner guests here in Geneva who were recently ‘volunteered’ for urgent proof reading remarked that everyone should have an obsession or, slightly preferably, a passion in life and your editor’s is currently Tyndale. I should like to thank everyone who has contributed to this issue with reports, papers, letters and information – the band is too large nowadays to name individually – but above all I owe an immense debt to my faithful editorial assistant, and last-remaining dinner guest, Judith Munzinger. She contributes a sensible voice and a practical hand, both curbing my impulsive enthusiasms.
Whatever the explanation of April Fools’ Day may be elsewhere, the end of this period of misrule is celebrated in Switzerland by the peaceful munching of chocolate, and the confectioners’ shops are full of chocolate fish. ‘Poisson d’avril’ is French for ‘April Fool joke’, an idea which derives from the fact that the young fish appearing in the streams and rivers in spring are easy to fool with a hook and lure. Would that the unknown period of chaos on the world’s stage could have such a simple and benign ending.