Feast of the Epiphany 2006
Beholde, there cam wyse men from the est to Jerusalem saynge: where is he that is borne kynge of the Jues? we have sene his starre in the est, and are come to worship hym.
(From The Gospell of St Matthew in William Tyndale’s New Testament 1526)
Epiphany has become associated in the western Christian Church with the quest of the Magi (seers, sages, wise men, kings) journeying from the east following a mysterious star to become the first gentiles to do homage to Christ. It is therefore a feast of mysterious adventurous journeying both in the intellectual and physical sense.
Little is known of these Magi, literally wise men and specifically the three wise men of the East, who brought gifts to the infant Jesus. In fact, they are mentioned only in one Gospel that of St Matthew. The idea that they were kings first appears in Christian tradition in the writings of Tertullian. It was generally accepted from the 6th century onwards and although the New Testament account says nothing of their number it has become by tradition three – Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. They brought with them their three solemn gifts of mystic meaning: gold as the emblem of royalty, frankincense in token of divinity, and myrrh in prophetic allusion to the persecution unto death which awaited the man of sorrows. In the Middle Ages these wise men/kings were venerated as saints and the Milanese claimed to possess their relics brought from Constantinople in the 5th century. In 1162 Barbarossa took them to Germany and they are now enshrined in Cologne Cathedral. Whether they existed or not it all makes a fascinating travel story and adds to the excitement of Epiphany which was originally a celebration in honour of Christ’s baptism and in the fourth century ranked with Easter and Pentecost as one of the three principal festivals of the church.
In many ways the activities and writings of our Society has reflected this spirit of searching for the truth through intellectual journeying, investigation and reflection. The title of the Fourth Oxford Tyndale Conference ‘Opening the Word to the World’ echoed the quest for the truth so earnestly sought by the original wise men. A group of sages travelled in hope from the ends of the earth and gathered at Hertford College, Oxford this past September to deliberate on and expound their research on a wealth of 16th century biblical topics. The excellent detailed report of that happening by Eunice Burton is to be found in this issue. You will also find two of the many excellent papers delivered at Oxford published in full –William Tyndale and the Politics of Grace by Rev. Dr Simon Oliver and The Wycliffite’ De Ecclesia et Membris Ejus’: English Prose and Tyndalian Concerns by Prof. Donald Millus. Ann Manly has written an account of the adventurous musical concert given by our friends, the English Chamber Choir, in Hertford College Chapel.
Talking of music Canon Lucy Winkett launched us into uncharted territory when she delivered in spell-binding style the Eleventh Annual Lambeth Tyndale Lecture entitled From iPod to Evensong: Listening to the Music of Scripture. Again this has been ably written up by our hard-working reporter, Eunice Burton.
Has joining the EU finally opened the eyes of researchers in England to lands overseas? Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch, never guilty of this ‘tunnel’ vision, broadened the ideas of many English Reformation scholars by discussing the significance of reformation thought and events on the continental mainland of Europe, most particularly in Zurich, Unfortunately his Eleventh Annual Hertford Tyndale Lecture The Latitude of the Church of England is to be printed elsewhere (on the continent!) but he has promised a synopsis for a future issue of the TSJ.
In North American News Jennifer Bekemeier reports that the American Office has experienced a membership growth of over 18% in the past year and encouragingly many of the delegates and speakers at the Oxford Conference were from America. Another Virginia Conference is planned for September 2007. Perhaps we in Europe should start planning our vacations around it!
The voyage of intellectual discovery is pursued by David Daniell in his review article on the some of the recently-published books of our patron, Archbishop Rowan Williams. Another book review of James Carley’s The Books of King Henry VIII reminds us that another king in the 16th century closely studied his vast collection of books, as the frequent marginalia in his own hand testify. According to the reviewer, William Cooper, ‘this has to produce a profound change in the way many of us have been taught to think of Henry’.
In Press Gleanings we have printed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on the confirmation of the election of Rt. Rev. John Sentamu as Archbishop of York. It was delivered on 5 October, the eve of William Tyndale’s martyrdom. In Ploughboy Notes David Ireson shares his personal reflections on what it means to be an evangelical liberal. Our readers have spotted a poem on Tyndale and yet another stained glass window to feature in our regular column Sightings of Tyndale.
There are many interesting events planned for this year and next so please consult Dates for Your Diary and contact the organisers to sign on for them. As a Society with no paid staff we have to rely on this column as our means of communication – extra mailings cost money. The London Study Day should be most rewarding. It had been planned before the inspiring lecture given by Andrew Hope on The Publication History of William Tyndale’s English New Testament – the rather prosaic title belies the fascinating detective story that was unravelled on that occasion. The Study day will involve walking to some significant London sites, and we will certainly be more aware of the publishing network (as opposed to the smuggling of books) to which Andrew drew our attention in his paper.
This Journal only appears thanks to the support given to the editor by the Society’s readers and sympathisers. My special thanks go to Judith Munzinger who, as always, has acted as wise counsellor and guardian of good spelling and correct punctuation: to our publisher, Paul Barron, who has yet again turned bad layout and ideas into pleasing copy; to Robin Offord, who seamlessly undertook the replacement of my computer software and hardware, thus significantly reducing the bi-annual panic level; to our ever efficient events reporter, Eunice Burton; and to a newcomer to our team, Angela Butler. She was completely enchanted by her proof-reading duties for the James Carley book review and immediately contacted him and his family whom she knows well! Incidentally she also remarked that she found the copy of the TSJ a deal more stimulating than the United Nations articles she used to deal with professionally. So take heed – interesting copy motivates the workforce.
This first issue of the New Year witnesses the retirement of our distinguished, enthusiastic and erudite chairman, Prof. David Daniell, who has led us so successfully towards enlightenment over the past ten years. We thank him for the journey he undertook with the Society and note that he will continue to accompany us as emeritus chairman. We welcome wholeheartedly Mary Clow who has nobly agreed to take on the chairmanship. May the Society, as the sages of old, continue to explore and journey along new routes in search of the truth.
Fairer than the sun at morning was the star that told his birth
To the lands their God announcing seen in fleshly form on earth.