Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard Marius

Committee Members

Paul J. Pinckney, Sarah R. Blancher, Galen Brooks, R. B. Edwards


This dissertation investigates the political thought of William Tyndale and its relationship to other important expressions of political thought during the English Reformation. The first three chapters are devoted to a detailed analysis of certain aspects of Tyndale's political thought: his discussion of the origin and nature of authority; his theory of law in its political sense; and his consideration of the problem of church and state. The four remaining chapters of this dissertation clarify the relationship of Tyndale's political thought to the revival of Lollardy; to the thought of one Henrician apologist; to the intellectual current of Renaissance humanism as represented by the Utopia of Thomas More; and finally to the thought of one commonwealth man and Puritan, Robert Crowley.

Tyndale discussed questions such as the nature of authority and the problem of church and state by applying his theology to his vision of politics. Thus, his earlier treatment of these topics was greatly influenced by Luther's thought. Tyndale's sense of authority was Lutheran in inspiration and Pauline in content. Likewise, his theory of law as expressed in his Obedience of a Christian Man was decidedly Lutheran. Tyndale always remained heavily indebted to the German reformer for his concept of law in its political sense. His preferred sense of natural law was also to Luther's.

Tyndale borrowed from other reformers as well as from Luther to formulate his political thought. When he wrote his Practyse of Pelates, he looked to Vadianus and used his work of ye old God and the newe extensively in his discussion of the problems of church and state. However, after 1530, Tyndale began to apply his own theology and his own ecclesiology to the political problems of the Reformation. With regard to the problem of church and state, Tyndale's new-found definition of the word "church" which he offered to More in his Answere to More's dialoge meant that he no longer considered this problem in terms of institutions, but rather in terms of individuals. After 1530, the church appeared to Tyndale as a multitude of professing Christians, and he became more interested in the relationship of the individual Christian to the temporal regiment. With regard to his vision of government, after 1533, Tyndale viewed government as a covenant between God and man in which God gave man his ability to maintain a political organization in return for obedience to all temporal laws. Tyndale had applied his own unique covenant theology to his vision of the Christian commonwealth.

Tyndale participated in the general revival of Lollardy during the sixteenth century, and Chapter IV of this study explores the political thought of Tyndale, Wyclif and the Lollards. Tyndale viewed his own career in light of those "unknown men" who had gone before him and on several occasions he resurrected Lollard complaints against the established church.

The relationship of Tyndale's political thought to the intellectual current of Renaissance humanism as expressed by Thomas More in his Utopia is the subject of Chapter V of this study. Tyndale's failure to be affected by humanism and conciliarism meant that his vision of government was drastically different from that of his arch rival, Thomas More.

Chapter VI considers the relationship of Tyndale's thoughts to the thought of one Henrician apologist, Christopher St. German. In the past, Tyndale had been styled as a Henrician apologist, yet the degree and type of royal control over the church which he advocated fell far short of St. German's ideas on this question. As royal control of the church forms the essence of the thought and arguments of the Henrician apologist, the usual description of Tyndale as a Henrician apologist is certainly questionable.

Robert Crowley also participated in the revival of Lollardy during the sixteenth century through his activities as a printer, but there are more significant links between the thought of this vocal Puritan and the thought of Tyndale. It has been shown elsewhere that Tyndale was a pioneer in the procedure of applying Christian principles to the totality of a Christian society and that Crowley and the commonwealth men followed in the footsteps of the man who gave English Puritanism its first theological expression. This connection is discussed in Chapter VII of this dissertation. However, Chapter VII also reveals that Crowley was indebted to Tyndale for several of his arguments concerning the all-important question of the king's authority over the church.

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