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HOME > Library > Books > "The Supper of the Lord after the True Meaning of John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11 and WM. Tracy's Testament Expounded" by William Tyndale (1531)
The Supper of the Lord after the True Meaning
of John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11 and
WM. Tracy's Testament Expounded.
(work is underway)
by William Tyndale
Originally published: 1531
The Parker Society Edition published 1850
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
[Title of Original Edition.]
of the Lorde.
wher unto, that thou mayest be the better pre-
[Title of edition in the Archbishop's Library, Lambeth.]
of the Lorde.
After the true meayng of the sixte of John,
1 Corhinth. xi.
Whosoeber shall eat of this bread
Anno MCCCCC XXX III.
V day of Apryll.
1. Crosses were inserted into the text, to mark the portions to be read in public service; and were therefore fixed. Marginal letters were used to facilitate reference previous to the division of the new testament into what are styled verses. Tyndale had not employed either in the first edition of his version.
THE SUPPER OF THE LORD.
The first edition of the following treatise affords no intimation of its author's name; but its final colophon states that it was "Imprinted at Nornburg , by Niclas Twonson, 5 April. An. 1533. " Only a few months after this date Sir Thomas More had penned what he styles an "Answer to the first part of a poisoned book which a nameless heretic hath named 'The Supper of the Lord.'" At his first onset More writes as follows: "There is come over another book against the blessed sacrament, a book of that sort that Fryth's book the brethren may now forbear. For more blasphemous and more bedlamripe than this book is were that book hard to be, which is yet mad enough, as men say that have seen it. - The man hath not set his name unto his book; nor whose it is I cannot surely say. But some reckon it to be made of William Tyndale, for that in a pystle of his unto Fryth he writeth, that in any thing he can do, he would not fail to help him forth. Howbeit some of the brethren report that the work was made by George Jay; and of truth Tyndale wrote unto Fryth, that George Jay had made a book against the sacrament, which was as yet, partly by his means, partly for lack of money, retained and kept from the print . - The maker of the book in the end of his book, for one cause why he putteth not his name thereto, writeth in this wise: Master Mocke, whom the verity most offendeth, and doth but mocke it out, when he cannot soil it, he knoweih me well enough. This sad and sage earnest man that, mocking at my name, calleth me Master Mocke , doth in these wise words but mocke the readers of his book. What if I wist never so well who he were that wrote it, what were this to the brethren that read it? Now for myself also, though I know Tyndale by name, and George Jay or Joy byname also, and twenty such other fond fellows of the same sect more; yet if ten of those would make ten such foolish treatises, and set their names to none, could I know thereby which of those mad fools made which foolish book ?"
Notwithstanding this language, More takes for granted throughout all the rest of his answer, that the writer to whom he is replying is none other than Tyndale. And yet Foxe, when editing Tyndale's Works for Day, forty years later, at the close of his 456th page, which immediately precedes the introduction of this treatise, has inserted this colophon: 'The end of all M. William Tyndale's Works, newly imprinted, according to his first copies, which he himself set forth.' But he then adds, 'Here followeth a short and pithy treatise touching the Lord's Supper, compiled, as some do gather, by M. W. Tyndale, because the method and phrase agree with his, and the time of writing are concurrent; which for thy further instruction and learning, gentle reader, I have annexed to his works, lest the church of God should want any of the painful travails of godly men, whose only care and endeavour was to advance the glory of God, and to further the salvation of Christ's flock committed to their charge.' When Foxe penned this last sentence, he had before him that same letter from Tyndale to Frith, of which, notwithstanding Tyndale's caution , Sir Thomas More must soon have obtained a copy, if the oppressed prisoner had not been obliged to surrender the original to his enemies. And the martyrologist might reasonably doubt whether Tyndale would have composed and published such a treatise as the following within a few weeks after his advising Frith to meddle as little as possible with the question of the presence of Christ's body in the sacrament, and saying to him, 'I would have the right use preached, and the presence to be an indifferent thing, till the matter might be reasoned in peace at leisure of both parties.'
But Frith has told us, that after his arrival in England he had so far yielded to the request of a Christian brother, 'who might better be a bishop than many that wear mitres,' as 'to touch this terrible tragedy,' and write a treatise, in which, says he, 'I declared that Christ had a natural body, and that it could no more be in two places at once than mine can. I wrote it not to the intent that it should have been published; but now it is comen abroad.' He adds that Sir Thomas More had 'sore laboured to confute it,' but had scarcely printed his letter intended to do this, before he so changed his mind as to endeavour to suppress his reply, of which Frith could in consequence only obtain a written copy; though he had seen it in print in bishop Gardiner's house, when he was brought before that prelate on the 26th of Dec., 1532 . We have seen Sir Thomas More insinuating, though he does not affirm, that all he knew of Frith's work on the sacrament was from what others said of it; but when he had proceeded farther in his lengthy answer to the 'nameless heretic,' he seems to have forgotten this, and fully confirms Frith's statement. He there says, 'Whereas I, a year now past and more, wrote and put in print a letter against the pestilent treatise of John Fryth, which he then had made and secretly sent abroad among the brethren, against the blessed sacrament of the altar; which letter of mine, as I have declared in mine apology, and  natheless caused to be kept still, and would not suffer it to be put abroad into every man's hands, because Fryth's treatise was not yet at that time in print; yet now, sith I see they are come over in print, not only Fryth's book, but over that this masker's also, and that either of their both books maketh mention, &c.'
The dates and circumstances, thus incidentally given, are sufficient to shew that Frith had unintentionally committed himself on this perilous subject, before he could have received Tyndale's warning; whilst Tyndale was not likely to be much behind More in learning what his friend had written, nor much behind the poor prisoner in learning what More had committed to the press. Indeed, in telling us that after Frith's treatise had got into some circulation through manuscript copies, it had been sent to the continent to be printed, and speaking of the arrival of printed copies in England in a way which seems to imply that their arrival and that of copies of the following treatise were contemporary, More has made it not improbable that Tyndale may have been carrying Frith's work through the press, at the same time that he was composing its author's defence. At any rate Tyndale would know, soon enough for his writing this treatise, that Frith's hostility to the doctrine from which the dominant church mainly drew its wealth, had come to the knowledge of those who would therefore seek his life; and that now was the time for keeping his own promise, of doing his best to aid his beloved friend, by proving that what Frith was called a heretic for teaching was in strict accordance with the language of the scriptures; whilst by writing anonymously he might intend to avoid giving Frith's judges any legal ground for convicting him of being engaged in the same conspiracy against their church with one whose works had been authoritatively proscribed as heretical.
On the other hand, however, the assertion of Foxe, 'that the method and phrase' of the following treatise 'agree with Tyndale's,' cannot be admitted without a remarkable exception; inasmuch as it does not contain a single specimen of those references to the original languages of the inspired volume which Tyndale well knew how to employ, and which his acquaintance with Hebrew led him to employ largely and with considerable effect in his later avowed treatise on the sacraments . Was it to fill up that deficiency, as he might esteem it to be, in this first simple exposition of the Lord's supper, that he composed a second, when the close of his labours was obviously at hand? If such was not his motive, the fact of his employing himself at that time in writing the treatise on baptism and the Lord's supper, contained in our first volume, must be confessed to weigh heavily against the presumptive evidence on which the authorship of this earlier written treatise has been assigned to him. And this difficulty will be somewhat increased by the circumstance, that Robert Crowley, in his preface to the edition of 1551, while he speaks of "the author of this little book" as one wrongfully "detested and abhorred as an heretic," makes no mention of his having suffered death under that charge.
The present editor has collated Day's folio reprint of 1573 with the Lambeth copy of Crowley's edition for the text of the treatise; whilst he has to thank the Rev. Alfred Hackman for supplying him with the result of a careful collation of the original Nornburg edition .
1. Understood to mean Nuremburg.
2. So stated in Herbert's Ames, iii. p. 1541; and confirmed by a recently discovered copy, now deposited in the Bodleian Library.
3. See Biographical Notice of Tyndale, pp. liii-iv.
4. The sentence just cited will be found in the last half page of this treatise. The present editor has not been able to discover the existence of any edition subsequent to the first, in which Mocke has not been altered into More.
5. More's Works, Vol. ii. pp. 1036-7.
6. Biogr. Notice, p. liii.
7. Frith's Preface to his Answer to More's letter. Day's ed. of Frith, &c. p. 107.
8. Probably a misprint for I
9. See Vol. I. pp. 347-57, and 376-8.
10. Such marginal notes as exist in that edition will be marked Auth., as being the only notes for which its author should be deemed responsible. The references to that edition will be marked B; whilst those to the Lambeth copy of Crowley's edition will be marked L.
THE SUPPER OF THE LORD.
When Christ saw those gluttons, seeking their bellies, flocking so fast unto him, after his wonted manner (the occasion taken, to teach and preach unto them, of the things now moved) he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me not because ye have seen my miracles, but because ye have eaten of the loaves and were well filled." 'But as for me, I am not come into this world only to fill men's bellies, but to feed and satisfy their souls. Ye take great pains to follow me for the meat of your bellies; but, O sluggards, work, take pains, and labour rather to get that meat that shall never perish. For this meat that ye have sought of me hitherto, perisheth with your bellies; but the meat that I shall give you, is spiritual, and may not perish, but abideth for ever, giving life everlasting. For my Father hath consigned and confirmed me, with his assured testimony, to be that assured saving health and earnest-penny of everlasting life.' When the Jews understood not what Christ meant, bidding them to "work and labour for that meat that should never perish," they asked him, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" - supposing that he had spoken of some outward work required of them. Wherefore Jesus answered, saying, "Even this is the work of God, to believe and trust in him whom the Father hath sent." Lo, here may ye see that work of God which he requireth of us, even to believe in Christ. Also consider again what this meat is, which he bade them here prepare and seek for, saying, 'Work, take pains, and seek for that meat, &c.' and thou shalt see it none other meat than the belief in Christ: wherefore he concludeth, that this meat so often mentioned, is faith; of the which meat (saith the prophet) the just liveth. Faith in him is therefore the meat which Christ prepareth and dresseth so purely; pouldering  and spicing it with spiritual allegories in all this chapter following, to give us everlasting life through it.
Then said the Jews unto him, 'What token doest thou, whereby we might know that we should believe in thee? Do somewhat that we might believe in thee. What thing workest thou that we might know thee to be God? Thou knowest well enough that our fathers did eat bread or manna in the desert, as it is written, He gave them bread from above.' Jesus answered, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave ye not that bread from heaven; for though it fell down from the air, yet was it not heavenly food, for it did but feed the belly: but this bread of God that is descended from heaven, whom my Father giveth, refresheth the soul so abundantly, that it giveth life unto the world.' When the Jews understood not this saying, which was nought else than the declaring of the gospel (for by the eating of this bread he meant that belief of this his gospel,) they said, "Sir, give us this bread evermore." Jesus said unto them, "I am the bread of life; and whoso come to me shall not hunger, and whoso believe in me shall never thirst." When the Jews heard Christ say, the bread that descended from heaven should give life to the world; they desired to have this bread given them for ever. And Jesus perceiving that they understood not the sense of this gospel, he expounded unto them who was this so lively bread that giveth life to all the world, saying, "I am the bread of life, and whoso cometh to me," that is to say, whoso is grafted and joined to me by faith, "shall never hunger;" that is, 'whoso believeth in me is satisfied.' It is faith, therefore, that stauncheth this hunger and thirst of the soul. Faith it is, therefore, in Christ that filleth our hungry hearts, so that we can desire none other, if we once eat and drink him by faith; that is to say, if we believe his flesh and body to have been broken, and his blood shed, for our sins. For then are our souls satisfied, and we be justified.
Over this it followeth: 'But I have told you this, because ye look upon me, and believe me not; that is, ye be offended that I said, He that cometh to me shall neither hunger nor thirst, seeing that yourselves, being present, be yet both hungry and thirsty. But this cometh because ye have seen me with your bodily eyes, and yet see me, and believe not in me: but I speak not of such sight nor coming, but of the sight of faith, which whoso hath, he shall  none other desire; he shall not seek by night to love another, before whom he would lay his grief. He shall not run wandering here and there, to seek dead stocks and stones: for he is certified by his faith to whom he shall cleave; he is coupled by faith unto me, his very spouse and lively food, the only treasure of his soul, never more to thirst for any other. This light of faith ye have not, for ye believe not nor trust in me: wherefore ye understand not how I am the very bread and meat of your souls, that is to say, your faith and hope. And the cause of this your blindness is, (I will not say over hardly to you,) that the Father hath not drawn you into the knowledge of me, or else ye had received me: for all that the Father giveth me, must come unto me. And as for me, I cast out no man that cometh to me; for I am not come down from heaven to do my will, which ye attribute unto me as unto another  man; for I am verily a very man, and according to that nature, I have a special proper will; but much more obedient to my Father than one of you. For your will oft resisteth and repugneth God's will; but so doth mine never. I am therefore come down to do his will that hath sent me, and to do you to wit what his will is. This (I say) is my Father's will, that hath sent me, that of all that he hath given me I lose none; but must raise him up again in the last day. And, to be plain, this is his will that sent me, that whoso seeth, that is, knoweth the Son, and believeth in him, he shall have life everlasting, and I shall stir him up in the last day.' Here may ye see what meat he speaketh of. God sent his Son into this world, that we might live through him. Who liveth by him? They that eat his flesh and drink his blood. Who eat his flesh and drink his blood? They that believe his body crucified and his blood shed for their sins: these cleave unto his gracious favour. But how could they cleave thus unto him, except they knew him? And therefore he added, saying, "Every man that seeth the Son," that is to say, understandeth wherefore the Son was sent into this world, "and believeth in him, shall have everlasting life."
Here it appeared to the carnal Jews, that Christ had taken too much upon himself, to say, "I am the bread of life, which am come down from heaven to give life to the world:" wherefore the flesh, that is to say  the Jews, now murmured, (and not marvelled, as M. More sheweth his own dream to another text following, which I shall touch anon); they murmured at this saying of Christ, "I am the bread which am come from heaven," saying, "Is not this Jesus, Joseph's son, whose father and mother we know well enough? How then saith he, I am come from heaven?" Jesus answered, saying, "Murmur not among yourselves:" heard ye not what I told you even now? "All that my Father giveth me come to me:" your unbelief (whereof followeth this false understanding of my words spiritually spoken) compelleth me to tell you one thing more than once or twice. This therefore it is: "No man may come to me," the only earnest-penny and pledge of your salvation, "unless my Father that sent me draw him;" and whom he draweth unto me, that is, joineth unto me by faith, "him shall I stir up in the last day." I wonder ye take my words so strangely, believing them to be some hard riddles, or dark parables; when I say nothing else than that is written in your own prophets, both in Isaiah and Jeremiah, saying, that "All shall be taught of the Lord." Since even your prophets testify this knowledge to be given you of my Father, what can be spoken more plainly than to say, "What my Father giveth me, that cometh to me;" or this, "No man may come to me, except my Father draw him?" And yet have it more manifestly: Whoso hath heard my Father, and is learned of him, he cometh to me as unto the very only anchor of his salvation. "Not that any man hath seen the Father:" lest peradventure ye mistake these words to hear and to learn, as though they pertained to the outward senses, and not rather to the mind and inward illumining of the soul. For no man ever saw the Father, although he work secretly upon his heart, so that whatsoever he willeth, we must hear and learn. No man (I say) seeth him, but he that is sent of God, as I said before of myself, he it is that seeth the Father. Now therefore say I unto you, "Verily, verily," (as plainly plainly ,) that "whoso believeth and trusteth in me, he hath life everlasting." Now have ye the sum of this my doctrine, even my very gospel, the whole tale of all my legacy and message, wherefore I am sent into the world.' Had M. More understood this short sentence, "Whoso believeth in me hath life everlasting," and known what Paul with the other apostles preached, especially Paul, being a year and a half among the Corinthians, determining not neither presuming to have known any other thing to be preached them (as himself saith) than Jesus Christ, and that he was crucified; had M. More understood this point, he should never have thus blasphemed Christ and his sufficient scriptures, neither have so belied his evangelists and holy apostles, as to say, 'They wrote not all things necessary for our salvation, but left out things of necessity to be believed ,' making God's holy testament insufficient and imperfect; first revealed unto our fathers, written oft since  by Moses, and then by his prophets, and at last written both by his holy evangelists and apostles too.
But turn we to John again, and let More mock still, and lie too. "I am the bread of life," saith Christ. And no man denieth that our fathers and elders "did eat manna in the desert, and yet are they dead. But he that eateth of this bread," that is to say, believeth in me, he "hath life everlasting. For it is I that am this lively bread, which am come down from heaven, of whom whoso eat by faith shall never die." Here therefore it is to be noted diligently, that Christ meaneth, as every man may see, by the eating of this bread, none other thing than the belief in himself offered up for our sins, which faith only justifieth us: which sentence to declare more plainly, and that he would have it noted more diligently, he repeateth it yet again, saying, "It is I that am the lively bread which am come down from heaven; whoso eateth of this bread shall live everlastingly." And to put you clear out of doubt, I shall shew you in few words what this matter is, and by what ways I must be the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, to give it this life so often rehearsed; and therefore now take good heed. This bread which I speak of so much, and shall give it you, it is "mine own flesh, which I must lay forth and pay for the life of the world." Here is it now manifest that he should suffer death in his own flesh, for our redemption, to give us this life everlasting. Thus now may ye see how Christ's flesh, which he called bread, is the spiritual food and meat of our souls when our souls by faith see God the Father not to have spared his only so dear beloved Son, but to have delivered him to suffer that ignominious and so painful death, to restore us to life: then have we eaten his flesh, and drunk his blood, assured firmly of the favour of God, satisfied and certified of our salvation.
After this communication that he said, "The bread which I shall give you is my flesh, which I shall pay for the life of the world;" yet were the carnal Jews never the wiser. For their unbelief and sturdy hatred would not suffer the very spiritual sense and mind of Christ's words to enter into their hearts. They could not see that Christ's flesh, broken and crucified, and not bodily eaten, should be our salvation and this spiritual meat; as our souls be fed and certified of the mercy of God and forgiveness of our sins through his passion, and not for any eating of his flesh with our teeth. The more ignorant, therefore, and fleshly they were, the more fierce were they, full of indignation, striving one against another, saying, "How may this fellow give us his flesh to eat it?" They stuck fast yet in his flesh before their eyes, these fleshly Jews: wherefore no marvel though they abhorred the bodily eating thereof; although our fleshly papists (being of the Jews' carnal opinion) yet abhor it not, neither cease they daily to crucify and offer him up again, which was once for ever and all offered, as Paul testifieth. And even here, since Christ came to teach, to take away all doubt and to break strife, he might (his words otherwise declared, than he hath declared , and will hereafter expound them,) have solved their question, saying, (if he had so meant as More meaneth,) that he would have been conveyed and converted (as our jugglers slightly can convey him with a few words) into a singing loaf; or else (as the Thomistical  papists say) been invisible with all his dimensioned body under the form of bread transubstantiated into it: and after a like Thomistical mystery, the wine transubstantiated too into his blood, so that they should eat his flesh and drink his blood after their own carnal understanding, but yet in another form, to put away all grudge of stomach: or, since St John (if he had thus  understood his master's mind, and took upon him to write his words,) would leave this sermon unto the world to be read, he might now have delivered us and them from this doubt. But Christ would not so satisfy their question, but answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye shall not have that life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath life everlasting, and I shall stir him up in the last day; for my flesh is very meat and my blood the very drink." He saith not here that bread shall be transubstantiated, or converted, into his body; nor yet the wine into his blood.
But now confer this saying to his purpose at the beginning, where he bade them work for that meat that should never perish, telling them that to believe in him whom God hath sent was the work of God; and whoso believeth in him, should never thirst nor hunger, but have life everlasting. Confer also this that followeth, and thou shalt see it plain, that his words be understood spiritually of the belief in his flesh crucified, and his blood shed; for which belief we be promised everlasting life, himself saying, "Whoso believeth in me hath life everlasting." Here, therefore, their question, "How may this man give us his flesh to eat it?" - is solved; even when he gave his body to be broken, and his blood to be shed. And we eat and drink it indeed, when we believe stedfastly that he died for the remission of our sins: Austin and Tertullian to witness .
1. Pouldering: powdering.
2. So B., but in D. shall have none.
3. So L., but D. has each any other.
4. So B., but D. that is to know.
5. So B. and L. In D. plainly occurs but once.
6. In sir T. More's 'Confutation,' published the year before this Treatise on the Supper, above sixty pages are devoted to the question, 'Whether the Apostles left aught unwritten, that is of necessity to be believed;' and More concludes one of his arguments by affirming a notion, collected from legends, to be 'so sure a point of Christian faith,' that 'the contrary has ever been condemned for a heresy;' and therefore, says he, 'I may and do, against Tyndale and his fellows, well and fully conclude that there is something necessary to be believed, that yet is not written in scripture.' Works, p. 488, col. 1.
7. More quotes this passage, p. 1082. col. 2; where he has efte sones.
8. So B., but D. omits declared.
9. He calls them Thomistical to indicate that they took their faith on these subjects, from Thomas Aquinas, whose statement of the matter will be found in his Opusc. lix. De Sacram. Eucharist, cap. 2. Opusc. p. 405, col. i. and ii.
10. So in B., and More's quotation, p. 1092, col. 1. D. and L. want thus.
11. Hoc est opus Dei, ut credatis in eum quem misit ille. Hoc est, ergo, manducare cibum, non qui perit, sed qui permanet in vitam aeternam. Ut quid pares dentes et ventrem? Crede et manducasti .... Dixit se panem qui de coelo descendit, hortans ut credamus in eum. Credere enim in eum, hoc est manducare panem vivum. - August. Op. Paris. 1769, &c. Tom. iii. pars 2, col. 489, e. 494, d. - In Evang. Joan. cap. vi. - Quia durum et intolerabilem existimaverunt sermonem ejus, quasi vere carnem suam illis edendum determinasset, ut in spiritu disponeret ...
more to come . . .
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." Col 2:16-23 KJV
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