William Tyndale (1494-1536) was famously inspired to put the Bible in the hands of all commoners.
He believed that everyone deserved to have the word of God. Tyndale was convinced that the word of God transforms people’s lives. When a critic challenged him, Tyndale was reported to have said, “If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
As difficult as it is for us to understand today, the law at that time expressly forbid anyone to possess the Bible in English without a license. To make the Bible available to all was a death sentence.
Tyndale fled England for continental Europe, where he thought he would be safe to translate. His dream of universal Bible access has since been realized, though he never lived to see the fruits of his labors. His enemies hunted him down, captured and imprisoned him, strangled him to death, and then burned his body. Though his physical voice was silenced, his legacy and words live on in English Bibles everywhere.
The original Tyndale moment — to get the Bible into the hands of everyone — could only occur because of one of the great technological innovations of all time: the printing press. Consider how massively transformative the printing press has been for the world. Every book that you have read, every news article you’ve seen, every tweet you’ve sent, every email you’ve received, every word of scripture that has touched your heart, every bit of poetry that has delighted your eyes, nearly every educational experience that has enlightened you derives its power from the printing press.
It can be argued that without the printing press, there would have been no Protestant Reformation, no Enlightenment, no Constitution of the United States and no mass availability of the Book of Mormon. The entire foundation of modern Western civilization and religiosity would collapse if printing presses and their derivatives (such as digital publishing) immediately disappeared from the world.
Today we are living in another transformative period — the digital age. A new age means a new Tyndale moment.
Now that the worthy goal of everyone having a Bible has been accomplished, we might feel tempted to say, “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more (need for another) Bible” (2 Nephi 29:3). So pervasive is the access to the scriptures, particularly in the digitized Western world, that I can hold in my hand hundreds of Bibles at one time across scores of languages.
Yet, despite the pervasive penetration of the Bible and scriptures throughout the world, there is a significant need to dramatically raise the scriptural literacy of people everywhere. This need to increase our scriptural literacy is our modern-day Tyndale moment.
We need an explosion of learning resources contextually connected to the scriptures.
My vision is that combing the best of learning design and user experience design with the greatest resources about the scriptures will result in an exponential increase in scriptural literacy.
My vision is that the floodgates of scriptural knowledge that are locked away in the great libraries of the world be broken open so that all people, whether of high station or low, have at their fingertips the very best resources about the scriptures. No longer should it be the sacred domain of a few trained scholars to have access to the best readings and learnings about scriptures. Just as Tyndale labored to make the scriptures available to all people, not just for the trained elite, so too in our day, we can provide better access to the existing scriptural resources and know-how that are typically only available to a limited number.
So much more could be done. Consider this: The Yale University Divinity School library owns more than 550,000 volumes about the scriptures. That is just one solitary library. Imagine if we could distill the most useful and relevant content and contextually connect it digitally to our scriptures so that those insights, those meanings, those applications, those connections were persistently and contextually available during our scripture study. What if everyone had access to the greatest knowledge about scriptures?
What if we were all empowered with greater scriptural literacy? That would be revolutionary indeed. It would be a Tyndale moment.
Taylor Halverson, who holds doctorates in biblical studies and instructional technology, is a BYU teaching and learning consultant. His website is taylorhalverson.com. His views are his own.