KEY Commentary Side Textual Bibliographic Scriptural
III. Principal Contents

We offer here an initial guide to reading in the form of a brief resum é of the main topics of argument that Tyndale developed in Answer . The detailed commentary on the text contains further contentanalyses of the sections, which the reader can identify within the Foundational Essay and in each of the four books of Tyndale's Answer .

Tyndale's preface first urges the reader to exercise a discerning judgment in virtue of the Holy Spirit's empowerment promised in John 16.8 and 1 Cor. 2.15 (5/7–29, also 8/19–28). Second, examples are given of such judgment, and of the lack of it, regarding the true intent of laws of God (5/29–6/14 and 7/15–34) and human, ecclesiastical laws (6/15–7/14 and 7/34–8/19). A third section anticipates the main topics of Answer by briefly listing the opposing views on the church and the authority of its hierarchy, exhorting the reader to exercise judgment on certain Catholic sacraments and devotional practices, and referring to eight hundred years of error and self-aggrandizement by the higher clergy (8/29–9/17). The preface concludes with an admonition that such a reign of hypocrisy calls for everyone to awaken and exercise personal judgment "with his awne yies" before it is too late (9/17–31).

Answer begins with a foundational treatise before responding to particular arguments advanced in each of the four books of More's Dialogue. A first section (10/1–23/11) turns back the charge that Tyndale has insinuated with "mischevouse minde" (13/13–14) a set of heresies by his choice of English words for crucial terms in the translated New Testament. The next section (23/12–28/9) sets forth two essential aspects of the relationship between the word of God and the congregation of believers. The preached gospel is prior in time and nature to the believing congregation. Furthermore, "euery thinge necessarie vn to oure soules health" (24/25–26) was set down in Scripture so as to render superfluous any teaching or practice alleged to have come from Christ's apostles solely by oral transmission . A third foundational section (28/10–37/32) explains how the elect of God are simultaneously sinners and repentant, and as well erring and firm in faith, during their lives of adversity, temptation, and ongoing struggle. Fourth (38/1–47/5), Tyndale argues that the pope and his prelates are not "the right church." The fifth section (47/6–55/5) explains how the elect perceive the word addressed to them and accept it, not with "faythlesse fayth made by the persuasyon of man" (53/11–12), but with a "feeling faith" about what is written in their hearts. The sixth foundational section (55/6–78/13) is Tyndale's account, with abundant examples, of what is right and wrong in the worship of God and practice of piety, leading to the conclusion that error about "ceremonies" is rampant and cries out for reform.

Tyndale answers Book 1 of More's Dialogue in three steps. A long first section (79/3–100/5) relates numerous arguments made by More and refutes each with short counterarguments. Answer first dismantles More's defense of the cult of the saints, treating miracles occurring at saints' shrines (83/13–84/3, 87/10–15, 89/6–91/28) and the shrines themselves as special places of worship (84/4–32, 86/1–88/21). Then (92/2), the refutation shifts to two principles with which More sustained the rightfulness of venerating saints. Answer excludes any power vested in the church's hierarchy to interpret inerrantly what Scripture and tradition imply for Christian worship (92/2–94/5). Tyndale rejects unwritten traditions alleged to come from the apostles, which would justify beliefs and practices not mandated by Scripture (94/28–97/8, 98/5–100/5). A second section (100/6–104/29) argues from the New Testament that the papal hierarchy is in fact the foreseen Antichrist. Third (104/29–109/5), Tyndale describes the profound enmity between the carnal multitude in the church and the "small flocke of them that be electe and chosen" (105/7).

Tyndale's response to Book 2 of More's Dialogue breaks down into some fifty-five rebuttals of particular arguments advanced by More. Many are brief, because they restate points already developed in Answer . The main issues are, first, the contrast between the church of the multitude, which is no sound guide to Scripture, and the church of the elect, which God instructs in true spiritual worship (e.g., 111/3–113/34, 121/14–122/10, 124/6–22), and, second, the role of the saints in prayer, about which Tyndale concludes, "I may haue no trust therfore in the saintes" (116/19–20). In warding off More's arguments in favor of prayer to the saints, Answer calls into question whether any of the departed are living and attending to our needs during the interval between their death and the final resurrection (117/15–118/8). More's appeal to miracles allegedly certifying the saints gives rise to an extensive treatment of the true function of miracles in the Christian dispensation (127/3–131/21).

Answer's response to Book 3 of Dialogue moves through four major sections. First (133/3–145/33), Tyndale counters ten points made by More concerning church teaching as an authoritative source of doctrine in addition to Scripture. Tyndale concedes that a believer does begin with a global adherence to the authority that certifies the biblical books (136/25–31). But further study sows suspicion of the hierarchy when it diverges from Scripture (136/32–137/14). Furthermore , Tyndale finds key texts of Scripture witnessing to the Holy Spirit writing the law of God directly upon the believing heart (137/15–28). In response to More's claim that the will can move the wit (i.e., the intellect) to accept Scripture and tradition, Tyndale asserts that the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture alone moves the will to accept God's saving love (140/27–141/7). A second section (146/1–151/30) counters numerous assertions found in Bk. 3, Ch. 2–12, especially about the examination of accused heretics. Third (152/2–167/10), Tyndale argues against the obligation of clerical celibacy. The final section (167/12–170/21) attacks the hierarchy 's measures to suppress a vernacular Bible.

In response to Book 4 of Dialogue, Tyndale begins with a series of rapid counterarguments, some fifty-five in all, to More's syllabus of the errors held by Luther or Tyndale (171/22–191/9). Then the issue of God's influence on the human will in sin occasions an account of the will's functioning in both evil and good (191/9–193/31) and of the steps by which God mercifully brings a person to faith, repentance , love of the law, and good works beneficial to one's neighbor (195/21–207/26). Finally, there follows a set of thrust-and-parry exchanges in which Tyndale counters further accusations advanced by More (207/27–215/19).