Matthew Tindal


Biography of Matthew Tindal

Matthew Tindal (1657 – 16 August 1733) was an eminent English deist author. His works, highly influential at the dawn of the Enlightenment, caused great controversy and challenged the Christian consensus of his time.

Tindal was born in 1657 to the Rev John Tindal, Rector of Bere Ferrers (Beer Ferris), Devon and Anne Hals. A genealogy published in Vol IX of the Literary Anecdotes of John Nichol and written by Tindal's nephew, the historian Rev Nicolas Tindal, states that John was the son of Sir John Tyndall of Maplestead Magna, a Master of Chancery who was murdered in 1617. It was in this period that many families Latinised the spellings of their names, leading to 'Tindal' and Tindal's name was itself spelt 'Tyndall' in a primary source of 1688. Sir John was the head of an ancient family, descended from Baron Adam de Tyndale of Langley Castle, a tenant in chief of Henry I of England. Through his mother, a first cousin of Thomas Clifford, 1st Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, Tindal was descended from the Clifford and Fortescue families.

Tindal studied law at Lincoln College, Oxford, under the high churchman George Hickes, dean of Worcester; in 1678 he was elected fellow of All Souls College. In a timely profession of faith, in 1685 he saw "that upon his High Church notions a separation from the Church of Rome could not be justified," and accordingly he joined the latter. But discerning "the absurdities of popery," he returned to the Church of England at Easter 1688.

Between the early 1690s and his death in 1733 Tindal made major contributions in a various areas. As Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet he had a large influence on the case law on piracy. His timely pamphlet on the freedom of the press was hugely influential in the ending of the legal requirement that all publications be licensed before being printed. His book on The Rights of the Christian Church had an immense impact on church/state relations and on the growth of freethinking. Tindal's Christianity as old as the Creation (1730) was the ultimate statement of the deist understanding of Christianity and was highly influential in England and on the Continent.

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