Lambert was born "John Nicholson" in Norwich and educated at Queens' College, Cambridge. He was made a fellow there on the nomination of Catherine of Aragon. After theological disputes he changed his name and went to Antwerp, where he served as priest to the English factory. Here he became friends with John Frith and William Tyndale, and became a member of the group of humanist theologians that met at the White Horse Tavern - a group that included the future Lutherans Edward Fox and Robert Barnes, and the arch-conservative Stephen Gardiner.
Upon his return in 1531, Lambert came under the scrutiny of Archibishop William Warham, but Warham died in 1532. He then earned his living teaching Greek and Latin near the Stock markets. In 1536 he was accused of heresy by the Duke of Norfolk, but escaped until 1538, when he was put on trial for denying the real presence of Christ, the doctrine of Transubstantiation, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer condemned these views, even though he was later to adopt them himself.
Lambert is well known for his words spoken while the flames leapt from his raised hands: "None but Christ, none but Christ!"
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