(Continued from page 271)Protestant-Fundamentalism began a hundred years ago? - II
The faith of the true Christian has always leaned exclusively upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. The Bible-believing Christian follows men only insofar as those men follow the Scriptures. The keynote of John Wycliffe's message had been the sufficiency of Scripture in doctrine, and those who were influenced by him held this position, though they applied the Scripture variously, some being more thoroughly 'reformed' and separated from Papal Romanism than others. The Scriptures, in fragments and via expensive full manuscripts, were multiplied widely among the people just as believers spread the Word behind the Iron Curtain of Communist persecution. One of the enemies of the Truth, testifying of the character of those who were influenced by Wycliffe, said 'they all expressed profound respect for God's law.' What an honourable testimony!
Wycliffe's translation was taken from the Latin, but it was to have a powerful influence upon the English language and people. Condit speaks of 'the excellencies of Wycliffe as a translator' in these words: 'There is a marked simplicity in his phraseology which has been peculiar ever since to English versions of the Scriptures' (Condit, History of the English Bible, p. 67). 'There is an important relation existing between Vernacular versions of the Scriptures and the languages into which they are translated. So marked is this influence where such translation is made, that it constitutes an epoch in the literary and in the religious history of the people. …… It was a bold stroke on the part of Wycliffe to set forth the Scriptures in the language of the people, but the results far exceeded his fondest expectations. In all simplicity he thought to give the word of God to his own age, but in fact he laid the foundation for the Reformation in England, and for the permanence and excellence of the English language' (Condit, pp. 79,80).
Many phrases from our English Bible of 1611 can be traced back to Wycliffe, including 'straight is the gate and narrow the way,' 'born again,' 'worship the father in spirit and truth,' 'the spirit of adoption of sons,' 'a living sacrifice,' 'the deep things of God,' 'the cup of blessing which we bless,' 'what fellowship hath light with darkness,' 'we make known to you the grace of God,' 'and upbraideth not,' 'whited sepulchres,' 'revelation of the mystery,' 'be it far from thee,' 'despise ye the Church of God,' 'the world and all that dwell therein is the Lord's,' 'who is this King of glory?' 'he taught them in parables.'
Wycliffe's end is instructional:
"Wycliffe was now getting old, but the Reformer was worn out rather by the harassing attacks of his foes, and his incessant and ever growing labours, than with the weight of years, for he was not yet sixty. He fell sick. With unbounded joy the friars heard that their great enemy was dying. Of course he was overwhelmed with horror and remorse for the evil he had done them, and they would hasten to his bedside and receive the expression of his penitence and sorrow. In a trice a little crowd of shaven crowns assembled round the couch of the sick man -- delegates from the four orders of friars. `They began fair,' wishing him `health and restoration from his distemper'; but speedily changing their tone, they exhorted him, as one on the brink of the grave, to make full confession, and express his unfeigned grief for the injuries he had inflicted on their order. Wycliffe lay silent till they should have made an end, then, making his servant raise him a little on his pillow, and fixing his keen eyes upon them, he said with a loud voice, `I shall not die, but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars.' The monks rushed in astonishment and confusion from the chamber." (J. A. Wylie, in The History of Protestantism - quoted in The Treasury of David by C. H. Spurgeon, pub. 1885)
Though Wycliffe himself was protected by the hand of God and the Catholic authorities were never allowed to kill him, his writings were condemned and his followers were excommunicated and some were put to death. Portions of the Wycliffe Bible were multiplied rapidly and enjoyed a wide circulation, not only in England, but also in neighbouring countries. 'By reference to the Bishop's Registers it will appear that these little books were numerous, as they are often specified as being found upon the persons of those accused. Sometimes the Gospels are spoken of either separately, or together; or it is the book of Acts, or the Epistle of James, or the Apocalypse that is specified. It appears also from these Registers, that many of those who possessed these little volumes were either servants or tradesmen' (Condit, History of the English Bible, p. 75).
'This Bible provoked bitter opposition, and it became necessary for the people to meet in secret to read it, as they often did. Persecution did not begin at once, but it finally became widespread and bitter. Many suffered and it has been said that some, for daring to read the Bible, were burned with copies of it about their necks' (Simms, The Bible from the Beginning, p. 161). Blackburn tells of a martyr of that day who was burned because he 'kept counsel in huyding [hiding] of Lollard's books' (Blackburn, History of the Christian Church, p. 345).
Wycliffe's writings and Scriptures which were distributed into other countries met the same fate at the hands of Catholic authorities. In 1375, for example, the Archbishop of Prague issued orders for Wycliffe's books to be burned, and 'consequently two hundred volumes of them, finely written, and adorned with costly covers and gold borders, were committed to the flames' (Orchard, A Concise History of Baptists, p. 237).
In March and April of 1388 'commissions were issued to seize the writings of Wycliffe and Hereford, and they were repeated several times in that and the following year. In 1391 a bill was written into Parliament to forbid the circulation of the English Scriptures; but it was rejected through the influence of the Duke of Lancaster' (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, p. 83). In 1392 a man named William Smith was persecuted for copying the Gospels and the Epistles in English.
Persecutions were poured out upon the followers of Wycliffe and upon other Bible-believing Christians from the time of Henry IV, who reigned from 1399 to 1413. Interestingly, Henry IV was the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the man who protected Wycliffe some two decades prior to Henry's ascension to the throne, but who ultimately 'chickened out' when the fear of persecution became too great. From the time of Henry, 'Their blood flowed in a stream for nearly two centuries with slight respite' (Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists, I, p. 323). In 1401 an Act was passed under Henry IV which condemned 'divers false and perverse people of a new sect; they make unlawful conventicles, they hold and exercise schools, and make and write books.' By this Act, the lives of the subjects were put under the control of the bishops, who had the power to fine and imprison all heretics, and all possessors of heretical books, while obstinate and lapsed heretics were handed over to the sheriff, to be burned at once, 'in a high place before the people, that they might take salutary warning.' The Act bears the title - 'The Orthodoxy of the Faith of the Church of England asserted, and provision made against oppugners of the same, with the punishment of hereticks.' ……
Though such penalties may have been inflicted on heretics at an early time, the punishment was only occasional, and the civil law intervened; but, now, a simple decree of a bishop sufficed to send a man to the stake, and the accusation of heresy became sufficiently elastic to bring within it a considerable variety of offenders' (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, pp. 84,85). In 1400 or 1401, the second or third year of Henry IV, a man named William Sawtree (Sautre) was burned at the stake, and in 1409 a tailor named Bradbe was roasted alive in a barrel (Eadie, I, p. 87; Hassell, pp. 465,66).
The prison in London called the Lollard's Tower was so named because of the great number of these Bible-believing people who were tormented behinds its walls. 'The Lollards' tower still stands a monument of their miseries, and of the cruelty of their implacable enemies. This tower is at Lambeth palace, and was fitted up for this purpose by Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, who came to his see in 1414. It is said that he expended two hundred and eighty pounds to make this prison for the Lollards. The vast staples and rings to which they were fastened, before they were brought out to the stake, are still to be seen in a large lumber-room at the top of the palace, and 'ought to make Protestants look back with gratitude upon the hour which terminated so bloody a period' (Ivimey, History of the English Baptists, pp. 71,72).
In 1408 Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Synod of Oxford, made a constitution which rendered it illegal to read any of Wycliffe's writings or translations within the province of Canterbury. 'Detected copies of the Bible, or of any of its component books, would consequently be destroyed' (H.W. Hoare, Our English Bible: The Story of Its Origin and Growth, 1901, p. 100). The Constitutions of Thomas Arundel made this brash demand:
'We therefore decree and ordain that no man shall, hereafter, by his own authority, translate any text of the Scripture into English, or any other tongue, by way of a book, libel, or treatise, now lately set forth in the time of John Wyckliff, or since, or hereafter to be set forth, in part of in whole, privily or apertly, upon pain of greater excommunication, until the said translation be allowed by the ordinary of the place, or, if the case so require, by the council provincial' (Eadie, I, p. 89).
This was the first English statute for the burning of heretics (though Bible-believing Christians had been burned before this), and it was not repealed until 1677, or 276 years later. This is Arundel's estimation of the Bible translator:
'This pestilential and most wretched John Wycliffe of damnable memory, a child of the old devil, and himself a child or pupil of Anti-Christ, who while he lived, walking in the vanity of his mind … crowned his wickedness by translating the Scriptures into the mother tongue' (Fountain, John Wycliffe, p. 45).
'Thirty of the more prominent Lollards were put to death at various times, and without mercy.' Eadie tells us that 'there were other executions under this disgraceful Act, of which little record has come down to us' (I, p. 88). Some were forced to wear a depiction of a fiery torch on their clothes during the rest of their lives as a reminder 'that they deserved burning' and as a continual warning to others of the potential price of standing upon the Bible and rejecting Roman Catholic authority:
'…… such was the craft and diligence of the clergy, that they found out means to discover many of them, and by virtue of the statute exofficio, which they had now obtained, persecuted them with great cruelty, so that the prisons were full of them, many were forced to abjure, and those that refused were used without mercy' (Crosby, History of the English Baptists, I, p. 22).
In 1410 about 200 copies of Wycliffe's writings were publicly burned at Oxford.
'Entire copies of the Bible, when they could only be multiplied by means of amanuenses [requiring as much as a year to produce a single copy], were too costly to be within the reach of very many readers; but those who could not procure 'the volume of the book' would give a load of hay for a few favourite chapters [Foxe says the load of hay was given in exchange for the use of a manuscript for a single day], and many such scraps were consumed upon the persons of the martyrs at the stake. They would hide the forbidden treasure under the floors of their houses, and put their lives in peril rather than forego the book they desired; they would sit up at night, sometimes all night long, their doors being shut for fear of surprise, reading or hearing others read the word of God; they would bury themselves in the woods, and there converse with it in solitude; they would tend their herds in the fields, and still steal an hour for drinking in the good tidings of great joy' (J.J. Blunt, cited by Hassell, pp. 459,60).
During the reign of Henry V (1413-22), an Act (passed earlier under Richard II but never sent to the house of Commons) was confirmed by which the 'English sheriffs were forced to take an oath to persecute the Lollards, and the justices must deliver a relapsed heretic to be burned within ten days of his accusation. ... No mercy was shown under any circumstances' (Armitage, A History of the Baptists, 1890, I, pp. 323,325).
In 1414 the legislature under Henry V joined in asking for harder measures against the Lollards. 'After a suspected rising of the Lollards, a law was passed, declaring that all who read the Scriptures in the mother tongue should 'forfeit land, catel, lif, and goods, from theyr heyres [their heirs] for ever' (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, p. 89). In 1416 Archbishop Chichele at Oxford enjoined 'upon the clergy a thorough search in every parish twice a year, for all persons that hold any either heresies or errors, or have any suspected books in the English tongue, or harbor any heretics' (Blackburn, History of the Christian Church from Its Origin to the Present Time, 1880, p. 346). At Christmas time in 1417, Sir John Oldcastle (Lord Cobham) was barbarously martyred for his faith in the Word of God and his rejection of Rome's authority. He had caused numerous copies of Wycliffe's Bible to be made and distributed among the people. He loved the preaching of the Lollards and protected them from persecution. Cobham was a favorite of King Henry IV, and was shielded by the king until his death in 1413. The enemies of the Word of God wasted no time after this. That same year Cobham was arrested and sentenced to die. He escaped and fled to Wales, but he was recaptured in December 1417. Brought to the place of punishment, he warned the people 'to obey God's commands written down in the Bible, and always to shun such teaching as they saw to be contrary to the life and example of Christ' (Shelton, History of the Christian Church, II, p. 426). This man who had loved the Word of God and had caused it to be distributed among the people, was then hung in chains and burned alive, suspended over the fire.
Other Christians were also burned, while still others were punished by other nefarious means. Some were branded on the cheeks:
'Their necks were tied fast to a post with towels, and their hands holden, that they might not stir; and so the hot iron was put to their cheeks. It is not certain whether branded with L for Lollard, or H for heretic, or whether it was only a formless print of iron' (Fuller, Church History, p. 164).
Can Papal Roman Catholics really complain about the Reformers retaliation when we read how:
'Multitudes were thus driven into exile, fleeing into Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and the wilds of Scotland, Wales and Ireland; of course they carried with them the Scriptures and the love of the truth, and the glad tidings of God's salvation were thus disseminated in many countries' (Hassell, History of the Church of God, p. 466).
Wycliffe's writings were destroyed in other lands, as well. In 1408, the same year Arundel's Constitutions were passed, John Resby was arrested in Scotland, tried and convicted of 'heresies,' and burned at Perth. 'Archbishop Zbinco burned Wickliff's writings in Prague . . . and their final condemnation was pronounced by the Council of Rome in 1413' (Lea, Inquisition of the Middle Ages, abridged by Nicholson, p. 872). 'His writings were burned in large numbers, so that today only fifteen MSS of his Old Testament and eighteen of the New remain' (Simms, The Bible from the Beginning, p. 164). There also exist numerous smaller fragments. In 1431 Paul Craws was convicted and burned at St. Andrews. That the Lollards had increased dramatically in Scotland is testified by the passing of the Act of Heretics and Lollards, in March 1424. In 1411 the first inquisitor had been appointed in Scotland, named Laurence of Lindores, for the persecution of Bible believers.
In 1421, John Purvey, who took up Wycliffe's mantle upon his death, was arrested a second time for his persistence in preaching against Rome's errors and the distribution of Scriptures (it is said that during his first arrest in 1400 he recanted). It is probable that he died in prison in miserable straits for his faith in the Word of God sometime during or after 1427. We are told he 'endured great suffering in Saltwood Castle' (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, p. 65).
One Catholic leader of Wycliffe's day complained in writing about Wycliffe's translation with these words:
'This Master John Wickliffe hath translated the Gospel out of Latin into English, which Christ had intrusted with the clergy and doctors of the Church, that they might minister it to the laity and weaker sort, according to the state of the times and the wants of men. So that by this means the Gospel is made vulgar, and laid more open to the laity, and even to women who can read, than it used to be to the most learned of the clergy and those of the best understanding! And what was before the chief gift of the clergy and doctors of the Church, is made for ever common to the laity' (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, I, p. xli).
Another Catholic writer said:
'The prelates ought not to suffer that every one at his pleasure should read the Scripture, translated even into Latin; because, as is plain from experience, this has been many ways the occasion of falling into heresies and errors. It is not, therefore, politic that any one, wheresoever and whensoever he will, should give himself to the frequent study of the Scriptures' (Ibid.).
These poor blinded men expressed the attitude toward distribution of Scripture which was common in that day among Catholic leaders. How can anyone claim that Papal Rome encouraged the reading of the Scriptures and distribution of Bibles, or claim that the former Papal Roman Catholic priest, Charles Chiniquy, wrote 'novels' when he mentioned exactly this same attitude (as recently as 1885) as well as the other abominations and atrocities of this whore?
Of the Catholic bishops in England from the days of Wycliffe [14th century] until the separation of the nation from Rome in the mid-16th century, historian Christopher Anderson, who looked into the history of the English nation during this era very diligently, observes:
'Thus did this body of men first come out [to oppose Wycliffe], appearing as a distinct interest in the kingdom, and thus they will remain for above five generations to come; proving ever and anon, upon all occasions of alarm, that they were the determined opponents of Divine Truth. As a body, they will oppose its being conveyed to the people, and at every successive step of progress' (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, I, p. xxxviii).
The persecutions poured out upon the English Scriptures and those who loved them did not quench the Light, and it is fascinating to recall the situation then existing among those who would read the Bible for themselves:
'The forbidden book was often read by night, and those who had not been themselves educated listened with eagerness to the reading of others; but to read it, and to hear it read, were alike forbidden. Copies of the New Testament were also borrowed from hand to hand through a wide circle, and poor people gathered their pennies and formed copartneries for the purchase of the sacred volume. Those who could afford it gave five marks for the coveted manuscript (a very large amount of money in that day), and others in their penury gave gladly for a few leaves of St. Peter and St. Paul a load of hay. …… Some committed portions to memory, that they might recite them to relatives and friends. Thus Alice Colins was commonly sent for to the meetings, 'to recite unto them the Ten Commandments and the Epistles of Peter and James.' …… In 1429 Margery Backster was indicted because she asked her maid Joan to 'come and hear her husband read the law of Christ out of a book he was wont to read by night.' …… The means employed to discover the readers and possessors of Scripture were truly execrable in character. Friends and relations were put on oath, and bound to say what they knew of their own kindred. The privacy of the household was violated through this espionage; and husband and wife, parent and child, were sworn against one another. The ties of blood were wronged, and the confidence of friendship was turned into a snare in this secret service. Universal suspicion must have been created; no one could tell who his accuser might be, for the friend to whom he had read of Christ's betrayal might soon be tempted to act the part of Judas towards himself, and for some paltry consideration sell his life to the ecclesiastical powers' (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, pp. 91,92,93).
'In about three years from 1428, to 1431, one hundred and twenty persons were committed to prison for Lollardy; some of them recanted, others did penance, and several of them were burnt alive' (Benedict, A General History, I, p. 194).
The groups of Christians who founded their faith and practice upon the Wycliffe Bible continued to exist and continued to be persecuted until the time of Tyndale:
'On some unknown account, conjectured to be either the weariness of the persecutors or the suppression of the public worship of the Lollards, the burnings for heresy ceased in England about 1435, but were revived from 1485…… In spite of the opposition, however, Lollardy made the Bible familiar to the people of England in their mother tongue' (Hassell, History of the Church of God, p. 466).
'The knowledge of divine truth, received by the reading of the Scriptures, was transmitted by a succession of pious men for more than a century after Wycliffe's death. …… Readers of the manuscript Bible were numerous in London, where they had several places of meeting; and they abounded also in the counties of Lincoln, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Buckingham, and Hereford. …… These Bible readers called themselves 'brothers' or 'sisters' in Christ, and at an early period they took the name of 'just-fast men,' or 'known men,' and 'known women'' [This latter name referred to the conviction among these Christians that if a person did not know the New Testament he was not known or recognized of God] (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, pp. 94,95).
'During the early years of the reign of King Henry VI (1422-61, 1470-71), the Lollards were persecuted in London and the eastern counties, and some members of the sect were burned at the stake' (Microsoft Encarta 95).
In 1494 an old woman was burned at the stake for her faith in Christ. In 1496 and 1498 many were forced to abjure their 'heresies' and 'to wear the fashion of a faggot, wrought in thread or painted, on their left sleeves, all the days of their lives: it being death to put on their cloaks without that cognizance. And, indeed, to poor people it was true - put it off, and be burned; keep it on, and be starved: seeing none generally would set them on work that carried that badge about them' (Evans, Early English Baptists, I, p. 23, f1).
In 1506 William Tylsworth was burned for his faith in the Word of God, and his own daughter was forced to ignite the cruel fire. There was persecution in 1511 under Warham of Canterbury and Smith of Lincoln. James Brewster was burned at the stake that year, and one of his 'crimes' was 'having a certain little book of Scripture in English of an old writing almost worn for age, whose name is not there expressed' (Condit, History of the English Bible, p. 80). William Sweting, who was burned with Brewster, was charged with 'having confidence in a book which was called Matthew.' From 1509 to 1517 there was persecution under Fitzjames, Bishop of London (Eadie, History of the English Bible, I, p. 94). In 1514, Richard Hun, committed to the Lollard's Tower in London, 'was found dead in his cell, there being strong suspicions that he had been murdered. His indictment before his death bore that he 'had in his keeping divers English books prohibited and damned by the law, as the Apocalypse in English, and Epistles and Gospels in English.' One of the 'new articles' brought against him after his death was 'that he defendeth the translation of the Bible and of the Holy Scripture into English' (Eadie, I, p. 92). In 1519, six men and a woman were burned 'for teaching their children the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments in English' (Eadie, I, p. 91). 'About 1520 and 1521, more than five hundred men and women were arrested in the one diocese of Lincoln, under Bishop Longhand' (Eadie, I, p. 94). A.F. Pollard, in his biography of Thomas Cranmer, identifies these persecuted brethren as 'Lollards' (Pollard, p. 91).
'The influence of Wycliffe had not ceased when that of Tyndale began, for in 1529, and in the fierce proclamation of that year against heretical books - Tyndale's Testament occupying the first place on the list - all civil officers are enjoined at the same time to 'destroy all heresies and errors commonly called Lollardies.' Wycliffe's followers were therefore still of such note and influence as to obtain a place in this royal document' (Eadie, I, p. 95).
Christopher Anderson speaks of seasons of persecution which occurred periodically throughout the 15th and early 16th centuries. He gives incontrovertible proof that the New Testament in manuscript was being read during the reign of James IV in Scotland (1488-1513). One of these was the example of John Campbell, who was arrested prior to 1513 because he possessed an English New Testament. The details of this case had not been published prior to the printing of Anderson's book in 1845 (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, II, pp. 400-401). In fact, Wycliffe's writings were still being mentioned in government documents even after Tyndale's death.
On a day in May in the year 1530, St. Paul's churchyard in London was crowded with people watching a 'book burning'. The Bibles (William Tyndale's 'New Testament' and Pentateuch) were being burned at the order of the Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, who had spent a considerable sum buying all the copies he could find. Was this translation required by English people? Were they so familiar with the Word of God that they did not require a translation into their native tongue from the church's official language, Latin? In fact, the common people were not the only ones ignorant of the Bible. Reportedly, during the reign of King Edward VI (1547-53), a bishop of Gloucester found that among 311 clergymen, 168 could not repeat the Ten Commandments and 31 did not know where to find them in the Bible. Forty could not recite the Lord's Prayer and about 40 did not know its originator. Although Wycliffe's Bible in English and paraphrases of various parts of the Scriptures, such as the Gospels and the Psalms, existed in English, Papal Rome had made sure the Bible was still a closed book to most people - even the clergy. All of this is consistent with the attitude described by Charles Chiniquy in the 19th century!
Conditions like these made Tyndale determine to make the Bible available to the English-speaking people. 'I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth,' he wrote, 'except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue.'
Tyndale incurred the wrath of the authorities because, as early as 1408, a Council at Oxford, England, made a decision which read, in part: 'We therefore decree and ordain, that from henceforward no unauthorised person shall translate any part of the holy Scripture into English or any other language ... under the penalty of the greater excommunication, till the said translation shall be approved either by the bishop of the diocese, or a provincial council as occasion shall require.'
More than a century later, Bishop Tunstall applied this decree in burning Tyndale's Bible, even though Tyndale had earlier sought the approval of Tunstall. In the opinion of Tunstall, Tyndale's translation contained some 2,000 errors and was therefore 'pestilent, scandalous, and seductive of simple minds.' We might ask whether Tyndale was really a poor translator, lacking the necessary scholarship in Hebrew, Greek, and English. The truth is that Tyndale's work stands out because he did not merely consult the Latin Vulgate and other translations - such as Luther's German translation. He went back to the original Greek text published for the first time in 1516 by Erasmus. Tyndale also did not forget his purpose: to make the Scriptures easy enough for the ordinary layman to read, right down to the 'boy who plows the field.' In translating from Hebrew, he tried to be as literal as possible while maintaining an easy, readable English style. He was careful even to reproduce the Hebrew fullness of description with its frequent repetition of the word 'and' joining clause after clause in a sentence. Compare Genesis chapter 33 in the King James Version, which retains Tyndale's wording almost entirely. He paid close attention to the context and avoided additions to or omissions from the original text, even though paraphrasing was resorted to by most translators of the time.
Tyndale's word choice was also careful and accurate, e.g., in the New Testament, he used 'love' instead of 'charity,' 'congregation' for 'church,' and 'elder' rather than 'priest' (which is a word which cannot be interchanged and has been inserted for the benefit of Papal Rome and her corrupt priesthood!) where appropriate. Critics such as Sir Thomas More were enraged because it changed words that had come to be venerated through tradition. But the undoubted honesty and scrupulous integrity of his work is reflected in the fact that nine-tenths of the Authorized King James Version is still Tyndale's work!
To escape the persecution of the authorities, Tyndale fled to mainland Europe to continue his work, but he was caught, convicted of heresy, then strangled and burned at the stake in October 1536. His final prayer was: 'Lord, open the King of England's eyes.' His prayer was answered very rapidly! In August 1537, less than a year after Tyndale's death, King Henry VIII gave authorization to the Bible generally known as Matthew's Bible. He decreed that it should be freely sold and read within his realm. Ironically, Matthew's Bible is substantially 'Tyndale's Pentateuch, Tyndale's version of the historical books of the Old Testament as far as 2 Chronicles... Coverdale's version of the other Old Testament books and Apocrypha, and Tyndale's New Testament of 1535.' (F.F. Bruce) Thus, the writer continues, 'it was a signal act of justice... that the first English Bible to be published under royal licence should be Tyndale's Bible (so far as Tyndale's translation had reached), even if it was not yet advisable to associate Tyndale's name with it publicly.'
A further irony occurred a few years later (1541) when an edition of the translation known as the Great Bible (which was a revision of Matthew's Bible) was issued and commanded to be placed in every church in England. The title page included this statement: 'Oversene and perused at the comaundemet of the kynges hyghnes, by the ryghte reverende fathers in God Cuthbert bysshop of Duresme, and Nicholas bishop of Rochester.' The ''Bishop of Durham' mentioned here is none other than Cuthbert Tunstall, formerly Bishop of London who had so bitterly opposed the work of Tyndale. We wonder how he felt, being obliged to give approval to the issuing of the Great Bible which was essentially the work of Tyndale that he had burned 11 years earlier! This brief respite from Papal Rome's influence lasted but a few years for, in 1546, a proclamation was made by the English authorities, again expressly forbidding the possession of Scriptures or books by Tyndale and many other Bible-believing men. Wycliffe was also mentioned in the list, which tells us that some of his Scriptures and/or books were still in circulation.
Christopher Anderson gives his views on reasons why the Latin Vulgate was the first to be translated into the English language:
'It was the Latin Bible, therefore, long buried in cloisters, or covered with the dust of ages, which must now be brought forth to view. Confessedly imperfect, it was of importance first to prove that it had all along contained enough for mortal man to know, in order to his eternal salvation; and once translated into any native tongue, not only will the language touch the heart, but the people at last know what that mysterious book was, from which they had been debarred, so wickedly and so long. Although, therefore, the nation was yet an hundred and fifty years distant from the English Bible, properly so called, the present should be regarded as the first preliminary step. An all-disposing foresight, far above that of any human agent, is now distinctly visible in drawing first upon that very language which had been employed for ages as the instrument of mental bondage. It shall now be made to contribute to the emancipation of the human mind' (Anderson, I, p. xl).
John Eadie (The English Bible, 1876) adds this comment in regard to the Latin forming the foundation for the first English Bible:
'Any attempt to translate from a Greek original at that period, had it been practicable, might have led to confusion and misunderstanding; for ignorance would have branded such a book as heretical and misleading, if it was found to differ in any way from the ecclesiastical text. The common people could not have appreciated these variations, and such prejudices would have been created against the new version as the priesthood could easily foster and spread. Yet the translation of the Latin Scriptures had been a first step to something higher, an intermediate gift to the nation. The effect had been like the first touch of the Blessed Hand upon its vision - 'it saw men as trees walking;' and when at length the second touch passed over it, it looked up, and then it 'saw every man clearly'' (Eadie, I, p. 101).
Thus we see that the Papal Roman Catholic Church did not have a single valid reason for banning the translation of the Bible - for the early translations were of the Latin Vulgate anyway - other than the fact that by doing so the English 'heretics' proved that every charge they made against Rome was correct: there is simply no Scriptural warrant for the mass of false Papal doctrines and teachings!
What did Luther think of the efforts of these earlier 'Protesters' against the errors of Papal Rome? Luther came up against the Catholic theologian, Johannes Eck, professor at Ingolstadt University, who had written his Obelisks against Luther's Ninety-Five Theses at Leipzig in July of 1519. In answer to Eck's resourceful questioning, Luther drew clear opposition between the authority of Scripture and the authority of the Church. makes clear the matter at issue: Both the Pope and Church Councils, Luther declared, can err and have erred in the past. As witness to this, Luther proclaimed that 'among the articles of John Huss and the Hussites, which were condemned, are many which are truly Christian and evangelical, and which the Church Universal cannot condemn.' So we have clear evidence that Luther recognised the truth of the arguments from the men who came before him and, now he had openly sided with a condemned heretic who Papal Rome had vindictively murdered (Huss was burnt to death by Papal Rome on July 6th, 1415), the inevitable consequences followed in train. Eck sent an indictment to Rome and the pope set up a commission to investigate Luther's doctrines. During the period which led to Luther's Excommunication, (1520-21), Luther was at his most active, writing a series of tracts against the Papacy and working out his theological insights. The Catholic church, at the same time, increased its efforts to deal against the Wittenberg reformer. On 15 June 1520 the curia issued Exsurge Domine, the first Papal bull of excommunication directed at Luther. It condemned forty-one articles of his teachings, terming them 'heretical, scandalous, erroneous, offensive to pious ears, misleading to simple minds, and contradictory to Catholic teaching.' It gave him sixty days to recant. In December of that year Luther burned the Bull in a public bonfire at Wittenberg. He was now in open conflict with the Rome.
When we read of the efforts of Papal Rome to suppress the reading of the Bible and the growth of 'infant' Christianity by murder, it becomes clear why, prior to the invention of the printing press, it would be so difficult for anyone knowing the true gospel of grace to spread the Good News and make disciples. Here we have presented some of the evidence which shows that many fell way from the truth out of fear of the horrors of torture and death by burning, beheading or drowning - mainly at the hands of Papal Rome! We also see that many who learned the truth met in secret in small groups. We can examine the contemporary scenes in Communist China, or in Buddhist and Islamic strongholds, and see that exactly the same patterns of oppression, torture, and murder exist! Again, this speaks volumes of the spirit behind these actions through the centuries - the 'god of this world [Satan!]' (1 John 5:19) hates to see Jesus' Gospel of Grace proclaimed.
The reason for the limited evidence for orthodox Biblical Christianity in earlier centuries is seen in the difficulty of preserving hand-written Scriptures, never mind the records of the beliefs of small groups, particularly when a massive, organised group, called Papal Rome has a sworn agenda of destruction against you. The beliefs of the groups we can examine in detail have been shown to be in harmony with Scriptural and opposed to Papal Rome. We also show on these pages that it is stunningly simple to prove that the gospel of Papal Rome is not Biblical, and that the beliefs of those you dismiss as heretics were actually full of Biblical truth.
Again, you have failed to prove what you dogmatically assume and quoting Galatians 1:6-9 merely demonstrates that you do not understand what Paul is writing about, for he makes the massive point that it is the kind of law-keeping (and rejection of salvation by grace alone) of Papal Rome that is anathematized!
(Continued on page 273)