The Reformation


And The Bible

     The time had now come for the light to shine, and God's word could no longer be kept from the people. Prophecy states that in spite of captivity, fire, and sword, "they shall be holpen with a little help." Daniel 11:33, 34. But the people had been kept in darkness so long that they could not endure the glaring light of all the Bible truths at once. They had to come gradually, and the hour had struck for the Reformation to begin. 

     In preparing for the Reformation, the Lord had worked in marvelous ways to provide protection for the Reformers. The night before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, the Elector Frederick of Saxony had a remarkable dream. In relating it to Duke John the next morning he said: 

     " 'I must tell you a dream which I had last night.... For I dreamed it thrice, and each time with new circumstances. . . . I fell asleep, . . . I then awoke. . . . I prayed . . . God to guide me, my counsels, and my people according to truth. I again fell asleep, and then dreamed that Almighty God sent me a monk. . . . All the saints accompanied him by order of God, in order to bear testimony before me, and to declare that he did not come to contrive any plot. . . . They asked me to have the goodness graciously to permit him to write something on the door of the church of the Castle of Wittenberg. This I granted through my chancellor. Thereupon the monk went to the church, and began to write in such large characters that I could read the writing at Schweinitz. The pen which he used was so large that its end reached as far as Rome, where it pierced the ears of a lion that was crouching there, and caused the triple crown upon the head of the Pope to shake. All the cardinals and princes, running hastily up, tried to prevent it from falling. . . . I awoke, . . . it was only a dream. [Again he fell asleep.]  

     " 'Then I dreamed that all the princes of the Empire, and we among them, hastened to Rome, and strove, one after another, to break the pen; but the more we tried the stiffer it became, sounding as if it had been made of iron. We at length desisted. . . . Suddenly 1 heard a loud noise - a large number of other pens had sprung out of the long pen of the monk. I awoke a third time: it was daylight.' . . . 1943 CE, FAFA 13

     "So passed the morning of the 31st October, 1517, in the royal castle of Schweinitz. . . . The elector has hardly made an end of telling his dream when the monk comes with the hammer to interpret it." -"History of Protestantism," J. A. Wylie, LL.D., Vol. I, pp. 263-266. 

     One can hardly wonder that the Elector of Saxony became Luther's protector during his long struggle with the Papacy. The greatest work that was accomplished by these "pens" of the Reformation was the translation of the Bible into the language of the common people. True, there had been some attempts made before this time to produce the Scriptures in the vernacular, but without much success, as the language was almost unintelligible to the common people, and the price prohibitive.  

     After Martin Luther had spent much time in the homes and company of the people that he might acquire their language, he, with his co-workers, translated the Bible into a language that, while it was dignified and beautiful, was so natural and easy to be understood by the ordinary mind that it made the Bible at once "the people's book." The New Testament was translated in 1521, and fifty-eight editions of it were printed between 1522 and 1533: seventeen editions at Wittenberg, thirteen at Augsburg, twelve at Basel, one at Erfurt, one at Grimma, one at Leipzig, and thirteen at Strassburg. The Old Testament was first printed in four parts, 1523 to 1533, and finally the entire Bible was published in one volume in 1534.  

     In 1522, Jacques Lefevre translated the New Testament into French, and Collin, at Meaux, printed it in 1524. In 1525, William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English. All these New Testaments were translated from the original Greek, and not from the imperfect Latin Vulgate, used by the papal church.  

     Printing presses were kept busy printing the Scriptures, while colporteurs and booksellers sold them to the eager public. The effect was tremendous. 

     "Every honest intellect was at once struck with the strange discrepancy between the teaching of the Sacred Volume and that of the church of Rome." - "Historical Studies," Eugene Lawrence, p. 255. New York: Harper Brothers., 1876.  

     In the Book of God there were found no purgatory, no infallible pope, no masses for the dead, no sale of indulgences, no relics working miracles, no prayers for the dead, no worship of the Virgin Mary or of saints! But there the people found a loving Saviour with open arms welcoming the poorest and vilest of sinners to come and receive forgiveness full and free. Love filled their hearts and broke the shackles of sin and superstition. Profanity, coarse jests, drunkenness, vice, and disorder disappeared. The blessed Book was read by young and old, and became the talk in home and shop, while the Church with its Latin mass lost its attraction.  

Rome's Fight

     Rome was awake to the inevitable result of allowing the common people to read the Bible, and the Vicar of Croydon declared in a speech at St. Paul's Cross, London: "We must destroy the printing press, or it will destroy us."-" The Printing Press and the Gospel," by E. R. Palmer, p. 24. The papal machinery was therefore set in motion for the destruction of the Bible.  

     "There now began a remarkable contest between the Romish Church and the Bible between the printers and the popes. . . .  

     "To the Bible the popes at once declared a deathless hostility. To read the Scriptures was in their eyes the grossest of crimes. . . . The Inquisition was invested with new terrors, and was forced upon France and Holland by papal armies. The Jesuits were everywhere distinguished by their hatred for the Bible. In the Netherlands they led the persecutions of Alva and Philip II; they rejoiced with a dreadful joy when Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent, the fairest cities of the working men, were reduced to pauperism and ruin by the Spanish arms; for the Bible had perished with its defenders. . . . 

     "To burn Bibles was the favorite employment of zealous Catholics. Wherever they were found the heretical volumes were destroyed by active Inquisitors, and thousands of Bibles and Testaments perished in every part of France" - "Historical Studies," Eugene Lawrence, pp. 254-257.  

     In Spain, not only were the common people forbidden to read the Bible, but also university professors were forbidden by the "Supreme Council" of the Inquisition to possess their valuable Bible manuscripts.  

     "The council, in consequence, decreed that those theologians in the university who had studied the original language, should be obliged, as well as other persons, to give up their Hebrew and Greek Bibles to the commissaries of the holy office, on pain of excommunication." - "History of the Inquisition of Spain," D. J. A. Llorente, Secretary of the Inquisition, p. 105. London, 1827.  

     "In 1490, Torquemada [the Inquisitor-General] caused many Hebrew Bibles and more than six thousand volumes to be burnt in an Auto da fe at Salamanca." - "Literary Policy of the Church of Rome," Joseph Mendham, M. A., p. 97. London, 1830.    

     How many thousands of invaluable manuscripts thus perished in the flames of the Inquisition, eternity alone will reveal.

     It is exceedingly difficult for a Protestant in our days to fathom the extent of this fear of and enmity against the Bible, manifested by the Roman church. With her it was actually a life or death struggle! A person must read the history of the Inquisition, and examine the Roman Indexes of Forbidden Books, to understand her viewpoint. Inquisitor General Perez del Prado gave expression to her feelings and her bitter lament when he declared in horror `that some individuals had carried their audacity to the execrable extremity of demanding permission to read the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, without fearing to encounter mortal poison therein.'" - "History of the Inquisition of Spain," D. Juan Antonio Llorente, p. 111.  

     The funeral piles were lit all over Europe. Samuel Smiles says of France:

     "Bibles and New Testaments were seized wherever found, and burnt; but more Bibles and Testaments seemed to rise, as if by magic, from their ashes. The printers who were convicted of printing Bibles were next seized and burnt. The Bourgeois de Paris [a Roman Catholic paper] gives a detailed account of the human sacrifices offered up to ignorance and intolerance in that city during the six months ending June, 1534, from which it appears that twenty men and one woman were burnt alive. . . . In the beginning of the following year, the Sorbonne obtained from the king an ordinance, which was promulgated on the 26th of February, 1535, for the suppression of printing! "The Huguenots," Samuel Smiles, pp. 20, 21, and first footnote.  

     "Further attempts continued to be made by Rome to check the progress of printing. In 1599 [1559] Pope Paul IV issued the first Index Expurgalorius, containing a list of the books expressly prohibited by the Church. It included all Bibles printed in modern languages, of which forty-eight editions were enumerated; while sixty-one printers were put under a general ban." Ibid., p. 23. {1943 CE, FAFA 16.2}

     "Paul IV, in 1559, put it [Sully's name] in the first papal Index Expurgatorium. "History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages," Henry Charles Lea, Vol. III, p. 587.   

     "The first Roman 'Index of Prohibited Books' (Index librorum prohibitorum), published in 1559 under Paul IV, was very severe and was therefore mitigated under that pontiff by decree of the Holy Office of 14 June of the same year. "Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, p. 722, art. "Index."  

     Persecution raged more or less all over Europe: "In 1545, the massacre of the Vaudois of Province was perpetrated"; the 24th of August, 1572, the St. Bartholomew Massacre commenced, and continued until between 70,000 and 100,000 innocent and unsuspecting persons were murdered in cold blood for being Protestants. The massacre was secretly planned by the leaders of the Roman church.  

     "Sully says 70,000 were slain, though other writers estimate the victims at 100,000." 'The Huguenots," Samuel Smiles, pp. 71, 72.  

     "Catherine de Medicis wrote in triumph to Alva, to Philip II, and to the Pope. . . . Rome was thrown into a delirium of joy at the news. The cannon were fired at St. Angelo; Gregory XIII and his cardinals went in procession from sanctuary to sanctuary to give God thanks for the massacre. The subject was ordered to be painted, and a medal was struck, with the Pope's image on one side, and the destroying angel on the other immolating the Huguenots. "-1d., 71, 72.  

New Lines Of Attack

     Finally, however, the papal church discovered that her opposition to the Bible only betrayed the sad fact that, instead of being the divinely instituted church of the Bible, she and the Scriptures were deadly enemies, and that her open fight was furnishing the world with the clearest evidences to justify the Reformation. Her relentless persecution was making martyrs, but not loyal Catholics. She must halt her course and forge new weapons against Protestantism, if she ever hoped to win the battle. But what were these weapons to be? These we shall consider in the next two chapters.

Forging New Weapons

     THE Roman church had discovered that the root of her troubles lay in the reading of the Bible by the laity, and had opposed it with all the power at her command. But she finally realized that her open war on the Scriptures had aroused suspicion that her life and doctrines were out of harmony with God's word, and could not endure the light of an open Bible.  

     To allay such feelings she must make it appear that she was not opposed to the Scriptures, but only to the "erroneous Protestant Bible." But how could such an impression be made, when that Bible was a faithful translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts, in which the Scriptures were originally written? Then, too, the Protestants had, at that time, some of the most able Hebrew and Greek scholars in all Christendom.    

     Providence had brought the Reformers in contact with some of the best sources of Bible manuscripts: (1) When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, many of the Greek scholars fled to the West, bringing with them their valuable manuscripts from the East where Christianity originated, and then Greek and Hebrew learning revived in the West. 1 (2) With this influx from the East came also the Syrian Bible, used by the early church at Antioch in Syria (Acts 11:26), which was translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts long before the Massoretic (O.T.) text, and is the oldest known Bible manuscript (unless it should be the one lately discovered by Chester Beatty. 2 (3) During their severe persecutions the Waldenses came into contact with the Reformers at Geneva, and thus their Bible, which had been preserved in its apostolic purity, was brought to the Reformers. 3  

     Translations direct from the original languages in which the Holy Scriptures were written, and comparisons with ancient sources, by men of high scholarly ability and sterling integrity, gave the Protestants a perfectly reliable Bible. In spite of these plain facts, the Catholic authorities had to do something to turn the minds of their people away from the Protestant Bible, so widely distributed. They therefore advanced the claim that Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation was more correct than any copy we now have of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. We shall now examine this claim. 

The Latin Vulgate Bible

     At the Council of Trent (1545-1563), in the fourth session, the second Decree, in 1546, they decided that the Latin Vulgate should be the standard Bible for the Roman church. But then they discovered a curious fact, that during the 1050 years from the time Jerome brought out his Latin Vulgate Bible in 405 A.D., until John Gutenberg printed it in 1455, it had been copied so many times, mostly by monks, and so many errors had crept in, that no one knew just what was the actual rendering of the original Vulgate. The learned Roman Catholic professor, Dr. Johann Jahn says of it: {1943 CE, FAFA 19.2}

     "The universal admission of this version throughout the vast extent of the Latin church multiplied the copies of it, in the transcription of which it became corrupted with many errors. . . . Cardinal Nicholas, about the middle of the twelfth century, found 'tot exemplaria quot codices' (as many copies as manuscripts)." "introduction to the 0ld Testament." Sec. 62,63. (Quoted in "History of Romanism," Dr. John Dowling, ed. of 1871, P. 486.)  

     The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the Latin Vulgate:  

     "From an early day the text of the Vulgate began to suffer corruptions, mostly through the copyists who introduced familiar readings of the Old Latin or inserted the marginal glosses of MSS. which they were transcribing." - Vol. XV, p. 370, art. "Versions" "The Vulgate."  

     The Council of Trent having made Jerome's Latin "Vulgate the standard text," 4 it must now determine which of the hundreds of copies (all differing) was the correct " Vulgate." A commission was therefore appointed to gather materials so as to "restore St. Jerome's text," but its members were "not to amend it by any new translations of their own from the original Hebrew and Greek." 5 They "were merely to collect manuscripts and prepare the evidence for and against certain readings in the text, after which the Pope himself, by reason not of his scholarship, but of his gift of infallibility, decided straight off which were the genuine words!" - "The Old Documents and the New Bible," J. Paterson S7nyth, B.D., LLA, pp. 17-1f, 175. London and New York: 1907. 

     Pope Sixtus V undertook this work of revision, and to make sure of its being correct, he read the proofs himself. This edition was printed at Rome in 1590, accompanied by a bull forbidding the least alteration in this infallible text. "But alas! . . . The book was full of mistakes. The scholarship of Sixtus was by no means great, and his infallibility somehow failed to make up for this defect." - Id., p. 175.

1943 CE, FAFA 20

Christian Edwardson