Thursday, December 23, 2010


The Counter Reformation by its very name defines the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church to the REFORMATION primarily sparked via Martin Luther 1483-1546; however he was not the first to challenge the Roman Catholic Church upon philisophical grounds, and had a strategic advantage of having the recently popularized technologies of printing to spread ideas dangerous to the ancient regime; others included John Wycliffe 1328-1384, Jan Hus 1369-1415, William Tyndale 1494-1536, and Primoz Tubar 1508-1586.

Burning Wycliffe's bones, from John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563)

The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on 4 May 1415) a stiff-necked heretic and under the ban of the Church. It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth. This is the most final of all posthumous attacks on John Wycliffe, but previous attempts had been made before the Council of Constance. The Anti-Wycliffite Statute of 1401 extended persecution to Wycliffe's remaining followers. The "Constitutions of Oxford" of 1408 aimed to reclaim authority in all ecclesiastical matters, specifically naming John Wycliffe in a ban on certain writings, and noting that translation of Scripture into English is a crime punishable by charges of heresy.

Jan Hus at the stake

Trial: On 5 June 1415, he was tried for the first time, and for that purpose was transferred to a Franciscan monastery, where he spent the last weeks of his life. He declared himself willing to recant if his errors should be proven to him from the Bible. Hus conceded his veneration of Wycliffe, and said that he could only wish his soul might some time attain unto that place where Wycliffe's was. On the other hand, he denied having defended Wycliffe's doctrine of The Lord's Supper or the forty-five articles; he had only opposed their summary condemnation. King Wenceslaus admonished him to deliver himself up to the mercy of the Council, as he did not desire to protect a heretic.

At the last trial, on 8 June 1415, there were read to him thirty-nine sentences, twenty-six of which had been excerpted from his book on the Church, seven from his treatise against Páleč, and six from that against Stanislav ze Znojma. The danger of some of these doctrines to worldly power was explained to the emperor to incite him against Hus. Hus again declared himself willing to submit if he could be convinced of errors. He desired only a fair trial and more time to explain the reasons for his views. If his reasons and Bible texts did not suffice, he would be glad to be instructed. This declaration was considered an unconditional surrender, and he was asked to confess:

1.that he had erred in the theses which he had hitherto maintained;
2.that he renounced them for the future;
3.that he recanted them; and
4.that he declared the opposite of these sentences.
He asked to be exempted from recanting doctrines which he had never taught; others, which the assembly considered erroneous, he was not willing to revoke; to act differently would be against his conscience. These words found no favorable reception. After the trial on 8 June, several other attempts were made to induce him to recant, which he resisted.[citation needed]

Condemnation: The condemnation took place on 6 July 1415, in the presence of the assembly of the Council in the Cathedral. After the High Mass and Liturgy, Hus was led into the church. The Bishop of Lodi delivered an oration on the duty of eradicating heresy; then some theses of Hus and Wycliffe and a report of his trial were read.

Refusals to recant: An Italian prelate pronounced the sentence of condemnation upon Hus and his writings. Hus protested, saying that even at this hour he did not wish anything, but to be convinced from Holy Scripture. He fell upon his knees and asked God with a low voice to forgive all his enemies. Then followed his degradation — he was enrobed in priestly vestments and again asked to recant; again he refused. With curses his ornaments were taken from him, his priestly tonsure was destroyed, and the sentence was pronounced that the Church had deprived him of all rights and delivered him to the secular powers. Then a high paper hat was put upon his head, with the inscription "Haeresiarcha" (meaning the leader of a heretical movement). Hus was led away to the stake under a strong guard of armed men. At the place of execution he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. Some of the people asked that a confessor should be given to him, but one priest exclaimed that a heretic should neither be heard nor given a confessor.[citation needed]

Execution: The executioners undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and bound his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck. At the last moment, the imperial marshal, Von Pappenheim, in the presence of the Count Palatine, asked him to recant and thus save his own life, but Hus declined with the words "God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today."[5] He was then burned at the stake.

Anecdotally, it has been claimed that the executors had some problems scaling up the fire. An old woman came closer to the bonfire and threw a relatively small amount of brushwood on it. Hus, seeing it, then said, "Sancta Simplicitas!" (Holy Simplicity!) This sentence's Czech equivalent ("svatá prostota!", or, in vocative form "svatá prostoto!") is still used to comment upon a stupid action.[citation needed]

Hus' bones were later ordered dug up and burned, and the ashes scattered at sea.

William Tyndale, before being strangled and burned at the stake, cries out, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes". woodcut from Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563).

Tyndale determined to translate the Bible into English, convinced that the way to God was through His word and that scripture should be available even to common people. John Foxe describes an argument with a "learned" but "blasphemous" clergyman, who had asserted to Tyndale that, "We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's." Swelling with emotion, Tyndale responded: "I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!" [10][11]

Tyndale left for London in 1523 to seek permission to translate the Bible into English. He requested help from Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall, a well-known classicist who had praised Erasmus after working together with him on a Greek New Testament. The bishop, however, had little regard for Tyndale's scholarly credentials; like many highly-placed churchmen, he was suspicious of Tyndale's theology and was uncomfortable with the idea of the Bible in the vernacular. The Church at this time did not support any English translation of scripture. Tunstall told Tyndale he had no room for him in his household.[12] Tyndale preached and studied "at his book" in London for some time, relying on the help of a cloth merchant, Humphrey Monmouth. He then left England and landed on the continent, perhaps at Hamburg, in the spring of the year 1524, possibly travelling on to Wittenberg. This seems likely given that the name "Guillelmus Daltici ex Anglia“ (a Latin pseudonym for "William Tyndale from England") was entered at that time in the matriculation registers of the University Wittenberg .[13] At this time, possibly in Wittenberg, he began translating the New Testament, completing it in 1525, with assistance from Observant friar William Roy.

In 1525, publication of the work by Peter Quentell, in Cologne, was interrupted by impact of anti-Lutheranism. It was not until 1526 that a full edition of the New Testament was produced by the printer Peter Schoeffer in Worms, an imperial free city then in the process of adopting Lutheranism.[14] More copies were soon printed in Antwerp. The book was smuggled into England and Scotland, and was condemned in October 1526 by Tunstall, who issued warnings to booksellers and had copies burned in public.[15] Marius notes that the "spectacle of the scriptures being put to the torch" "provoked controversy even amongst the faithful."[15] Cardinal Wolsey condemned Tyndale as a heretic, being first mentioned in open court as a heretic in January 1529.[16]

From an entry in George Spalatin's Diary, on August 11, 1526, it seems that Tyndale remained at Worms about a year. A mystery hangs over the period between his departure from Worms and his final settlement at Antwerp. The colophon to Tyndale's translation of Genesis and the title pages of several pamphlets from this time are purported to have been printed by Hans Luft at Marburg. A clear link is, however, questionable. Hans Luft, the printer of Luther's books, never had a printing-press at Marburg

Around 1529, it is possible that Tyndale went into hiding in Hamburg, carrying on his work. He revised his New Testament and began translating the Old Testament and writing various treatises. In 1530, he wrote The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII's divorce on the grounds that it was unscriptural and was a plot by Cardinal Wolsey to get Henry entangled in the papal courts. The king's wrath was aimed at Tyndale: Henry asked the emperor Charles V to have the writer apprehended and returned to England. Tyndale made his case in An Answer unto Sir Thomas More's Dialogue. In 1532 Thomas More published a six volume Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, in which he alleged Tyndale was a traitor and a heretic.[17][18]

Eventually, Tyndale was betrayed by Henry Phillips to the authorities, seized in Antwerp in 1535 and held in the castle of Vilvoorde near Brussels.[19] He was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and condemned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession on his behalf. Tyndale "was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned".[20] Foxe gives 6 October as the date of commemoration (left-hand date column), but gives no date of death (right-hand date column).[19] Tyndale's final words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", were reported as "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."[21] The traditional date of commemoration is 6 October, but records of Tyndale's imprisonment suggest the actual date of his execution might have been some weeks earlier.[22]

Within four years, at the same king's behest, four English translations of the Bible were published in England,[23] including Henry's official Great Bible. All were based on Tyndale's work.

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