Saturday, December 19, 2015

Paul Johnson's Comments on the Availability of the Bible from 1080 CE Onwards

Catholic historian Paul Johnson relates the following account:

"Access to the Bible, whether in the original or in any other tongue,
had never been an issue in the East. In the West, the clergy had begun
to assert an exclusive interpretive, indeed custodial, right to the
Bible as early as the ninth century; and from about 1080 there had been
frequent instances of the Pope, councils and bishops forbidding not
only vernacular translations but any reading at all, by laymen, of the
Bible taken as a whole. In some ways this was the most scandalous
aspect of the Medieval Latin Church. From the Waldensians onwards,
attempts to scrutinize the Bible became proof presumptive of heresy--a
man or a woman might burn for it alone--and, conversely, the heterodox
were increasingly convinced that the Bible was incompatible with papal
and clerical claims" (A History of Christianity 273).

Erasmus also made the comment that "Nowadays they shout 'heresy!' at
you for almost anything. Anything that does not please them, or that
they do not understand, is heresy. To know Greek is heresy. To
pronounce it correctly is heresy" (276).

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