The First (1385) English Bible Translator – John Wycliffe’s Life – (Video)

„John Wycliffe” is a dramatic biography of the life of the 14th century scholar and cleric who translated the Bible into English for the first time. Wycliffe found himself in the middle of religious, political and social conflicts. An Oxford scholar, one of Europe’s most renowned philosophers, he was a defender of English nationalism against the power of the pope and a champion of the poor against the injustices of the rich. John Wycliffe taught that God’s forgiveness couldn’t be bought with indulgences. He preached that the only true authority is the Word of God, and the Word could only be understood by all if the people could read it in their native tongue. „John Wycliffe” captures the trials and heroic struggles of this significant man of faith – the „Morning Star” of the Reformation.

(DVD available at Amazon) Other video of interest – Martin Luther (English with Romanian subtitles)

You can read an in depth  biography on John Wycliffe here.

VIDEO by poftc

Church History – John Wycliffe (1320-1384) translated the first English language Bible

John Wycliffe Bible

What is the John Wycliffe Bible?

The very first translation of the scriptures into the English language. It is a beautiful hand-written manuscript. John Wycliffe is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. He was the first person to translate the Bible into the English language. Because he lived nearly a century before Gutenberg invented the printing press, his New Testaments and Bibles were of course, hand-written manuscripts. Wycliffe is also credited with being the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses (necessity being the mother of invention).

John Wycliffe Library

John Wycliffe History

The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in 1380’s AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe, (also spelled “Wycliff” & “Wyclif”), was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the organized Church, which he believed to be contrary to the Bible. With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was a theologian and early proponent of reform in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. He initiated the first translation of the Bible into the English language and is considered the main precursor of the Protestant Reformation. Wycliffe was born at Ipreswell (modern Hipswell), Yorkshire, England, between 1320 and 1330; and he died at Lutterworth (near Leicester) December 31, 1384.

John Wycliffe
The Early Life of John Wycliffe

His family was of early Saxon origin, long settled in Yorkshire. In his day the family was a large one, covering a considerable territory, and its principal seat was Wycliffe-on-Tees, of which Ipreswell was an outlying hamlet. 1324 is the year usually given for Wycliffe’s birth. Wycliffe probably received his early education close to home. It is not known when he first went to Oxford, with which he was so closely connected till the end of his life. He was at Oxford in about 1345, when a series of illustrious names was adding glory to the fame of the university–such as those of Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Thomas Bradwardine, William of Occam, and Richard Fitzralph.

Wycliffe owed much to Occam; he showed an interest in natural science and mathematics, but applied himself to the study of theology, ecclesiastical law, and philosophy. Even his opponents acknowledged the keenness of his dialectic. His writings prove that he was well grounded in Roman and English law, as well as in native history. A family whose seat was in the neighborhood of Wycliffe’s home– Bernard Castle– had founded Balliol College, Oxford to which Wycliffe belonged, first as scholar, then as master. He attained the headship no later than 1360.

The Early Career of John Wycliffe

When he was presented by the college (1361) with the parish of Fylingham in Lincolnshire, he had to give up the leadership of Balliol, though he could continue to live at Oxford. His university career followed the usual course. While as baccalaureate he busied himself with natural science and mathematics, as master he had the right to read in philosophy. More significant was his interest in Bible study, which he pursued after becoming bachelor in theology. His performance led Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, to place him at the head of Canterbury Hall in 1365.

Between 1366 and 1372 he became a doctor of theology; as such he had the right to lecture upon systematic divinity, which he did. In 1368 he gave up his living at Fylingham and took over the rectory of Ludgershall in Buckinghamshire, not far from Oxford, which enabled him to retain his connection with the university.

Roots of Wycliffe’s Reformation Activities

It was not as a teacher or preacher that Wycliffe gained his position in history; this came from his activities in ecclesiastical politics, in which he engaged about the mid-1370s, when his reformatory work also began. In 1374 he was among the English delegates at a peace congress at Bruges. He may have been given this position because of the spirited and patriotic behavior with which in the year 1366 he sought the interests of his country against the demands of the papacy. It seems he had a reputation as a patriot and reformer; this suggests the answer to the question how he came to his reformatory ideas. Even if older evangelical parties did not exist in England before Wycliffe, he might easily have been influenced by continental evangelicals who abounded. It is highly probable that the older type of doctrine and practice represented by the Iro-Scottish Christians of the pre-Roman time persisted till the time of Wycliffe and reappeared in Lollardism.

The root of the Wycliffe’s reformation movement must be traced to his Bible study and to the ecclesiastical-political lawmaking of his times. He was well acquainted with the tendencies of the ecclesiastical politics to which England owed its position. He had studied the proceedings of King Edward I of England, and had attributed to them the basis of parliamentary opposition to papal usurpations. He found them a model for methods of procedure in matters connected with the questions of worldly possessions and the Church. Many sentences in his book on the Church recall the institution of the commission of 1274, which caused problems for the English clergy. He considered that the example of Edward I should be borne in mind by the government of his time; but that the aim should be a reformation of the entire ecclesiastical establishment. Similar was his position on the enactments induced by the ecclesiastical politics of Edward III, with which he was well acquainted, which are fully reflected in his political tracts.

Political Career of John Wycliffe

The Reformer’s entrance upon the stage of ecclesiastical politics is usually related to the question of feudal tribute to which England had been rendered liable by King John, which had remained unpaid for thirty-three years until Pope Urban V in 1365 demanded it. Parliament declared that neither John nor any other had the right to subject England to any foreign power. Should the pope attempt to enforce his claim by arms, he would be met with united resistance. Urban apparently recognized his mistake and dropped his claim. But there was no talk of a patriotic uprising. The tone of the pope was, in fact, not threatening, and he did not wish to draw England into the maelstrom of politics of western and southern Europe. Sharp words were bound to be heard in England, because of the close relations of the papacy with France. It is said that on this occasion Wycliffe served as theological counsel to the government, composed a polemical tract dealing with the tribute, and defended an unnamed monk over against the conduct of the government and parliament. This would place the entrance of Wycliffe into politics about 1365-66. But Wycliffe’s more important participation began with the Peace Congress at Bruges. There in 1374 negotiations were carried on between France and England, while at the same time commissioners from England dealt with papal delegates respecting the removal of ecclesiastical annoyances. Wycliffe was among these, under a decree dated July 26, 1374. The choice of a harsh opponent of the Avignon system would have broken up rather than furthered the peace negotiations. It seems he was designated purely as a theologian, and so considered himself, since a noted Scripture scholar was required alongside of those learned in civil and canon law. There was no need for a man of renown, or a pure advocate of state interests. His predecessor in a like case was John Owtred, a monk who formulated the statement that St. Peter had united in his hands spiritual and temporal power–the opposite of what Wycliffe taught. In the days of the mission to Bruges Owtred still belonged in Wycliffe’s circle of friends.

Wycliffe was still regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as trustworthy; his opposition to the ruling conduct of the Church may have escaped notice. It was difficult to recognize him as a heretic. The controversies in which men engaged at Oxford were philosophical rather than purely theological or ecclesiastical-political, and the method of discussion was academic and scholastic. The kind of men with whom Wycliffe dealt included the Carmelite monk John Kyningham over theological questions (utrum Christus esset humanitas), or ecclesiastical-political ones (De dominatione civili; De dotatione ecclesiae).Wycliffe regarded it as a sin to incite the pope to excommunicate laymen who had deprived wicked clergy of their temporalities, his dictum being that a man in a state of sin had no claim upon government.

1380 – 1410 Wycliffe Manuscript

Wycliffe blamed the Benedictine and professor of theology at Oxford, William Wynham of St. Albans (where the anti-Wycliffe trend was considerable) for making public controversies which had previously been confined to the academic arena. Wycliffe himself tells (Sermones, iii. 199) how he concluded that there was a great contrast between what the Church was and what it ought to be, and saw the necessity for reform. His ideas stress the perniciousness of the temporal rule of the clergy and its incompatibility with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, and make note of the tendencies which were evident in the measures of the „Good Parliament”.

Wycliffe’s Public Declaration of his Ideas

Wycliffe was among those to whom the thought of the secularization of ecclesiastical properties in England was welcome. His patron was John of Gaunt. He was no longer satisfied with his chair as the means of propagating his ideas, and soon after his return from Bruges he began to express them in tracts and longer works–his great work, the Summa theologiae, was written in support of them. In the first book, concerned with the government of God and the ten commandments, he attacked the temporal rule of the clergy–in temporal things the king is above the pope, and the collection of annates and indulgences is simony. But he entered the politics of the day with his great work De civili dominio. Here he introduced those ideas by which the good parliament was governed– which involved the renunciation by the Church of temporal dominion. The items of the „long bill” appear to have been derived from his work. In this book are the strongest outcries against the Avignon system with its commissions, exactions, squandering of charities by unfit priests, and the like. To change this is the business of the State. If the clergy misuses ecclesiastical property, it must be taken away; if the king does not do this, he is remiss. The work contains 18 strongly stated theses, opposing the governing methods of the rule of the Church and the straightening out of its temporal possessions. Wycliffe had set these ideas before his students at Oxford in 1376, after becoming involved in controversy with William Wadeford and others. Rather than restricting these matters to the classroom, he wanted them proclaimed more widely and wanted temporal and spiritual lords to take note. While the latter attacked him and sought ecclesiastical censure, he recommended himself to the former by his criticism of the worldly possessions of the clergy.

Wycliffe’s Conflict with the Church

Wycliffe wanted to see his ideas actualized–his fundamental belief was that the Church should be poor, as in the days of the apostles. He had not yet broken with the mendicant friars, and from these John of Gaunt chose Wycliffe’s defenders. While the Reformer later claimed that it was not his purpose to incite temporal lords to confiscation of the property of the Church, the real tendencies of the propositions remained unconcealed. The result of the same doctrines in Bohemia–that land which was richest in ecclesiastical foundations–was that in a short time the entire church estate was taken over and a revolution brought about in the relations of temporal holdings. It was in keeping with the plans of Gaunt to have a personality like Wycliffe on his side. Especially in London the Reformer’s views won support; partisans of the nobility attached themselves to him, and the lower orders gladly heard his sermons. He preached in city churches, and London rang with his praises.

The first to oppose his theses were monks of those orders which held possessions, to whom his theories were dangerous. Oxford and the episcopate were later blamed by the Curia, which charged them with so neglecting their duty that the breaking of the evil fiend into the English sheepfold could be noticed in Rome before it was in England. Wycliffe was summoned before William Courtenay, bishop of London, on Feb. 19, 1377, in order „to explain the wonderful things which had streamed forth from his mouth.” The exact charges are not known, as the matter did not get as far as a definite examination. Gaunt, the earl marshal Henry Percy, and a number of other friends accompanied Wycliffe, and four begging friars were his advocates. A crowd gathered at the church, and at the entrance of the party animosities began to show, especially in an angry exchange between the bishop and the Reformer’s protectors. Gaunt declared that he would humble the pride of the English clergy and their partisans, hinting at the intent to secularize the possessions of the Church.

Most of the English clergy were irritated by this encounter, and attacks upon Wycliffe began, finding their response in the second and third books of his work dealing with civil government. These books carry a sharp polemic, hardly surprising when it is recalled that his opponents charged Wycliffe with blasphemy and scandal, pride and heresy. He appeared to have openly advised the secularization of English church property, and the dominant parties shared his conviction that the monks could better be controlled if they were relieved from the care of secular affairs.

The bitterness occasioned by this advice will be better understood when it is remembered that at that time the papacy was at war with the Florentines and was in dire straits. The demand of the Minorites that the Church should live in poverty as it did in the days of the apostles was not pleasing in such a crisis. It was under these conditions that Pope Gregory XI, who in January, 1377, had gone from Avignon to Rome, sent, on May 22 five copies of his bull against Wycliffe, despatching one to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the others to the bishop of London, Edward III, the chancellor, and the university; among the enclosures were 18 theses of his, which were denounced as erroneous and dangerous to Church and State.

The reformatory activities of Wycliffe effectively began here: all the great works, especially his Summa theologiae, are closely connected with the condemnation of his 18 theses, while the entire literary energies of his later years rest upon this foundation. The next aim of his opponents–to make him out a revolutionary in politics–failed. The situation in England resulted in damage to them; on June 21, 1377, Edward III died. His successor was Richard II, a boy, who was under the influence of John of Gaunt, his uncle. So it resulted that the bull against Wycliffe did not become public till Dec. 18. Parliament, which met in October, came into sharp conflict with the Curia. Among the propositions which Wycliffe, at the direction of the government, worked out for parliament was one which speaks out distinctly against the exhaustion of England by the Curia.

Wycliffe tried to gain public favour by laying his theses before parliament, and then made them public in a tract, accompanied by explanations, limitations, and interpretations. After the session of parliament was over, he was called upon to answer, and in March, 1378, he appeared at the episcopal palace at Lambeth to defend himself. The preliminaries were not yet finished when a noisy mob gathered with the purpose of saving him; the king’s mother, Joan of Kent, also took up his cause. The bishops, who were divided, satisfied themselves with forbidding him to speak further on the controversy. At Oxford the vice chancellor, following papal directions, confined the Reformer for some time in Black Hall, from which Wycliffe was released on threats from his friends; the vice-chancellor was himself confined in the same place because of his treatment of Wycliffe. The latter then took up the usage according to which one who remained for 44 days under excommunication came under the penalties executed by the State, and wrote his De incarcerandis fedelibus, in which he demanded that it should be legal for the excommunicated to appeal to the king and his council against the excommunication; in this writing he laid open the entire case and in such a way that it was understood by the laity. He wrote his 33 conclusions, in Latin and English. The masses, some of the nobility, and his former protector, John of Gaunt, rallied to him.

Before any further steps could be taken at Rome, Gregory XI died (1378). But Wycliffe was already engaged in one of his most important works, that dealing with the truth of Holy Scripture. The sharper the strife became, the more Wycliffe had recourse to Scripture as the basis of all Christian doctrinal opinion, and expressly proved this to be the only norm for Christian faith. In order to refute his opponents, he wrote the book in which he showed that Holy Scripture contains all truth and, being from God, is the only authority. He referred to the conditions under which the condemnation of his 18 theses was brought about; and the same may be said of his books dealing with the Church, the office of king, and the power of the pope–all completed within the space of two years (1378-79).

Wycliffe wrote, “The Church is the totality of those who are predestined to blessedness. It includes the Church triumphant in heaven… and the Church militant or men on earth. No one who is eternally lost has part in it. There is one universal Church, and outside of it there is no salvation. Its head is Christ. No pope may say that he is the head, for he can not say that he is elect or even a member of the Church.”

Statement Regarding Royal Power

It would be a mistake to assume that Wycliffe’s doctrine of the Church–which made so great an impression upon John Hus, who adopted it literally and fully–was occasioned by the great schism (1378-1429). The principles of the doctrine were already embodied in his De civili dominio. The contents of the book dealing with the Church are closely connected with the decision respecting the 18 theses. The attacks on Pope Gregory XI grow ever more extreme. Wycliffe’s stand with respect to the ideal of poverty became continually firmer, as well as his position with regard to the temporal rule of the clergy. Closely related to this attitude was his book De officio regis, the content of which was foreshadowed in his 33 conclusions: One should be instructed with reference to the obligations which lie in regard to the kingdom in order to see how the two powers, royal and ecclesiastical, may support each other in harmony in the body corporate of the Church.

The royal power, Wycliffe taught, is consecrated through the testimony of Holy Scripture and the Fathers. Christ and the apostles rendered tribute to the emperor. It is a sin to oppose the power of the king, which is derived immediately from God. Subjects, above all the clergy, should pay him dutiful tribute. The honours which attach to temporal power hark back to the king; those which belong to precedence in the priestly office, to the priest. The king must apply his power with wisdom, his laws are to be in unison with those of God. From God laws derive their authority, including those which royalty has over against the clergy. If one of the clergy neglects his office, he is a traitor to the king who calls him to answer for it. It follows from this that the king has an „evangelical” control. Those in the service of the Church must have regard for the laws of the State. In confirmation of this fundamental principle the archbishops in England make sworn submission to the king and receive their temporalities. The king is to protect his vassals against damage to their possessions; in case the clergy through their misuse of the temporalities cause injury, the king must offer protection. When the king turns over temporalities to the clergy, he places them under his jurisdiction, from which later pronouncements of the popes can not release them. If the clergy relies on papal pronouncements, it must be subjected to obedience to the king.

This book, like those that preceded and followed, had to do with the reform of the Church, in which the temporal arm was to have an influential part. Especially interesting is the teaching which Wycliffe addressed to the king on the protection of his theologians. This did not mean theology in its modern sense, but knowledge of the Bible. Since the law must be in agreement with Scripture, knowledge of theology is necessary to the strengthening of the kingdom; therefore the king has theologians in his entourage to stand at his side as he exercises power. It is their duty to explain Scripture according to the rule of reason and in conformity with the witness of the saints; also to proclaim the law of the king and to protect his welfare and that of his kingdom.

Wycliffe and the Pope

The books and tracts of Wycliffe’s last six years include continual attacks upon the papacy and the entire hierarchy of his times. Each year they focus more and more, and at the last pope and Antichrist seem to him practically equivalent concepts. Yet there are passages which are moderate in tone; Lechler identifies three stages in Wycliffe’s relations with the papacy. The first step, which carried him to the outbreak of the schism, involves moderate recognition of the papal primacy; the second, which carried him to 1381, is marked by an estrangement from the papacy; and the third shows him in sharp contest. However, Wycliffe reached no valuation of the papacy before the outbreak of the schism different from his later appraisal. If in his last years he identified the papacy with antichristianity, the dispensability of this papacy was strong in his mind before the schism.

Wycliffe’s influence was never greater than at the moment when pope and antipope sent their ambassadors to England in order to gain recognition for themselves. In the ambassadors’ presence, he delivered an opinion before parliament that showed, in an important ecclesiastical political question (the matter of the right of asylum in Westminster Abbey), a position that was to the liking of the State. How Wycliffe came to be active in the interest of Urban is seen in passages in his latest writings, in which he expressed himself in regard to the papacy in a favorable sense. On the other hand he states that “it is not necessary to go either to Rome or to Avignon in order to seek a decision from the pope, since the triune God is everywhere. Our pope is Christ.” It seems clear that Wycliffe was an opponent of that papacy which had developed since Constantine. He taught that the Church can continue to exist even though it have no visible leader; but there can be no damage when the Church possesses a leader of the right kind. To distinguish between what the pope should be, if one is necessary, and the pope as he appeared in Wycliffe’s day was the purpose of his book on the power of the pope. The Church militant, Wycliffe taught, needs a head–but one whom God gives the Church. The elector [cardinal] can only make someone a pope if the choice relates to one who is elect [of God]. But that is not always the case. It may be that the elector is himself not predestined and chooses one who is in the same case–a veritable Antichrist. One must regard as a true pope one who in teaching and life most nearly follows Jesus Christ and Saint Peter.

Wycliffe distinguished the true from the false papacy. Since all signs indicated that Urban VI was a reforming and consequently a „true” pope, the enthusiasm which Wycliffe manifested for him is easily understood. These views concerning the Church and church government are those which are brought forward in the last books of his Summa, „De simonia, de apostasia, de blasphemia.” The battle which over the theses was less significant than the one he waged against the monastic orders when he saw the hopes quenched which had gathered around the „reform pope;” and when he was withdrawn from the scene as an ecclesiastical politician and occupied himself exclusively with the question of the reform of the Church.

Wycliffe’s Relation to the English Bible

click for addt’l info.

The Bible ought to be the common possession of all Christians, and needed to be made available for common use in the language of the people. National honour seemed to require this, since members of the nobility possessed the Bible in French. Wycliffe set himself to the task. While it is not possible exactly to define his part in the translation–which was based on the Vulgate–there is no doubt that it was his initiative, and that the success of the project was due to his leadership. From him comes the translation of the New Testament, which was smoother, clearer, and more readable than the rendering of the Old Testament by his friend Nicholas of Hereford. The whole was revised by Wycliffe’s younger contemporary John Purvey in 1388. Thus the mass of the people came into possession of the Bible; even as the misguided cry of Wycliffe’s opponents stated: „The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity.”

In spite of the zeal with which the hierarchy sought to destroy it, there still exist about 150 manuscripts, complete or partial, containing the translation in its revised form. From this one may easily infer how widely diffused it was in the fifteenth century. For this reason the Wycliffeites in England were often designated by their opponents as „Bible men.” Just as Luther’s version had great influence upon the German language, so Wycliffe’s, by reason of its clarity, beauty, and strength, influenced English.

Wycliffe’s Activity as a Preacher

Wycliffe aimed to do away with the existing hierarchy and replace it with the „poor priests” who lived in poverty, were bound by no vows, had received no formal consecration, and preached the Gospel to the people. These itinerant preachers spread the teachings of Wycliffe. Two by two they went, barefoot, wearing long dark-red robes and carrying a staff in the hand, the latter having symbolic reference to their pastoral calling, and passed from place to place preaching the sovereignty of God. The bull of Gregory XI. impressed upon them the name of Lollards, intended as an opprobrious epithet, but it became a name of honour. Even in Wycliffe’s time the „Lollards” had reached wide circles in England and preached „God’s law, without which no one could be justified.”

The Anti-Wycliffe Movement

In the summer of 1381 Wycliffe formulated his doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in twelve short sentences,and made it a duty to advocate it everywhere. Then the English hierarchy proceeded against him. The chancellor of the University of Oxford had some of the declarations pronounced heretical. When this fact was announced to Wycliffe, he declared that no one could change his convictions. He then appealed–not to the pope nor to the ecclesiastical authorities of the land, but to the king. He published his great confession upon the subject and also a second writing in English intended for the common people. His pronouncements were no longer limited to the classroom, they spread to the masses. The followers of John Wycliffe, the Lollards, grew greatly in number throughout the land.

„Every second man that you meet,” writes a contemporary, „is a Lollard!” In the midst of this commotion came the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Although Wycliffe disapproved of the revolt, he was blamed. Yet his friend and protector John of Gaunt was the most hated by the rebels, and where Wycliffe’s influence was greatest the uprising found the least support. While in general the aim of the revolt was against the spiritual nobility, this came about because they were nobles, not because they were churchmen. Wycliffe’s old enemy, Courtenay, now Archbishop of Canterbury, called (1382) an ecclesiastical assembly of notables at London. During the consultations an earthquake occurred (May 21); the participants were terrified and wished to break up the assembly, but Courtenay declared the earthquake a favorable sign which meant the purification of the earth from erroneous doctrine.

Of the 24 propositions attributed to Wycliffe without mentioning his name, ten were declared heretical and fourteen erroneous. The former had reference to the transformation in the sacrament, the latter to matters of church order and institutions. It was forbidden from that time to hold these opinions or to advance them in sermons or in academic discussions. All persons disregarding this order were to be subject to prosecution. To accomplish this the help of the State was necessary; but the commons rejected the bill. The king, however, had a decree issued which permitted the arrest of those in error. The citadel of the reformatory movement was Oxford, where Wycliffe’s most active helpers were; these were laid under the ban and summoned to recant, and Nicholas of Hereford went to Rome to appeal. In similar fashion the poor priests were hindered in their work.

On Nov. 18, 1382, Wycliffe was summoned before a synod at Oxford; he appeared, though apparently broken in body in consequence of a stroke, but nevertheless determined. He still commanded the favour of the court and of parliament, to which he addressed a memorial. He was neither excommunicated then, nor deprived of his position.

Last Days of John Wycliffe

Wycliffe returned to Lutterworth, and sent out tracts against the monks and Urban VI, since the latter, contrary to the hopes of Wycliffe, had not turned out to be a reforming or „true” pope, but had involved in mischievous conflicts. The crusade in Flanders aroused the Reformer’s biting scorn, while his sermons became fuller-voiced and dealt with the imperfections of the Church. The literary achievements of Wycliffe’s last days, such as the Trialogus, stand at the peak of the knowledge of his day. His last work, the Opus evangelicum, the last part of which he named in characteristic fashion „Of Antichrist,” remained uncompleted.

While Wycliffe was in the parish church on Holy Innocents’ Day, Dec. 28, 1384, he again suffered a stroke, and was carried out the side-door of his church, in his chair. John Wycliffe died on the last day of the year, three days later. The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on May 4, 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. This last did not happen till twelve more years later, when at the command of Pope Martin V they were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the river Swift which flows through Lutterworth.

None of Wycliffe’s contemporaries left a complete picture of his person, his life, and his activities. The pictures representing him are from a later period. One must be content with certain scattered expressions found in the history of the trial by William Thorpe (1407). It appears that Wycliffe was spare of body, indeed of wasted appearance, and not strong physically. He was of unblemished walk in life, says Thorpe, and was regarded affectionately by people of rank, who often consorted with him, took down his sayings, and clung to him. Thorpe continued, „I indeed clove to none closer than to him, the wisest and most blessed of all men whom I have ever found. From him one could learn in truth what the Church of Christ is and how it should be ruled and led.” John Hus wished that his soul might be wherever that of Wycliffe was found.

One may not say that Wycliffe was a comfortable opponent to meet. Thomas Netter of Walden highly esteemed the old Carmelite monk John Kynyngham in that he „so bravely offered himself to the biting speech of the heretic and to words that stung as being without the religion of Christ.” But this example of Netter is not well chosen, since the tone of Wycliffe toward Kynyngham is that of a junior toward an elder whom one respects, and he handled other opponentsin similar fashion. But when he turned upon them his roughest side, as for example in his sermons, polemical writings and tracts, he met the attacks with a tone that could not be styled friendly.

Wycliffe’s Doctrines

Wycliffe’s first encounter with the official Church of his time was prompted by his zeal in the interests of the State, his first tracts and greater works of ecclesiastical-political content defended the privileges of the State, and from these sources developed a strife out of which the next phases could hardly be determined. One who studies these books in the order of their production with reference to their inner content finds a direct development with a strong reformatory tendency. This was not originally doctrinal; when it later took up matters of dogma, as in the teaching concerning transubstantiation, the purpose was the return to original simplicity in the government of the Church. But it would have been against the diplomatic practice of the time to have sent to the peace congress at Bruges, in which the Curia had an essential part, a participant who had become known at home by heretical teaching.

Wycliffe earned his great repute as a philosopher at an early date. Henry Knighton says that in philosophy, Wycliffe was second to none, and in scholastic discipline incomparable. If this pronouncement seems hard to justify, now that Wycliffe’s writings are in print, it must be borne in mind that not all his philosophical works are extant. If Wycliffe was in philosophy the superior of his contemporaries and had no equal in scholastic discipline, he belongs with the series of great scholastic philosophers and theologians in which England in the Middle Ages was so rich–with Alexander of Hales, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Occam and Bradwardine. There was a period in his life when he devoted himself exclusively to scholastic philosophy: „when I was still a logician,” he used later to say. The first „heresy” which „he cast forth into the world” rests as much upon philosophical as upon theological grounds.

Wycliffe on Philosophy

Wycliffe’s fundamental principle of the preexistence in thought of all reality involves the most serious obstacle to freedom of the will; the philosopher could assist himself only by the formula that the free will of man was something predetermined of God. He demanded strict dialectical training as the means of distinguishing the true from the false, and asserted that logic (or the syllogism)furthered the knowledge of catholic verities; ignorance of logic was the reason why men misunderstood Scripture, since men overlooked the connection–the distinction between idea and appearance. Wycliffe was not merely conscious of the distinction between theology and philosophy, but his sense of reality led him to pass by scholastic questions. He left aside philosophical discussions which seemed to have no significance for the religious consciousness and those which pertained purely to scholasticism: „we concern ourselves with the verities that are, and leave asidethe errors which arise from speculation on matters which are not.”

Wycliffe on Scripture

The Bible alone was authoritative and, according to his own conviction and that of his disciples, was fully sufficient for the government of this world (De sufficientia legis Christi). Out of it he drew his comprehensive statements in support of his reformatory views–after intense study and many spiritual conflicts. He tells that as a beginner he was desperate to comprehend the passages dealing with the activities of the divine Word, until by the grace of God he was able to gather the right sense of Scripture, which he then understood. But that was not a light task. Without knowledge of the Bible there can be no peace in the life of the Church or of society, and outside of it there is no real and abiding good; it is the one authority for the faith.

These teachings Wycliffe promulgated in his great work on the truth of Scripture, and in other greater and lesser writings. For him the Bible was the fundamental source of Christianity which is binding on all men. From this one can easily see how the next step came about: the furnishing of the Bible to the people in their mother tongue. Wycliffe was called „Doctor evangelicus” by his English and Bohemian followers. Of all the reformers who preceded Martin Luther, Wycliffe put most emphasis on Scripture: „Even though there were a hundred popes and though every mendicant monk were a cardinal, they would be entitled to confidence only in so far as they accorded with the Bible.” Therefore in this early period it was Wycliffe who recognized and formulated the formal principle of the Reformation– the unique authority of the Bible for the belief and life of the Christian.

(via)

ISTORIA ANABAPTISTILOR – Daniel Branzai (Lucrare de baza pentru Romanii Protestanti)

(sursa) situl Crestinul

Miscarea Anabaptistilor e importanta pentru ca Anabaptistii au fost percusori ai Reformei.

Mişcarea anabaptistă

1. ASPECTE METODICE

1.1. Definirea, incadrarea si delimitarea subiectului.

Sub aspectul cercetarii istorice, subiectul se defineste atat ca subiect de istorie a crestinismului in cadrul istoriei religiilor, care apartin stiintei seculare, folosind metode obiective, cat si ca subiect de istorie a Bisericii, ca ramura a Teologiei, folosind metoda de cercetare teologica din perspectiva evanghelica.

Subiectul se defineste drept studiu al unei miscari crestine constituite in timpul Reformei din sec. al XVI-lea, miscare care are continuitate pana in prezent. Din acest punct de vedere, se coreleaza cu o alta ramura a Teologiei istorice, si anume istoria gandirii crestine sau istoria doctrinelor crestine.

Prin problemele de teologie sistematica pe care le pune istoria doctrinelor, subiectul se coreleaza si cu teologia sistematica, mai ales cu dogmatica si cu teologia polemica. Prin problemele de teologie practica, subiectul cercetat se leaga de ramuri ca teologia evanghelizarii sau misionarism, teologia pastorala, liturgica, etc…

Din punct de vedere al istoriei seculare, subiectul pune probleme ce depasesc istoria bisericeasca, raportandu-se la istoria culturii si civilizatiei, societate, economie, stat, corelate, bineinteles, cu problema fundamentala a relatiei dintre Biserica, stat, si natiune.

1.2. Importanta problemei cercetate care justifica abordarea ei in aceasta lucrare.

Lucrarea anabaptista apartine Reformei radicale, care, la inceput, a fost prezentata ca extremista, iar in prezent este reconsiderata de teologii protestanti, mai ales cei evanghelici, fiindca prin tendinta ei anabaptista este precursoarea tuturor bisericilor evanghelice care practica botezul la varsta adulta. Prin tendinta radicala de traire integrala a crestinismului, precede fundamentalismul neoprotestant, iar prin tendinta entuziasta, precede miscarea penticostala.

Anabaptistii au separat radical Biserica de Stat, prefigurand un aspect care va fi reluat in America de Nord de baptisti, si care se va impune in statele seculare dupa Revolutia franceza din 1789. Din alt punct de vedere, participarea partiala a miscarii anabaptiste la miscarea hiliasta ( milenista), care a incercat sa instaureze o societate bazata pe crestinismul comunitar, a prefigurat socialismul secular din sec. XVIII- XIV, de la Saint Simon la Marx, care nu au facut decat sa „teoretizeze” o imparatie de 1 000 de ani fara Dumnezeu.

Esecul de a instaura o societate milenista pe scara larga a condus la aparitia comunitatilor anabaptiste inchise. In prezent, aceste comunitati tind sa se deschida si contribuie prin scrieri si activitati practice la dezvoltarea conceptiei dupa care Biserica preia de la statul secular sfere intinse de activitate.

Invatamantul, asistenta sociala, asigurarile si multe alte domenii care privesc viata sociala a membrilor sunt preocupari importante pentru Biserica. In felul acesta este limitata activitatea statului, reducandu-se riscul aparitiei tensiunilor social-politice. Importanta miscarii anabaptiste, ca subiect de cercetare reiese si din faptul ca a influientat istoria crestinismului din tara noastra, unde tendinta anabaptista spre unitarism este si mai clara prin faptul ca promotorul unitarismului in Transilvania, David Francisc a fost si promotorul anabaptistilor.

Tendinta actuala de apropiere a miscarii anabaptiste de cea evanghelica justifica un studiu pozitiv al acestor reprezentanti ai Reformei radicale.

1.3. Obiectivele cercetarii.

Originea, aparitia si dezvoltarea miscarii anabaptiste evanglelice in Elvetia, Imperiul Romano – German, Olanda, Transilvania, continuarea miscarii anabaptiste pana in prezent si tendintele ei actuale.

2. DE LA PRECURSORII REFORMEI (PREREFORMATORI) LA MAREA REFORMA PROTESTANTA

2.1. VIATA SPIRITUALA IN EVUL MEDIU

2.1.1. DECADENTA CRESTINISMULUI

Biserica Crestina, din perioada apostolilor si pana la Reforma, a fost mai intai biruitoare, in ciuda persecutiilor, dar apoi, incepand cu sec.IV a cunoscut o perioada de decadenta si declin, care s-a accentuat cu trecerea timpului.

Una din devierile timpurii de la invataturile Noului Testament a fost supozitia ca actele de cult contin puteri magice si sunt mijloace prin care se obtine mantuirea.

Botezul, in decursul timpului, a ajuns sa fie vazut ca un instrument de regenerare iar participarea la impartasanie ca un mijloc de obtinere a iertarii pacatelor savarsite dupa botez.

In decursul catorva secole, alte grave erori si practici nescripturale si-au gasit drumul in biserica. Odata cu acceptarea religiei crestine de catre Constantin, imparatul Imperiului Roman, persecutiile au incetat. Atunci a inceput cresterea exterioara si expansiunea bisericii.

Constantin si fiii lui, care i-au succedat la domnie, au acordat privilegii Bisericii, iar mai tarziu, crestinismul a devenit religie de stat. Teodosiu I, in anul 380 a dat un edict in care declara crestinismul religie de stat. Biserica s-a unit cu statul si mai tarziu, populatia a fost silita sa devina crestina.

Toate conditiile preliminare de a putea fi primit ca membru in biserica au fost abandonate, cu exceptia botezului, care a fost facut obligatoriu. Deoarece, in teorie, acest act de cult trebuia sa fie un instrument de regenerare, membrii bisericii erau considerati persoane regenerate. A fost introdus botezul copiilor mici, ceea ce inseamna ca biserica nu mai putea fi un trup de credinciosi. Disciplinarea biblica nu mai putea fi aplicata in biserica.

Consecinta acestui declin in credinta si practica a dus la pierderea standardului de viata si practica lasat de apostoli.

Ideea de preotie, luata in mod literal, a inlocuit preotia spirituala a tuturor credinciosilor. Preotii acestor biserici erau considerati ca mediatori intre Dumnezeu si om. Acum, o preotie luata in sens literal, avea nevoie de un altar, sacrificii, deasemenea luate in sens literal. Acest lucru s-a realizat prin ceremonia liturghiei, cu supozitia ca painea sau azima, in serviciul de impartasanie, este schimbata in trupul Domnului Isus, si ca El trebuie, in mod literar, oferit din nou si din nou, ca ispasire pentru pacat.

Rugaciunea catre Maria si sfinti era considerata necesara. In limbajul Scripturii, sfintii sunt cei credinciosi. In viziunea bisericii numai cei ce se canonizau si erau despartiti de viata lumeasca, erau considerati sfinti.

In timp, imagini despre Isus si sfinti au inceput sa fie obiecte de inchinare si adoratie. Biserica de Apus si cea de Rasarit aveau practici diferite in ceea ce priveste obiectele de inchinare (picturi, statui de piatra, lemn).

Printre semnele clare ale indepartarii de invataturile Noului Testament au fost doctrinele cu privire la purgatoriu, indulgente, folosirea apei si uleiului sfint, superstitiile legate de relicve, si alte practici.

Dupa secolul al 12-lea credinciosului nu i se dadea si vinul, ci numai painea, considerandu-se ca fiecare element continea si trupul si sangele lui Hristos.

Muzica a devenit complicata si colorata ca un acompaniament potrivit pentru misterele sacre al liturghiei.

Intre anii 1309-1439 Biserica Romana a ajuns cat se poate de jos in ochii laicilor. Organizarea ierarhica cu cererea ei de celibat a dus la un declin in morala clericilor. Multi preoti aveau concubine sau se angajau in aventuri nepermise cu membre din bisericile lor.

Papalitatea si-a pierdut prestigiul datorita evenimentelor legate de “Captivitatea Babiloniana” si “Marea Schisma”. Impozitele papale si numeroase alte taxe au devenit o povara pentru populatie. In anumite tari(Franta, Anglia) statul national a devenit suficient de puternic pentru a-l sfida pe papa si a incerca sa supuna Biserica intereselor nationale. Toate acestea cereau reforma interna a papalitatii in perioada evului mediu tarziu.

2.1.2. O epoca a nelinistii

Cele doua secole care preced reforma s-au dovedit in mod remarcabil vitale in fata unei provocari si schimbari fara precedent. Cu cat se inmulteau abuzurile in biserica, cu atat se se auzeau mai multe strigate pentru reforma. Noi forme de pietate laica, mici tratate devotionale, interes renascut pentru relicve, pelerinaje si sfinti, miscarile religioase – toate marturisesc o spiritualitate cu radacini adanci. Se poate observa crestere constanta in intensitate si profunzime a sentimentului religios pana la perioada Reformei.

Acest lucru nu inseamna negarea realitatii ca Evul Mediu Tarziu a trecut si prin perioade de transformari politice, sociale, economice si religioase.

Poetul Eustache Deschamps spunea „Acum lumea e lasa, decazuta si slaba, batrana , invidioasa si balbaita. Nu vad decat barbati si femei nebune. Se apropie sfarsitul, intradevar …..toate merg prost„, exprimand starea generala de melancolie.

De fapt aceasta stare de indispozitie, sentimentul ca vremurile au scapat de sub control, combinata cu asteptarile religioase tot mai mari, a produs o epoca de extraordinara neliniste.

In cartea sa , The Courage To Be, Paul Tillich schiteaza istoria civilizatiei vestice in termenii a trei tipuri recurente de neliniste, de frica.

Sfarsitul antichitatii clasice a fost marcat de o neliniste ontologica, de o preocupare intensa pentru soarta si moartea omului. Catre sfarsitul Evului Mediu, a predominat o neliniste caracterizata de un sentiment de vinovatie si frica de condamnare. Aceasta, in schimb, a lasat loc, catre sfarsitul epocii moderne, unei nelinisti spirituale, unui sentiment de desertaciune si lipsa de sens. Moartea, sentimentul vinovatiei si al lipsei de sens rasuna ca o nota distonanta in literatura, arta si teologia acestei perioade.

Aceste trei teme se contureaza in zbaterea lui Luther si in incercarea lui de a gasi un Dumnezeu plin de har. Prins in mijlocul unei furtuni cu tunete si trasnete, si temandu-se ca i se apropie sfarsitul, Luther a jurat ca va deveni calugar. O data ajuns la manastire, a fost cuprins de un coplesitor sentiment de vinovatie. Desi zbaterea lui Luther a fost doar a sa, ea rezuma sperantele, nelinistile vremii sale. El a fost, am putea spune, exact ca toti ceilalti,dar intr-o masura putin mai mare. Asfel teologia reformatorilor a fost un raspuns specific la nelinistea aparte a vremii lor.

In Evul Mediu Tarziu, Europa a fost invadata de o preocupare morbida pentru suferinta si moarte. La baza acestei experiente neplacute stau doua fenomene inrudite: foametea si ciuma. Criza agrara a fost deosebit de puternica la inceputul sec.al XIV-lea; acesteia i s-a adaugat ciuma bubonica sau Moartea Neagra, care a ajuns la apogeu in Anglia in jurul anului 1349 si care a cauzat moartea a cel putin o treime din populatia Europei.

Viziunea mortii s-a manifestat atat in predici si xilogravuri, cat si in pictura si sculptura vremii. Mormintele erau deseori impodobite cu imaginea unui cadavru gol, cu gura cascata, pumnii inclestati si cu maruntaiele mancate de viermi. Moartea, vazuta sub forma unui schelet, dansa conducandu-si victimele.

Siguranta mortii era o tema obisnuita si pentru predicatori. Un calugar franciscan, Richard de Paris, a predicat zece zile consecutiv, cate sapte ore pe zi, numai despre Zilele din urma: moarte, judecata, rai, iad. Nelinistea morala, pe care Tillich o considera a fi motivul dominant in epoca, deriva din faptul ca moartea implica judecata, iar judecata il aduce pe pacatos in fata in fata cu un Dumnezeu sfant si plin de manie.

Au existat diferite incercari de a diminua sentimentul de vinovatie, care apasa atat de greu asupra sufletelor oamenilor. Cele mai radicale au fost exercitate de diverse grupuri de persoane care practicau flagelarea, ascetismul sever, si care mergeau din oras in oras, biciuindu-se cu biciuri de piele, in sperata ca vor ispasi vina proprie si cea a intregii societati.

Nicaieri altundeva nu este mai evident sentimentul vinovatiei care caracterizeaza viata religioasa din perioada medievala ca in manualele confesionale si in catehismele laice, care au invadat lumea cu ajutorul tiparnitelor recent inventate. Analiza acestor documente, pe care o face Steven Ozment, arata ca, departe de a oferi un sentiment de iertare, acestea nu au facut altceva decat sa reinvie vina deja existenta.

In stransa legatura cu frica, ce a dominat toate fazele vietii in Evul Mediu Tarziu, se afla o criza de incredere in identitatea si autoritatea Bisericii. Spre deosebire de alte doctrine stabilite la diferite concilii, doctrina despre Biserica nu a primit niciodata un statut dogmatic.

Reforma din sec. XIV-lea a fost o continuare a cautarii adevaratei biserici, care a inceput cu mult inainte ca Luther, Zwingli, Calvin sau parintii catolici sa intre in scena.

2.2. Precursori ai reformei

De-a lungul veacurilor, pe masura ce Biserica unita cu statul se indeparta tot mai mult de adevarul Sfintelor Scripturi, au existat diferite grupuri de crestini care s-au straduit sa ramana credinciosi invataturii curate a Noului Testament. Astfel Dumnezeu nu a ramas nici o data fara sa aiba un popor al Sau, oameni care sa-L marturiseasca atat prin viata lor cat si cu gura, chiar cu riscul vietii lor. Dintre aceste grupari se pot mentiona in mod special: donatistii, valdenzii si anabaptistii. Supusi unor prigoane salbatice de catre „sfanta biserica”, hartuiti pretutindeni, torturati, macelariti, masacrati in mare parte, acesti oameni „nu si-au iubit viata, chiar si pana la moarte”. Asa cum spune autorul epistolei catre Evrei: „…unii, ca sa dobandeasca o inviere mai buna, n-au vrut sa primeasca izbavirea, care li se dadea si au fost chinuiti. Altii au suferit batjocuri, batai, lanturi si inchisoare; au fost ucisi cu pietre, taiati in doua cu fierastraul, chinuiti; au murit ucisi de sabie, au pribegit imbracati in cojoace si-n piei de capre, lipsiti de toate, prigoniti, munciti, – ei, de care lumea nu era vrednica – au ratacit prin pustiuri, prin munti, prin pesteri si prin crapaturile pamantului” (Evrei 11:35-38).

Chiar daca unele din aceste grupari nu mai exista astazi asa cum erau pe vremuri, ideile lor, credinta lor curata a strabatut veacurile si au influentat alti oameni de seama a lui Dumnezeu. Multe dintre ideile lor se gasesc in marturisirea de credinta si in practica Bisericilor Penticostale din zilele noastre. Este demn, ca pe langa aceste grupari pe care le-am amintit mai sus, sa consemnam contributia importanta pe care au avut-o unele personaje din istoria bisericii. Dintre acestea as aminti pe: William Ockham, Misticii scolastici, John Wyclif, Jan Hus si Savonarola, care au avut o contributie considerabila in pregatirea Reformei. O buna parte din ideile lor au fost luate si propovaduite de reformatori. Doresc in continuare sa vorbesc putin despre cateva dintre aceste miscari si personaje, care au avut un rol deosebit in pregatirea reformei care a urmat. Acestea sunt: Valdenzii, William Ockham, Misticii medievali, Fratia vietii in comun, John Wyclif si Jan Hus. Nu putem vorbi despre toti, deoarece spatiul acestei lucrari nu permite. De aceea i-am ales pe cei care au avut o rezonanta mai puternica in ceea ce priveste baza biblica a credintei lor precum si influenta asupra personajelor reformei, in special asupra lui Luther.

2.2.1. Valdenzii

Cea mai veche grupare crestina pre-reformatoare, care a existat si exista si azi o constituie valdenzii. Numele si l-au luat de la un negustor bogat din Lyon pe nume Petro Valdes, care pe la 1175-1176 si-a impartit averea saracilor si a hotarat sa urmeze pilda lui Hristos, traind o viata de saracie si propovaduind Evanghelia. El avea o traducere a Noului Testament din limba latina in limba vorbita de popor, traducere care a stat la baza actiunii lui de evanghelizare. Barbati si femei consacrati i s-au alaturat, iar acest ideal de viata dusa in saracie si simplitate a fost aprobat de papa Alexandru III la Conciliu Luteran III in 1179.

De aceea cred ca merita sa spunem ceva despre ei. Iata cum prezinta Elisabet Livingstone inceputurile lor: „Aceasta mica comunitate crestina, care supravietuieste in Piedmont, isi are originea in grupa <<Saracilor din Lyon>>, organizata in secolul XII de Petro Valdes, de la care si-au preluat numele… Valdes a fost un negustor bogat din Lyon care a murit intre 1205 si 1218. In 1173 sau curand dupa aceea el si-a impartit averea la saraci si a devenit predicator itinerant; in scurta vreme a atras o multime de urmasi, barbati, femei si … Alexandru al III-lea i-a aprobat lui Valdes juramantul de saracie, dar i-a interzis lui si tovarasilor sai sa predice fara invitatia clerului. Valdes a inceput curand sa nu mai de-a ascultare prohibitiei impuse… Valdes si urmasii sai s-au organizat separat de Biserica, au ignorat decretele si sanctiunile ei si si-au numit proprii lor slujitori. Mai presus de toate ei au insistat asupra dreptului datoriei de a predica”.

Dupa un timp ei au fugit din Lyon si si-au organizat miscarea ca o Biserica, alegandu-si episcopi, preoti si diaconi. In cele din urma s-au declarat Biserica adevarata si s-au raspandit peste tot: in sudul Frantei, si Spaniei, apoi in Germania, Piedmont si Lombardi dar predominand in Lombardia (Italia de nord) si Proventia (Franta de sud). Puternicul papa Inocentiu III nu putea ingadui aceasta situatie.

In 1214, el i-a denumit pe valdenzi eretici, schismatici iar in 1215, la marele conciliu Lateran IV, Inocentiu III a repetat denumirea generala a ereticilor, inclusiv a valdenzilor. Cu toate acestea valdenzii s-au raspandit atat de mult geografic si doctrinar, incat in 1218 au convocat un conciliu general la Bergano (Italia) unde s-au discutat diferentele doctrinare intre valdenzii din Lombardia si cei din Franta. Mai tarziu au fost urmariti de Inchizitie fara ca aceasta sa-i poata distruge.

Invatatura lor, pe care o respingea papa, era propovaduirea neautorizata a Bibliei si respingerea rolului intermediar al clerului, cele doua chestiuni fundamentale care le-au atras denumirea de eretici.

Una din sursele cele mai convenabile ale invataturii valdenze este un tratat scris pe la 1320 de Bernard Gui, un vestit inchizitor francez pe vremea cand valdenzii erau inca una dintre cele mai puternice miscari dizidente. Acesta ii descrie ca respingand autoritatea eclesiastica, mai ales prin nesupunerea fata de papa sau fata de decretele sale de excomunicare, si prin reinterpretarea tuturor sacramentelor romano-catolice, cu exceptia spovedaniei si iertarii si a impartasaniei.

In teorie, toti valdenzii, barbati si femei, puteau administra aceste sacramente, iar euharistia avea loc o data pe an. Pare sa se fi practicat si un botez valdenz. Sarbatorile si rugaciunile romano-catolice erau respinse de valdenzi.

Gui ii invinuieste ca se erijau ca Biserica alternativa in care „preotul” era pur si simplu un om bun, in loc sa fie o persoana ordinata de Biserica. Aceasta ii parea ceva mult mai greu decat alta importanta trasatura distinctiva ale valdenzilor, propovaduirea misionara in limba locala, cu o puternica scoatere in evidenta a Noului Testament.

Ei refuzau sa depuna juraminte, fiindca spuneau ca Biblia interzice aceasta. Valdenzii negau purgatoriul intrucat nu gaseau nici o baza pentru el in Noul Testament, negand astfel credinta romano-catolica in favoarea rugaciunilor si milosteniilor facute pentru morti. Pentru Valdenzi, daca mortii erau in iad, nu mai erau speranta pentru ei, iar daca erau in ceruri nu aveau nevoie de rugaciune.

In ceea ce priveste organizarea Bisericii spune Gui, valdenzii aveau superiori si credinciosi. Superiorii trebuiau sa traiasca vieti mai austere, fiind obligati sa evanghelizeze si sa rataceasca predicand fara incetare ca si apostolii.

Punctele notate de inchizitorul Gui in sec XIV sunt iarasi dezvaluite de inchizitorii ulteriori in sec. XV si in sec. XVI, cu anumite trasaturi, care par sa devina mai radicale.

Erau acuzati ca resping cladirile, cimitirele, altarele, agheasma, liturghiile, pelerinajele, indulgentele, toate fiind socotite netrebuincioase. Valdenzii si-au completat organizarea. „Clerul” valdenz continua sa se consacre exclusiv predicarii in dialectul local.

Zonele in care ei au fost mai puternici, au fost cele din Europa centrala si tarile romano-catolice din Europa rasariteana. Insesi invataturile valdenze au fost influentate de alte miscari dizidente.

Valdenzii francezi au continuat sa fie hartuiti pana la sfarsitul evului mediu. Aceasta a culminat cu o cruciada contra lor in 1488, in Dauphine (dofine). In Italia, ei au continuat sa reziste cu succes impotriva Inchizitiei, gasindu-si refugiu mai ales in Piemont, unde au fost atacati in 1488. Lucrarea celor din Europa centrala si partea romano-catolica a Europei de est, avea sa influenteze mai tarziu cursul Reformei protestante.

In sec. XV, in pofida campaniilor repetate impotriva lor, valdenzii au circulat mult in Europa centrala si au avut schimburi de idei cu husitii cehi si wyclifitii englezi care se aflau in aceasta zona.

Viata acestor credinciosi in munti nu a fost usoara atata timp cat ei erau cautati pentru a fi executati. Insa dupa un timp oamenii care locuiau la poalele muntilor le-a oferit un ajutor, iar mai tarziu „fratii din Boemia” au fost pentru ei un ajutor, acesta incercand o unificare cu valdenzii. Mai tarziu au luat contact cu reformatorii, fiind influentati puternic de teologia lui Calvin si identificandu-se in mare masura cu reformatii.

In ciuda tuturor prigoanelor care s-au abatut asupra lor de-a lungul timpului, au ramas si exista si azi, asa cum scrie Gunar Westin: „ei traiesc si azi inItalia si sunt unici in felul lor, o biserica libera protestanta din secolul XII, care este plina de vitalitate”.

Alaturi de aceste grupari crestine din biserica oficiala s-au ridicat si barbati de seama, cercetatori ai Sfintelor Scripturi, teologi remarcabili, care au inteles din studiul lor personal, luminati de Duhul Sfant adevarurile Bibliei si ratacirile doctrinei catolice. Cei mai de seama reprezentanti de care ne vom ocupa in cadrul acestui capitol sunt John Wycliff si Jan Huss.

2.2.2. Fratia vietii in comun (Devotia Moderna)

Aceasta a fost o comunitate de barbati, atat laici, cat si clerici, care s-au adunat in casa lui Radewijns din Deventer. Acestia erau in principal prieteni ai acestuia care aveau acelasi fel de gandire si erau adepti ai lui Groote Geert – un bastinas din Deventer (Olanda) care studiase la Paris si fusese profesor la Colonia (Koln). Acesta s-a pocait in anul 1374 (anul mortii lui Petrarca); mai tarziu a adunat in casa lui femei cucernice care traiau fara sa fi depus vreun juramant monastic, apoi s-a asociat cu Florens Radewijns. Acesta era un preot care studiase la Praga, era un bun organizator si a trait intre anii 1350-1400.

Cei care s-au adunat in casa lui Radewijsn au ajuns cunoscuti sub numele de Fratii Vietii in comun. Erau un grup semimonahal care respecta regula simpla a saraciei, castitatii si ascultarii insa neangajati prin nici un legamant formal. Astfel, orice membru era liber sa paraseasca fratia si sa se intoarca la viata seculara, daca asa ii placea. Fratii nu cerseau pomeni, cum faceau „fratii cersetori”, ci aveau grija sa fie tacuti, sa-si vada de treburile lor si sa lucreze cu propriile lor maini, dupa invatatura apostolului Pavel.

Cand Graote a murit de ciuma, Radewijns a preluat conducerea miscarii Devotio Moderna, iar in 1387 a intemeiat casa ei cea mai influenta la Windesheim, langa Zwolle, in Olanda. Acolo, Fratii Vietii in comun au devenit canonici augustini iar statutul lor a fost aprobat de papa Bonifaciu IX in 1395. Peste cativa ani, s-au asociat cu alte case din Olanda, ca sa formeze Congregatia de la Windesheim. Ei s-au consacrat nu doar vietii spirituale si renuntarii la lume, ci si intregului proces al educatiei. Ei predau in scoli locale si isi infiintau propriile lor scoli. Ca sa-si intretina comunitatea, se ocupau de toate aspectele productiei de carti: scrierea, copierea manuscriselor, legarea si comercializarea volumelor, iar odata cu aparitia tiparului, isi tipareau cartile in propria lor tipografie. Windesheim si casele sale afiliate s-au facut curand cunoscute ca stupi de sarguinta cucernica. Cu timpul, miscarea pornita de Grapte a luat avant si s-a raspandit. In secolul XV, Canonicii de la Windesheim au infiintat comunitati in Germania si Elvetia.

Multi dintre fratii vietii in comun si dintre cei mai educati de ei au marcat prin personalitatea lor lumea crestina. Cei mai de seama dintre acestia au fost Nicolaus din Cusa (Kues) si Erasmus insusi. Gabriel Biel (1420-1495), filosof cunoscut ca „ultimul scolastic german” si umanistul Rudolf Agricola (1444-1485), au fost membri ai acestei comunitati, intrucat cele mai stralucite elemente ale scolasticii si umanismului coexistau in Devotio Moderna.

Aceasta comunitate a fost importanta prin accentul pe care l-a pus pe studiu. Este deosebit de important sa stim aceste lucruri, deoarece ne vor ajuta sa-l intelegem mai bine pe Luther care a studiat intr-o asemenea scoala si este evident ca acest fapt l-a influentat in ideile si teologia lui de mai tarziu.

2.2.3. William Ockham (1280-1394)

A fost un ganditor crestin de prima importanta. S-a nascut intre 1280-1290, probabil in satul Ockham din Surrey (Anglia) si a murit la Munchen (Germania) pe la 1349. Dupa ce a intrat in ordinul franciscan, si-a inceput studiile teologice la Oxford, pe la 1309 si a indeplinit conditiile pentru a primi gradul universitar de Magister, cu prelegerile sale asupra „Cartii sentemtiilor” de Petru Lombard pe la 1318-1320.

Dupa cate s-ar parea, fostul cancelar al universitatii l-a denuntat ca eretic papei Ioan XXII si William a fost convocat la Avignon in 1324. Cand a ajuns acolo, s-a implicat intr-o controversa asupra saraciei apostolice care l-a facut sa fie mai critic fata de papalitate; el a cerut ca biserica sa fie condusa de un colegiu de papi si a afirmat ca Hristos este unicul Cap al Bisericii, invataturi care prevesteau miscarea conciliara. Ockham a respins complet autoritatea papala in materie seculara. In 1328, a intrat in serviciul imparatului romano-german, Ludovic de Bavaria, sprijinindu-l in lupta lui cu papalitatea.

In filosofie, Wiliam a elaborat o noua forma de teorie nominalista. El a respins doctrina predominanta, dupa care „universaliile” – instructiuni mentale fara realitatea autonoma – ar fi avut existenta reala. Nominalismul lui William avea sa fie numit „via moderna” (calea moderna) in opozitie cu „via antiqua” (calea veche) a lui Aquinas. Ockham argumenta ca „universaliile” sunt pur si simplu produse artificiale ale mintii umane, necesare pentru comunicarea cu ajutorul limbajului. Numai indivizii sau lucrurile „particulare” (concrete) ar avea existenta reala. Intrucat cunoasterea se bazeaza pe experienta lucrurilor individuale, stiintelor naturii li s-a dat o noua semnificatie.

In multele sale scrieri, Gulielmus Occamus (pe numele sau latinizat) a dezbatut cu iscusinta logica, magistrala marile teme ale filosofiei si teologiei. Principiul sau cunoscut sub numele de „briciul lui Ockham”, afirma: concluzia care se poate formula pornind de la mai putine presupuneri nu are rost sa fie formulata pornind de la mai multe presupuneri („ceea ce se poate face cu mai putin, in zadar se face cu mai mult”); mintea nu trebuie sa inmulteasca lucrurile fara necesitate. Occamus a facut critica elaborata a dovezilor existentei lui Dumnezeu, desi el insusi formulase o puternica teologie pozitiva (KATAFATICA, care definea pe Dumnezeu prin afirmatii, spre deosebire de teologia negativa, APOFATICA, dupa care se poate spune doar ceea ce nu este Dumnezeu, nu ceea ce este.

Originalitatea si profunzineam lui Ockham, este deficitara. Dumnezeu este absolut liber si omnipotent, El poate face totul, inclusiv sa se contrazica, de pilda poate sa mantuiasca un raufacator si sa osandeasca un sfant. Aceasta afirma unii istorici despre Ockham deoarece el subliniaza ca Dumnezeu este cunoscut numai prin credinta, nu prin ratiune sau prin iluminare si ca voia lui Dumnezeu este absolut suverana dar aceasta nu inseamna ca se contrazice. In aceste privinte si in altele, Ockham a netezit calea pentru teologia reformatorilor din sec. XVI, in mod special a lui Luther care va fi influentat de nominalismul lui, pe care il va studia la universitatea din Erfurt.

2.2.4. Misticii Germani

Studiul acestor mistici este important deoarece ei au influentat gandirea lui Luther precum si lucrarea lui.

Primul mare mistic care l-a influentat pe Luther in lucrarea sa de mai tarziu a fost Johnn Eckhart (1260-1327).

Meister Eckhart a fost un calugar dominican german a carui opera este la originea curentului mistic renan si a traditiei conceptuale reluata de idealismul german. Dupa moarte, invatatura lui a fost condamnata de papa Ioan XX (1316-1334). Este recunoscut acum drept forta cea mai de seama in viata religioasa a Germaniei inainte de Reforma.

b) Johnn Tauler (1300-1361)

Elevul lui Eckhart, Johnn Tauler – si el un mistic dominican german, a fost un predicator puternic care a accentuat nimicnicia omului in prezenta lui Dumnezeu. Predicile lui au contribuit la modelarea gandirii lui Luther intr-un stadiu critic al experientei lui spirituale.

c) Johann von Wesel (1400-1481)

Johann von Wesel, din Renania a prefigurat pe reformatorii germani intr-o mare parte din invatatura sa. A respins multe dintre doctrinele si practicile specifice ale Bisericii catolice medievale si a declarat ca numai Biblia este autoritatea absoluta in materie de credinta. A scris impotriva indulgentelor in 1475, a fost judecat de Inchizitie in 1479 si condamnat la detentiune pe viata in manastirea augustina de la Mainz.

d) Wssel Gansfort (1419-1489)

Wessel Gansfort, un teolog olandez educat de Fratii Vietii in comun, a fost denumit unul dintre umanisti biblici. Si el a scris impotriva indulgentelor si a luat in mare masura aceeasi pozitie ca si Luther in atacearea pretentiilor papei si in denuntarea erorilor Bisericii din timpul sau.

2.2.5. John Wycliff (cca. 1328-1384)

Este foarte interesant modul in care apare pe scena acest credincios considerat un premergator al Reformei.

Supunerea Regelui John al Angliei fata de Papa Inocentiu al III-lea si umilirea sa de catre acesta, au dus la o atitudine ostila fata de papalitate in acesta tara. Intreaga natiune engleza s-a considerat injosita in urma acestui act. Pretentiile exagerate ale papilor si amestecul lor in numirea episcopilor englezi au dus in repetate randuri la dispute deschise intre Biserica si conducerea laica, contribuind la largirea prapastiei existente. In aceste conditii apare pe scena Bisericii engleze Wycliff.

Iata cum il prezinta Andrew Miller:

„Tocmai cand rabdarea poporului fata de abuzurile papalitatii parea sa se fi epuizat, Dumnezeu a gasit cu cale sa ridice un oponent puternic al intregului sistem ierarhic primul om care a facut sa se zguduie din temelii dominatia papei in Anglia, si inainte de toate, un om care a iubit in mod sincer adevarul si care l-a vestit atat celor invatati cat si poporului de rand. Acesta a fost John Wycliff. El este numit pe drept precursorul, sau steaua de dimineata a zorilor Reformei”.

O buna parte din viata si-a petrecut-o studiind si apoi predand la Oxford. La inceput dorinta sa nu a fost sa lupte impotriva autoritatii Bisericii Romano-Catolice, ci dorea o reformare din interiorul ei. Astfel pana in 1378 intentia lui a fost sa reformeze Biserica prin eliminarea clericilor si prin deposedarea de proprietati care, credea el, sunt cauza coruptiei. In 1376 scrie lucrarea „Of Civil Dominio” (Despre stapanirea civila) in care sustine ca exista o baza morala pe care trebuie sa o aiba conducerea eclesiastica. Insa nu a putut suporta modul in care clerul deposeda de bani pe credinciosii de rand ai Bisericii. Pamanturile, in mare parte, erau proprietatea Bisericii, de aceea la cererea lui de deposedare de proprietati a acesteia, s-a bucurat de un sprijin deosebit din partea nobilimii engleze, care dorea mult acest lucru.

Daca la inceput a incercat reformarea Bisericii din interior, mai tarziu „dezgustat de <<captivitatea Babiloniana a Bisericii>> si de schisma, Wycliff n-a mai fost satisfacut de aceasta abordare mai degraba negativa, si dupa 1378 a inceput sa se opuna dogmei Bisericii cu idei revolutionare”.

Intrebarea fireasca pe care si-o pune orice istoric este cum a reusit Wycliff sa-si propage ideile fara sa fie excomunicat si omorat ? Raspunsul este ca Dumnezeu l-a ocrotit prin nobilii englezi si prin John de Graunt. Astfel Biserica nu s-a atins de el.

Lovitura cea mai puternica pe care a dat-o Bisericii a fost in anul 1379, cand fara sa-i fie frica de consecintele nefaste care ar fi putut sa apara, a sustinut cu toata taria in scris ca “Hristos este capul Bisericii, si nu Papa”. Prin aceasta nega ca Biserica ar avea putere absoluta, spunand: „Puterea pe care a pierdut-o prin pacate de moarte”. Sau altfel spus: „chiar daca papa si toti clericii ar disparea de pe pamant… credinta nu s-ar pierde, pentru ca ea isi are temelia numai in Domnul Isus, Stapanul si Dumnezeul nostru”.

Vazand importanta pe care o dadea clerul Bisericii in sine precum si invataturile eronate cu privire la autoritatea ei, abuzand astfel de neglijenta fata de Sfanta Scriptura, Wycliff nu a mai suportat acest lucru afirmand ca: „Biblia si nu Biserica este singura autoritate pentru credincios si ca Biserica trebuie sa ia model de la Biserica Nou Testamentala”. Critica adusa Bisericii nu s-a oprit aici, el atacand prin predicile sale alte nereguli cum sunt: cultul icoanelor, cultul sfintilor, al moastelor si al sacramentelor, precum si infiintarea indulgentelor.

Cea mai mare realizare a lui Wycliff a fost aceea de a pune Biblia la indemana poporului in limba engleza. Astfel el a putut sa-si sustina mai bine convingerile cu privire la Biserica, Papa, Scriptura.

In ceea ce priveste euharistia a sustinut consubstantierea insa extrema la care a ajuns cu privire la sacramente a fost aceea de a nu recunoaste nici un sacrament, negand caracterul sacru al euharistiei. Dupa moartea lui insa cei care au continuat invatatura lui au fost numiti „lolarzi”. Acestia erau predicatori laici care au continuat ideile lui Wycliff, iar miscarea acestora a fost numita miscarea lolarzilor.

Cu privire la acestia Elisabeth A. Livingstone a afirmat: „lolarzii sunt urmasi ai lui Wycliff, isi bazau invatatura pe credinta personala, alegerea divina si mai presus de toate pe Biblie”. In general s-au opus celibatului preotilor, transsubstantiunii, indulgentelor si pelerinajelor, sustinand totodata ca validitatea actelor preotesti era determinata de caracterul moral al preotului. Acestia erau oameni simpli, tarani care au ales sa traiasca modest. Dupa 1401, prin statutul de „haereticis comburend” s-a aprobat osandirea oricarui taran sau croitor care tagaduia sfintenia Euharistiei sau care participa seara la o intrunire frateasca in care se propovaduia Cuvantul Bibliei.

Traducerea Bibliei in limba engleza si crearea grupului de predicatori lolarzi a avut o influenta asupra englezilor si a netezit calea Reformei. In afara de aceasta ideile lui Wycliff s-au raspandit in Europa cu repeziciune. Un rol important in raspandirea acestora l-au jucat studentii boemieni, care studiau in Anglia. Acestia i-au dus ideile in Boemia, unde au devenit baza pentru invatatura lui Jan Hus.

Concluzionand in ceea ce priveste ideile lui Wycliff in istorie pot spune ca ele nu constituie altceva decat „cateva grinzi” ale unui pod care face trecerea de la un ev mediu intunecat la o epoca moderna, acest pod prinzand contur odata cu declansarea Reformei.

2.2.6. Jan Hus (1373-1415)

Pentru a intelege ceea ce s-a intamplat in centrul Europei prin anii 1400, trebuie sa ne reamintim ce s-a intamplat in Anglia precum si legaturile acesteia cu Europa centrala. In acest sens nu trebuie uitata casatoria lui Richard al III-lea al Angliei cu Ana de Boemia, care a avut o importanta istorica deosebita, aceasta concretizandu-se in ceva practic si anume: „schimbul de studenti intre Anglia si Boemia”.

Trebuie retinut faptul ca la fel ca in Anglia s-au facut simtite sentimentele nationale. In ambele cazuri, ele s-au ridicat impotriva stapanului strain, care domnea la Roma, si care avea pretentia de a fi loctiitorul lui Hristos pe pamant. In afara de aceasta, in Boemia existau nemultumiri si din cauza faptului ca germanii detineau multe pozitii inalte in cadrul Bisericii in detrimentul cehilor, iar la Universitatea din Praga pretindeau a avea o pozitie privilegiata.

Luptele dintre ei au dus la retragerea germanilor de la Praga si la infiintarea Universitatii din Leipzig in anul 1409. Atunci cand ideile teologice si filozofice a lui Wycliff s-au intalnit si s-au impletit cu nationalismul ceh, s-a dezvoltat in Boemia o puternica miscare de emancipare sub tutela Romei.

Am spus ca intre cele doua orase Oxford si Praga s-au facut schimburi de studenti. Astfel ideile lui Wycliff au ajuns foarte repede si usor pe teritoriul Boemiei, datorita studentilor care au studiat in Anglia si s-au confruntat cu ideile lui. Gasindu-le bune, acestia le-au luat in Boemia.

In vremea aceea la Oxford, in Anglia, se dezbateau ideile lui Wycliff. Acesti studenti le-au imbratisat si le-au adus in Boemia.

Dupa acestea intre studentii din Praga a luat fiinta o comunitate de admiratori ai ideilor lui Wycliff, in fruntea carora se afla Jan Hus. Pe langa acestia, ideile au fost imbratisate de multi intelectuali, clerici si laici.

Jan Hus s-a nascut in Bohmernald (astazi Husinet) in 1373 dupa unii ar fi 6 iulie 1369, intr-o familie modesta. Ramanand de timpuriu fara tata, a fost crescut de mama sa, care era o femeie credincioasa. Muncind din greu, aceasta l-a ajutat sa ajunga la Universitatea din Praga. Fiind un student sarguincios, a reusit foarte repede sa se adapteze situatiei. Interesat de cunoasterea Scripturilor, va deveni unul dintre cei mai buni studenti ai Universitatii.

Dupa terminarea studiilor ajunge predicator la Capela Betleem din Praga, avand un dar deosebit de a-si captiva ascultatorii cu predicile sale. Era familiar cu ideile lui Wycliff, astfel ca in predicile sale reproducea nu doar ideile acestuia ci chiar limbajul. Avea un rol important la Universitatea unde la inceput a fost magistru. Dupa plecarea germanilor la Leipzig, devine rector al acesteia in anul 1409. Ataca in predicile sale unele dogme ale Bisericii Romano-Catolice, coruptia clerului inalt. Sustinea, asemeni lui Wycliff ca Biblia este singura autoritate in viata si credinta crestinului: „Biserica este comunitatea celor alesi, iar Hristos este singurului ei Cap.

O vreme se parea ca Hus va reusi sa atraga de partea acestei invataturi prin predici si scrieri intreaga natiune ceha; insa si in Boemia existau ierarhi catolici, care i s-au impotrivit. Daca la inceput arhiepiscopul Sbinok de Praga l-a incurajat, curand acesta l-a abandonat, trecand de partea papei Alexandru al V-lea. Lui Hus i s-a interzis sa mai predice, iar papa a emis o bula in 1410 prin care s-a ordonat distrugerea cartilor lui Wycliff, iar pentru a curma influenta reformatorului ceh i-a interzis sa mai predice si in capelele private.

In 1411 papa Ioan al XXIII-lea l-a excomunicat pe Hus, care a trebuit sa se refugieze din Praga. In timpul acesta de refugiu, el s-a dedicat scrisului, elaborand, astfel principala sa opera „De Eclesia” in 1413, scrisa sub influenta directa a lucrarilor lui Wycliff.

Fiind citat sa se prezinte in fata Conciliului Bisericii, care s-a desfasurat la Constance in 1414, Hus bazandu-se pe promisiunea imparatului ca nu i se va intampla nimic rau, da ascultare si se deplaseaza acolo. Din pacate, imparatul nu s-a tinut de cuvant. Ba mai mult atat ideile lui Wycliff, cat si invatatura sa au fost condamnate ca eretice. Refuzand sa-si retracteze invatatura, Hus este intemnitat, iar in anul 1415 ars pe rug. Invatatura lui Hus nu a putut fi distrusa, fiind dusa mai departe de urmasii sai, care s-au impartit in doua tabere. Una era tabara radicala, „taboritilor”, dupa muntele Tabor, fortareata lor din sudul orasului Praga. Acestia au respins orice invatatura cu privire la credinta si practicile Bisericii Romano-Catolice care, spuneau ei, nu aveau fundament scriptural.

Cea de-a doua ramura care sustinea ideile lui Hus si care era mai moderata, era cea a „utraquistilor”. Ei au avut o pozitie proprie prin care sustineau ca numai ceea ce Biblia interzice trebuie eliminat si ca toti credinciosii, nu numai clerul trebuie sa primeasca atat painea cat si vinul la impartasanie.

Din gruparea radicala a taboritilor s-a format gruparea „Fratii Uniti”, sau „Fratii Boemiei”. Acestia au aparut prin anii 1540, constituind astfel suportul unei noi biserici care poate fi gasita si azi, numita „Biserica Moraviana”. Aceasta s-a dezvoltat foarte mult prin spiritul ei misionar, de aceea nu este ceva deosebit daca spunem ca Hus l-ar fi inspirat pe Luther. Deoarece Luther avea posibilitatea sa cunoasca invataturile lui Hus.

Seriozitatea religioasa, atat a lui Wycliff cat si a lui Hus, cere o admiratie deosebita. Dar in ciuda recunoasterii lui Luther a multor puncte de legatura cu Hus, Reforma s-a datorat intr-o mica masura eforturilor lor. Totusi nu trebuie uitat faptul ca ei au anticipat spiritul si lucrarea reformatorilor, netezind calea acestora si usurand astfel aparitia Reformei.

2.3. Reforma protestanta. Linii generale.

Reforma a fost o incercare de intoarcere la puritatea crestinismului Noului Testament si dezvoltarea unei teologii in acord cu acesta. Reformatorii erau convinsi ca aceasta teologie nu va deveni niciodata o realitate atata timp cat Biserica va fi autoritatea finala in locul Bibliei. In cea mai mare parte, Reforma a fost limitata la Europa de Apus si la popoarele teutonice. Nici Biserica de Rasarit si nici popoarele latine din vechiul Imperiu Roman nu au acceptat Reforma. In acele parti, inca stapaneau idealurile medievale de unitate si de uniformitate, dar in nordul si vestul Europei, popoarele teutonice au trecut la diversitatea protestantismului.

Totusi, in anumite tari Romano-Catolice in ciuda tuturor persecutiilor si-au mentinut existenta mici denominatii Valdenze si ale Fratilor Boemieni.

Principalii lideri ai acestei miscari au fost Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484 – 1531), John Calvin (1509 – 1564). La inceput ei au fost pentru o restaurare a Crestinismului primar, dar nu dupa mult timp, liderii acestei miscari au adoptat ideea si apoi au decis ca o unire cu statul este necesara succesului bisericii. Aceasta decizie a fost un compromis fata de pozitia sustinuta la inceput. Acceptarea acestui compromis de catre Luther si Zwingli, compromis care includea si eliminarea oricaror disidente, a dus la aparitia miscarii Anabaptiste evanghelice.

Martin Luther s-a nascut la Eisleben, 1483 in Saxonia, o provincie din Imperiul German. A primit educatie la scoala Latina din Eisenach si la Universitatea din Erfurt. In 1505, el a devenit calugar augustinian in acelasi oras, sperand sa gaseasca pacea sufletului prin efort personal. In cele din urma, a ajuns la concluzia ca iertarea divina si schimbarea interioara sunt rezultatul credintei in Christos.

In 1509, a acceptat sa fie profesor la Universitatea din Wittenberg in Saxonia. In 1517, Johann Tetzel a fost insarcinat sa vanda indulgente papale in diferite parti ale Germaniei. Luther a considerat ca Tetzel pretinde prea mult pentru eficacitatea acestor indulgente, si ca in aceasta privinta el a actionat in contradictie cu vointa papei si cu invatatura Bisericii Romano – Catolice.

In consecinta, Luther a scris 95 teze in latina si le-a fixat pe usa Bisericii din Witteberg. In aceste teze el a condamnat abuzurile de care se facea vinovat Tetzel, din punctul de vedere romano- catolic. In timpul controverselor ce au urmat, Luther a fost din ce in ce mai mult convins ca multe invataturi si practici ale Bisericii Romane sunt nescripturale. Inca inainte de expunerea acestor teze el a avansat ideea doctrinei justificarii prin credinta, care din punctul de vedere al Bisericii Romane era o erezie. Electorul Frederich cel Intelept i-a acordat toata protectia posibila.

In cele din urma Luther a fost excomunicat de papa in 1520. Obtinand o copie a declaratiei papale, Luther i-a dat foc in public. Anul urmator a aparut in fata Dietei, ori a Parlamentului Imperiului German, la Worms, dar a refuzat sa retraga ceea ceea ce i s-a cerut. Electorul Frederich, in secret, a aranjat sa fie dus la Castelul Wartburg, pentru siguranta lui personala. In timpul acesta, Luther a luat decizia ca Liturghia sa fie mentinuta pana cand ea ar fi putut fi inlocuita cu aprobarea autoritatilor civile. Aceasta atitudine cu privire la Liturghie si alte puncte practice ce trebuiau reformate a dus la o stransa legatura intre stat si biserica. Liturghia a fost in cele din urma abolita in Wittenberg si in toata Saxonia, dupa moartea Electorului Fredereck, de catre fratele acestuia, Electorul John, in 1525. Biserica Luterana a fost facuta biserica de stat in Saxonia si in cele din urma in toate provinciile Germaniei si Scandinaviei, ai caror conducatori acceptasera crezul lutheran.

In aceeasi perioada Biserica Zwingliniana sau Reformata a devenit biserica de stat in anumite cantoane din Elvetia.

Ulrich Zwingli a fost un lider al Reformei in regiunea din Elvetia in care se vorbea limba germana. El s-a nascut in anul 1484, la Wildhaus, langa St. Gall in Elvetia. A studiat in Bern, Viena, si Basel fiind consacrat ca preot in 1506. In anul 1518 a fost ales episcop principal al orasului Zurich, cel mai important oras din Elvetia.

Dupa sosirea lui in Zurich, s-a putut observa in predicile lui o nota evanghelica. In cativa ani, in predicile lui, Zwingli a atacat anumite doctrine si practici Romano – Catolice. Atitudinea Consiliului din Zurich fata de Reforma a fost favorabila, dar guvernul federal al Elvetiei s-a opus miscarii. Consiliul din Zurich i-a dat lui Zwingli deplina libertate in ceea ce priveste predicarea din Scripturi. Din motive politice, consiliul a ales o atitudine de compromis, interzicand toate devierile de la practicile Bisericii Romano – Catolice ce puteau avea loc. In concluzie, lui Zwingli i s-a permis sa predice impotriva Bisericii Romane, dar nu sa si abandoneze practicile ei.

Luther si Zwingli nu au avut, in toate, aceleasi invataturi. Principala controversa dintre ei a fost in legatura cu Cina Domnului. Luter a aparat doctrina Prezentei Reale, adica painea si vinul sunt in realitate trupul si sangele lui Hristos, in timp ce Zwingli sustinea ca acestea sunt embleme sau simboluri. Zwingli, a respins doctrina regenerarii prin botez, pe care Luther o sustinea.

Zwingli a ajuns la aceste pareri datorita controverselor cu Fratii Elvetieni, dandu-si seama de faptul ca Anabaptistii aveau dreptate cand sustineau ca nici botezul nici impartasania nu sunt mijloace prin care sa se obtina iertarea pacatelor. Reforma, in anumite state a condus la infiintarea unor biserici de stat protestante. Conducatorii care acceptau crezul luteran sau zwinglinian, stabileau fie o biserica de stat Luterana sau Zwingliniana. Formarea unei noi biserici de stat nu era ceva complicat. Conducatorul teritoriului respectiv dadea ordin preotilor sa se conformeze doctrinei si practicii noului credeu. Peotii duceau la indeplinire ordinele conducatorilor. Oamenii de rand nu aveau nimic de spus in aceasta problema.

Infiintarea acestor noi biserici de stat erau in avantajul personal al acestor conducatori. In felul acesta aveau control mai larg asupra bisericilor si asupra averilor manastirilor. In provinciile Lutherane, printul conducator era considerat summus episcopus al bisericii din acel stat. Surprinzator este faptul ca religia de stat se schimba in functie de poruncile autoritatilor civile.Anumite districte care trecusera la Zwinglianism, au trecut sub stapanirea unor conduceri Romano-Catolice, iar populatia acestor districte au reacceptat credeul Romano Catolic. Locuitorii regiunii Palatinelor de Sus au fost nevoiti sa-si schimbe religia de patru ori in timpul Reformei. Oamenii, fie protestanti fie catolici nu au luat credinta lor in serios ca sa fie gata sa sufere persecutii pentru ea. Numarul martirilor Luterani si Zwinglinian este foarte mic. Anabaptistii s-au plans de multe ori ca au fost ridiculizati pentru ca au fost gata sa indure persecutii pentru credinta lor. Dupa cum s-a aratat, orice disidenta sau deviere de la crezul bisericii de stat era sever pedepsita.

Din scrierile lui Luther si Zwingli, reiese clar ca in anii de inceput ai Reformei, ei au aparat principiul membriei voluntare, nevoia disciplinei in biserica si independenta bisericii de stat. Toate aceste obiective nu au putut fi atinse de Luther si Zewingli. Istoricul lutheran, profesorul Karl Mueller, Tuebingen, Germania, a spus: „Puterea agresiva, cuceritoare, pe care lutheranii au manifestat-o in prima perioada, s-a pierdut oriunde, in momentul in care guvernantii au luat problema in mainile lor si au stabilit Crezul Lutheran.”

(VA  URMA)

John Wycliffe – o scurta biografie

Biografia lui John Wycliffe de la ViataVesnica.Ro:
John Wycliffe, care a trăit în timpul domniei regelui Edward III, în 1372, a fost profesor la Universitatea din Oxford. Într-o vreme în care doar puţini oameni s-au bucurat de educaţie, Wycliffe a fost cunoscut pentru erudiţia sa în filozofie şi religie.În această perioadă creştinismul era într-o situaţie tristă. Deşi toată lumea cunoştea numele Cristos, putini îi înţelegeu învăţătura. Credinţa, mângâierea, folosul Legii,lucrările lui Cristos, slăbiciunea omenească, Duhul Sfânt, puterea păcatului, lucrările harului, mântuirea prin credinţă si libertatea creştinului nu au fost pomenite niciodată în Biserică. În schimb, Biserica era preocupată doar de ceremoniile vizibile şi tradiţiile omeneşti. Oamenii îşi petreceau toată viaţa îngrămădind ceremonie după ceremonie în dorinţa de a căpăta mântuirea, fără să ştie că o puteau primi doar cerând-o. Oamenii simplii, needucaţi, care nu cunoşteau Scriptura, se mulţumeau să cunoască ce le spuneau pastorii, iar aceştia erau preocupaţi să îi înveţe doar lucrurile venite de la Roma, majoritatea învăţăturilor fiind date spre folosul propriului lor ordin şi nu pentru slava lui Cristos.Văzând că Evanghelia lui Cristos este pângărită de greşeli şi invenţii ale acestor episcopi şi călugări, s-a hotărât să facă tot ce-i stă în putere ca să schimbe situaţia şi să-i înveţe pe oameni adevărul. S-a luptat mult ca să declare în mod public faptul că intenţia sa era doar să scape Biserica de idolatrie, mai ales în ceea ce priveşte sacrementele şi împărtăşania.

Image via Wikipedia

Acest lucru a înfuriat desigur pe călugări, ale căror ordine au devenit avute în urma câştigurilor intrate din oficierea cereminiilor şi plata serviciilor lor. În curând preoţii şi episcopii s-au alăturat nemulţumiţilor, urmaţi de arhiepiscopul Simon Sudbury, care a întrerupt salarizarea lui Wycliffe şi i-a poruncit să nu mai predice împotriva Bisericii. Când nici măcar acest lucru nu s-a dovedit eficient, arhiepiscopul a apelat la Papă. Însa Wycliffe a continuat să-şi expună gândurile în predicile adresate poporului; regele Edwar purta simpatie faţă de predicile sale dar s-a putut bucura şi de spijinil unor nobili ca John de Gaunt, Ducele de Lancaster, fiul regelui şi Lordul Henry Percy.

Învaţăturile lui Wycliffe pot fi sumarizate în următoarele puncte, preluate din predicile sale:

– Sfânta euharistie, după rugăciunea de consacrare, nu este chiar trupul lui Cristos;

– Biserica Romei nu este mai importantă decât orice altă Biserică, şi lui Petru nu i-a fost dată mai multă putere de către Cristos decât altor apostoli;

– Papa nu are mai multă putere decât orice alt preot;

– Evanghelia este suficientă fiecărui om, fără alte reguli adăugate de oameni şi fără adăugiri la Evanghelie;

– Nici Papa şi nici o altă faţă bisericească nu are puterea sau dreptul de a pedepsi pe păcătoşi.

În 1377 i s-a ordonat lui Wycliffe să apară în faţa episcopilor săi şi să răspundă acuzaţiilor aduse de aceştia, din moment ce el a continuat să predice despre aceste lucruri deşi i se interzisese. Wycliffe s-a înfăţişat înaintea lor în ziua de joi, 19 februarie 1377, însoţit de patru călugări învăţaţi, Ducele de Lancaster şi Lordul Henry Percy, care era Lord Mareşalul Angliei.

Catedrala Sf.Pavel a fost înconjurată de o mare mulţime care s-a adunat ca să ajungă la Capela Doamnei Noastre, unde autorităţile bisericeşti erau în aşteptare. După câteva minute, Ducele de Lencaster şi lordul Percy s-au implicat într-o discuţie fierbinte cu episcopul, cu privire la Wycliffe, dacă el ar trebui să stea în picioare sau să şadă în timpul audierilor. În curând cearta a lăsat loc ameninţărilor, toţi cei prezenţi s-au alăturat grupurilor antagoniste şi conciliul a trebuit să fie dizolvet încă înainte e ora 9. Wycliffe a scăpat astfel de pedeapsa pentru cazurile sale. În curând a murit regele Edward III şi tronul a fost ocupat de nepotul său, Richard al II-lea. Ducele de Lancaster şi Lordul Percy au renunţat la slujbele lor guvernamentale şi s-au retras din viaţa publică, dar Wycliffe încă se putea bucura de sprijinul multor nobili. În 1377 Papa Grigorie a trimis un mesaj la Universitatea din Oxford, în care o mustra pentru că a lăsat ca învăţăturile lui Wycliffe să prindă rădăcină şi cerea ca Wycliffe să fie redus la tăcere. Acest lucru l-a încurajat pe arhiepiscopul de Canterbury şi pe elţi episcopi, care s-au hotărât să se întâlnească şi să cadă de acord asupra modului în care va fi pedepsit Wycliffe.

În ziua în care acesta urma să fie audiat, un bărbat pe nume Lewis Clifford, care era un membru al Curţii, fără însă a avea prea multă putere, s-a dus la episcopi şi i-a avertizat foarte serios să nu îl condamne sub nici o formă pe Wycliffe. Episcopii au fost atât de uluiţi de această cerere încât nu au luat nici o atitudine împotriva lui Wycliffe în acea zi.

Secta lui (oamenii neaprobati de regele Angliei si episcopii Bisericii Anglicane) a început să creasca în ciuda opoziţiei Bisericii. Unele persoane autoritare de le Oxford au încercat să îl facă să tacă, alţii l-au sprijinit cât au putut, iar Biserica [Catolica] l-a declarat eretic şi i-a ameninţat pe partizanii lui cu excomunicarea. O perioadă de timp Wycliffe ori a stat exilat, ori a stat ascuns, dar s-a întors în parohia sa înainte de a muri in 1384.

În 1415 Sinodul de la Constanz l-a declarat eretic notoriu pe Wycliffe, care a murit în erezia sa [anti Catolica] şi s-a dispus mutarea oaselor sale din pamântul sfinţit. În 1425 ramaşiţele sale au fost deshumate, oasele i-au fost arse si aruncate în râu, Cuvântul lui Dumnezeu şi adevărul învăţăturii lui John Wycliffe nu vor fii nimicite niciodată.

Deşi regele Richard s-a lăsat influenţat de Papa Urban şi Papa Bonifaciu IX si a publicat câteva decrete împotriva doctrinelor protestante, nu exista nici o mărturie ca cineva să fi fost condamnat la moarte pentru doctrine în timpul domniei sale.

The First (1385) English Bible Translator – John Wycliffe’s Life – (Video)

„John Wycliffe” is a dramatic biography of the life of the 14th century scholar and cleric who translated the Bible into English for the first time. Wycliffe found himself in the middle of religious, political and social conflicts. An Oxford scholar, one of Europe’s most renowned philosophers, he was a defender of English nationalism against the power of the pope and a champion of the poor against the injustices of the rich. John Wycliffe taught that God’s forgiveness couldn’t be bought with indulgences. He preached that the only true authority is the Word of God, and the Word could only be understood by all if the people could read it in their native tongue. „John Wycliffe” captures the trials and heroic struggles of this significant man of faith – the „Morning Star” of the Reformation.

(DVD available at Amazon)

Other video of interest – Martin Luther (English with Romanian subtitles)

You can read an in depth  biography on John Wycliffe here.

 

VIDEO by BabylonLingo

Church History – John Wycliffe (1320-1384) translated the first English language Bible

John Wycliffe Bible

What is the John Wycliffe Bible?

The very first translation of the scriptures into the English language. It is a beautiful hand-written manuscript. John Wycliffe is called “The Morning Star of the Reformation”. He was the first person to translate the Bible into the English language. Because he lived nearly a century before Gutenberg invented the printing press, his New Testaments and Bibles were of course, hand-written manuscripts. Wycliffe is also credited with being the inventor of bifocal eyeglasses (necessity being the mother of invention).

John Wycliffe Library

John Wycliffe History

The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in 1380’s AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe, (also spelled “Wycliff” & “Wyclif”), was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the organized Church, which he believed to be contrary to the Bible. With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was a theologian and early proponent of reform in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. He initiated the first translation of the Bible into the English language and is considered the main precursor of the Protestant Reformation. Wycliffe was born at Ipreswell (modern Hipswell), Yorkshire, England, between 1320 and 1330; and he died at Lutterworth (near Leicester) December 31, 1384.

John Wycliffe
The Early Life of John Wycliffe

His family was of early Saxon origin, long settled in Yorkshire. In his day the family was a large one, covering a considerable territory, and its principal seat was Wycliffe-on-Tees, of which Ipreswell was an outlying hamlet. 1324 is the year usually given for Wycliffe’s birth. Wycliffe probably received his early education close to home. It is not known when he first went to Oxford, with which he was so closely connected till the end of his life. He was at Oxford in about 1345, when a series of illustrious names was adding glory to the fame of the university–such as those of Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Thomas Bradwardine, William of Occam, and Richard Fitzralph.

Wycliffe owed much to Occam; he showed an interest in natural science and mathematics, but applied himself to the study of theology, ecclesiastical law, and philosophy. Even his opponents acknowledged the keenness of his dialectic. His writings prove that he was well grounded in Roman and English law, as well as in native history. A family whose seat was in the neighborhood of Wycliffe’s home– Bernard Castle– had founded Balliol College, Oxford to which Wycliffe belonged, first as scholar, then as master. He attained the headship no later than 1360.

The Early Career of John Wycliffe

When he was presented by the college (1361) with the parish of Fylingham in Lincolnshire, he had to give up the leadership of Balliol, though he could continue to live at Oxford. His university career followed the usual course. While as baccalaureate he busied himself with natural science and mathematics, as master he had the right to read in philosophy. More significant was his interest in Bible study, which he pursued after becoming bachelor in theology. His performance led Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, to place him at the head of Canterbury Hall in 1365.

Between 1366 and 1372 he became a doctor of theology; as such he had the right to lecture upon systematic divinity, which he did. In 1368 he gave up his living at Fylingham and took over the rectory of Ludgershall in Buckinghamshire, not far from Oxford, which enabled him to retain his connection with the university.

Roots of Wycliffe’s Reformation Activities

It was not as a teacher or preacher that Wycliffe gained his position in history; this came from his activities in ecclesiastical politics, in which he engaged about the mid-1370s, when his reformatory work also began. In 1374 he was among the English delegates at a peace congress at Bruges. He may have been given this position because of the spirited and patriotic behavior with which in the year 1366 he sought the interests of his country against the demands of the papacy. It seems he had a reputation as a patriot and reformer; this suggests the answer to the question how he came to his reformatory ideas. Even if older evangelical parties did not exist in England before Wycliffe, he might easily have been influenced by continental evangelicals who abounded. It is highly probable that the older type of doctrine and practice represented by the Iro-Scottish Christians of the pre-Roman time persisted till the time of Wycliffe and reappeared in Lollardism.

The root of the Wycliffe’s reformation movement must be traced to his Bible study and to the ecclesiastical-political lawmaking of his times. He was well acquainted with the tendencies of the ecclesiastical politics to which England owed its position. He had studied the proceedings of King Edward I of England, and had attributed to them the basis of parliamentary opposition to papal usurpations. He found them a model for methods of procedure in matters connected with the questions of worldly possessions and the Church. Many sentences in his book on the Church recall the institution of the commission of 1274, which caused problems for the English clergy. He considered that the example of Edward I should be borne in mind by the government of his time; but that the aim should be a reformation of the entire ecclesiastical establishment. Similar was his position on the enactments induced by the ecclesiastical politics of Edward III, with which he was well acquainted, which are fully reflected in his political tracts.

Political Career of John Wycliffe

The Reformer’s entrance upon the stage of ecclesiastical politics is usually related to the question of feudal tribute to which England had been rendered liable by King John, which had remained unpaid for thirty-three years until Pope Urban V in 1365 demanded it. Parliament declared that neither John nor any other had the right to subject England to any foreign power. Should the pope attempt to enforce his claim by arms, he would be met with united resistance. Urban apparently recognized his mistake and dropped his claim. But there was no talk of a patriotic uprising. The tone of the pope was, in fact, not threatening, and he did not wish to draw England into the maelstrom of politics of western and southern Europe. Sharp words were bound to be heard in England, because of the close relations of the papacy with France. It is said that on this occasion Wycliffe served as theological counsel to the government, composed a polemical tract dealing with the tribute, and defended an unnamed monk over against the conduct of the government and parliament. This would place the entrance of Wycliffe into politics about 1365-66. But Wycliffe’s more important participation began with the Peace Congress at Bruges. There in 1374 negotiations were carried on between France and England, while at the same time commissioners from England dealt with papal delegates respecting the removal of ecclesiastical annoyances. Wycliffe was among these, under a decree dated July 26, 1374. The choice of a harsh opponent of the Avignon system would have broken up rather than furthered the peace negotiations. It seems he was designated purely as a theologian, and so considered himself, since a noted Scripture scholar was required alongside of those learned in civil and canon law. There was no need for a man of renown, or a pure advocate of state interests. His predecessor in a like case was John Owtred, a monk who formulated the statement that St. Peter had united in his hands spiritual and temporal power–the opposite of what Wycliffe taught. In the days of the mission to Bruges Owtred still belonged in Wycliffe’s circle of friends.

Wycliffe was still regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as trustworthy; his opposition to the ruling conduct of the Church may have escaped notice. It was difficult to recognize him as a heretic. The controversies in which men engaged at Oxford were philosophical rather than purely theological or ecclesiastical-political, and the method of discussion was academic and scholastic. The kind of men with whom Wycliffe dealt included the Carmelite monk John Kyningham over theological questions (utrum Christus esset humanitas), or ecclesiastical-political ones (De dominatione civili; De dotatione ecclesiae).Wycliffe regarded it as a sin to incite the pope to excommunicate laymen who had deprived wicked clergy of their temporalities, his dictum being that a man in a state of sin had no claim upon government.

1380 – 1410 Wycliffe Manuscript

Wycliffe blamed the Benedictine and professor of theology at Oxford, William Wynham of St. Albans (where the anti-Wycliffe trend was considerable) for making public controversies which had previously been confined to the academic arena. Wycliffe himself tells (Sermones, iii. 199) how he concluded that there was a great contrast between what the Church was and what it ought to be, and saw the necessity for reform. His ideas stress the perniciousness of the temporal rule of the clergy and its incompatibility with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, and make note of the tendencies which were evident in the measures of the „Good Parliament”.

Wycliffe’s Public Declaration of his Ideas

Wycliffe was among those to whom the thought of the secularization of ecclesiastical properties in England was welcome. His patron was John of Gaunt. He was no longer satisfied with his chair as the means of propagating his ideas, and soon after his return from Bruges he began to express them in tracts and longer works–his great work, the Summa theologiae, was written in support of them. In the first book, concerned with the government of God and the ten commandments, he attacked the temporal rule of the clergy–in temporal things the king is above the pope, and the collection of annates and indulgences is simony. But he entered the politics of the day with his great work De civili dominio. Here he introduced those ideas by which the good parliament was governed– which involved the renunciation by the Church of temporal dominion. The items of the „long bill” appear to have been derived from his work. In this book are the strongest outcries against the Avignon system with its commissions, exactions, squandering of charities by unfit priests, and the like. To change this is the business of the State. If the clergy misuses ecclesiastical property, it must be taken away; if the king does not do this, he is remiss. The work contains 18 strongly stated theses, opposing the governing methods of the rule of the Church and the straightening out of its temporal possessions. Wycliffe had set these ideas before his students at Oxford in 1376, after becoming involved in controversy with William Wadeford and others. Rather than restricting these matters to the classroom, he wanted them proclaimed more widely and wanted temporal and spiritual lords to take note. While the latter attacked him and sought ecclesiastical censure, he recommended himself to the former by his criticism of the worldly possessions of the clergy.

Wycliffe’s Conflict with the Church

Wycliffe wanted to see his ideas actualized–his fundamental belief was that the Church should be poor, as in the days of the apostles. He had not yet broken with the mendicant friars, and from these John of Gaunt chose Wycliffe’s defenders. While the Reformer later claimed that it was not his purpose to incite temporal lords to confiscation of the property of the Church, the real tendencies of the propositions remained unconcealed. The result of the same doctrines in Bohemia–that land which was richest in ecclesiastical foundations–was that in a short time the entire church estate was taken over and a revolution brought about in the relations of temporal holdings. It was in keeping with the plans of Gaunt to have a personality like Wycliffe on his side. Especially in London the Reformer’s views won support; partisans of the nobility attached themselves to him, and the lower orders gladly heard his sermons. He preached in city churches, and London rang with his praises.

The first to oppose his theses were monks of those orders which held possessions, to whom his theories were dangerous. Oxford and the episcopate were later blamed by the Curia, which charged them with so neglecting their duty that the breaking of the evil fiend into the English sheepfold could be noticed in Rome before it was in England. Wycliffe was summoned before William Courtenay, bishop of London, on Feb. 19, 1377, in order „to explain the wonderful things which had streamed forth from his mouth.” The exact charges are not known, as the matter did not get as far as a definite examination. Gaunt, the earl marshal Henry Percy, and a number of other friends accompanied Wycliffe, and four begging friars were his advocates. A crowd gathered at the church, and at the entrance of the party animosities began to show, especially in an angry exchange between the bishop and the Reformer’s protectors. Gaunt declared that he would humble the pride of the English clergy and their partisans, hinting at the intent to secularize the possessions of the Church.

Most of the English clergy were irritated by this encounter, and attacks upon Wycliffe began, finding their response in the second and third books of his work dealing with civil government. These books carry a sharp polemic, hardly surprising when it is recalled that his opponents charged Wycliffe with blasphemy and scandal, pride and heresy. He appeared to have openly advised the secularization of English church property, and the dominant parties shared his conviction that the monks could better be controlled if they were relieved from the care of secular affairs.

The bitterness occasioned by this advice will be better understood when it is remembered that at that time the papacy was at war with the Florentines and was in dire straits. The demand of the Minorites that the Church should live in poverty as it did in the days of the apostles was not pleasing in such a crisis. It was under these conditions that Pope Gregory XI, who in January, 1377, had gone from Avignon to Rome, sent, on May 22 five copies of his bull against Wycliffe, despatching one to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the others to the bishop of London, Edward III, the chancellor, and the university; among the enclosures were 18 theses of his, which were denounced as erroneous and dangerous to Church and State.

The reformatory activities of Wycliffe effectively began here: all the great works, especially his Summa theologiae, are closely connected with the condemnation of his 18 theses, while the entire literary energies of his later years rest upon this foundation. The next aim of his opponents–to make him out a revolutionary in politics–failed. The situation in England resulted in damage to them; on June 21, 1377, Edward III died. His successor was Richard II, a boy, who was under the influence of John of Gaunt, his uncle. So it resulted that the bull against Wycliffe did not become public till Dec. 18. Parliament, which met in October, came into sharp conflict with the Curia. Among the propositions which Wycliffe, at the direction of the government, worked out for parliament was one which speaks out distinctly against the exhaustion of England by the Curia.

Wycliffe tried to gain public favour by laying his theses before parliament, and then made them public in a tract, accompanied by explanations, limitations, and interpretations. After the session of parliament was over, he was called upon to answer, and in March, 1378, he appeared at the episcopal palace at Lambeth to defend himself. The preliminaries were not yet finished when a noisy mob gathered with the purpose of saving him; the king’s mother, Joan of Kent, also took up his cause. The bishops, who were divided, satisfied themselves with forbidding him to speak further on the controversy. At Oxford the vice chancellor, following papal directions, confined the Reformer for some time in Black Hall, from which Wycliffe was released on threats from his friends; the vice-chancellor was himself confined in the same place because of his treatment of Wycliffe. The latter then took up the usage according to which one who remained for 44 days under excommunication came under the penalties executed by the State, and wrote his De incarcerandis fedelibus, in which he demanded that it should be legal for the excommunicated to appeal to the king and his council against the excommunication; in this writing he laid open the entire case and in such a way that it was understood by the laity. He wrote his 33 conclusions, in Latin and English. The masses, some of the nobility, and his former protector, John of Gaunt, rallied to him.

Before any further steps could be taken at Rome, Gregory XI died (1378). But Wycliffe was already engaged in one of his most important works, that dealing with the truth of Holy Scripture. The sharper the strife became, the more Wycliffe had recourse to Scripture as the basis of all Christian doctrinal opinion, and expressly proved this to be the only norm for Christian faith. In order to refute his opponents, he wrote the book in which he showed that Holy Scripture contains all truth and, being from God, is the only authority. He referred to the conditions under which the condemnation of his 18 theses was brought about; and the same may be said of his books dealing with the Church, the office of king, and the power of the pope–all completed within the space of two years (1378-79).

Wycliffe wrote, “The Church is the totality of those who are predestined to blessedness. It includes the Church triumphant in heaven… and the Church militant or men on earth. No one who is eternally lost has part in it. There is one universal Church, and outside of it there is no salvation. Its head is Christ. No pope may say that he is the head, for he can not say that he is elect or even a member of the Church.”

Statement Regarding Royal Power

It would be a mistake to assume that Wycliffe’s doctrine of the Church–which made so great an impression upon John Hus, who adopted it literally and fully–was occasioned by the great schism (1378-1429). The principles of the doctrine were already embodied in his De civili dominio. The contents of the book dealing with the Church are closely connected with the decision respecting the 18 theses. The attacks on Pope Gregory XI grow ever more extreme. Wycliffe’s stand with respect to the ideal of poverty became continually firmer, as well as his position with regard to the temporal rule of the clergy. Closely related to this attitude was his book De officio regis, the content of which was foreshadowed in his 33 conclusions: One should be instructed with reference to the obligations which lie in regard to the kingdom in order to see how the two powers, royal and ecclesiastical, may support each other in harmony in the body corporate of the Church.

The royal power, Wycliffe taught, is consecrated through the testimony of Holy Scripture and the Fathers. Christ and the apostles rendered tribute to the emperor. It is a sin to oppose the power of the king, which is derived immediately from God. Subjects, above all the clergy, should pay him dutiful tribute. The honours which attach to temporal power hark back to the king; those which belong to precedence in the priestly office, to the priest. The king must apply his power with wisdom, his laws are to be in unison with those of God. From God laws derive their authority, including those which royalty has over against the clergy. If one of the clergy neglects his office, he is a traitor to the king who calls him to answer for it. It follows from this that the king has an „evangelical” control. Those in the service of the Church must have regard for the laws of the State. In confirmation of this fundamental principle the archbishops in England make sworn submission to the king and receive their temporalities. The king is to protect his vassals against damage to their possessions; in case the clergy through their misuse of the temporalities cause injury, the king must offer protection. When the king turns over temporalities to the clergy, he places them under his jurisdiction, from which later pronouncements of the popes can not release them. If the clergy relies on papal pronouncements, it must be subjected to obedience to the king.

This book, like those that preceded and followed, had to do with the reform of the Church, in which the temporal arm was to have an influential part. Especially interesting is the teaching which Wycliffe addressed to the king on the protection of his theologians. This did not mean theology in its modern sense, but knowledge of the Bible. Since the law must be in agreement with Scripture, knowledge of theology is necessary to the strengthening of the kingdom; therefore the king has theologians in his entourage to stand at his side as he exercises power. It is their duty to explain Scripture according to the rule of reason and in conformity with the witness of the saints; also to proclaim the law of the king and to protect his welfare and that of his kingdom.

Wycliffe and the Pope

The books and tracts of Wycliffe’s last six years include continual attacks upon the papacy and the entire hierarchy of his times. Each year they focus more and more, and at the last pope and Antichrist seem to him practically equivalent concepts. Yet there are passages which are moderate in tone; Lechler identifies three stages in Wycliffe’s relations with the papacy. The first step, which carried him to the outbreak of the schism, involves moderate recognition of the papal primacy; the second, which carried him to 1381, is marked by an estrangement from the papacy; and the third shows him in sharp contest. However, Wycliffe reached no valuation of the papacy before the outbreak of the schism different from his later appraisal. If in his last years he identified the papacy with antichristianity, the dispensability of this papacy was strong in his mind before the schism.

Wycliffe’s influence was never greater than at the moment when pope and antipope sent their ambassadors to England in order to gain recognition for themselves. In the ambassadors’ presence, he delivered an opinion before parliament that showed, in an important ecclesiastical political question (the matter of the right of asylum in Westminster Abbey), a position that was to the liking of the State. How Wycliffe came to be active in the interest of Urban is seen in passages in his latest writings, in which he expressed himself in regard to the papacy in a favorable sense. On the other hand he states that “it is not necessary to go either to Rome or to Avignon in order to seek a decision from the pope, since the triune God is everywhere. Our pope is Christ.” It seems clear that Wycliffe was an opponent of that papacy which had developed since Constantine. He taught that the Church can continue to exist even though it have no visible leader; but there can be no damage when the Church possesses a leader of the right kind. To distinguish between what the pope should be, if one is necessary, and the pope as he appeared in Wycliffe’s day was the purpose of his book on the power of the pope. The Church militant, Wycliffe taught, needs a head–but one whom God gives the Church. The elector [cardinal] can only make someone a pope if the choice relates to one who is elect [of God]. But that is not always the case. It may be that the elector is himself not predestined and chooses one who is in the same case–a veritable Antichrist. One must regard as a true pope one who in teaching and life most nearly follows Jesus Christ and Saint Peter.

Wycliffe distinguished the true from the false papacy. Since all signs indicated that Urban VI was a reforming and consequently a „true” pope, the enthusiasm which Wycliffe manifested for him is easily understood. These views concerning the Church and church government are those which are brought forward in the last books of his Summa, „De simonia, de apostasia, de blasphemia.” The battle which over the theses was less significant than the one he waged against the monastic orders when he saw the hopes quenched which had gathered around the „reform pope;” and when he was withdrawn from the scene as an ecclesiastical politician and occupied himself exclusively with the question of the reform of the Church.

Wycliffe’s Relation to the English Bible

click for addt’l info.

The Bible ought to be the common possession of all Christians, and needed to be made available for common use in the language of the people. National honour seemed to require this, since members of the nobility possessed the Bible in French. Wycliffe set himself to the task. While it is not possible exactly to define his part in the translation–which was based on the Vulgate–there is no doubt that it was his initiative, and that the success of the project was due to his leadership. From him comes the translation of the New Testament, which was smoother, clearer, and more readable than the rendering of the Old Testament by his friend Nicholas of Hereford. The whole was revised by Wycliffe’s younger contemporary John Purvey in 1388. Thus the mass of the people came into possession of the Bible; even as the misguided cry of Wycliffe’s opponents stated: „The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity.”

In spite of the zeal with which the hierarchy sought to destroy it, there still exist about 150 manuscripts, complete or partial, containing the translation in its revised form. From this one may easily infer how widely diffused it was in the fifteenth century. For this reason the Wycliffeites in England were often designated by their opponents as „Bible men.” Just as Luther’s version had great influence upon the German language, so Wycliffe’s, by reason of its clarity, beauty, and strength, influenced English.

Wycliffe’s Activity as a Preacher

Wycliffe aimed to do away with the existing hierarchy and replace it with the „poor priests” who lived in poverty, were bound by no vows, had received no formal consecration, and preached the Gospel to the people. These itinerant preachers spread the teachings of Wycliffe. Two by two they went, barefoot, wearing long dark-red robes and carrying a staff in the hand, the latter having symbolic reference to their pastoral calling, and passed from place to place preaching the sovereignty of God. The bull of Gregory XI. impressed upon them the name of Lollards, intended as an opprobrious epithet, but it became a name of honour. Even in Wycliffe’s time the „Lollards” had reached wide circles in England and preached „God’s law, without which no one could be justified.”

The Anti-Wycliffe Movement

In the summer of 1381 Wycliffe formulated his doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in twelve short sentences,and made it a duty to advocate it everywhere. Then the English hierarchy proceeded against him. The chancellor of the University of Oxford had some of the declarations pronounced heretical. When this fact was announced to Wycliffe, he declared that no one could change his convictions. He then appealed–not to the pope nor to the ecclesiastical authorities of the land, but to the king. He published his great confession upon the subject and also a second writing in English intended for the common people. His pronouncements were no longer limited to the classroom, they spread to the masses. The followers of John Wycliffe, the Lollards, grew greatly in number throughout the land.

„Every second man that you meet,” writes a contemporary, „is a Lollard!” In the midst of this commotion came the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Although Wycliffe disapproved of the revolt, he was blamed. Yet his friend and protector John of Gaunt was the most hated by the rebels, and where Wycliffe’s influence was greatest the uprising found the least support. While in general the aim of the revolt was against the spiritual nobility, this came about because they were nobles, not because they were churchmen. Wycliffe’s old enemy, Courtenay, now Archbishop of Canterbury, called (1382) an ecclesiastical assembly of notables at London. During the consultations an earthquake occurred (May 21); the participants were terrified and wished to break up the assembly, but Courtenay declared the earthquake a favorable sign which meant the purification of the earth from erroneous doctrine.

Of the 24 propositions attributed to Wycliffe without mentioning his name, ten were declared heretical and fourteen erroneous. The former had reference to the transformation in the sacrament, the latter to matters of church order and institutions. It was forbidden from that time to hold these opinions or to advance them in sermons or in academic discussions. All persons disregarding this order were to be subject to prosecution. To accomplish this the help of the State was necessary; but the commons rejected the bill. The king, however, had a decree issued which permitted the arrest of those in error. The citadel of the reformatory movement was Oxford, where Wycliffe’s most active helpers were; these were laid under the ban and summoned to recant, and Nicholas of Hereford went to Rome to appeal. In similar fashion the poor priests were hindered in their work.

On Nov. 18, 1382, Wycliffe was summoned before a synod at Oxford; he appeared, though apparently broken in body in consequence of a stroke, but nevertheless determined. He still commanded the favour of the court and of parliament, to which he addressed a memorial. He was neither excommunicated then, nor deprived of his position.

Last Days of John Wycliffe

Wycliffe returned to Lutterworth, and sent out tracts against the monks and Urban VI, since the latter, contrary to the hopes of Wycliffe, had not turned out to be a reforming or „true” pope, but had involved in mischievous conflicts. The crusade in Flanders aroused the Reformer’s biting scorn, while his sermons became fuller-voiced and dealt with the imperfections of the Church. The literary achievements of Wycliffe’s last days, such as the Trialogus, stand at the peak of the knowledge of his day. His last work, the Opus evangelicum, the last part of which he named in characteristic fashion „Of Antichrist,” remained uncompleted.

While Wycliffe was in the parish church on Holy Innocents’ Day, Dec. 28, 1384, he again suffered a stroke, and was carried out the side-door of his church, in his chair. John Wycliffe died on the last day of the year, three days later. The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on May 4, 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. This last did not happen till twelve more years later, when at the command of Pope Martin V they were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the river Swift which flows through Lutterworth.

None of Wycliffe’s contemporaries left a complete picture of his person, his life, and his activities. The pictures representing him are from a later period. One must be content with certain scattered expressions found in the history of the trial by William Thorpe (1407). It appears that Wycliffe was spare of body, indeed of wasted appearance, and not strong physically. He was of unblemished walk in life, says Thorpe, and was regarded affectionately by people of rank, who often consorted with him, took down his sayings, and clung to him. Thorpe continued, „I indeed clove to none closer than to him, the wisest and most blessed of all men whom I have ever found. From him one could learn in truth what the Church of Christ is and how it should be ruled and led.” John Hus wished that his soul might be wherever that of Wycliffe was found.

One may not say that Wycliffe was a comfortable opponent to meet. Thomas Netter of Walden highly esteemed the old Carmelite monk John Kynyngham in that he „so bravely offered himself to the biting speech of the heretic and to words that stung as being without the religion of Christ.” But this example of Netter is not well chosen, since the tone of Wycliffe toward Kynyngham is that of a junior toward an elder whom one respects, and he handled other opponentsin similar fashion. But when he turned upon them his roughest side, as for example in his sermons, polemical writings and tracts, he met the attacks with a tone that could not be styled friendly.

Wycliffe’s Doctrines

Wycliffe’s first encounter with the official Church of his time was prompted by his zeal in the interests of the State, his first tracts and greater works of ecclesiastical-political content defended the privileges of the State, and from these sources developed a strife out of which the next phases could hardly be determined. One who studies these books in the order of their production with reference to their inner content finds a direct development with a strong reformatory tendency. This was not originally doctrinal; when it later took up matters of dogma, as in the teaching concerning transubstantiation, the purpose was the return to original simplicity in the government of the Church. But it would have been against the diplomatic practice of the time to have sent to the peace congress at Bruges, in which the Curia had an essential part, a participant who had become known at home by heretical teaching.

Wycliffe earned his great repute as a philosopher at an early date. Henry Knighton says that in philosophy, Wycliffe was second to none, and in scholastic discipline incomparable. If this pronouncement seems hard to justify, now that Wycliffe’s writings are in print, it must be borne in mind that not all his philosophical works are extant. If Wycliffe was in philosophy the superior of his contemporaries and had no equal in scholastic discipline, he belongs with the series of great scholastic philosophers and theologians in which England in the Middle Ages was so rich–with Alexander of Hales, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Occam and Bradwardine. There was a period in his life when he devoted himself exclusively to scholastic philosophy: „when I was still a logician,” he used later to say. The first „heresy” which „he cast forth into the world” rests as much upon philosophical as upon theological grounds.

Wycliffe on Philosophy

Wycliffe’s fundamental principle of the preexistence in thought of all reality involves the most serious obstacle to freedom of the will; the philosopher could assist himself only by the formula that the free will of man was something predetermined of God. He demanded strict dialectical training as the means of distinguishing the true from the false, and asserted that logic (or the syllogism)furthered the knowledge of catholic verities; ignorance of logic was the reason why men misunderstood Scripture, since men overlooked the connection–the distinction between idea and appearance. Wycliffe was not merely conscious of the distinction between theology and philosophy, but his sense of reality led him to pass by scholastic questions. He left aside philosophical discussions which seemed to have no significance for the religious consciousness and those which pertained purely to scholasticism: „we concern ourselves with the verities that are, and leave asidethe errors which arise from speculation on matters which are not.”

Wycliffe on Scripture

The Bible alone was authoritative and, according to his own conviction and that of his disciples, was fully sufficient for the government of this world (De sufficientia legis Christi). Out of it he drew his comprehensive statements in support of his reformatory views–after intense study and many spiritual conflicts. He tells that as a beginner he was desperate to comprehend the passages dealing with the activities of the divine Word, until by the grace of God he was able to gather the right sense of Scripture, which he then understood. But that was not a light task. Without knowledge of the Bible there can be no peace in the life of the Church or of society, and outside of it there is no real and abiding good; it is the one authority for the faith.

These teachings Wycliffe promulgated in his great work on the truth of Scripture, and in other greater and lesser writings. For him the Bible was the fundamental source of Christianity which is binding on all men. From this one can easily see how the next step came about: the furnishing of the Bible to the people in their mother tongue. Wycliffe was called „Doctor evangelicus” by his English and Bohemian followers. Of all the reformers who preceded Martin Luther, Wycliffe put most emphasis on Scripture: „Even though there were a hundred popes and though every mendicant monk were a cardinal, they would be entitled to confidence only in so far as they accorded with the Bible.” Therefore in this early period it was Wycliffe who recognized and formulated the formal principle of the Reformation– the unique authority of the Bible for the belief and life of the Christian.

(via)

Blogosfera Evanghelică

Vizite unicate din Martie 6,2011

free counters

Va multumim ca ne-ati vizitat azi!


România – LIVE webcams de la orase mari