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2 More Protestant "Reformation" Myths

By Luke Lancaster

1. The Catholic Church hid the Bible in Latin so that people would not read it.

If this were true, then why was the Bible translated from the Hebrew and Greek originals almost immediately into Latin by the Church? Citizens of the Roman Empire stopped primarily speaking Alexander the Great’s Greek language and had started to primarily speak Latin. So, a Latin translation occurred within the first few centuries of the Church. Then Pope Damasus told St. Jerome in the late 4th century to improve the Latin translation. Jerome did so, and his translation was called the “Vulgate,” for it was for the “vulgar” language of the people. That became the official translation of the Church - all because people actually could understand it.

This Latin Vulgate translation continued as the norm in the Church also because of Daniel 2. That prophecy said that God’s kingdom would take over the earthly kingdoms – the last of which was interpreted to be Rome. The kingdom of God took over the Latin-speaking Roman Empire, so the Latin Vulgate became the official Bible of the Catholic Church.

However, as the centuries went by and other languages started to arise, why did the Church keep the Bible in Latin? Believe it or not, it was because the language of the educated was still Latin. If one could read and write, then he or she knew Latin. The late Fr. Henry Graham said in his book, “Where We Got the Bible” that, “‘Another common error is that the clergy were unwilling that the laity should read the Bible for themselves, and carefully kept it in an unknown tongue that the people might not be able to read it. The truth is that most people who could read at all could read Latin, and would certainly prefer to read the authorised [sic] Vulgate to any vernacular version’—i.e. preferred the Latin Bible to an English one. Dr Peter Bayne also deals with this point when he remarked in the Literary World (1894, Oct.), quoted by ‘M.C.L.’ in her booklet, ‘Latin was then the language of all men of culture, and to an extent probably far beyond what we at present realise [sic], the common language of Europe; in those days tens of thousands of lads, many of them poor, studied at the Universities, and learned to talk Latin’ (chapter 10, read the full text here). Latin was still prominent, and that was why even the Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564) published his Institutes of the Christian Religion in Latin. Even later writers, like the mathematics professor Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), still published in Latin.

Yet even with the prominence of Latin, the Church still translated the Bible into those other vernacular languages. That way, just in case some did not know Latin, they could still understand Scripture. Fr. Henry Graham said again in his book “Where We Got the Bible” that, “In Italy there were more than 40 editions of the Bible before the first Protestant version appeared, beginning at Venice in 1471; and 25 of these were in the Italian language before 1500, with the express permission of Rome. In France there were 18 editions before 1547, the first appearing in 1478. Spain began to publish editions in the same year, and issued Bibles with the full approval of the Spanish Inquisition (of course one can hardly expect Pro­testants to believe this). In Hungary by the year 1456, in Bohemia by the year 1478, in Flanders before 1500, and in other lands groaning under the yoke of Rome, we know that editions of the Sacred Scriptures had been given to the people” (chapter 11). The Church was quite proactive in translating the Bible, so if anybody claims that She was not, then they need to reckon with this evidence.

2. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were the only people calling for reform in the Church

This ignores a lot of history. The Church has had many people that called for reform before Luther, for the Church is in constant need of reform. Church Historian Dr. Bronwen McShea says that the entire Middle Ages could be summed up as a constant sequence of corruption and subsequent reforming saints arising. To give a few examples from pre-Lutheran times, St. Peter Damian, St. Catherine of Siena, and Girolamo Savonarola boldly proclaimed the need for reform. Peter Damian said in the 11th century that the clergy had become seriously immoral, even practicing homosexual actions. This prompted him to write “The Book of Gomorrah.” Pope Leo IX listened to his reforming friend Peter Damian and cleaned the Church up. Catherine of Siena in the 14th century boldly told the Pope, who was committing the sin of absenteeism (living away from one’s assigned diocese), to reform himself and get back to Rome. Girolamo Savonarola was a monk who condemned the evils of the bishops and the corrupt Pope Alexander VI. These three people reformed the Church from the inside and did not split from it like Luther.

There were Catholic reformers that lived contemporaneously with the Protestant “Reformers” as well. For example, Cardinal Cisneros in 1490 AD called for reform. He utilized the printing press to publish good Catholic books on Jesus and the saints for the laity to grow in godliness. He also founded the University of Alcala to educate people, and encouraged Scripture study by publishing the Computensian Polyglot Bible. This Bible was in the languages of Latin, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew and was annotated and enhanced with a lexicon and grammar component. To top it off, he reformed the clergy by giving them punishment for breaking their vow of celibacy, by expelling lax clergy, by making them go to confession, and by making them live at their parishes.

Another famous reformer was Cardinal Giles of Viturbo. He called for reform in 1512 AD and was the general of the Augustinians. Numerous others could be quoted as well, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas More, St. Philip Neri, and St. Ignatius of Loyola. Suffice it to say, Luther was not some lone wolf against a corrupt clergy. Other prominent Catholics called for reform as well, and they did so from within the Church, unlike Luther.

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