we are common insignificant sinners with a conspicuous passion for the advancement of the Judeo-Christian faith.

the ecumenical examiner is dedicated to the power and glory of the God of Creation, Yahweh, and Yeshua the Messiah.

Roman Catholic suppression of Bible reading and vernacular translations

   'In early times, when scripture was available it was read freely by the lay people, and the Fathers constantly encouraged them to do so, although they also insisted on the obscurity of the sacred text. No prohibitions were issued against the popular reading of the Vulgate Bible by any with the ability to read Latin. New dangers, however, developed over time. When the heresy of the Albigensians arose there was a danger from corrupt translations, and also from the fact that the heretics tried to make the faithful judge the Church by their own interpretation of the Bible. To meet these "evils," the Council of Toulouse (1229) and Tarragona (1234) forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. Pius IV required the bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of the Scripture, unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such readings were likely to prove beneficial.’ (Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, The Catholic Publications Society Co., N.Y., 1887, p. 82).

   Time passed, but the efforts to squelch Bible reading would continue relentlessly. The following two quotations, pre-reformation and mid-reformation, are taken from the Council of Toulouse and the Council of Trent in the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries respectively:

   John Wycliffe was born in England, in 1320 on an English sheep farm, though the exact date of his birth is uncertain. In 1346 he began study at Oxford University, where the plague interfered some with his schooling, and undoubtedly made a deep impression. He went on to become a highly respected philosopher and theologian at Oxford. By 1374 he had become rector of the parish in Lutterworth, and it was there that he first began expressing opinions critical of the Catholic church hierarchy, and was soon thereafter, getting in hot water with church superiors. He was called to London to answer charges of possible heresy. The hearing went badly for all concerned and ended with no decision, except to put Wycliffe on notice that his criticism of the church was not going unnoticed. Within three months, Pope Gregory XI issued five Bulls (church edicts) against Wycliffe in which Wycliffe was charged with 18 counts and referred to as, "the master of errors."

   Wycliffe would develop into something of an ecumenical pyromaniac, being quoted, for instance, as making the outrageous statement that the pope and the church were second in authority to the inspired Word of God. He was placed under house arrest and left to his parish where his popularity only grew. He deepened his study of Scripture and wrote more about his conflicts with official church doctrine. He wrote against the doctrine of transubstantiation; "The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ's words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread."

   For those unfamiliar with Catholic teaching, "transubstantiation" is the belief that once the priest consecrates the bread and wine used for the Eucharist, or the communion, a mystery occurs which changes these into the 'literal' body and blood of Jesus. A disgusting concept. Thank God there is no truth to it, nor any scriptural support for it. 
   Wycliffe likewise repudiated the confessional: "Private confession … was not ordered by Christ and was not used by the apostles." He reiterated the biblical teaching on faith: "Trust wholly in Christ, rely altogether on his sufferings, beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness."
   Believing that every Christian should have access to Scripture (only the Latin Vulgate translation was available at the time), he began an effort to translate the Bible into English. When they found out, the church leadership went apoplectic, saying, "By this translation, the Scriptures have become vulgar, and they are more available to lay, and even to women who can read, than they were to learned scholars, who have a high intelligence. So the pearl of the gospel is scattered and trodden underfoot by swine." Sadly, the untrained Christian laity were considered the swine who had not respect for the pearls of scripture, the Word of God.
   Wycliffe's response was, "Englishmen learn Christ's law best in English. Moses heard God's law in his own tongue; so did Christ's apostles." Wycliffe's notoriety grew and his reputation spread across Europe along with his writings. 

   Wycliffe died in 1384 before his translation of the Bible could be completed. His translation was being based on the Latin Vulgate version, and historians disagree on how much of the work was actually done by Wycliffe and how much was finished by colleagues at Oxford. In 1409, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, issued a series of edicts which prohibited the translation of any biblical text into English as well as the public or private reading of such texts. Violators would be excommunicated and charged with heresy, which was punishable by death. Wycliffe had partially unmasked the mother church, allowing her institutional avarice to show through, whereby protecting the institution and it's traditions is always the overruling, first principal of organizational posture.

   John Wycliffe died before the church could officially charge him with heresy. However, not to be denied their final despicable act of retribution, 43 years after his death, they condemned him and ordered his remains dug up and burned. The ashes were then collected and thrown into the nearest river.


   A pivotal period in European history, coincided in no small way with church history, arriving in Italy in 1347 along with some Italian merchant ships. In the days of pre-Reformation, it would be an act of Divine Intervention that would help strike the spark of God's Will. It came in the form of a terrible pestilence, which would serve to raise awareness among Christian peoples that the Roman Catholic church held no favor with God. The inability of church leaders to intercede on behalf of the people was exposed to the naked light of unvarnished truth.

   As it was, there was a war going on over in the Crimean port city of Kaffa, on the Black Sea. A Mongol army held the city under siege but began to mysteriously suffer crippling losses of soldiers to a disease that would come to be called the Black Death or simply "the plague." The Mongolian army had the bright idea of catapulting the dead bodies of their own soldiers over the walls of Kaffa in what history records as the first known case of biological warfare.

   Inside the walls of Kaffa, as the infection spread, those with the means, fled the city by sea. A number of Italian merchant vessels put out, some going to Constantinople, others pressing on to Italy. They all, unwittingly, carried the contagion with them. By the time a couple of ships arrived in Italy, most of the crews were dead, and the rest were sick. It was May, 1347. From there the plague spread across the peninsula and southern France. From Constantinople it spread into north Africa and the Levant by way of commercial shipping. It began to spread north and reached England by the following year, moving primarily through the holds of cargo ships.

   How the plague was able to move from place to place was a mystery. It was noted that the casualties and infections tended to die off during the winter months, then pick up again as the weather warmed, unknowingly being transmitted by flea infested rats. The plague moved inland through the heart of Europe, reaching it's peak by 1353. By then, probably over a hundred million people had perished. Whole villages would be wiped out in a matter of weeks. It is said the primary occupation of the living was collecting the bodies of the dead and carting them off to mass burial pits. 

   The people of Europe were afraid and angry. Their anger turned against the church, demanding to know why the great Christian leaders were unable to protect them from what seemed clearly to be an act of God. An act of divine punishment. After all, whole parishes of good Catholics were being wiped out. Nuns caring for the sick were dying off. The beleaguered priests, in order to deflect the blame, began circulating

THE PLAGUE - a terrible, if providential intervention in church history

   Another pivotal moment in European history, also coinciding in no small way with church history, came with the introduction of the movable type printing press. Again, this has been considered by many as providential, based on the impact it had in the history of the church and western civilization generally. Johannes Gutenberg was born in Mainz, Germany around 1398, though the exact date of his birth is unknown. It was in 1439 that he designed, developed, and first began to use his printing press, which was modeled after the wine presses of the day. He developed movable type, inks, adjustable molds, and metal alloys for casting molds. His invention permitted the practical and efficient methodology for the mass production of printed books and other materials.
   He did many printing projects, some of which were modestly successful, but his major accomplishment was the Gutenberg Bible where the first finished copies became available in 1454 or 1455. It was an edition of the Latin Vulgate, both Hebrew texts and Christian Greek texts as translated by Jerome. There were about 180 copies printed originally.
   A business partner named Johann Fust had loaned Gutenberg money for the shop where the Bible was being produced. But Fust claimed that some of the money had been diverted and used for expenses other than what had been agreed upon. Fust sued Gutenberg in the archbishop's court. Fust won the case and was awarded ownership of the Bible printing shop and half the printed Bibles. This action left Gutenberg bankrupt. His contributions as inventor of European typography went largely unknown in his day.
   In 1462 a Diocesan feud broke out and the city of Mainz was sacked by a rival archbishop. Gutenberg was an old man by this time and was exiled to Eltville, where he died broken and unappreciated, never having enjoyed any significant financial success from his invention. In 1468 he was buried in Mainz, but the church and cemetery were later destroyed, and his gravesite is now unknown.

   His invention would go on to change the western world, ushering in the renaissance and the reformation. This new method of mass communication would change the world and challenge the power of political and religious institutions. The church, at the time, couldn't have comprehended what had just been unleashed. As printing presses spread across Europe the material they produced would shake the very foundations of established social order. 

   For the mother church, these events would spell the beginning of the end of her 1,000 year hold on the Bible. The unyielding grip of the church's professional clergy class to keep the Bible out of the hands of the untrained "lay" class was fast coming to a close. New translations and interpretations of scripture would lead to brazen challenges of the church's doctrinal orthodoxy. As Bibles began to circulate in large numbers, including vernacular translations, the true fear of the mother church was being realized, her theological errors were being exposed, and that would lead to demands for reformation. However, you can't reform Catholicism, you can only splinter off.

   The impact on the church and social order, in terms of the proliferation of communication, was absolutely revolutionary. Gutenberg's invention can be seen as an early parallel of the modern communications revolution found in the current marvels of radio, television, computers, the internet, and cell phones. This current revolution in communications suggests that perhaps we are possibly on the cusp of a new Christian reformation, and that free and open communication is the catalyst that may lead to the inspiration of revision and change within the existing order. Change significant enough that it could lead perhaps to something like a new reformation. Or it may indicate we are approaching the time of the Great Day of God Almighty. Pray for the Kingdom to come.

   The story continues to unfold - the Reformation explodes with contemporaries of the early 16th century, who dared to defy church authority. Each inspiring others, and the vernacular translations burst into the Christian world against all the efforts of the Roman Catholic church to prevent it. The Protestant movement had broken the grip that the mother church had held so doggedly to itself for over a thousand years, maintaining the exclusive right to read and interpret scripture. The inevitable consequence would be that the mother church would begin to fracture and splinter around the margins. The winds of reform began to blow hard against the rigid structure of Roman Catholicism.

   Ask yourself this - if the Protestant Reformation had never occurred, and the Bible only existed in the form of the Latin Vulgate, and only the Roman Catholic church had the authority to interpret the teachings and establish Christian doctrine, would you ever have considered becoming a Christian, or would you have sought out another spiritual way? All you would know about Christianity is what they taught you, which would seem rather confusing. You may have wondered, what's so great about Christianity? The church is a religious organization with a bloody tradition that seems to contradict the principles and precepts it preaches. It's just another powerful group, that grants itself special 'rights', and 'privileges', and goes around sadistically murdering everybody who thinks differently, or questions their authority. We have Marxists for that. Thankfully, Yahweh Almighty finds a way.

   The first known effort to translate the Bible (New Testament only) from Latin (using the Vulgate) into one of France's regional dialects, Arpitan, or Franco-Provençal, had been commissioned by Peter Waldo. He was the 12th-century pre-Reformation reformer, founder of the 'Poor Men of Lyon', which developed into the Waldensian movement, a movement based on a 'back to the Bible' approach to learning and teaching Christian beliefs. However, the Waldensian movement as a whole, would come to be condemned by the pope for, "contempt of ecclesiastical power," and excommunicated as heretics. 

   Nonetheless, the plague represented a massive reversal of fortunes for the Nicene church. The Roman Catholic mother church had always had challenges rising up throughout her history, but the plague was arguably a greater debacle than the Great Schism of the Eastern Orthodox in 1054. It was the black plague that opened up a widespread emergence of small groups and individuals, questioning and challenging church authority and doctrine, leading to many smaller breakaway schisms. These were now, mostly rising up from within her own ranks of ordained clergy. The plague was a pivotal event in Christian history, helping to plow the fertile ground where the seeds of reformation would germinate. The church was now forced to confront and suppress a fire that had been inadvertently ignited. Protestantism. 


   John Wycliffe (in England) and Jan Hus (in Bohemia) were the two major forerunners on the vanguard of the reformation movement which was beginning to irritate the Roman Catholic church like a percolating case of heartburn. They were the first to give voice to a growing disputation within the ranks of the clergy itself. These two men, along with others, sowed the seeds of reformation that would germinate and take root shortly thereafter, taken up by those with the courage to follow, such as Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Conrad Grebel, and Zwingli.

   The Roman Catholic church, of course would never allow itself to be reformed because that would suggest missteps had been taken, an impossibility for those claiming they were of the unbroken apostolic line of Peter and guided by the Holy Spirit. Instead, she would force dissenters into splinter groups. These are classic institutional exclusionary tactics of marginalizing those that disagree, and then declaring war on the followers of new thinking, as 'cultists' and 'heretics'. It was then an easy matter to enlist the aid of civil authorities in brutal campaigns of suppression.

   Jan Hus was born in Husinec, Bohemia, in 1369 (todays Czech Republic). He earned a master's degree from the Charles University in Prague in 1396 and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1400. By 1402 he was preaching for reforms within the Catholic church which, at least for a time, was tolerated as free preaching by his archbishop. He was elevated to the position of rector at the University of Prague, and preacher at the Bethlehem Chapel, both appointments occurring at about the same time in 1402 -1403. He was then introduced to, and strongly influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe, whose written works were gaining popularity and being spread around continental Europe including the regions of Bohemia. While Wycliffe's books had been banned by the church, the free-thinking priest, Jan Hus, was helping to translate and distribute them.

   In his preaching he began condemning aspects of the church, denouncing the moral corruption of the clergy, bishops and even the papacy. His archbishop tolerated all of this, but Pope Innocent VII ordered the archbishop to step-up and refute Wycliffe's teachings, especially concerning the Eucharist, and he was also ordered to squelch criticism of the clergy. Under threats from Pope Gregory XII, in 1408 King Wenceslaus of Bohemia and the university ordered all of Wycliffe's writings to be surrendered to the archdiocesan chancery. Hus was obedient.

   It was at this time that an ecclesiastical earthquake began to shake the church and the civil order of Europe. It's been called the Western Schism and lasted from 1378 to 1417. It was driven more by politics than theological disagreements and wasn't concluded until the Council of Constance (1414 to 1418). This jumble of papal dislocation would extend its reach as far as the controversies involving Hus. 

JOHANNES GUTENBERG - another providential intervention - or ecclesiastical curveball

  The seat of the papacy had been moved from Rome to Avignon, France, where it had remained for some 70 years. Seven popes had served their terms of office from Avignon, until Gregory XI decided to move it back to Rome in 1377.

   Gregory XI died in 1378 and the feud was ignited. Romans and Italians were demanding an Italian pope, and that the seat should be returned to Rome. Public pressure compelled the cardinals to elect Urban VI, the sitting archbishop of Bari. However, Urban quickly fell out of favor with church officials, being a man with a suspicious manner and prone to violent outbursts of anger. Many of the cardinals were quick to regret having elected him. So much so, that the majority of them left Rome and moved to Anagni, where they elected a new pope in the same year, even though Urban VI was still reigning. They elected Robert of Geneva, who took the name Clement VII, and in so doing returned the papal court to Avignon.

- excuse the digression -

the Western Schism 1378 - 1417

   This wasn't the first time that there had been rival claimants to the papacy. When there are two claimants, one is called the pope, and the other, the anti-pope. Which was which, could generally only be determined in hindsight after the dispute had been settled. This case, however, was different because such disputes generally arose from rival factions appointing rival popes, but in this case, the same body of cardinals had elected both pope and anti-pope. The people of Europe had always been taught that the papacy was a such a sacred office, being the Vicar of Christ, and the supreme head of all Christendom, and guided by the Holy Spirit. They had difficulty reconciling the situation, and began to question the whole system, as it was difficult to put their faith in either pope. The disputes quickly escalated from a church problem to a political problem, as the states of Catholic Europe were forced to decide which claimant they would support. Fanatical hatred erupted among some of the various factions.

   The factional rivalries continued until both popes had died. You might think this would have solved the problem, but no. Pope Boniface IX was elected in Rome in 1389, and the anti-pope Benedict XIII was crowned in Avignon in 1394. Boniface died in 1404 and the Roman court elected Innocent VII. Innocent died so suddenly in 1406, that foul play was suspected, but never proven. He was followed by pope Gregory XII. The French crown even attempted, by this time, to coerce Benedict, whom they supported, to resign and end the schism, but to no avail. It was decided to convene a church council to settle the matter, but canon law required that only a pope could call for a council. The cardinals and their lawyers eventually found a way around the law and a council was convened at Pisa in 1409. 

   The Council of Pisa attempted to depose both popes, declaring them both to be anti-popes, schismatic, heretical and scandalous, but neither would submit to the order. Then they added to the problem by electing another anti-pope, Alexander V, who reigned only briefly from 1409 until he died in 1410. Alexander was then followed by another anti-pope, John XXIII, who still could not command universal support as the office was now divided by three claimants.

   This is where we circle back to the story of Jan Hus. In 1408 the papal claimants were Gregory XII, in Rome and Benedict XIII in Avignon. The Charles University in Prague was divided in their loyalties. King Wenceslaus feared that Gregory would oppose his plans to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, so Wenceslaus denounced Gregory and ordered strict neutrality from the Bohemian clergy. In defiance of Wenceslaus, the archbishop remained loyal to Gregory, but the scholars of the university, led by Hus promised neutrality. Under the stresses of conflicting allegiances, the university crumbled as did the Bohemian nation. An exodus of scholars left the Charles University in Prague, many moving on to form a new university in Leipzig, others just scattered around Europe according to their individual loyalties. 

   After the Council of Pisa, Hus and Wenceslaus gave their allegiance to the third pope, Alexander V. With some pressure from King Wenceslaus, the archbishop even gave his allegiance, but in so doing, submitted an accusation to Alexander against the heresies of the "Wycliffites" in Prague which were led by Hus. In return the archbishop received, in 1410, a papal bull empowering him to proceed against Wycliffism in Prague. All of Wycliffe's writings were required to be surrendered for burning, his teachings repudiated, and free preaching discontinued. Jan Hus and his followers were excommunicated by Alexander V in 1410.

   Later that same year was when Alexander died and John XXIII (who would later be declared an anti-pope) took the throne. The following year, John ordered a crusade against King Ladislaus of Naples, the protector of rival Pope Gregory XII in Rome. Pope John XXIII authorized the preaching and collecting of indulgences to raise money for the crusade, but this was seen by many as more clear evidence of the church's corruption, exacerbating the situation.

   Hus spoke against the indulgences, just as Martin Luther would later, arguing that men receive forgiveness of sins through true repentance, not monetary purchases. Further arguing that no pope or bishop had the right to take up the sword in the name of the church, but rather, Christians should pray for their enemies and bless those that curse them. Shortly afterwards some of Hus' followers publicly burned the Papal bulls, saying that Hus should be obeyed rather than the mob of fraudulent adulterers that led the church. Three of these men, openly opposing the indulgences, wound up being beheaded, considered the first martyrs of the Hussite church.

   The attack on Hus by the pope and archbishop, led to widespread riots in Prague, where Hus' popularity and notoriety was only growing. He continued writing and preaching, and his works (or his heresies) were being spread all over Europe.

   Wenceslaus had a prominent brother, Sigismund of Hungary, heir to the Bohemian crown, who held high office in the Holy Roman Empire, and would later rise to the seat of emperor. Sigismund was eager to put an end to the dissention within the church, which had become such a ubiquitous embarrassment. He arranged for a general council to convene in the city of Constance, Germany (1414 -1418) in order to settle the controversy once and for all. Besides the matter of three competing popes governing the church, the council would consider the matter of Jan Hus and his preaching against church doctrine and practice. Hus agreed to attend the council, and answer all questions, on the promise of safe conduct, offered by Sigismund. Still, as a precaution, Hus wrote out his last will before departing.

   On arriving, he was at first free to preach to the people in Constance, and celebrate mass, but after a few weeks, his opponents (prelates of the church) were able to get him arrested on the basis of a rumor that he was intending to flee. He was held in the dungeon of the Dominican monastery. Sigismund, who had guaranteed his safety was outraged by this action, and threatened the prelates with dismissal, but they were able to calm his indignation by convincing him that he could not be bound by promises to a heretic.

   Anti-pope John XXIII, with whom Hus had maintained friendly ties, had come to attend the council, but was forced to flee for his life from Constance, disguised as a postman. In his absence he was deposed by the council and after being caught he was brought to trial on charges of piracy, rape, sodomy and incest. Meanwhile, Hus' fate was left in the hands of the unfriendly bishop of Constance. Hus had his allies at the council, and those who spoke in his defense, but he had gotten under the skin of church officials to the extent that the outcome had already been determined. He had always agreed to recant of any error that could be proven from scripture. There were hearings, accusations, and opportunities to recant of his writings and errors.

   In addition to the condemnation of Jan Hus, the Council of Constance either deposed or accepted the resignations of all remaining papal claimants, and elected Pope Martin V. John XXIII was declared an anti-pope and shouldn't be confused with the 20th century Pope John XXIII. Pope Benedict XIII refused to resign, and as the last remaining claimant from Avignon, he was excommunicated.

short list of reformers who challenged orthodoxy

‘We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old and the New Testament; unless anyone from the motives of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.’ (Edward Peters. Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, Council of Toulouse, 1229, Canon 14, p 195.)

‘Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed them over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any other way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them.’ (Council of Trent: Rules on Prohibited Books, approved by Pope Pius IV, 1564).

   How is it that the Holy Scriptures could be added to the Church's index of banned books? The policies and dictates of the church were simply meant to keep the Holy Scriptures firmly in the hands of the elite, enlightened clergy. The church was also adamant about keeping the Holy Scriptures in Latin, which was an incalculably important policy in limiting the numbers of common people who could read the Word of God for themselves. The Latin Vulgate Bible would stand as an obstacle to spreading the Gospel message. That's the way they wanted it.

   Reformers like Wycliffe, Luther and Tyndale would work heroically under constant threat of arrest to give the Word of God to the people in their own native tongues. Even much later, Catholic regions of the world would not have the Bible in their own languages until Protestants arrived and began the translating and publishing work, resisted every step of the way by the Mother church. 

   However, divine intervention has always been something of a wildcard, tripping up the best laid plans of controlling micro-managers like those of the Nicene church. Like a well-thrown curveball, or change-up, if God wants to alter the course of things, He can, at will, and in ways one might never expect. Just ask those guys that were working on the Tower of Babel. 

   They held that temporal offices and dignities were not meant for preachers of the Gospel, that relics were simply rotten bones (it could not be known who they belonged to), that to go on a pilgrimage served no purpose but to empty one's purse, that flesh might be eaten any day as long as one's appetite allowed, that holy water was not one bit more efficacious than rain water, and that prayer in a barn was just as effectual as that offered in a church. Moreover, they were accused at the Council of Verona (1184 AD) of having scoffed at the doctrine of transubstantiation, and of having spoken blasphemously of the Roman Catholic church as the Harlot of the Apocalypse. They rejected the idolatry of the Catholic church and denied 'purgatory' as an invention of the Antichrist. They even accused the papacy of being nothing less than the Antichrist of Revelation.

   In other words, they attempted to strip away much of the pagan tradition, and superstition, that had so adulterated church doctrine and practice, and for that, they had to be punished. Not simply refuted but punished. They were condemned by the Council of Verona, along with the Humiliati and the Cathars as heretics. These were held up as examples of what happens when ordinary people are allowed to read scripture. By 1215, the Waldensians had been declared heretical and subjected to unbelievably brutal campaigns of persecution. The group was nearly annihilated by the 17th century (see - councils and synods Verona, 1184).

   Accusations made at the Council of Verona would develop into crusade-scale slaughters. Pope Innocent III began his reign in 1198, with the determined intention of extinguishing dissent within the church. He initiated the Albigensian crusade in 1204, attacking the Cathars of Southern France.

   Crusades were popular endeavors among the pious warriors of Europe, because they were guaranteed papal indulgences, whereby they would be excused from punishment for sins in the afterlife. The slaughters unleashed on the Albigensian Cathars were undertaken with a homicidal zeal bordering on genocide. When the crusaders captured the city of Béziers, for instance, they followed the orders of a papal representative who, when he was asked how the soldiers might distinguish between the heretics and the Catholics, is said to have instructed, “Kill them all. God will know his own.” Nearly the entire population of the city was massacred in a sadistic 'scorched earth' killing spree.

   Again, the lesson was that ordinary people should not be allowed to read scripture, especially not in their own language, given that it can lead to insubordinate and rebellious 'heresies' against the Nicene church (see - the Devil's handmaiden goes on the warpath), which then, in turn, considers itself obligated to eradicate offenders. Never minding that such eradication efforts are not sanctioned in scripture, nor recommended through the Gospel teachings.

THE DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE - a church approved English language Catholic Bible

the suggestion that Christian Europe was being punished for allowing Jewish communities to coexist among them. Thus began a new wave of Jewish persecution that would continue, erupting anew here and there, for centuries across Europe, often associated with epidemics of smallpox or cholera.

   Prior to the great Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, there were other, less successful Christian movements that attempted to defy Roman Catholic decrees against unauthorized translations of scripture. The example of Marcion notwithstanding, access to partial versions of scripture led to the corrupted teachings of groups such as the Gnostics, and the Cathars, also known as the Albigensians, but they only had the Latin Vulgate and word of mouth teachings from which to learn. Generally, these movements grew out of limited access to Christian writings and combined the incomplete ideas with those of other philosophies such as Gnostic dualism.   

contained therein. So, where did the Christian Bible, as we know it today, originate? We need only look back to the life and times of a slightly confused fellow known as 'Marcion the Gnostic' (pronounced Marshon).

   Marcion was born and raised into a wealthy Christian family. His father was a ship owner and they lived in the port city of Sinope on the Black Sea, in the northern parts of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). As a young man, Marcion got kicked out of his father's business, and excommunicated from the church for offenses he committed against a young woman.

   Replacement theology (supersessionism) became part of the legacies of both, the apostle Paul and Marcion, found even today in one form or another, in most Christian denominations. One of the most important elements of Marcion's legacy lay in the fact that he was the first to markedly delineate between the Old and New testaments, seeing no relevant value in the Torah, prophets, or writings of Jewish scripture. However, the most important legacy of Marcion was that the compilation of his canon, (Marcion's Bible) was so bad, that it was sufficient to prod and provoke other church leaders to eventually compile a more complete, unabridged orthodox canon in response. It took some time, but eventually the leaders of the Christian church came around, recognizing the need to collect and organize the known writings into a single volume. 

   It wasn't until 382 A.D. that Pope Damasus I called a general council, known as the Council of Rome (see - councils), and through this council, the order of the Old Testament and New Testament books were decreed. The bishops decided which writings should be kept, and which should be rejected, or separated into the general 'apocrypha', as 'not inspired'. Thus, the Holy Scriptures, the Christian Bible, more or less as we know it today, an organized collection of writings, believed to be inspired, came to be.

   It fell to another fellow, named Jerome, to undertake the work of translating the original Hebrew and Greek writings into Latin (see - Jerome, the Latin Vulgate) at the behest of the bishop of Rome. His translation became the only authorized version of the Holy Scriptures and would hold that position for more than a thousand years.

   However, the problem that this singular version created, lay in the fact that Christianity was being spread rapidly into distant lands, beyond the reaches of the Latin language. Christianity was expanding into places where nobody could read, write, or understand the language of the Holy Scriptures, and thus, the Vulgate became a barrier, an impediment, to evangelism and teaching, rather than a benefit. However, it seems the churchmen preferred to keep it that way. They had their reasons. It became a capital offense to translate Holy Scripture from the approved Latin. Even to possess or read from an illegal translation would bring charges of heresy.

   Yet he was convinced, just the same, that his beliefs conformed neatly with those of the apostle Paul, and the apostle's teachings concerning the Christian rejection of the Torah (i.e., Galatians 3:10,11, and Colossians 2:11-17). Marcion believed Jesus to be the Messiah, and Paul the greatest of his apostles.

   In this early post-apostolic period, Marcion became the first to compile a canon, a collection of Christian writings which consisted of the Gospel of Luke, redacted considerably to conform to his new beliefs, and ten of Paul's 

    It was around 140 A.D. that Marcion traveled to Rome where he made a substantial donation to the church in order to buy off his excommunication and get reinstated. But it was there, while he was exposed to the dynamic, worldly, milieu of Roman culture, that he began to develop his unique ideas, combining elements of Christian teaching with Gnostic concepts. As his unusual views began to develop, they came into clear conflict with the teachings of the Roman church. His donation was returned to him, and he was excommunicated again.

thirteen epistles. The Hebrew scriptures were completely tossed out, and while he never declared them to be false, they were discarded on the grounds that they were testimony to a different God - Yahweh. He considered Yahweh the inferior Hebrew God, being in his view, jealous, legalistic, and wrathful, punishing sinners and condemning them to death, whereas the superior, spiritual God, in the person of Yeshua (Jesus), was benevolent and compassionate, full of loving kindness and mercy.

   Thus, his canon, known as Marcion's Bible, was a thin collection of Christian writings, edited, and intended to crystalize his personal beliefs. Given the total separation between Judaism and Christianity it's not surprising that along with the Hebrew scriptures he also discarded a great deal of the Christian apostolic writings which failed to comport with his views. The other apostles were thus subordinated into oblivion, while Paul was elevated as the only authoritative apostle revealing the true teachings of Yeshua. Though, even Paul's writings were not exempted from Marcion's heavy editing. Three of Paul's epistles were dismissed, First and Second Timothy and Titus, otherwise known as the 'pastoral epistles.'



   Hus' trial didn't convene for several months, during which time, the prosecutors were able to convince Sigismund that Hus was indeed a heretic, and unworthy of protection. In 1415 the sentence was announced, and Hus was publicly humiliated, before being handed over to civil authorities, who led him to the stake. Large amounts of wood and straw were piled up as high as his neck and the public burning was carried out, because, as everyone knows, the church had a sacred duty to eradicate any that might question Catholicism's authority, though it's not listed among the sacraments. They shamefully taught such actions were pleasing to God. His ashes were later thrown into the Rhine River.

   A friend and supporter of Hus, Jerome of Prague, had gone to Constance in an effort to assist Hus, but wound up being arrested, condemned, and likewise burned at the stake. In the aftermath, came the Hussite Wars, consisting of several crusades launched against Bohemia, all of which were beaten back, but that's another story.

Amen. Hallelujah.

  "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." - Matthew 23;13-15

    Her measures of suppression had in fact, developed as an extreme departure from the traditions of the early church where scripture had been read and shared by all. Passages would be openly questioned and debated. However, as time passed, the clergy class of the church was gradually constructing a massive house of orthodoxy, based on the church's own self-serving interpretations and applications of scripture. It was this structure that was being threatened by popular reading. It was her tricky, spurious interpretations that validated church underpinnings, organization, and framework. Original texts of scripture in particular, would expose her false doctrines and policies, all of which had been twisted around Greco-Roman philosophy, and pagan traditions. She was accustomed to pontificating what people should believe and dictating how they should practice their Christian faith. To allow common people to read the Bible for themselves would threaten this prestigious arrangement of authoritarianism. There were too many people, without proper training, that felt the Bible was the ultimate authority on spiritual matters and doctrine, rather than the hired churchmen who had grown comfortable lording it over the flock. There was a lot at stake, and the church wasn't going to give up any part of its supreme eminence without a no-holds-barred fight to the finish.

   The Waldensian movement was a Christian group founded by Peter Waldo in Lyon, France, around 1173, originally called 'the Poor Men of Lyon', they were essentially an offshoot of Catholicism. The movement began with a simple well-meaning idea, to make known the Scriptures through the common language. It was Waldo that had commissioned a Catholic clergyman to translate the New Testament from the Latin to the common vernacular of that region of France.

   However, it was the position of the church, quite simply, that any translation from the Latin version was a corrupt translation and a heresy, but the Waldensians considered themselves 'readers'. As 'readers' of scripture, the Waldensians broke through the fear of corruption charges, and were able to use the scriptures themselves to recognize and criticize a great deal of the doctrine and practice of the Nicene church.

   The ultimate catalyst for Roman Catholic reconsideration of their stance against popular vernacular translations of scripture, turned out to be the English Reformation movement, beginning when Henry VIII first broke with the Catholic church in 1533, and ending with the Spanish Armada fiasco of 1588 (see - English Protestant movement). This period prompted the self-exile of many English Catholic scholars to the European mainland. The English College at the University of Douai in France, developed into a gathering center for displaced English Catholic scholars. It was founded in 1568 for the expressed purpose of training priests to convert the English people back to Catholicism.

   The Douay-Rheims Bible was originally produced as a team effort of English Catholic scholars, partly at the University of Douai, and later, at Rheims. The Rheims New Testament was first published in 1582. The Douay Old Testament was published as two volumes dated 1609 and 1610. It's unclear if the decision to create an English language Catholic Bible may also have been influenced or suggested by the Council of Trent, which met for 18 years, from 1545 to 1563 for the purpose of developing a response to the complaints of the larger Protestant reformation. At any rate, the new, approved, 'Catholic Bible' began to be smuggled into England in large numbers. While the Douay-Rheims version was said to be a translation taken directly from the Latin Vulgate, and therefore, true to Catholic doctrine and teaching, it was in fact largely drawn from the earlier English language translation work of William Tyndale (see - William Tyndale).

   Still, while an English language version of the Bible was gradually allowed to come into use, the Roman Catholic church would continue to conduct ceremonies, rituals, prayers, and the mass, in Latin. This practice would continue until the Vatican II council (1962 to 1968) which finally permitted the celebration of mass in local vernacular, though some traditionalist parishes still prefer the Latin mass.

   Both the Jewish Bible and the Protestant Bible's Old Testament, contain 39 Old Testament books, whereas a Catholic Bible contains 46 books in the Old Testament. In addition, the Greek Orthodox, or Eastern Orthodox church also accepts a few more books as canonized scripture in their Bible. As for the Greek New Testament, all Christians eventually accepted all of the same 27 books in the same order.

Know your faith - grow your faith

   The natural conclusion one might reach, learning of false teachings from the elite hierarchy of the church, is that they believe ordinary people are too ignorant, too stupid, to read the scriptures with a proper understanding. Therefore, people must be denied access. But that's not exactly quite right. In fact, what they believe absolutely, is that if ordinary people were to gain access to the inspired writings, they're too intelligent, too keen to allow the elite clergy class to continue forcing false doctrines and practices on the congregation of the Messiah. In other words, they don't fear ignorance, they've always found it useful, they fear the intelligence.

   What became paramount was the protection of her fragile schemes of sanctimonious self-validation, through which she had gained preposterous control over the monarchies and civil authorities of Europe, not to mention the laying-up of great wealth for herself, constructing great monuments to her eternal, smooth-talking deceptions. In the process it became an established fact, of course, that God speaks Latin. All other tongues, with the possible exceptions of Greek and Hebrew, are blasphemous linguistic heresies that hurt the ears of God.


   The availability of the Bible in vernacular languages would prove to be of enormous importance to the spread of the Protestant movement and development of the Reformed church in France and elsewhere. France had a long history of struggles with the papacy, and by the time the Protestant Reformation arrived in the early 16th century, the Catholic stranglehold on Biblical text was finally breaking down. The invention of the moveable-type printing press in the 15th century, along with new Bible translations, played an incalculable role in the spread of Christian Protestantism. Being able to read and study the scriptures through the new translations finally opened up the true Gospel message like a flower coming to bloom.

   Nonetheless, extreme acts of suppression would reach crusade proportions as the Reformation got underway. As more and more vernacular translations began to appear, the Bible became available to a wider and wider audience of common people, and these translations came to represent an existential threat to the Mother church's jealously guarded control over access to scripture - control over the inspired teachings. Her fears were being realized.

   Cases such as that of Peter Waldo only served to prove what the church already suspected, that allowing ordinary people to have access to the Bible was dangerous. However, there were only limited numbers of people that had access to, or could read the Latin Bible, so the problem was still quite small and easily contained (see - the Devil's handmaiden goes on the warpath).

    Christendom's Mother church, the Nicene church, also known as the Roman Catholic church, kept a tight grip on access to the Holy Scriptures for over a thousand years, as a means of maintaining control over the information

It would take the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century to finally force the loosening of the stranglehold the Roman Catholic church held on the Holy Scriptures.