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What the world owes to the Protestant Bible

By Brian Holden - posted Monday, 23 May 2011

You are now looking at a computer monitor screen. You could not be doing this if exceptionally clever people had not invented devices for manipulating electrons and if an exceptionally courageous monk had not nailed his ‘Theses of Contention’ on his church door in 1517.

The translation of the Latin Bible into local languages, together with the invention of the printing press, which allowed the local version to be in the hands of ordinary people, was the most far-reaching combination of two events in world history.

I emphasise ‘world’ because all races and creeds have since benefited from the flow-on of the science and technology that emerged in Europe after the intellectual shackles imposed by Rome had been thrown off.


Others of great courage (such as John Wycliffe) had previously and unsuccessfully attempted to initiate popular anti-Rome movements, but Martin Luther was the spark that actually caused a blaze.

This year is an opportune time for we in the English-speaking world to recognise this breakthrough - as 2011 is the 400th anniversary the King James version of the Bible.

Breaking Rome’s investment in ignorance

From 313, when the Roman emperor Constantine opened the gate to an explosive expansion of Christianity, the church had evolved into a type of state. It was a huge bureaucratic organisation ruled by a king-like figure in the pope.

The church used the Bible written in Latin as a reference for its clergy. It relied on church law written in the local language to subjugate the faithful with guilt and fear. By such controlling means it generated great material wealth for itself. It was only a matter of time before millions of Europeans would break away from the oppressive authority of Rome.

But what structure could be put in its place by the rebels that could provide some sense of order? No replacement church could ever be in the same league as the old one administered in Rome. The Bible became the focal point by default.


It now becomes a king’s business

Only eight years after Luther nailed his theses to the door, John Tyndale was printing the Bible in English (illegally, as Henry VIII was still supporting the papacy). But by 1539, after his fall-out with the pope, Henry VIII was funding the printing of the Bible in English. What was significant about the 1611 version?

Born in the Kingdom of Scotland and baptised a Catholic, James would seem to be an unlikely person to become the Protestant King James the First of England (though not so unlikely when one looks into the political turmoil at the time.)

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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