“With all power and signs and lying wonders” 2 Thessalonians 2:9
Dear Reader
This article is illuminating. It is hard to believe that a Christian church would ban the Bible, destroy copies of it, and persecute and kill any who would publish, promote, possess or read it. How thankful we are to our heavenly Father for the freedom to not only possess the Bible, but to understand its precious message.
                                                                                                                                                              Editor

Paradoxically, the greatest enemy of the Catholic Church is an open Bible. This is because it enables men and women to personally  enquire at the counsel of God and develop  a conscience based on their individual contact with  the Word of God. For that reason the Papacy has historically and openly waged war against the Bible and all those who have been instrumental in making it freely available to the average man and woman.

Many of us would have difficulty conceiving of  a time when owning a Bible was a criminal offence,  and that the Bible was considered to be a book so dangerous that it warranted being burnt at the stake.  But the Papacy has waged war with the Bible and  the saints from its inception, in fact this is one of  the hall-marks of the iron system of Rome and of  the Papal horn: “Then I would know the truth of the  fourth beast … and of… that horn that had eyes, and  a mouth that spake very great things, whose look  was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the  same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed  against them” (Dan 7:1921).

As far back as Diocletian, the emperor of pagan  Imperial Rome, war was waged against the Bible.  Diocletian and his soldiers burned all the Bibles  that they could find: “During the fourth century  Diocletian ruled from 303 to 311. He ordered all  Scriptures to be publicly burned and persecuted the  true Christians who would not worship the sun”  (Richard Rives, Too Long in the Sun).

Owning a Bible a criminal offence

In 860 AD, Pope Nicholas I, sitting on a throne  built specially for the occasion in the town square,  pronounced against all people who expressed interest  in reading the Bible, and reaffirmed its banned  public use. In 1073 AD, Pope Gregory supported  and confirmed the ban, and in 1198 AD, Pope  Innocent III declared that anyone caught reading  the Bible would be stoned to death by “soldiers of  the Church military” (Diderot’s Encyclopaedia, 1759).  In 1229, the Council of Toulouse passed another  decree “that strictly prohibits laics from having in  their possession either the Old or New Testaments;  or from translating them into the vulgar tongue”.  By the 14th Century, possession of a Bible by the laity was a criminal offence and punishable by whipping,  confiscation of real and personal property, and burning at the stake.

Thus the papacy endorsed the public suppression of the Bible for twelve hundred and thirty  years, right up until after the Reformation and the printing of the King James Bible in 1611.

Papal Rome against the Bible

From the 1200s to the 1800s, Papal leaders openly  condemned the reading of the Bible in the vernacular  and even persecuted those caught with copies of  the Scriptures in their possession. In more recent  times the Roman Catholic Church has ameliorated its previous public declarations and position. Yet  the Vatican has not changed. Papal Rome’s opposition  to Bible truth remains to this day. Note these historical statements:

At the Council of Toulouse (1229 AD), papal  church leaders ruled: “We prohibit laymen possessing  copies of the Old and New Testament … We forbid them most severely to have the above  books in the popular vernacular … The lords of  the districts shall carefully seek out the heretics  in dwellings, hovels, and forests, and even their underground retreats shall be entirely wiped out”  (Pope Gregory IX, Council Tolosanum, 1229 AD).

The Roman Catholic Council of Tarragona also ruled that: “No one may possess the books of the Old  and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the  local bishop within eight days after the promulgation  of this decree, so that they may be burned” (D. Lortsch,  Histoire de la Bible en France, 1910, p 14).

The Council of Trent (1545–1564) placed the  Bible on its list of prohibited books, and forbade  any person to read the Bible without a licence  from a Roman Catholic bishop or inquisitor. The  Council added these words: “That if any one shall  dare to read or keep in his possession that book,  without such a license, he shall not receive absolution  till he has given it up to his ordinary”.  “Since it is clear from experience that if the  Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without  discrimination in the vernacular there will by  reasons of the boldness of men arise therefrom  more harm than good…” (Canons and Decrees of the  Council of Trent, p 274).

Papal opposition to the Bible in recent times

Pope Pius VII (1800–1823) expressed shock at  the circulation of the Scriptures. He declared, “It is  evidence from experience, that the holy Scriptures,  when circulated in the vulgar tongue, have, through  the temerity of men, produced more harm than  benefit.”

Pope Gregory XVI (1831–1846) railed: “against  the publication, distribution, reading, and possession  of books of the holy Scriptures translated into  the vulgar tongue.”

Pope Leo XII called the Protestant Bible the  “Gospel of the Devil” in an encyclical letter of 1824.  In January 1850, he condemned the distribution of  Scripture by stating that its distribution has “long  been condemned by the holy chair.”

Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903) declared, “As it  has been clearly shown by experience that, if the  holy Bible in the vernacular is generally permitted  without any distinction, more harm than utility is  thereby caused…” (Great Encyclical Letters of Leo  XIII, pp 412,413).

Jesuit Marianus de Luce (1901) stated, “The  Catholic Church has the right and duty to kill  heretics because it is by fire and sword that heresy  can be extirpated.”

John Wycliffe

The first complete English translation of the Bible  appeared in the 1380s. This translation was made by  John Wycliffe, an English priest, and his followers called Lollards. It was a translation of a translation, namely of the Latin Vulgate, into English. Wycliffe  was a parish priest of Lutterworth and although he  lived and died a beneficed clergyman, he became regarded by the hierarchy with such relentless animosity that forty years after his death his very bones were exhumed and burnt, and his ashes cast into the waters of the River Swift, adjoining the Church, thence to the oceans of the world.

It was Wycliffe’s Teutonic love of truth and  freedom which moved him to give his countrymen  the open Scriptures as their best safeguard and  protection against the moral corruptions, bondage  and obscurantism of Papal Rome; and it was  the growth of the English language into a literary  medium of expression, which first made a people’s  Bible possible. Wycliffe’s first translation saw the  light of day in 1382. This was later revised in 1388  by his followers after his death, in 1384. After a life  devoted to translating all Scripture into English,  John Wycliffe suffered a series of strokes and died,  thereby escaping the hands of angry Bishops who  accused him of inventing a new translation. The Roman Catholic system summarised his life with  the following epitaph:

“The devil’s instrument, Church’s enemy, people’s confusion, heretic’s idol, hypocrite’s mirror,  schism broacher, hatred’s sower, lies’ forger, flatteries’ sink, who, stricken by the horrible judgement  of God, breathed forth his soul to dark mansion of the black devil” (Epitaph).

Wycliffe’s followers

Wycliffe’s followers, the “Lollards”, suffered extreme  hardships and indignities at the hands of  the ‘Church’. They were hunted like wild beasts  and many were burned with copies of Wycliffe’s  Bible around their necks. Children were forced  to light the fires, which would claim the lives of  their parents. Wycliffe’s Bible was the last to be  handwritten. Soon after this time printing was invented, which, along with the introduction into  Europe of the manufacture of cheap paper, meant  that Bibles could be produced at such a rate that  the Bible-burning bishops were unable to keep up  with production. This, coupled with a revival in  learning of the Hebrew and Greek languages and  a widespread desire for reform proved too much  for the Church.

William Tyndale

The German Protestant reformer Martin Luther  translated the New Testament into German in 1522  and the rest of the Bible in 1534. About the same  time, William Tyndale, a gifted linguist, translated  the Bible into English while living in Germany. It  was said of Tyndale by his contemporaries that “he  was so skilled in seven languages, Hebrew, Greek,  Latin, Italian, French, Spanish and English, that in  whichever he spoke, you would suppose it was his  native tongue.” Tyndale based some of his translation  on Luther’s German version.

Publication of Tyndale’s New Testament began  in Cologne, Germany, in 1525. Portions of the Old  Testament appeared in 1530 and 1531. The vigorous  language of Tyndale’s translation greatly influenced  most later translations of the Bible into English to the  point where Tyndale has been described as “the true  father of our present Bible”. The success of Tyndale’s  work was due to his deep and burning determination  to see the English people instructed in God’s precious  Word. He was certain that the bishops and friars  had no intention of bringing the common people  to the Bible. At his own cost, therefore, and even at  the risk of his life, the Bible should be brought to  the people. Tyndale did not keep his design secret,  but, whilst private chaplain to Sir John Walsh, in  Gloucestershire, he was engaged in dispute with a  certain ecclesiastical magnate who commented, “We  were better without God’s laws than the Pope’s”, to  which he responded with what has been described as  the greatest ‘comeback’ of all time, “I defy the Pope  and all his laws and if God spare my life, ere many  years I will cause that a boy that driveth the plough  shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.”  Now that his contraband design had been divulged,  he had become more than ever a marked man and it  was unsafe for him to remain in England and so he  undertook self-exile in Germany.

William Tyndale’s copy of the New Testament  was the first to be directly translated from the Greek  into English. These were clandestinely smuggled  into England among bales of various merchandise.  He next translated parts of the Old Testament  directly from the original Hebrew before he was  betrayed to the authorities and martyred in October  1536, when he was put to death by strangulation  and his body burnt at the stake. Foxe gives but one  solitary detail of his martyrdom. He cried with a  fervent and loud voice, “Lord, open the King of  England’s eyes”, a cry which was speedily to be  answered in the Royal recognition (1537) of the  Coverdale and the Matthew Bibles.

The King James Bible

In 1604, King James I of England authorised a committee of about 50 scholars to prepare a revision of  earlier English translations of the Bible. The new  version appeared in 1611 and became known as the  Authorised, or King James, Version. The beauty and  grace of the translation established the Authorised  Version as one of the great treasures of the English  language. It has been estimated that the Authorised  Version of the Bible retains something like 80%  of Tyndale’s work in the Old Testament and 90%  in the New. If this is true then we are indebted to  Tyndale for the style, the richness and the beauty  of the language of the Authorised Version. This has  been described in the following words:

“For felicity of diction, and for dignity of  rhythm, Tyndale never has been and never can be  surpassed … Far from vulgarising the Bible by lowering  his standard of language down to the popular  level, he lifted the common language, in a true  nobility of homeliness, up to the sublime level of  the Bible. He worked, like a sane and sound scholar,  on the principles of the grammar and philology. He  endeavoured, in a spirit of unpedantic sincerity and  conscientiousness, to find out what it was that each  sacred writer had meant to say, and then to say it in  plain and vigorous Saxon-English with all the idiomatic  simplicity, and grace, and stateliness which  characterise the Authorised Version” (Our English  Bible, H.W. Hoare).

Papal hatred of the Bible

It took 900 years for the Papal system to destroy  most Old Latin Bibles and kill their owners. Then  John Wycliffe (1320–1384) translated the Scripture  from Latin into English. By 1380 he had translated  the New Testament, and by 1382, the complete English Bible. The Jesuits hated one Bible with  a passion – the King James Bible – and vowed to  destroy it! Papal Rome has waged relentless war  against the Bible and on Bible-believing saints for centuries. Initially the Papacy endeavoured to destroy  all the Bibles it could find and to murder those possessing, printing, or distributing them! However, when the frontal assault failed, a different tactic was employed, namely, the undermining of the authority  of the Bible, and sowing confusion in the minds of men with a plethora of newer “Bible” versions.

A precious heritage

What a privilege and blessing it is that we are able in these turbulent times of the Gentiles to have a clear  guide in the Scriptures – the very Word of God –  supplied in the vernacular whereby we may consult  the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, ESV). In  his parting words to the elders of the Ephesian ecclesia,  Paul declared the immense power of God’s  Word: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God,  and to the word of his grace, which is able to build  you up, and to give you an inheritance among all  them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). It remains for us to revere the Scriptures: “Whereby are given  unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that  by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world  through lust” (2 Pet 1:4).