Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Chain Reaction


I posted on this last year but my recent foray into the Twilight Zone brought back suppressed memories of stories of chained Bibles. Remember those?

" The Catholic Church chained Bibles to the pulpit so the common folk couldn't read the simple gospel plan of salvation for themselves and get saved. The Church sought to keep them in bondage to the sacraments."

The story goes something like this, Dr. Luther was rummaging around the attic of his old seminary trying to come up with lyrics to his new hymn and discovered a dusty old book, blew the dust off its cover and said: "Holy Reformation Melancthon Man, I just discovered the Bible! And there ain't no chains on this baby!"


Not only did Catholics chain bibles up but so did Protestant libraries and churches. It was a way of keeping knowledge accessible to everyone, not just the rich or the thieves with chain cutters!
This practice died down in the 1700's after printing presses and paper manufacturing made the price of books less astronomical and less desirable to "sign-out" permanently.
Here's an interesting article from a librarian's point of view with no theological axe to grind on either side.

Also in Elizabethan England, the Geneva Bible as well as Foxe's Book of Martyrs (a polemic protestant work*) were chained by order of the government. I guess, the argument would now go something like this: "Well, they chained The Book of Martyrs down because Catholics didn't want anyone to find out how many people they were burning at the stake and would steal and destroy it, so the true believers had to keep them chained up."

*
"The gross blunders due to carelessness have often been exposed, and there is no doubt that Foxe was only too ready to believe evil of the Catholics, and he cannot always be exonerated from the charge of wilful falsification of evidence." (From Ency. Brittanica.)

6 Comments:

Blogger MMajor Fan said...

Part II. Then he discovered that the purpose of the stained glass windows, stations of the cross, and statuary in Catholic Churches were to teach the gospel to even the poor unwashed lummoxes who could not read the Bible or afford one, so he got on top of that one by yelling "idols" and "hoarders of gold" and made sure those good plain simple and pure "real" places of worship did not give away any clues about the faith to the illiterate or poor. Hmmm.

July 31, 2007 12:17 AM  
Blogger James Swan said...

Even though the printing press was invented previous to Luther, very few copies of the Bible were available. The reason? They costed a lot of $$ in the 16th Century. WHT Dau points out:

"Even after printing had been invented, Bibles sold at prices that would be considered prohibitive in our day. When the Duke of Anhalt ordered three copies of the Bible printed on parchment, he was told that for each copy he must furnish 340 calf−skins, and the expense would be sixty gulden. (Luther's Works, 21b, 2378.) But even the low−priced editions of the Bible,
printed on common paper (which was not introduced into Europe until the thirteenth century), cost a sum of money which a poor man would consider a fortune, and which even the well−to−do would hesitate to spend in days when money was scarce and its purchasing power was considerably different from what it is to−day. At a period not so very remote from the present a Bible was considered a valuable chattel of which a person would dispose by a special codicil in his will. For generations Bibles would thus be handed down from father to son,
not only because of the sacred memories that attached to them as heirlooms, but also because of their actual value in money.
"
[Source: WHT Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined (St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House 1917) p.58]

It is highly likely that the Tabletalk entry that discusses Luther finding the Bible at age 22 is true- He was very familiar with Scripture, but only portions. Of course the Bible was chained- and well it should have been, considering the expense.

August 02, 2007 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Luther said the Mass, like an ordained priest would have, then he would have had access to the Scriptures at every Mass he celebrated. Not only that, how in the world would he have been such a learned theologian without ever laying his hands on the Sacred Scriptures? Anybody have any thoughts? Maybe this particular Bible that he found in the attic was his first personal edition. Too bad he later stripped it of seven books, several chapters and verses, and changed a few verses here and there. Was that due to the excitement of "finding" the Scriptures?

August 03, 2007 10:21 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Strange way of showing your excitement!

August 04, 2007 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One historical fact that James is omitting is that, before the printing press, many monasteries had workshops where monks would spend years of their lives hand-copying the Scriptures, one of the reasons they were so expensive. So, it is fact that there was always a full-blown collection of the Sacred Scriptures in every monastery.

Martin Luther was also a student of theology. There is no way he could have become such without having access to the Sacred Scriptures. It is beyond conspiracy theory to accuse the Catholic Church of withholding the Scriptures from those priests who studied theology.

Is it possible that he, could have found a dusty, unchained Bible in an attic (one that contained Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 & Machabees, Bel and the Dragon in Daniel, and had St. Paul saying "justified by faith" and not "faith ALONE"? Yes. Is it possible that the dusty, unchained Bible was the first one he'd seen? Absolutely not.

It's a fairy tale. I'm not going to get into the personality flaws of Luther, which may shed light on some of the claims he made. I'd rather stick to some sincere logic.

August 04, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger James Swan said...

If Luther said the Mass, like an ordained priest would have, then he would have had access to the Scriptures at every Mass he celebrated.

If you follow this story carefully, the story is that Luther did not see a complete Bible until 1505: the year he entered the Augustinian cloister. He was not yet a priest doing Mass.

One historical fact that James is omitting is that, before the printing press, many monasteries had workshops where monks would spend years of their lives hand-copying the Scriptures....
Martin Luther was also a student of theology. There is no way he could have become such without having access to the Sacred Scriptures. It is beyond conspiracy theory to accuse the Catholic Church of withholding the Scriptures from those priests who studied theology.


I did not purposefully ommit any facts. obviously, the copying process made these Bible extremely valuable, and few in number.

Again, if you follow this story closely, Luther did not see a COMPLETE Bible until 1505 (see above). This is entirely understandable, and not in any way a polemical argument against the RCC on my behalf.

Dau also points out:

"Did Luther say, and did Mathesius report, that up to the year 1505 he had not known of the Bible? Not at all. He merely stated that up to that time he had not seen a complete copy of the Bible. Luther himself has told scores of times that when a schoolboy at Mansfeld, and later at Magdeburg and
Eisenach where he studied, he had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles read during the regular service at church. Some passages he had learned by heart. Luther's guests would have laughed at him if he had claimed such a "discovery" of the Bible as Catholic writers−−and some of their Protestant authorities−−think
that Mathesius has claimed for him and modern Protestants still credit him with."

August 04, 2007 12:24 PM  

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