Pre-Reformation History

Before 1517 The Dark Ages

St. Peter's Basilica All too often many Christians accept religious ideas and doctrines without first researching the facts to prove their worthiness. The same goes for some songs that have been placed by publishers into Protestant hymn books. This is the case with a Roman Catholic song that has been accepted and sung by millions of Protestants unaware of its history and true meaning.

The author of "Faith of Our Fathers", Frederick William Faber was born in Yorkshire, England, June 28, 1814. He entered Oxford in 1832 and while there came under the influence of John Henry Newman, the vicar of St. Mary's University Church. Newman later became the most prominent English Roman Catholic scholar of the 19th century. In 1837, Faber received the orders of a deacon followed by the priestly orders two years later in the Church of England. He then spent about four years traveling in Europe during which time he developed a leaning toward Roman Catholic beliefs and practices. After his graduation from the university in 1843, he became the rector of a small parish in Elton, England.

Faber was raised as a strict Calvinist in an English minister's home of Huguenot ancestry and was opposed to the doctrinal tenets of the Roman Church. During his college years and his travels in Europe he came under the influence of a strong religious persuasion known as the Oxford or Tractarian Movement. The Oxford movement stressed that a true religious experience was only derived through a liturgical and ceremonial church service. After serving as a Church of England minister for two years, he resigned his parish and joined the Roman Catholic Church and became known as Father Wilfrid.

After being a part of the Church of England and seeing the influence that religious hymns had upon the fervor and outreach of the Protestant faith, Faber was determined to have the same for the Roman Catholic faith. He realized there was a severe lack of congregational hymns and singing in Catholic churches. Faber then made it his lifelong mission to compose hymns in support of Roman Catholic beliefs, practices and history. He wrote a total of 150 hymns and was honored by the Pope with a Doctor of Divinity degree before an early death at 49 years old on September 26, 1863 while working in Roman Catholic institutions in London.

Faber's hymn "Faith of Our Fathers" was written to remind Catholic parishioners of the suffering and martyrdom their forefathers endured during the reign of King Henry VIII and the protestant Queen Elizabeth. He published it in his 1849 collection entitled, "Jesus and Mary; or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading." The tune was composed by the Roman Catholic organist, Henri Hemy. In the following verse, which is omitted in Protestant hymn books, expressed his desire that England would someday return to the Roman Catholic faith.

Faith of our fathers! Mary's prayers
Shall win our country back to thee;
And from the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our Fathers, Holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

In 1862, Faber wrote another well-known hymn found in most Protestant hymn books; "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy." He patterned many of his songs after William Cowper, John Newton and John Wesley which portrayed God's far reaching mercy and love for His people. Commenting on the content of Faber's hymns, the authors of "The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church" wrote; "His hymns abound in Mariolatry and other un-Protestant and, as we think, unchristian elements – well-nigh all of them have to be altered to adapt them to Protestant worship... It has been found necessary, however, to eliminate objectionable Romish expressions from many of his hymns in order to adapt them to use in Protestant worship."

william_tyndaleWILLIAM TYNDALE

During the heart of the Protestant Reformation, the Lord by divine providence, raised up a man whose work would help reshape the very foundations of the western world. His name was William Tyndale. Over one hundred years before his birth, God anointed John Wycliffe, known as the "Morning Star of the Reformation" to awaken the people of England to the truths of the Bible that had been hid from them for so long. He began the work of Bible translation, the examination of many Roman dogmas and sent out "poor priests" known as Lollards to preach throughout the country the good news of salvation by grace. His work was the 'breaking of the dawn' of Gospel light over the people of Britain, while the work of Tyndale would bring about that light as strong as the noon-day sun.

Tyndale was born in c. 1494, most likely at North Nibley in Gloucestershire, England of Northumbrian ancestry. He attended Oxford and Cambridge and received an education that would later be used of God to translate the Bible in the common language of the people. He entered Oxford University at nine years old and received his Master's Degree at twenty-one years old. While at the Universities, he became very proficient in the Greek language which enabled him to study the Greek New Testament of Erasmus. He proved to be a very gifted linguist and could read and speak fluently in eight languages; Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, German and his native English. Tyndale was blessed with an amiable personality and was always known for living a disciplined and virtuous life.

In his studies, Tyndale became an erudite theologian and began to publish religious views which were considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church and later by the Church of England. While a tutor in the family of Sir John Walsh, c. 1520, he encountered much opposition to his preaching from the Roman Catholic dignitaries which resulted in his transfer to London, c. 1523. His continual espousal of the tenets of Martin Luther and the Reformation ostracized him from church leaders, but made him friends among the laity. Once when conversing with Tyndale, a papal priest infuriated him by saying; "we are better to be without God's laws than the Pope's." With a determined and fervent spirit Tyndale retorted; "I defy the pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you!"

He first began to translate the New Testament, but soon discovered that it was too risky to do so in England. He went to Germany in about 1524. His first attempt of printing his translation was in Cologne, but soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire raided the print shop. He fled with as many pages as he could and went to Worms. His New Testament translation was printed in Worms, Germany in 1525-26 and copies of it was smuggled back into England in bales of cotton. He was the first Bible translator to have copies of his work printed on the Gutenberg press. The timing of the invention of the printing press in 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany was nothing less than God's perfect plan for His people Israel to once again receive His Word for their deliverance from spiritual bondage.

The Tyndale Bibles which made it into England were sought out and ceremonially burned. The Archbishop of Canterbury launched a campaign to buy up copies of the Bible in order to destroy them by fire. His translation of the five books of Moses was printed in Holland in 1530. In addition to his Bible translations, he wrote; "The Obedience of a Christian" which was read by Ann Boleyn and favorably impressed her husband, King Henry VIII. But Tyndale's later book "The Practice of Prelates" angered the King because of Tyndale's stand against divorce. Now the King of England along with Papal Rome and the Holy Roman Empire had become Tyndale's avowed enemy.


By 1535 Tyndale thought it safe enough to come out of hiding and enter public ministry. He engaged in a teaching and evangelistic work for a short time until he was betrayed by a fellow Englishman, Henry Phillips. Posing as a friend, Phillips secretly arranged for Tyndale's arrest in Antwerp, Belgium. Tyndale suffered the torture of seclusion in a dungeon prison in the castle of Vilvoorde for over sixteen months before his execution. He was tried and convicted for religious heresy, as an enemy of the English monarch, King Henry VIII and the Church of England.

Tyndale was tied to the stake but was first strangled, and then his body burned on October 6, 1536. The last words that he spoke before his death was a prophetic prayer; "Lord open thou the King of England's eyes " In 1539, within three years after the death of Tyndale, a copy of the English Bible was required to be in every parish church in England. Through the influence of two prominent Protestants, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and Thomas Cromwell, a vicar general, King Henry VIII consented to allow the publication of Miles Coverdale's Great Bible.

By divine providence, Queen Elizabeth I ascended the English throne in 1558. During her reign of 45 years under her strong Protestant influence was the Golden Age of England. The English language flourished because of the influence of Tyndale's Bible which had been translated directly from Hebrew and Greek. Latin and French thus lost dominance as a major factor in the development of the English language. English became a language of poetry and prose as expressed in the works of William Shakespeare. The translation of the King James Bible of 1611 was heavily influenced by Tyndale's earlier translation, thus retaining over 80% of its wording.

God truly answered the prayer of this chosen 'vessel of honor' in his dying hour when he cried; "Lord, open thou the King of England's eyes."

From:Foxe's Book of Martyrs

William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the “Architect of the English Language”, (even more so than William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today.

William Tyndale (1494-1536) Biblical translator and martyr; born most probably at North Nibley (15 miles south-west of Gloucester), England, in 1494; died at Vilvoorden (6 miles north-east of Brussels), Belgium, Oct. 6, 1536. Tyndale was descended from an ancient Northumbrian family, went to school at Oxford, and afterward to Magdalen Hall and Cambridge.

William Tyndale Overview

Tyndale was a theologian and scholar who translated the Bible into an early form of Modern English. He was the first person to take advantage of Gutenberg’s movable-type press for the purpose of printing the scriptures in the English language. Besides translating the Bible, Tyndale also held and published views which were considered heretical, first by the Catholic Church, and later by the Church of England which was established by Henry VIII. His Bible translation also included notes and commentary promoting these views. Tyndale's translation was banned by the authorities, and Tyndale himself was burned at the stake in 1536, at the instigation of agents of Henry VIII and the Anglican Church.

The Early Years of William Tyndale

Tyndale enrolled at Oxford in 1505, and grew up at the University. He received his Master’s Degree in 1515 at the age of twenty-one! He proved to be a gifted linguist. One of Tyndale’s associates commented that Tyndale was “so skilled in eight languages – Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, English, and German, that whichever he speaks, you might think it his native tongue!” This gift undoubtedly aided him in his successful evasion of the authorities during his years of exile from England.

Early Controversy Surrounding Tyndale

Around 1520, William Tyndale became a tutor in the family of Sir John Walsh, at Little Sodbury in Gloucestershire. Having become attached to the doctrines of the Reformation, and devoted himself to the study of the Scriptures, the open avowal of his sentiments in the house of Walsh, his disputes with Roman Catholic dignitaries there, and especially his preaching, excited much opposition, and led to his removal to London (about Oct., 1523), where he began to preach, and made many friends among the laity, but none among church leaders.

A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in Roman Catholic dogma once taunted Tyndale with the statement, “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s”. Tyndale was infuriated by such Roman Catholic heresies, and he replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!

William Tyndale First Prints The Scripture in English

He was hospitably entertained at the house of Sir Humphrey Monmouth, and also financially aided by him and others in the accomplishment of his purpose to translate the Scriptures into the commonly spoken English of the day. Unable to do so in England, he set out for the continent (about May, 1524), and appears to have visited Hamburg and Wittenberg. The place where he translated the New Testament, is thought to have been Wittenberg, under the aid of Martin Luther. The printing of this English New Testament in quarto was begun at Cologne in the summer of 1525, and completed at Worms, and that there was likewise printed an octavo edition, both before the end of that year. William Tyndale’s Biblical translations appeared in the following order: New Testament, 1525-26; Pentateuch, 1530; Jonah, 1531.

His literary activity during that interval was extraordinary. When he left England, his knowledge of Hebrew, if he had any, was of the most rudimentary nature; and yet he mastered that difficult tongue so as to produce from the original an admirable translation of the entire Pentateuch, the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First Chronicles, contained in Matthew's Bible of 1537, and of the Book of Jonah, so excellent, indeed, that his work is not only the basis of those portions of the Authorized King James Version of 1611, but constitutes nine-tenths of that translation, and very largely that of the English Revised Version of 1885.

In addition to these he produced the following works. His first original composition, A Pathway into the Holy Scripture, is really a reprint, slightly altered, of his Prologue to the quarto edition of his New Testament, and had appeared in separate form before 1532; The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1527); and The Obedience of a Christian Man (1527-28). These several works drew out in 1529 Sir Thomas More's Dialogue, etc. In 1530 appeared Tyndale's Practyse of Prelates, and in 1531 his Answer to the Dialogue, his Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, and the famous Prologue to Jonah; in 1532, An Exposition upon the V. VI. VII. Chapters of Matthew; and in 1536, A Brief Declaration of the Sacraments, etc., which seems to be a posthumous publication. Joshua-Second Chronicles also was published after his death.

All these works were written during those mysterious years, in places of concealment so secure and well chosen, that neither the ecclesiastical nor diplomatic emissaries of Wolsey and Henry VIII., charged to track, hunt down, and seize the fugitive, were able to reach them, and they are even yet unknown. Under the idea that the progress of the Reformation in England rendered it safe for him to leave his concealment, he settled at Antwerp in 1534, and combined the work of an evangelist with that of a translator of the Bible.

The Betrayal and Death of William Tyndale


Preparations to burn the body of William Tynda...

Tyndale was betrayed by a friend, Philips, the agent either of Henry or of English ecclesiastics, or possibly of both. Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned in the castle of Vilvoorden for over 500 days of horrible conditions. He was tried for heresy and treason in a ridiculously unfair trial, and convicted. Tyndale was then strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard, Oct. 6, 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes." This prayer was answered three years later, in the publication of King Henry VIII’s 1539 English “Great Bible”.

Tyndale's place in history has not yet been sufficiently recognized as a translator of the Scriptures, as an apostle of liberty, and as a chief promoter of the Reformation in England. In all these respects his influence has been singularly under-valued. The sweeping statement found in almost all histories, that Tyndale translated from the Vulgate and Luther, is most damaging to the reputation of the writers who make it; for, as a matter of fact, it is contrary to truth, since his translations are made directly from the originals, with the aid of the Erasmus 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament, and the best available Hebrew texts. The Prolegomena in Mombert's William Tyndale's Five Books of Moses show conclusively that Tyndale's Pentateuch is a translation of the Hebrew original.


8. Johannes Gutenberg

Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450's, and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg's Bibles were surprisingly beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colorfully hand-illuminated. Born as "Johann Gensfleisch" (John Gooseflesh), he preferred to be known as "Johann Gutenberg" (John Beautiful Mountain). Ironically, though he had created what many believe to be the most important invention in history, Gutenberg was a victim of unscrupulous business associates who took control of his business and left him in poverty. Nevertheless, the invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This was essential to the success of the Reformation.

GUTENBERG, JOHANN (c. 1398-1468), German printer, is supposed to have been born 1398-1399 at Mainz of well-to-do parents, his father being Friele zum Gensfleisch and his mother Elsgen Wyrich, whose birthplace "Gutenberg", was the name he adopted. The Germans, and most other people, contend that Gutenberg was the inventor of the art of printing with movable types.

Early Life of Johann Gutenberg

Gutenberg's father was a man of good family. Very likely the boy was taught to read. But the books from which he learned were not like ours; they were written by hand. A better name for them than books is "manuscripts," which means "hand-writings."

While Gutenberg was growing up a new way of making books came into use, which was a great deal better than copying by hand. It was what is called block-printing. The printer first cut a block of hard wood the size of the page that he was going to print. Then he cut out every word of the written page upon the smooth face of his block. This had to be very carefully done. When it was finished the printer had to cut away the wood from the sides of every letter. This left the letters raised, as the letters are in books now printed for the blind. The block was now ready to be used. The letters were inked, paper was laid upon them and pressed down. With blocks the printer could make copies of a book a great deal faster than a man could write them by hand. But the making of the blocks took a long time, and each block would print only one page.

Gutenberg enjoyed reading the manuscripts and block books that his parents and their wealthy friends had; and he often said it was a pity that only rich people could own books. Finally he determined to contrive some easy and quick way of printing. Gutenberg did a great deal of his work in secret, for he thought it was much better that his neighbors should know nothing of what he was doing. He looked for a workshop where no one would be likely to find him. Gutenberg was now living in Strasburg, and there was in that city a ruined old building where, long before his time, a number of monks had lived. There was one room of the building which needed only a little repairing to make it fit to be used. So Gutenberg got the right to repair that room and use it as his workshop.

All his neighbors wondered what became of him when he left home in the early morning, and where he had been when they saw him coming back late in the twilight. Gutenberg did not care much what people had to say, and in his quiet room he patiently tried one experiment after another, often feeling very sad and discouraged day after day because his experiments did not succeed. At last the time came when he had no money left.

Gutenberg Meets Fust

He went back to his old home, Mainz, and there met a rich goldsmith and lawyer named Joahann Fust (or Faust). Gutenberg told him how hard he had tried in Strasburg to find some way of making books cheaply, and how he had now no more money to carry on his experiments. Fust became greatly interested and gave Gutenberg what money he needed.

First of all it is thought that he made types of hard wood. Each type was a little block with a single letter at one end. Such types were a great deal better than block letters. The block letters were fixed. They could not be taken out of the words of which they were parts. The new types were movable so they could be set up to print one page, then taken apart and set up again and again to print any number of pages. But type made of wood did not always print the letters clearly and distinctly, so Gutenberg gave up wood types and tried metal types. This worked much better, and Gutenberg was progressing well toward the completion of the first book ever printed by movable type: the Bible in Latin.

Gutenberg Loses His Business

Fust, however, was losing patience. He quarreled with Gutenberg and said that he was doing nothing but spending money. At last he brought suit against him in the court, and the judge decided in favor of Fust. So everything in the world that Gutenberg had, even the tools with which he worked, came into Fust's possession.

Soon a Latin Bible was printed. It was in two volumes, each of which had three hundred pages, while each of the pages had forty-two lines. The letters were sharp and clear. They had been printed from movable types of metal. The news that books were being printed in Mainz went all over Europe. Before Gutenberg died, printing-presses like his were at work making books in all the great cities of the continent.

The Gutenberg Bible

Between 1450 and 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was completed. Early documentation states that a total of 200 copies were scheduled to be printed on rag cotton linen paper, and 30 copies on velum animal skin. It is not known exactly how many copies were actually printed. Today, only 22 copies are known to exist, of which 7 are on velum.

If an entire Gutenberg Bible should become available on the world market, it would likely fetch an estimated 100 million dollars! Even an individual leaf (a single two-sided page) from the original Gutenberg Bible can fetch around $100,000. Gutenberg’s work is the most rare and valuable printed material in the world.

The Death of Johann Gutenberg

Johann Gutenberg died in Mainz, Germany in 1468. Ironically, the inventor of the most important invention in history never profited from his invention and died in poverty… though the proceeds from the sale of just one single leaf from his Bible in today's market would have provided Gutenberg with enough money to live out his last years comfortably. He was buried in a Franciscan church, which was demolished and replaced with another church, which was also subsequently demolished. While Gutenberg sadly went without reward for producing the machine that changed the world, history recognizes him as holding this honor. Without his invention, the Protestant Reformation would not have been possible.


Notice to Readers

In an attempt to provide a wide range of opinions and applications within the bounds of the Historicist interpretation of Bible prophecy, we have utilized the research and writings of a variety of scholars and historians. Being that the material found on this website has been written over a period of several hundred years, there will naturally be a difference of opinions and interpretations on various prophecies. This is due to the experience and knowledge along with the political and religious conditions which existed during the life time of each respective writer. For example; the perspective of John Wycliffe of the 14th century in England as opposed to the perspective of a 21st century writer in North America may somewhat differ on the same prophecy due to their respective vantage points of time, location and development of historical events.

These differences by no means invalidate the truthfulness of the Historicist approach to the all-important subject of Bible prophecy. Even though some teachers and writers may differ on some major beliefs such as the rapture, the nature of the Second Coming of Christ, the identification of Israel, or the modern Zionist state of Israeli, each writer sets forth a traditional Protestant view of Bible prophecy that has been unfolding in fulfillment throughout time extending from the Apostolic age until our present age.

Every opinion and/or interpretation presented on this website may not necessarily be the accepted belief of those who have made this website available.