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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Ancient Wisdom, Present Power - Part 2

John Bradshaw - Ancient Wisdom, Present Power - Part 2


John Bradshaw - Ancient Wisdom, Present Power - Part 2
John Bradshaw - Ancient Wisdom, Present Power - Part 2
TOPICS: Wisdom

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Up until the 16th century the Bible was not a book that you could have owned. It wasn't available in local languages. It was written in Latin. And owing to printing being a labor-intensive and time-consuming business, Bibles weren't printed in any real number. Even when the movable type printing press came to be, thanks to a German goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg, printing was still a slow and extremely expensive enterprise.

But the Reformation began, and it grew. And while we tend to think of the Reformation in terms of Germany and Luther and his partner in ministry, Melanchthon, and the city of Wittenberg, the Reformation grew and spread: Switzerland, under Ulrich Zwingli in the north and John Calvin in the south, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia, all impacted strongly by the Reformation. The Reformation gained momentum early in Great Britain. Years before Luther, John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English in the 1300s. He was known as "the Morning Star of the Reformation". Wycliffe was really the sign that the Word of God simply couldn't be stopped. Later, the Reformation was kicked into high gear in Britain when the Bible was translated into English again.

Dr. Michael Hasel is a university professor, a noted archaeologist, and the director of the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum on the campus of Southern Adventist University, just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dr. Hasel and I discussed an exhibit of rare books that told the story of the rise of the Reformation and the advancement of the Reformation, which brought the light of the Bible, the teachings of Scripture to the world, broadly, for the first time in hundreds of years. Dr. Hasel and I discussed the English Reformation, which was as influential as what was taking place in Wittenberg, Germany, 550 miles to the east.

Dr. Michael Hasel: You know, the English Reformation was happening almost at the same time as Luther was working in Germany. In fact, many of these people communicated with each other and knew each other. Tyndale, for one, went to Wittenberg to talk to Luther at one point about his translation of the Bible and so forth, and he was one that began the work of translating in England.

John Bradshaw: How was society affected by the Bible becoming so much more readily accessible?

Dr. Michael Hasel: Well, like in Germany, the Bible had a tremendous impact in England as well. When Tyndale was finally caught in Belgium and executed by Henry VIII, the last prayer that he prayed was, "Lord, please open the eyes of the monarch". And for the first time the king's eyes in England were opened, and he considered the Protestant Reformation as a viable, uh, reaction to things that were going on in his household, and, you know, there were a lot of other aspects that were going on, but he sent this response that we have here to the pope in 1536. That was only two years after Luther finished translating the entire Bible in Germany. Now, before Tyndale was killed, he had completed the entire New Testament translation. He had also done part of the Old Testament but wasn't able to complete that. And so it was Coverdale, Myles Coverdale, that finished the Old Testament and was able to publish it. And that's what we have here is one page of the famous Coverdale Bible published in 1535, the year after Luther's Bible was published.

John Bradshaw: This page itself dates back to 1535?

Dr. Michael Hasel: It's a first edition page; that's correct. And the Coverdale Bible was not the best translation into the English language. And later on there was the Great Bible; there was the Bishops' Bible. There were other Bibles that came along. Just a couple of years later in 1537, we have this Bible here, known as the Thomas Matthew Bible. But Matthews knew what had happened to Tyndale, and so Matthews is not his real name; he used a pseudonym to publish this Bible. His real name was John Rogers. He says, "I'm not going to take the risk of having my life taken". He knew the risk was there. He knew that while Henry VIII was leaning more towards Protestantism as time went on, things could change very rapidly. The political dynamics could change. He knew that the first daughter of Henry VIII, Princess Mary, could be the next queen eventually, and she was a staunch Catholic. She was the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, who was the daughter of the king and the queen of Spain. So they were staunch Catholics. And this was all a very, very important element in the back of his mind. But he produced this Bible; it's a beautiful Bible, 1537. The sad thing was that as things progressed, his fears were actually realized. Henry VIII died; his son King Edward VI came to the throne. He was a young, young boy. And he was not, uh, very well. He was known to be a sickly individual. He didn't live a very long time. But he lived long enough to publish this very fine work, entitled "Arguments Against the Pope's Supremacy". You can still look this up online today and read through it. It's, has very cogent arguments, um, about, um, the authority of Scripture and allowing Scripture to really be the basis for faith. He published this, and on his death bed, he changed his will and pronounced his cousin, Lady Jane, as the heir to the throne of England as the next queen, knowing that his half-sister Mary would turn everything around and make it Catholic again. Lady Jane came to the throne, and a few, uh, days later Mary comes down from the north with her armies. The Privy Council switches sides, and it's the shortest reign in history of any queen of England. Uh, Lady Jane only lasts for nine days. And Mary is inaugurated as queen in Westminster Abbey. And the first thing that Mary does, once she is queen, is put to death John Rogers, or Thomas Matthews, who had translated this Bible. And that begins a series of persecutions during her reign that would continue for the next five years or so. She became known, of course, as Bloody Mary.

John Bradshaw: A couple of things come to mind here. One, there's a tendency to forget our history. Two, it's easy to forget just what a big deal this was.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Mm.

John Bradshaw: This is how we got the Bible. Without the Tyndales, uh, and the Rogers of the world willing to almost, you know, to stick their neck out, put their life on the line, uh, things would look very different today.

Dr. Michael Hasel: That's right.

John Bradshaw: I mean, one could argue the Bible would eventually bubble to the surface, but you know what I mean. These people paved the way for people like us to have faith in God by delivering the Bible to us.

Dr. Michael Hasel: That's right.

John Bradshaw: It wasn't readily available. It speaks to that sacrifice and the importance of the Bible. How do you not value the Bible when you consider what people have done to preserve it and deliver it to us today?

Dr. Michael Hasel: That's right.

John Bradshaw: It was a... fascinating time. People were being put to death for their faith in God. The authorities did not want the Bible to be circulated. Monarchs were ascending the throne and executing the people who didn't agree with them on religious matters. As the church began to lose ground, it was recognized that something had to be done to preserve its power. The church began to push back, and it all affected how people would relate to the Bible even today. I'll be right back.

John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, it was a case of an obscure priest in a nothing-sort-of-a-town speaking out about what he believed was inconsistent with genuine faith in God. But people noticed what Luther wrote, and his 95 points of protest were distributed far and wide. As providence would have it, the printing press had been invented just in time for the Reformation to really kick off. What began in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, today a city of about 50,000 people, 50 miles or so from Berlin, quickly spread as others took up the cause of sharing the Bible and teaching salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The teachings of the reformers were radically different to what the ruling Catholic Church had been teaching. Understandably, the church was not favorably disposed to what Luther and others were proclaiming. So the church fought back, and the Counter- Reformation was born.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Well, the Counter-Reformation was the response by the church to Protestantism and to the threat of splitting the church, uh, apart. Um, they saw this as real, and they met in Italy at the Council of Trent in Trento for a series of many years, uh, from 1545 to 1563. This was a multi-year event. But there they really formulated their response. And this was where the church had, uh, a possibility actually to respond even positively to the Reformation, to maybe, uh, reform themselves from within, which really originally was Luther's intent.

John Bradshaw: Right.

Dr. Michael Hasel: He wasn't intending to leave the church. He was a, a very faithful Catholic who wanted to stay within the church, but felt it needed to have some reformation from within. But they, they didn't. They took a very, very hard line on many of the things that were criticized by Luther. Here we have the canon, uh, of the Council of Trent. This is the basic declarations that came out after the council stopped meeting in 1563. This is a first edition published in 1564. And here we have a complete reaffirmation again of many of the doctrines that the Protestants had brought into question.

John Bradshaw: It would've been really difficult for the church of Rome to have reformed, as Luther said, because they would have had to have said, "We were wrong about this. We were wrong about that. We see new light here". That would've been very difficult, wouldn't it?

Dr. Michael Hasel: Yes, absolutely. And so what happened as a result, really, was that they just sunk their heels in even deeper. And one of the things that came out of the Council of Trent actually had to do with the Bible and the authority of Scripture. What is Scripture? You see, the Protestants had taken the position that, uh, the Bible produces the church. The Catholics had always taken the position that the church produced the Bible. These are very different understandings.

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. Michael Hasel: And so one sees the Bible as the inspired Word of God that then inspires Christians to become Christian, to gather together, to begin to fellowship together, to work together. The other sees the authority primarily as the church. And so that was reaffirmed here as well, and so what they decided there, too, was that the apocryphal books, these books between the new and old, the Old and New Testament, that had been in the Bibles all through the centuries since Jerome had translated into the Latin The Vulgate, that was always there, but that was always given with a caveat ahead of time, a kind of declaration that these books are not at the same level doctrinally as the other books of the Bible.

John Bradshaw: And we're talking about books like Wisdom, Tobit, Judith, First and Second Maccabees, and so forth. Yep.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Exactly. Exactly. They had been in those Protestant Bibles, but they were always, you know, in between, and they were not regarded the same. The Council of Trent changed all that. It put them at the same level canonically as the rest of Scripture. And in a sense they needed to do that because it was some of those books that were fairly obscure and were not necessarily originally part of canon that helped support some of their traditions.

John Bradshaw: Such as purgatory.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Correct.

John Bradshaw: So talk to me about this "Spiritual Exercises" and the role of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and Ignatius Loyola.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Well, "The Spiritual Exercises" were probably his most important book. It's a tiny, little book, but, uh, he believed that through meditation, through these spiritual exercises that really emptied oneself and focused on God, one could come closer to God, and one could really develop the kind of, uh, discipline to, to really go through and become a, a very good Catholic and a very good, uh, defender of the faith.

John Bradshaw: Well, where's the harm in spiritual disciplines and spiritual exercises? I think Protestants agree with that sort of thing as well.

Dr. Michael Hasel: We do, absolutely.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Dr. Michael Hasel: But we don't want to empty our mind; we want to dwell on Scripture and allow Scripture to be the impetus for, for those inspirational thoughts.

John Bradshaw: Very significant difference.

Dr. Michael Hasel: That's right.

John Bradshaw: Very significant. So where did the Counter-Reformation go? Did, did it, did it peter out? Did it, did it triumph? Is it active today? What, what does this indicate to us?

Dr. Michael Hasel: Well, it, it was, it continues to be a movement today. It has shifted today in the sense that, uh, with the Vatican II, another council like that, in the 1960s...

John Bradshaw: Sure.

Dr. Michael Hasel: ...the decision was made not to attack Protestantism directly, not to attack Protestantism doctrinally, but to engage in worship like the Protestants and to kind of join in with that movement in a more ecumenical way. And so there's been a shift in that sense. But I think the determination is still the same. And the word "heresy" is still used in Catholic publications today to, to describe anything outside of the Catholic faith. So what we have here, the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible, was a Catholic translation of The Vulgate into English to counteract the Protestant Bibles of that time, before the King James Bible, of course, the Great Bible, the Bishops' Bible, the Coverdale Bible, those Bibles that we've already talked about before. And this was a counteraction on their part to influence and to change, uh, that. This was, uh, printed in 1582, so it came sometime later, but it was very important, and it was published and translated just across from the English Channel in France.

John Bradshaw: Christianity was presented with a golden opportunity. Here were scholars, teachers, theologians rising up to say, "We can do this better". But human nature being what it is, it was determined that such an approach would not be adopted. But as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth". The Bible would be translated into English and go to the world. And because it did, we hold the Bible in our hands today. We'll look at that in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: I met recently with Dr. Michael Hasel, the director of the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum in Collegedale, Tennessee. We looked together at a collection of rare books from the time of the Reformation, among them a very early copy of the Bible that guided Protestant Christianity for hundreds of years.

Dr. Michael Hasel: So here we're coming to the largest object that we have on display, the largest Bible and perhaps the most important Bible, at least as far as the English language and history of Scripture is concerned.

John Bradshaw: The King James Version of the Bible from 1611, and so what edition is this? How close to original is this particular book itself?

Dr. Michael Hasel: This is a first edition. Up to this point in time we had the Coverdale Bible, which was Tyndale and Coverdale working together. It was an inferior version of the Bible in terms of the English language. It wasn't really worked out that well. Then we have the Great Bible, the Bishops' Bible, other Bibles, but finally at the time of King James, it was decided that we really needed to have, the English-, uh, speaking people needed to have a very, very fine translation. So they brought, uh, 47 different scholars together...

John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Michael Hasel: ...split them up in six different groups so that they could work independently of each other, so that they wouldn't bias one another, and they worked for, uh, quite some time to produce this translation.

John Bradshaw: What is it about the King James that made it the standard and makes it really a reliable and solid translation?

Dr. Michael Hasel: Well, it had the most support, I think, at the time in the English, um, realm of any Bible that had come before it. The king put his full support behind it. It, uh, it, it had the financial backing of the kingdom as well. And the product is just absolutely stunning and, and beautiful. Uh, what we have here is really a Bible that, like Luther and like the French Bible of Olivétan before, really galvanizes and brings together the English language. There's three writings that do that for English: the King James Version Bible, the Common Book of Prayer, and the writings of Shakespeare. So, that cannot be overestimated. This, this is really an amazing work. Now, this was done on a moveable type printing press, as we've already discussed with Gutenberg's press in 1455, and even though this is almost 200 years later, the same process is involved, which means that every single letter needs to be placed into the, uh, flat part of the press individually to make each page, or two pages, whatever the case may be. This is a very, very rare Bible, but there's 160, about 160 of these left in the world in complete condition like this. Um, but let me show you something that is even much older than 1611 and that really goes back to the very beginning of this moveable type technology.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, so important because without it, the Bible wouldn't have been distributed as widely as it was.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Exactly. So here we come to the father, if you will, of all printed Bibles, or the mother of all printed Bibles: This is the famous Gutenberg Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany, in 1455. We only have one leaf, front and back, of this Bible, but this is an original leaf. This is, of course, The Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible. And of the original 160 to 200 Bibles that were published by Gutenberg, of those, only 21 complete Gutenberg Bibles still survive today.

John Bradshaw: That's not many. And where are they?

Dr. Michael Hasel: They're all in institutions. Nobody privately owns one. They're very expensive. They're at the Library of Congress; they're at the J. P. Morgan Library in New York, uh, various libraries around Europe. This is just a breakthrough in technology because for the first time, rather than handwriting out Bibles, which would take a year to a year and a half, suddenly you could print one on a moveable type printing press, like this one.

John Bradshaw: You know, it's so interesting that this came on the scene, you know, just at about the same time as Luther, I mean, a little before, but in preparation for Luther to come on and really use this to, to spread the Word of God.

Dr. Michael Hasel: That's right.

John Bradshaw: Amazing timing.

Dr. Michael Hasel: It's amazing timing. And these Bibles, by the way, even when they were printed en masse like that at 200 of them, they still cost, in today's dollars, each Bible would have cost $93,000 in today's currency. So, think about that. Who could afford a Bible like that?

John Bradshaw: Right. Very few.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Very few, institutions again, universities, monasteries, churches. And so, just amazing to see something like this here. Gutenberg was called, of course, Time magazine called him "the Man of the Millennium". We have "the Man of the Century," we have "the Man of the Year," or "the Person of the Year" today, but Gutenberg was called "the Man of the Millennium" because this was such a groundbreaking, uh, event in history, in the history of communication.

John Bradshaw: Mmm. Yeah, amazing. Changed the world.

Dr. Michael Hasel: Changed the world.

John Bradshaw: It changed the world. But the question for us today is, will it change your world? In a time of great spiritual darkness when the governing church dictated to kings and kingdoms, a truly biblical faith simply wasn't known. People were taught that they were saved through the church. Luther's teaching of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was revolutionary. Luther survived the attempts made on his life, but many others were not able to escape the wrath of the church. Tyndale, the English Bible translator, was burnt at the stake. John Hus and his ministry partner Jerome met the same fate a century earlier. Wishart, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer, considered heretics for their stand on the teachings of the Bible, lost their lives, as did countless others. But nothing could stop the advance of the Bible. Millions of copies are now printed every single year. So let me ask you: What are you doing about the Bible? This great book, this remarkable document, which details the love of God, it, it tells the plan of salvation. It recites the great histories of the people of God in antiquity and the early church. It's not just ancient wisdom; it's present power. David was able to write that it was "a lamp to [his] feet and a light to [his] path". Paul wrote that the "Scriptures...are able to make you wise for salvation". Peter wrote of the "exceedingly great and precious promises," through which "you may be partakers of the divine nature". I want to encourage you to read the Bible. Listen to the Bible. Let God's Word get off the pages and into your heart, into your mind, molding you and forming you for eternity. This is a book that will change your life. If you've not been a Bible reader, let's change that today. Pick it up and start reading, a few verses a day, a chapter a day, several chapters a day, and then pause to consider what it is you've been reading. Listen for the voice of God. Ask God to help you to hear from Him as you read what He inspired. Now, if your reading has been shallow, if you've been a surface reader, let's decide right now that through God's help you're going to go deeper. It might be time to begin memorizing verses or passages of the Bible, and to start not only reading or hearing the Bible, but to start trusting it, believing that God can do what He says He can do, and believing that God will work with power in your life. There is no other book like it. It's the Word of God. Allow God's Word into your life, and you'll never be the same again.

John Bradshaw: Let's pray together now.

Our Father in heaven, we thank You for the Bible, and I'm praying right now that You will unleash Your Word in our lives. There is somebody right at this moment who is saying, "I'm going to pick up that Bible and read it". Help her, help him to develop a habit of reading the Bible that would never die. Somebody right now is experiencing weakness and not strength in his experience. There's somebody looking for a miracle, somebody needing a breakthrough, somebody desperately desiring victory, and, Lord, it is there in the pages of Scripture. Lord, let this not only be ancient wisdom, but present power in lives across the fruited plain and around the world. May we experience the power of Scripture. Might we be born again through Your Word, as the Bible says. Heavenly Father, through Your Word, have Your way in our lives. Let it be the bedrock, the foundation of our lives, we pray. And we thank You in Jesus' name. Say with me now: amen and amen.


Thank you so much for joining me. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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