Tag Archives: Bible

Thanks for hanging in there

Once again, I’ve taken you on an elaborate side-trip. You must be wondering: why in the world is Manders spending so much time blathering about the Pilgrims? We came here looking for a history of reading and writing and our dear old Uncle John (who we assumed still had all his marbles) can’t seem to shut up about the Restoration and Henry the Eighth and Puritans and the Spanish Empire and Dutch politics. I am aware some of you—out of sheer frustration—have already hurled your half-eaten toaster-waffles at whatever device you use to receive these blog posts.



Don’t worry. There’s a good reason for taking you down this rabbit hole. Here it is: for all the reasons I’ve been telling you, the Pilgrims decided they needed to pack their stuff and beat it out of Leiden. They chartered a couple of leaky old tubs named Speedwell and Mayflower to take them to the New World—North America. There were English settlements already established. This would be their best bet for starting fresh in their quest to get back to religious basics.

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Rembrandt

The Hundred Guilder print

Side-note: One of my favorite artists, Rembrandt, was a boy in the Netherlands while the Pilgrims were there. When I was a new Sunday-school teacher, I joked that everything I knew about the Bible came from looking at Rembrandt paintings. A benefit of the Netherlands being a haven for religious minorities was that there was a Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. Rembrandt lived in and had friends there. He depicted Christ and the Holy Family as Jews (which they were, of course), using his friends as models. This was a departure from tradition. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rmbt/hd_rmbt.htm
Look at Christ’s hands in the Hundred Guilder print. Rembrandt drew with a steel stylus, cutting lines into a copper plate. Yeah, he could draw.

https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/1.5160992
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/371732

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Wait, there’s more!

Red brick & cobblestones on the street where the Pilgrims lived.

Adding to the Pilgrims’ worries: Leiden’s corrupt city government was beginning to fall apart. A barricade was built around city hall and protected by soldiers. There was mob rule in the streets and the mob had become not-so-tolerant of religions from other countries (at least one Pilgrim was beaten senseless on his way home from church). To top it off, the Pilgrims were farmers trying to adapt to city life. The main way to earn a living in Leiden was to work in the cloth mills. You could make a decent buck while you’re young, but the old guys didn’t work as fast and so brought home less money. They couldn’t get ahead or get out of debt.

The Pilgrims started looking around for someplace else to set up shop.

Here are links to cover this week’s posts:
https://atdspain.com/en/news/how-was-netherlands-part-spanish-empire
https://www.britannica.com/place/Spanish-Netherlands
https://americanliteraturechallenge.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/why-did-the-puritans-leave-holland-were-their-reasons-justified-2/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism
https://netherlandsinsiders.com/discover-the-pilgrims-legacy-in-leiden-their-home-from-1609-1620/
https://www.saburchill.com/history/events/009.html
https://leidenamericanpilgrimmuseum.org/en/page/pilgrim-life-in-leiden-why-the-pilgrims-left
https://www.lakenhal.nl/en/story/leiden-cloth

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There were some downsides

After they moved to Leiden in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims discovered just one hitch—well, okay, a few hitches: Spain had the idea that a global Spanish Empire (paid for with buttloads of gold from the New World) would be a good thing. Spain was ardently Catholic and not tolerant of other people’s religions. There’d been a 12-year truce between Spain and Holland that was about to end while the Pilgrims were there. If you lived in Holland in the early 1600s and kept up on current events, you understood that things could go sideways pretty quickly. Not only that, the Pilgrim kids were becoming more Dutch than English. Dutch tolerance was not only for religion but for libertine lifestyles. If you’re a strict Calvinist you don’t want your kids lured away to wallow in the fleshpots of Leiden.*

A couple of Dutch wantons.

* The Pilgrims were serious about their faith and it must have been exhausting. I’m exhausted just from writing this: Sunday morning service began at eight o’clock with an hour of prayers, then a 3-hour sermon, then lunch (dessert was always red Jello with those little marshmallows in it), then another sermon, then discussion. They stood for most of it (too much risk of falling asleep if they sat, I suppose)—no kneeling; kneeling reminded them of Catholicism or the Church of England. They wore sober-looking clothes; men & women were kept separate during service; no church building; no organ—hymns were sung with no instruments. There’s a painting of a church service, The Pilgrim Fathers, in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The artist August Allebé (1857-1878) mixed up the crowd to make an interesting composition, but generally the ladies and kids sit in front, the gents stand in the back. They look to be in a store-house with a dirt floor. https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/RP-P-1905-2755

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Puritans & Pilgrims

Some English people wanted to reform Henry’s Church of England. They wanted to get back to the Church’s roots. They wanted to get closer to what Saint Peter founded and Saint Paul mapped out. They wanted a more pure stripped-down no-frills version of worship, so those guys were called ‘Puritans.’


Other English people threw up their hands and said ‘It can’t be fixed. Gotta start from scratch.’ They wanted what the Puritans wanted but decided to start over in a different country. Those guys were called ‘Pilgrims’ and they moved to Holland (the Netherlands)—a country tolerant of other people’s religions.

There’s a hair salon in the village of Scrooby famous for their signature ‘do. http://www.finedictionary.com/Pilgrim.html

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The Church of England

I know—you’re sick of hearing about it. My mailman complains because he has to deliver enormous bags of angry letters and postcards from you guys. But I need to talk about the Reformation some more.



In England, King Henry VIII was butting heads with the Pope because the Pope refused to bless Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. So with all this Reformation going on, Henry said ‘Dash it—why don’t I start up my own bally church?’* and created the Church of England. Of course he put himself in charge of it. Henry kicked the Catholic nuns & monks out of nunneries and monasteries and destroyed Latin bibles and holy relics.

“Here you are, lads. Hot off the press, what?”

This wasn’t any big improvement on the corrupt mediæval Church. Henry cleverly inserted himself in between the regular shmos and God, so power descended from heaven, to Henry, to you. It was still the same old top-down power that got distributed through earthly government. Henry VIII had the Bible translated into English.** The title page has a picture of Henry in the middle of the universe with G-d above filtering His might through him. This picture is telling you that Henry gets his authority to rule directly from G-d. It’s the divine right of kings.

* I asked P G Wodehouse to write Henry’s dialogue.
** From the Oops-I-Changed-My-Mind file: Henry’s Great Bible has big chunks of Tyndale’s translation in it. I mean, Woolsey has Tyndale burned at the stake for translating the Bible, then Henry’s team uses the translation Tyndale was executed for?

https://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item101943.html
http://textusreceptusbibles.com/Great
https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Divine_Right_of_Kings
Good article but it’s manner not manor:
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/henry-viii-the-reformation-and-the-first-authorized-bible/

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William Tyndale



The Reformation was a bloody, violent business because there was so much power at stake. The people in charge faced losing their jobs. If regular shmos understood that they had a direct line to G-d through prayer, maybe they wouldn’t need the priests so much.

The Bible was THE book everybody in western culture was familiar with. It seems natural to want to translate into your own language and publish it, as Martin Luther had done. More than the prospect of making a few samolians from a bestseller, if you take Saint Paul’s words to heart, you understand that faith in Christ is its own justification. That is: if you accept Christ as your Savior, your sins are forgiven. That’s it. No paying for indulgences. Jesus’ sacrifice was a gift freely given to get us into heaven. William Tyndale wanted everybody to know that.

William Tyndale was an English scholar-priest and really good at languages. He wanted to publish the New Testament in English. It isn’t a surprise that no Church bigshot would underwrite Tyndale’s project. In fact, it became dangerous for Tyndale to even occupy space in England—so he moved around different continental cities until he settled in Worms (vorms), Saxony. There he translated the New Testament from Erasmus’ Greek edition and published it in 1525. Copies were enthusiastically smuggled into England. This didn’t go over so well with the Church or King Henry VIII (Henry was busy starting up a new church with himself replacing the pope). The Church did not want people reading the Bible for themselves. Whenever they found Tyndale’s bibles, they burned ’em.

He moved to Antwerp and even though Tyndale was hiding out, he spent his free time helping poor people. Eventually someone he trusted betrayed him to Church authorities. Tyndale was tried for heresy and burned at the stake. They were that afraid of him.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/william-tyndale.html
Look at this gorgeous woodcut from Tyndale’s Bible—
https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/heritage/archives/picture-this/william-tyndale-the-newe-testament-of-oure-sauiour-iesus-christe-faythfully-translated-oute-of-the-greke-with-the-notes-and-expositions-of-the-darke-places-therein-london-rycharde-jugge-1553-c/
Almost all Tyndale’s bibles were destroyed; there are only a few in existence—
https://evangelicalfocus.com/culture/4029/tyndale-bible-from-persecuted-to-becoming-a-treasure
https://thepilgrimsnews.wordpress.com/tag/william-tyndale/
https://bishopmike.com/2012/11/03/tyndale-luther-and-hus/

Arrivederci, Rome

Three things were happening that I think are worth noticing: 1) the Renaissance was a celebration of Humanism—they revived the philosophical thinking of Greece & Rome and toned down the theology of the Catholic Church; 2) the Protestant Reformation happened because people were already dissatisfied with the Church; 3) Latin had become a way to keep regular shmos from reading and understanding the Bible themselves. Renaissance authors figured out that rejecting Latin in favor of vernacular languages was a way they could communicate directly with their readers.

The Roman poet Horace who deserves a lot more respect than I’m giving him in this cartoon

It looks like the intellectuals of that age were all about giving the Church a kick in the shins, and maybe the Church had it coming. One of the themes of this history is how institutions get bloated, entrenched and run by a handful of elites. The regular shmos put up with it for only so long. When somebody invents a way to work around the elites’ communications apparatus, regular shmos seize on it and the elites lose their power. We saw it happen with the invention of the alphabet. Now we’re looking at how movable type busted up the Mediæval Church’s monopoly on reading & writing.

Geoff Chaucer trying out some new lines in Middle English

Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible was in German. German is vernacular—that is, it’s what everyday regular shmos in Saxony spoke. French is vernacular. English is vernacular. Spanish and Italian are vernacular. They are the romance languages that developed from Latin. From the days of the Roman Republic to the Mediæval period, anything worth writing was written in Latin or sometimes Greek. The Renaissance—the 13-, 14- & 1500s—was different. Authors said no thanks to Latin & Greek and began writing literature in their own language. The printing press allowed them to reach a wide audience.

https://www.definitions.net/definition/vernacular+literature
https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/protestant-reformation/
https://www.britannica.com/topic/humanism
https://www.britannica.com/art/Latin-literature

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Going viral 1517-style

Some people are great self-promoters. Most aren’t. Johannes Gutenberg created world-changing technology but didn’t know how to capitalize on it. Martin Luther saw the printing press and knew exactly what to do.

It was movable type and the printing press that got the Protestant Reformation off to such a fiery start. Within days of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, printed copies were circulating all over Europe. If the Pope had wanted to respond to each one, he’d have to wait for an army of monks to calligraph his remarks on parchment.

In England, across the Channel, they could read what Luther had posted in Saxony just a few days earlier. Can you imagine what it was to have news delivered so quickly? Well, of course you can. Nowadays Martin Luther would take a selfie in front of All Saints Church and post it on Instagram with a link to his blog where there’d be a pdf of his 95 Theses and you’d download it a few moments later. But it was 1517, so he used Gutenberg’s hot new technology to spread his ideas. He followed up the Theses with cheap, easy-to-read printed pamphlets where he defended his arguments in German. These were bestsellers and Luther even got big-shot artist Lucas Cranach to draw illustrations for them—his drawings were made into woodcuts. Luther’s pamphlets would be carried to every port city and printers there would run up copies and sell them.

Luther translated the Bible into German. It was a bestseller, too—5,000 copies.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-of-luthers-printing-press/2015/12/18/a74da424-743c-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html
https://www.history.com/news/printing-press-renaissance
https://www.nls.uk/exhibitions/treasures/the-reformation/95-theses/
Yes, it’s a word https://www.dictionary.com/browse/calligraph

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The proud tradition of not making money in publishing

Gutenberg was able to print many more copies of the Bible than could be handwritten by monks in the same amount of time. His output left the scriptoria in the dust. More means less expensive—lots more people could afford to own a bible. Think of Henry Ford cranking out inexpensive cars, one every hour and a half. https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2020/07/03/more-cars-please/ Gutenberg could crank out bibles all day long and customers could snap ‘em up as soon as they came off the press, right? The guy should have been a millionaire, right? Nope. It didn’t work out that way. What did he do wrong? This: he didn’t have a distribution system set up. Only a few people in Mainz, Germany could read, so his hometown customer-base was tiny. The tragedy is Gutenberg might have found many enthusiastic customers in Europe’s big cities. Put six bible sales-guys on boats to the universities and libraries in Venice, Rome, Athens, London, Alexandria, Paris—you think they wouldn’t bring home some big orders? It appears Gutenberg never thought to do that. In the business world, nothing happens until the sale is made. Gutenberg conquered every challenge except sales. He wound up owing everybody money and his creditors took everything in his shop. There’s an important lesson here (for me, especially):

Go out there and find your customers!

While I have you here—if you like this blog, please recommend it to your pals. Tell me if you’d like some promotional postcards (tell me your address at jmanders@aol.com). I cherish the hope that I’ll be able to print these Western Civ User’s Guides and start promoting them at comic cons and librarian cons and homeschooling events. I need to go out and find my customers.

As always, I’m very grateful that you weirdos read this stuff.

Door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen were a staple of gag cartoons a few decades ago. https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/e/encyclopedia_salesman.asp

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