The early evangelical movement in england
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The Early Evangelical Movement in England. Religion and Religious Change in England, c.1470-1558. A ‘MARTYR’ CHURCH. A ‘MARTYR’ CHURCH. A ‘Martyr’ Church:. William Tyndale. Detail:. Myth:. HISTORIOGRAPHY:. The ‘Long Reformation’ – consequences not causes: 1530-1558 neglected.

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The Early Evangelical Movement in England

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The early evangelical movement in england

The Early Evangelical Movement in England

Religion and Religious Change in England, c.1470-1558

A martyr church


A martyr church1


A martyr church2

A ‘Martyr’ Church:

William Tyndale


The early evangelical movement in england




  • The ‘Long Reformation’ – consequences not causes:

    • 1530-1558 neglected.

  • Problematic ‘isms’:

    • ‘Reformers’

    • ‘Evangelicals’ not ‘Protestants’.

    • ‘Conservatives’ not ‘Catholics’.

  • Revisionism: a ‘vibrant’ LMC = Reformation as an ‘Act of State’:

    • (Rex) – Friars often crucial converts.

    • ‘Top Down’ vs ‘Bottom Up’ too simplistic.

    • Easily to see as more coherent than it actually was:

      • (Ryrie) Christian Liberty a reckless appeal – unwanted followers

Thinking points

Thinking points:

  • Early Reformation – different ideas, different views and different ‘reformers’.

  • How they interacted with one another, the wider population and the monarchy is crucial.

  • Contradictory, complex and not easily integrated into a narrative.

Reformation in europe origins

Reformation in Europe - Origins

  • Luther:

    • Sola fide

    • Sola scriptura

    • Priesthood of All Believers



Initial reactions to luther in england

Initial Reactions to Luther in England:

  • Vigorous declaration of orthodoxy.

  • Pope Leo X formally condemned Luther 1521:

    • London, 12th May: public bonfire of Luther’s books

    • Vehement sermon by John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.

  • Dipolmaticopportunity – foreign ambassadors:

    • Catholicism and monarchy.

    • Cardinal Wolsey trying to become a Papal Legate.

  • Henry VIII 1521 – book against Luther:

    • AssertioSeptemSacramentorumadversusMartinumLutherum.

    • Latin and German editions

    • Big hit, more as a result of magnitude of author than quality of its contents.

    • Luther responded by calling Henry a pig and a drunkard

    • FideiDefensor – Defender of the Faith.

  • No ‘Lutherans’ as yet in England:

    • Sporadic evidence of books circulating.

  • Only real point of entry 1520s through trade routes – particularly German ones:

    • Mid 1520s, handful of accusations for heresy which seemed to smack of Lutheran ideas.


  • Robert barnes

    Robert Barnes

    • ‘Leader’ of the evangelicals in England:

      • Augustinian Friar (like Luther).

      • Christmas Eve, 1525: preached a sweeping indictment of the state of the Church (very ‘anti’ Wolsey):

        • Interrogated by Wolsey

        • House arrest two years – only escaped after faking his own suicide in 1528.

        • Became close friend of Luther in Germany.

    • Sermon a ‘starting point’?

      • Heroic and defiant, an English equivalent of Luther nailing 95 Thesis to church door in Wittenberg.

      • But more typical than inspirational.

      • Oxford/Cambridge – this was, primarily, a theological issue.

      • In that sense distinct from Germany/ Switzerland:

        • Not tied into social and political issues from the get-go.

    What s in a question

    • Thomas Bilney:

      • Inspired by reading Erasmus’s translations of the New Testament

      • Not be ‘Lutheran’ in the fullest sense

      • But, crucially, begin to QUESTION

    What’s in a Question?

    Richard Nix (1530): priests graduating Cambridge: ‘savoureth the frying pan’.

    Piss vinegar

    Piss & Vinegar:

    • Zeal rocked the boat - butnot yet completely incompatible with it.

      • Robert Forman, former master of Queen’s College, Cambridge, became a rector in London.

      • With his curate Thomas Garrett, network for distribution of heretical books.

      • Customer list a who’s-who of English and continental evangelicalism.

    Renaissance humanism

    Renaissance & Humanism:

    • Evangelism part of England’s Renaissance.

    • ‘Humanism’ – a problematic term:

      • C19th

      • Secularist overtones

    • ‘Renaissance’ – C14th Petrarch:

      • Rebirth/Rediscovery

      • Civilisation in decline since the fall of Rome.

    • ‘Civic Humanism’ – look to Greece/Rome for inspiration.

    The power of reading challenging authority

    The Power of Reading – Challenging Authority

    • Significant ramifications for patterns of thought and university education:

      • Sections of traditional scholarship which medieval universities considered to be of secondary importance – poetry, oratory, rhetoric (arts of persuasion by writing).

      • Lovers of words.

      • Belief that more educate/learned, more human.

    • Words and learning could make society better, by way of truth and virtue.

    • Words that inspired such thought in ancient texts.

      • Great treasure hunt of archives to interpret and learn from old sources

      • Plato rediscovered

      • Caballa

      • Islamic medicine

    • Obsession with texts.

      • Way in which Latin written changed – pages are physically different.

      • Rejuvenation in classical architecture and sculpture matched by a transformation in arts of writing and learning.

      • Authenticity key:

        • Historical study of texts became more important.

        • Idea of ‘source criticism’ had its origins here.

    • Challenge to authenticity of pillars of power bases.

    • Donation of Constantine.

      • Claim that on his conversion to Christianity in the C4th Emperor Constantine had given the Papacy powers over all the known earth.

      • Significant foundation of Papal supremacy.

        • Document on which based shown to be an C8th fraud by Lorenzo Valla in 1440

    • Juan Luis Vives – later tutor to Mary I – disproved much of the material in collections of saint’s lives.


    Purifying the bible

    ‘Purifying’ the Bible:

    Most significant challenge:

    Erasmus’s New Testament (1516).

    Vulgate bible shown to be full of errors.

    Most comical -Exodus 34: Hebrew describes Moses’s face as ‘shining’ as he came from Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments

    Latin Vulgate as ‘horny’.

    Artistic depictions with horns.

    Shock of hearing Christ’s words in a new voice – and with new meanings – was seismic.

    Whole authority of Western Church for 1000 years now challenged.

    Breakdown not inevitable

    • Nointention here of overthrowing.

    • Rather, of enthusing with truth and piety.

    • Schism was unthinkable.

    • Many humanists pivotal in the Church.

      • C15th Pope Pius II (Silvio de’Piccolomini)

      • Bishops and Cardinals patrons of humanists.

      • England – universities benefitted:

        • Bishop Fox of Winchester founded Corpus Christi, Oxford.

        • Wolsey founded Christ Church.

        • Cambridge – Christ’s and Jesus benefitted from similar patronage.

    Breakdown not Inevitable:

    Directed into the Church, not against it.

    Thomas more

    Thomas More

    • Great defender of Church from early Reformers – but cut from the same cloth as them:

      • Would have been a cleric if not so much pressure from family to become a lawyer.

    • Household full of humanist learning:

      • Patron of arts

      • Agreat wit

      • Patron of a republic of letters

      • Part of a European-wide circle of learning – Erasmus considered a friend.

    • John Colet (Dean of St. Pauls), Thomas Linacre, William Lily:

      • Men keen to revitalize theology through their study of Greek language and classic culture.

    • Key: devotional practices/piety in the world:

      • Previously been the ideal of monks cloistered away from it.

      • Utopia, satirizes European society for lacking Christian piety and charity.

      • Authored works of lay piety/ verse/ translations of famous spiritual works/ Augustine’s letters.

      • More demanding levels of self-examination than previously expected.

        Urge to reform present here – to rejuvenate a Church which devoted to.

    • Involvement with Carthusiansin London.

      • Devotional circles, circulation of spiritual works.

    • That zeal seen in writings against Luther during 1520s:

    • Defend Henry VIII from Luther’s attack

      • Responsioad Lutheran (1523)

      • Issue - sola scriptura:

        • Denied the validity of Catholic tradition, and undermined the sacramental system of the church.

        • More's defence relied on the Catholic teaching that the Holy Spirit preserved and guided the church both through scripture and through tradition

        • As a visible institution containing all Christians, the church operated by Spirit-guided consensus, not individual persuasion.

        • Essentially: the Church was Christ’s Body, and His spirit must therefore be present in it.

    The early evangelical movement in england

    That fundamental and impassioned belief in the Truth of the Church as an historical institution would be point of disputation with another man equally devoted to Erasmus, to classical learning and to the revitalisation of Christendom:


    William tyndale

    William Tyndale:

    • Priest from Gloucesteshire -studied at Oxford.

    • Attracted to Erasmus’s piety & began to translate his works into English during the mid-1520s.

      • Popular scripture gripped him – idea of piety through reading.

      • 1523 - translating New Testament into English (illegal)

    • Naïve – times changing:

      • Asked Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London, for support

        • Tunstalla friend of Erasmus.

        • Denied – fact allowed to stay London a sign that Tyndale not understood to be a ‘heretic’ at this point.

        • Tyndale left for the continent – dodging attempts to catch him on Colonge to finally publish his English New Testament at Worms in 1526.

        • Translated from Greek, following the practice of Erasmus.

        • Basis for almost all versions which follow in English up to 1611 King James Bible.

    • Small size, easy to smuggle, for Word to be disseminated in England:

      • Reading not necessarily = Protestant,

      • But certainly seen as heretical - Tunstallseized and burnt in London.

    • Impact: read Scripture – hear the Word of God – first time in native tongue:

      • Very sensual accounts, drama of that impact for some.

      • New criteria – simple but powerful:

        • Did the practices of the Church find their sanction in that Word?

        • Empowering, because it gave people – admittedly small numbers at this stage – ability to question.

    Labelling tyndale

    Labelling Tyndale:

    • Problem of definition: was he a ‘Lutheran’ or a ‘Protestant’?

      • Where do you draw the line?

    • Or is there scope for movement and discussion around a body of key issues which makes boundaries porous and fluid?

    • Tyndale: heavily indebted to Luther’s theology; but also an advocate of Erasmarian piety which is often in tension with it.

    • 1520s, works in favour of:

      • Justification By Faith Alone

      • Against English clergy

      • Nascent political theory of continental evangelicals.

    Key works

    Key Works:

    • The Parable of the Wicked Mammon (1528)

      • Exposition on Luke 16 heavily inspired by Luther.

      • Good works are an important part of a Christian’s life, but no efficacy in salvation.

      • Rather, the product of saving grace imputed to the believer through Faith Alone.

    • Obedience of A Christian Man (1528)

      • Two key principles:

        • 1) supreme authority of scripture in the Church – undercut papacy;

        • 2) supreme authority of the king in the state.

      • See how 2 would conflict as King took charge of Church in 1530s.

    • Practice of Prelates (1530)

      • Church was a conspiracy to maintain papal power, suffocating rights of Kings in their own realms.

    The early evangelical movement in england


    Other early thinkers

    Other Early Thinkers:

    - John Frith – executed for heresy in 1533:

    • Texts against purgatory

    • Position on the Eucharist further than Luther towards a position more akin with the Swiss Reformed in which Christ not present in the Bread & the Wine at all.

  • Miles Coverdale:

    • Finished Tyndale’s work by producing an English translation of the Old Testament

    • Less fiery, but nevertheless a considerable body of work challenging the religious status quo.

  • Robert Barnes – closest to Luther of all English writers.

  • Persecution


    3 periods:

    1) 1521-25 – internationalist period.

    2) 1525-28 – Renaissance phase.

    3) 1528-33 – shock & awe.

    2 1525 28 renaissance phase

    • Tunstall(Bishop of London), Wolsey, William Warham(Archbishop of Canterbury):

      • Reluctantpersecutors because had much in common with the regime.

      • Scholars with a humanist education and keen to reform the Church.

      • Perennialstage in Church reform, discussion, or of zeal misplaced.

    2) 1525-28 – Renaissance phase:

    Christian Charity:

    To convert, correct or dissuade from error.

    Tunstall much speaking/effort. Try to restore to orthodoxy.

    Even bent the legal procedure in Bilney’s trial to try to resolve

    The early evangelical movement in england


    3 1528 33 shock awe

    Rigour and rule of the law to avoid equivocations and half measures:

    • 13 people burned 1530-33:

    • Small by European standards, but about impact.

    • 100s arrested and investigated.

    • Lists of prohibited books produced.

    • Public recantations – long, humiliating demonstrations of the state’s power and the severity of the crime.

    • More produced forensic rebuttals of major works by Frith, Barnes, and Tyndale:

    • European-wide campaign to catch Tyndale – executed Antwerp, 1536.

    3) 1528-33 – shock & awe.

    Change late 1520s with ‘discovery’ of some men deemed to be ‘Lollards’.

    More vigorous pursuit:

    Cruel? Or rational?

    God’s wrath.

    Men’s souls

    Key figures:

    Thomas More, Lord Chancellor from 1529.

    John Stokesley – the new Bishop of London.

    Un doubting thomas

    (Un)doubting Thomas:

    • Thomas More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1529):

      • Tyndale's offence has been

      • 1) To give the people Paul in English

      • 2) And to translate key words in their Greek meanings as ‘senior’, ‘congregation’, ‘love’, and ‘repent’, instead of the church's ‘priest’, ‘church’, ‘charity’, and ‘do penance’.



    • 2000 pages of dispute with Tyndale’s work.

      • Tyndale/Luther denied various beliefs/practices (purgatory and the veneration of saints) on the basis of insufficient scriptural attestation.

        • More argued forcefully for Church’s authority as the bearer and interpreter of scripture (rather than individuals).

        • Championed the visible/institutional Church, presided over by the Pope but stretching back through history to the first gatherings around Christ.

        • The consensus fidelium, guided by the Spirit, shaped and perpetuated the church and accounted for its unity and independence from secular control

      • A far more comprehensive view of the community of the faithful than Tyndale allowed.

    The early evangelical movement in england


    Final assessment

    Final Assessment:

    • Small, but vigorous.

      • Intense and intimate networks of scholars making an impact disproportionate to their numbers.

      • Body of materials which subsequent generations build on – Tyndale’s New Testament.

      • Henry would draw on much of the expertise in justifying the break from Rome.

    • Numerically,not vast – certainly a long way from continental models.

      • Why? Printing:

        • English print industry a centre behind German/Dutch models; only one centre (London) which made fairly easy to censor.

        • Long way from millions of religious tracts disseminated in 1520s Germany.

        • Certainly not an extensive public movement initially (1520s, early 1530s).

    English exceptionalism

    English Exceptionalism?

    • Scotland, Netherlands, France and Italy also Catholic states facing a nascent heresy:

      • Protestant views also aired through more acceptable ‘humanist’ dress.

      • France – courtly and artistic circle (Francis I).

      • Italy – spirituali clerical movement.

      • Netherlands unique – urbanised; trade routes, melting pot for ideas and materials.

  • Germanand Swiss models are the exceptions in the Reformation (a fact often forgotten when its history is written).

  • Concluding thoughts

    Concluding thoughts:

    • Role of politics crucial in shaping fortunes – seen by vigour of the English state’s response in the 1520s.

    • Next week, see what happens when that context changes: Royal Supremacy.

    • Challenge to the absolute power of the Papacy and the Catholic Church’s universality as significant in European history as Luther’s doctrinal assaults.

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