3 misconceptions about the Reformation

In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, our Sunday School class at Immanuel Presbyterian Church is considering what the reformation changed. 

Yesterday we heard from Jennifer Powell McNutt about the Reformation and the vernacular Bible.

It was an intriguing lecture that offered some fresh insights both into the things the Reformation changed as well as the things it didn’t. McNutt is co-editor of the 2017 IVP Academic book, The People’s Book: The Reformation and the Bible5163

In her lecture Jennifer touched on three common misconceptions about the Bible and the Reformation that require revision.

  1. Vernacular Bibles did not exist before the Reformation. False. Prior to Luther’s translation there were 18 German translations of portions of the Bible. These were more readily comparable to modern “paraphrases”–heavily interpreted in order to aid comprehension.
  2. Lay Christians were prohibited from engaging vernacular Bibles before the Reformation. False. There was no universal, categorical objection to vernacular translations. Often where translations were banned, the action had been taken on the basis of the translators beliefs (i.e., Wycliffe) rather than on the translation itself.
  3. Protestants abandoned the Latin Bible after the Reformation. Latin continued to be the language of scholarship and high culture after the Reformation. The educated continued to read and write in Latin.

Next week we hear from Mark Noll on the Reformation and theology.