Course:  Church History (1)

Course Title:  Church History and the Standard of the New Testament

Lesson Nine

Lesson Title:  Pre Reformation Reformers


Reformers before the Reformation

England – John Wycliffe  (c.1329-1384)

Bohemia – John Hus  (c.1373 -1415)

Florence - Girolamo Savonarola  (1452 –1498)

Western Europe – Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466/9-1536)



1.   John Wycliffe (c.1329-1384) - The Morning Star of the Reformation





Born in Hipswell, Nr. Richmond, Yorkshire.

Studied at Balliol College, Oxford. 

Taught at Oxford.

Philosophy – Realist

Influenced by Augustine

Doctor of Theology

Appointed by King as Rector of Lutterworth


Preached against Pope’s secular authority

Published tracts and leaflets



Papal Bull - 3 bulls sent  (May 22, 1377)

(1)  King – But King Edward III had died,

(2)  Oxford – Wycliffe esteemed as most able member of faculty

(3)  Bishops – only bull to be acted upon.


Tried at Lambeth Palace April 1378.

Prohibited from preaching by the Archbishop of London, Bishop Courtney

Message from Queen Mother called for no judgment to be made against Wycliffe.

Influence of John of Gaunt


Retired to rectory at Lutterworth

Wrote Trialogues – upholding the supreme authority of scripture and conscience.




Teaching of John Wycliffe

Denied papal authority (temporal and spiritual)

Upheld the authority of Scripture

Opposed endowments

Denied compulsory tithes.

´Let him that is taught in the Word minister to him that teaches in all good things`

1381 Denied the doctrine of Transubstantiation (12 propositions).

First proclaimed at 4th Lateran Council 1215 under Pope Innocent III

Wrote ´Against Simony`




Wycliffe’s itinerant preachers.

c. 1380 enlisted ’poor priests’ known as ´Lollards` from Oxford graduates.





John Wycliffe translated Bible from Latin Vulgate into English. Completed 1382.

Bible had to be handwritten. Printing not yet invented in the West.




Events that increased Wyclife’s influence.


Death of Edward III

Marriage between Richard II and Anne of Bohemia

Jerome of Prague came to Oxford.

Embraced Wycliffe’s teaching and took it back to Bohemia.

John of Gaunt friend of Wycliffe.

One third of English land owned by the Church

Pilgrim’s revolt





2.  Council of Constance  (1415)

John Hus and John Wycliffe (posthumously) were both condemned by the Council of Constance.


John Hus (c.1373 -1415)

Rector of University of Prague.

Preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague

Held to the authority of scripture in determining matters of faith.

Condemned as heretic at the Council of Constance

Burned at the stake 1415





1415 Council of Constance – ordered John Wycliffe’s (c.1329-1384)

books to be burned.

Wycliffe’s remains to be dug up and burned. 

1428 Wycliffe’s body burned and his ashes were scattered on the River.







3.  Girolamo Savonarola (1452 –1498) 



Born September 21, 1452

Dominican Priest

Ruler of Florence after the overthrow of the Medici 1494-8.


Religious Reformer

Anti- Renaissance

Preached against moral corruption of the clergy

Opposed Pope Alexander VI (Borgia)


1497 Bonfire of vanities in the Piazza della Signoria

May 13, 1497 excommunicated by Pope Alexander

Executed in the Piazza della Signoria on

May 23, 1498


Also see Medici (pdf)  (powerpoint)





4.  Erasmus (1466/9-1536)



Published Greek New Testament (1516)

Accompanied by a new translation in Latin.



First printed at Basle 1516

First published printed edition of the Greek New Testament.

The Complutensian copy which formed part of the Polyglott of Cardinal Ximenes was printed 1514 but not published until 1522.

Pope Leo X initially sent Erasmus a letter of commendation, which he printed on the front pages with a border drawn by Hans Holbein.



Three margins showed emblems of the virtues and vices of the Church.

The fourth depicted the German victory under Arminius over the Romans under Varus in AD 9.




This is a description of the fourth border (1516 edition):


On the left is seen borne the great flag of the Germans.

On the right the Roman standard SPQR

(Senatus Populus Que Romanus)

The eagle is trailed on the ground

The Roman troops are in retreat.

The legend or inscription in the corner records the words of a German who has cut out the tongue of Roman. Holding it up he says:

Tundem, vipera, sibilare, desiste.  ´O viper cease to hiss`.


Florus, Hist, lib iv, c.12.