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What were the causes of the English Reformation?
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The translation of the Bible into English provoked reform

Two major translations of the bible into English led to widespread discontent with the church. The early Lollard movement led by John Wycliffe created the groundwork for Protestantism. Later, William Tyndale's translation of the bible into English was widely circulated in the reign of Henry VIII.

The Argument

The groundwork for the reformation was laid in the 14th century when the scholar John Wycliffe translated the Bible into Middle English. In the 1370's he began to attack the Catholic Church for its corrupt practices. He stressed that the true church was invisible and very different from the institutions of Catholicism. In effect, he was advocating a proto-Protestantism. Wycliffe attracted a popular following, nick-named the Lollards. He pushed his followers to read the bible, in order to discern the problems with the established church. [1] By the time the Reformation started, England had been familiar with Lollardry for 150 years already. Another major English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale had an even more powerful effect on the general populace. So dangerous was Willam Tyndale considered to be, that his copy of the bible was banned by Henry VIII prior to the Reformation, and he was kidnapped whilst in exile and executed. The preaching of great Protestant figures such as John Colet and Hugh Latimer would have had little effect were it not for the work of Tyndale in spreading knowledge of scripture to the wider populace.[2] Early attempts to spread English copies of the bible in England led to a growing discontent with Catholicism. Long before Henry VIII chose to break away from the Church there was already a proto-protestant movement.

Counter arguments

Outside of Tudor propaganda, there is not much evidence for widespread discontent with the laity at all. Wolsey himself went on a mission to rid the church of bad behavior which appears to have been successful. The Catholic church filled many important roles in English life at the time. Outside of the towns, few people were literate, and could not engage with the Lollard movement or read the bible.[3] The influence of the early Wycliffe translation on the bible is massively exaggerated. The word Lollard actually means nonsense-talker or mumbler, and there were probably not many people in Wycliffe’s circle. His movement was short-lived and heavily persecuted. In 1407, the Catholic Church had already banned all copies of the bible in English[4] There is no evidence that protestant ideas were popular before Henry VIII began the Reformation.



[P1] Wycliffe's translation of the bible started the early Lollard movement which spread protestant ideas in England long before the Reformation. [P2] William Tyndale's English translation of the Bible was an important part of the protestant movement [C] Early translations of the Bible into English sparked revolutionary protestant ideas.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The Lollard movement was small and not very popular. Few people could read at this time.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 4 Jan 2022 at 02:25 UTC

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