The Bible Was Central to All Intellectual As Well as Moral Life in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’ (Christopher Hill). Do You Agree?

Published: 2021/11/22
Number of words: 8628


Christopher Hill stated within his publication ‘The English Bible and the Seventeenth century Revolution’ that “The Bible was central to all intellectual as well as moral life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”[1]. During the course of this essay I will be assessing whether I agree with this statement. The question has been highly debated on amongst scholars, some feeling the two centuries were the “last great heroic age of the Christian religion”[2]. Whilst others feel that the church was more corrupt than it had been since the tenth century, especially in respect of its higher officials[3], totally discrediting the church and the Christian religion during the period. There is however a general consensus amongst historians that there were changes towards the Bible and its place in intellectual and moral society[4].

In order to assess whether the Bible was central to all moral and intellectual life I will be studying the three major changes during the Renaissance period, the rise in the printing press, scientific/geographical discoveries and the developing secular state. These factors will help me assess where the Bible was placed within the Renaissance world. The theory being if the Bible had significant influence or involvement in these revolutionary changes then Hill is correct in his statement.

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I realise placing the renaissance within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries may be viewed as controversial. Some historians such as Ferguson would disagree as they believe the Renaissance was during the fourteenth and fifteenth century[5]. However, evidence suggests that it is difficult to map a sufficient start and end date to the Renaissance[6], a theory Thompson (a lecturer at Magdalen) agrees with[7]. This makes the date of the Renaissance ambiguous, allowing me to map the Renaissance in the 16th and 17th century in line with other historians[8]. The Renaissance itself is seen as the beginning of a new age of thought on morality and religion[9]

However just because a new age of thought on morality and religion surrounded the Renaissance individual, there is no hint whether the Bible was or wasn’t central to it. During this essay I may refer to the Bibles place in moral and intellectual life before the Renaissance, with particular focus to the medieval period. Peter Burke believes that medieval people took the Bibles word as fact, and were unquestioning of its wisdom[10]. During the Medieval period the Bible was certainly accepted and utilized as the moral and intellectual centre, so any change from that may indicate a decline. But due to the differing social conditions the Medieval period this is not necessarily the case as the Bible may have still been the centre of moral and intellectual life, but what moral and intellectual life may have changed around it. My study will be mainly focused upon men during the 16 and 17th cent as generally the Bible was only used to enhance the view that women were inferior to men[11]

The Printing Press

Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press is credited by some historians as causing, “the most radical transformation in the condition of intellectual life in the history of western civilization”[12]. Other historians believe that without the invention of the printing press the educational revival we call the Renaissance would not have occurred, (particularly in northern Europe)[13]. The impact the printing press had on Renaissance development makes it an important tool for gagging whether the Bible was central to the moral and intellectual life of the sixteenth and seventeenth century person. Acknowledgement must be given to China concerning the invention of the printing press. As some historians note, they had the ability to print on wooden blocks for centuries before Gutenberg’s invention. Although, there was never the ability to mass produce, an ability Gutenberg’s invention coined[14].

The invention of the printing press was considered by many to be the work of God. John Foxe, the author of the ‘Book of Martyrs’ credited Gods good wits and his divine grace in allowing Renaissance men the knowledge to develop the printing press[15]. John Preston felt that the invention of the printing press was “additional proof of the existence of God”[16]. This relatively extreme view is supported by his notion that the printing press allowed for more religious liberty[17]. The fact this new innovative creation was instantly accredited to God by some Renaissance scholars, and not the work of science in technological advances shows the faith men had in God and the Bible, this being evidence to support that it was the centre of intellectual and moral life during the 16th and 17th century.

The first book to be published with this new technology was the Bible, based upon a Latin addition originally from 380AD. The book was produced by a man named Johannes Gutenberg in the German city Mainz. The Bible has become more commonly known amongst historians as the Gutenberg Bible, after its creator. Historians have dated this Bibles creation to around the period 1452-1455[18]. The fact the Bible was the first book created using this new technology proves the importance the Bible had within the Renaissance world. Despite the Gutenberg Bible being created before the turn of the sixteenth century, I feel the significance of the Bible being the first ever published works was reflective of the Renaissance period as an entire entity, which encompasses the sixteenth century. Not just the exact date it was produced.

After the first Bible was produced with this new technology, many more followed. Hill estimates that by 1640 there were over a million publications of the Bible and the New Testament in England alone[19]. Ariel Hessayon is more exact in his estimation, stating that between 1525 and 1700 there were possibly as many as 1,290,000 copies of the Bible and 545,000 copies of the New Testament that were written in English alone[20]. The mass of Bibles that were produced within the 16th and 17th century, show there must have been demand for the Bible from the public. This can only serve to show the Bible was the moral and intellectual centre of the lives of the Renaissance masses.

Other published works also showed the devotion of 16th and 17th century men to religion. A striking feature of autobiographies written by German and Swiss men was that they seemed extremely concerned to show their religious conformity[21]. For example an autobiography by a physician from Basle, named Felix Platter, particularly focused upon his religious experiences as an adolescent, mainly the Bible reading session he had with his family before Sunday service[22]. This example of 16th/17th century life described within the autobiography supports the view that the Bible was both the intellectual and moral centre of life. Other works were produced within the 16th and 17th century with strong religious views. In 1503 Erasmus produced ‘Enchiridion militis Christiani’, this was a book made supposedly to encourage a particularly “dissolute husband on the practice of Christianity” [23]. The Bible and many works showing support of its teachings were produced during those two centuries; it is hard to argue against its place as the centre of both moral and intellectual life in the 16th and 17th centuries.

However, it was not just religious based publications which the new printing press created during the 16th and 17th centuries. Printing was said to have “popularized the results of science and learning”[24]. Figures suggest that between the years 1520-1599 scientific works rose to make up at least 20% of all publications[25]. This could show science was becoming the new centre of Renaissance life, not the Bible. For example, the first edition of ‘De revolutionibus orbium caelestium’ written by Copernicus was published in 1543 by one of his pupils[26]. This was a summary of his theory that the sun was the centre of the universe and the earth orbited around it[27]. Scientific ideas like this were now being published at the expense of Biblical texts. This could show the Bible was not the centre of 16th and 17th century moral and intellectual life. Gilmore believes that the printing press also helped to further the knowledge scholars had in ancient Greek literature and philosophy[28]. In 1500 Erasmus published ‘Adages’, which was a collection of proverbs “culled” from ancient authors[29]. Works like this may have encouraged men like Nicholas V to follow their classical interests. Even at the Vatican, projects were undertaken to translate and publish Greek literature, particularly the work of Aristotle and the Laws of Plato[30]. The fact the printing press so readily produced works on non religious subjects, shows that the Bible was not central to all moral and intellectual life, as it was losing its place to other interests, such as science and the classics.

The invention of the printing press aided the translation of the Bible, from the vernacular into languages all could understand. For example, Burke tells how in 1522 Luther created a Bible totally in German. This feat was replicated in England by William Tyndale 1522[31], France in 1540, and then in Sweden in 1541[32], where Bibles were produced in their national language. Protestants in particular are noted to have felt it a, “high priority”, that the Bible was translated into languages they could read[33]. The translation of the Bible into various languages, “helped restore the Bible as the major focus for discussions”[34]; this confirms the Bible as the centre of intellectual life. Kepler, states that the Bible speaks the language of every man[35], but now the Bible could be read and understood by every literate man[36] (women, except noblewomen and gentlewomen were forbidden from reading or discussing the New Testament by parliament under Henry VIII) [37].

Hill feels it was very important people were able to read the Bible for themselves, and not just believe the word of the Church[38]. Now the Bible could be read, it was a focal point of discussion and intellectual debate by all that wished to participate. Even in typical living establishments, Bible based discussions were said to be presided over by the head of the household[39]. This proves the Bible was certainly the centre of the intellectual world. Also, evidence suggests that most children learned to read and develop their own intellect through the Bible[40], further argues the case for its intellectual importance to the Renaissance world. Children developing their intellect through the Bible also hints at its moral value, as 16th/17th century parents would want their children to learn from something they considered morally sound. The translation of the Bible into more languages also caused the rise of national pride within different nations. Martin Luther’s German Bible made the Saxon dialect the literary language of modern Germany, further proof of the Bibles intellectual value[41]. Similar effects were felt in England, as it asserted the English language over French Normans, whose language had dominated, particularly in the 11th and 14th century[42]. Those who translated the Bible were said to be martyrs (Tyndale, Rogers, and Cramner) who went against clerical establishments to produce these works as they felt it was morally right[43]. The strength of moral feeling surrounding the Bible by the translators shows it was the centre of their moral lives.

However, the Bible was not the only religious text to be translated during this period. John of Segovia produced a new translation of the Koran in the 1450s; because he believed that the previous translator had introduced Western ideas to the text[44].This made the Bible seem more of a sequence of religious translations, rather than the centre of all intellectual and moral life. It could be argued that these new translations also slightly discredited the Bible. Nineham suggests that translations were extremely difficult as words now had new meanings so were out of context[45] or possibly just incorrect. For example, at a sermon in August 1651, a preacher stated that disapproval of astrology within the Bible was only there due to mistranslation[46]. These potential mistakes may have discredited the Bible to both intellectuals and those who were morally bound by it.

The problem with some translations is that writers were able to impose their own view upon the Bible. A typical example of this is Erasmus’s New Testament in Greek, with a new Latin translation in Greek which was produced in 1516[47]. Within this Bible, Erasmus left out the comma of Johanneum, causing much controversy[48]. Erasmus also introduced a preface to each Gospel and Epistle, telling of the contradictions between the teaching of Christ and the practices of the Church[49]. These additions could be viewed as disrespectful and morally wrong, but they show 16th and 17th century men formulated strong opinions about the Bible, even if they were differing opinions, which shows the Bible was the intellectual centre of their lives. The invention of the printing press meant “Heresy could no longer be silenced or suppressed” [50]. Luther, used printing to popularise his attack on Rome[51], which shows religion and the Bible was losing its power as the centre of moral lives which it had during the medieval period.

Although, the printing press allowed everyday individuals to own their own Bible. Ownership of the Bible heavily increased in some regions. In Keevil, ownership within probate documents was 18% between 1630-49, where as it had only been 4% from 1590-1629. This does not take into account cheaper Bibles that would not have been mentioned on probate records[52]; which would support Christopher Hills’ statement. However, in Sweden where adult literacy was recorded at 90%, (the criteria used to define literacy being just the ability to sign your name), only one household in twenty was recorded to have owned a Bible[53]. Showing not everyone was in awe of the Bibles intellectual and moral value. In any case, Greterz suggests the Bible was often used as furniture or within ornamental cupboards as a status symbol[54]. In essence the printing press put the Bible in the hands of more people who benefited intellectually and followed its moral teachings. But Hill suggests some were unhappy at the Bible being read by everyone, as people had the ability to merely sit and read the Bible in ale houses[55]. This shows both, peoples strong moral conviction for how they wished the Bible to be treated, and the intellectual interest it generated as men were interested enough to read and discuss it within pubs. This is further evidence to support Hills theory that the Bible was central to all moral and intellectual life in the 16th and 17th century.

The rise of the printing press also allowed the Bible to be viewed and treated in different ways. Valla’s ‘annotations on the New Testament’, shows the Bible was often treated as a historical document[56], in that the Bible faced the same criticism as every other document. Luther for example, theorised that Moses was not in fact the author of Pentateuch[57]. This was considered to be Hersey as the Bible should not have been questioned. Many are said to have professed to be Christians in order to bring religion into disrepute, by making negative comments within their critique[58]. This would show that the Bible was not the centre of the moral and intellectual world as it was being treated in the same manner as any historical document. Scholars such as Erasmus also made comparisons between the Bible and classical literature[59]. Despite the printing press publishing works that some may have considered heretical, (like the comparative/critical pieces on the Bible), the Bible can still be seen as the intellectual centre as so many scholars studied it, even if they didn’t have a strong moral affiliation to it. Some would also argue that the practice of treating the Bible as a historical document was done as early as 233-304BC[60], so it may have been a continuing tradition, rather than proof that the Bible was not the moral centre.

Geographical and Scientific discoveries

Evidence from Green suggests that there was increasing confidence in the potential of human will. This was based upon the geographical and scientific achievements which had been made during the 16th and 17th century. Green believed that this caused tension with religion, that these new trends in society, ousted religious faith more and more.[61] Scientists like Galileo made the practice of science very popular[62], however the theories of others such as Copernicus were “condemned as hetrodox” [63]. It was also a heretic Servetus who discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood[64]. The way many scientists broke away from traditional views to make these discoveries, gained some public support, despite them being thought of as heretics, shows science was overtaking religion as the moral and intellectual centre of the 16th and 17th century life. Scholars were now aiming to seek natural, rather than supernatural causes for occurrences within history[65], and there were now scientific explanations and evidence which could rationalize events, rather than being attributed to an act of God.

Galileo believed so strongly in his scientific work that he was said to have had a “combative style”, this ultimately led to a famous confrontation with the Catholic Church[66]. Cameron states that the consequence of these new scientific discoveries had the impact of bringing the whole basis of orthodox Christianity into question, this is commonly known as the ‘crisis of conscience’[67]. Furthermore, the 16th and 17th century are said to be a time which was “favourable to the flourishing of modern scientific thought” [68], these thoughts and discoveries ousted religion and became the new centre of the moral and intellectual world, disproving Hills statement. However, in some cases it is clear that the Bible was still the moral centre, if not the intellectual centre, evident in a case involving Copernicus. Copernicus was too cautious to publish the conclusions of his theories himself, which is why one is his pupils had to do it for him. Galileo was afraid to admit, (50 years after its original publication), that he was in support of this theory for fear he would be laughed at[69]. This shows that despite innovators such as Galileo and Copernicus providing their intellectual theories from non Biblical related sources, the general population of 16th and 17th century men, still had a moral affiliation to the Bible and they did not take these new intellectual discoveries seriously. This view both proves and disproves Hills theory as ‘intellectuals’ were using the Bible as their guide less and less, but the ‘masses’ still kept it as the moral compass of their worlds, often leading scientists views to be discredited when contradictory or controversial to Biblical views.

There is evidence to suggest however, that science and the Bible were not entirely separate entities. Cameron suggests that sciences such as Neo-Platonism, alchemy and astrology flourished strongly within Catholic courts[70]. The distinction between a religious belief, and a scientific one was not always clear cut. This is evident with Newton’s theory of universal attraction, some Christians believed this to have been further proof of the evidence of God. Cameron tells how mechanical philosophers in Europe resisted Newtonianism for decades[71]. Followers of the Bible were able to support scientific discoveries despite still being morally affiliated to the Bible. Also, but the way Catholic courts discussed science, shows the Christian world was not adverse to its ideas. This means Hill may still be correct in the theory he produced, but there is still the possibility that science and religious belief complimented each other and were of equal import to the world.

However, there are historians that would argue the Bible was the only factor of the moral and intellectual lives of 16th and 17th century people. Hill argues that for “most scientists” the Bible was central, and provides evidence to support this statement this statement, such as Richard Hakluyt who was brought to cosmology by reading the 107th Psalm[72]. Further evidence is seen involving the science of Alchemy, the predecessor of chemistry. This was a science which is described as being very Biblical in its nature. In a sermon, taken in 1622 the statement “God can work in all metals and transmute metals”[73]. This shows the Bible was the central to the intellectual world as intellectuals still took there knowledge and created scientific theories based upon its readings.

Some scientists focused much of there attention on the Bible. Napier and Merchiston at the beginning of the 16th century studied Biblical texts in order to predict when the date of the end of the world. This work was continued by Isaac Newton towards the end of the 16th century[74]. Newton is described by some as “the most prominent intellectual” of the 17th century[75]. He was one scientist who studied the Bible and made sustained attempts to deny Trinitarians[76]. He was the scientist who discovered the comma Erasmus had put in his New Testament was a sham[77]. Scientists like Newton, that studied the Bible so intently, prove it to be central to intellectual life. They were the intellectuals of their time, and by using the Bible for their scientific study they cemented its importance, which supports Hills statement.

The Renaissance period is also seen as a time which is synonymous with the “discovery of the New world” [78] as well as scientific findings. When Columbus sailed west and discovered America, no one within the Christian world would have dared to do such a thing, in case they feel from the edge of the Earth[79]. The way Columbus sailed, unafraid of the Christian theory that the world was flat, shows he had individual thoughts not based upon the Bibles teachings, which proves the Bible was not centre of the intellectual and moral world. However, it seems clear that in the majority of cases these views were believed, therefore Hills statement does apply.

Travellers during the 16th and 17th century, on voyages of discovery often wrote very favourably about God and the protection He gave during his voyages. Sastrow in 1546 wrote that he relied on God for protection during his journey; he also said that he felt Gods presence during his expedition[80]. God was often claimed to have saved the lives of certain travellers, such as Mahler, who survived a storm in 1547, or Guntzer who thanked God for his protection from robbers he encountered during his travels[81]. This seems to be a move away from the scientific approach of natural explanations being the reasons for incidences. A famous example of this is Protestants during 16th and 17th century England believed the plague was in fact a punishment from God[82]. The travellers of the Renaissance prove that God was the centre of the intellectual and moral world as they still felt God had a hand in there exploratory success. This view is also supported by the voyage of Cortes, a man who both discovered and conquered areas which were once part of the Aztec empire. He stated that the lands he claimed he did so in the name of God[83], proving the Bible and its teachings were very important, and the centre of their lives. Some historians argue these geographical discoveries were not as important as the scientific ones[84], meaning it may not deserve the attention of scientific innovations. But, despite the encouragement it gave for the possibility of human will, it only goes further to prove Hills statement, as human will, is still very much to be thought of, as Gods doing.

The Secular State

During the Renaissance there was a growing power of the centralized state governments, making the state the most significant unit in European political life[85]. This change is said to be “the greatest significance for the future of our Western civilization”[86]. Like the Western civilizations the Renaissance scholars studied, Mattingly tells that governments made an attempt to break away their ties with religion[87]. The state began to exact more dominance and control over principalities, for example Kings were able to select men to be Bishops. The Bishops chosen, often neglected their duties as their interests were that of a secular nature. One example of this is Antoine du Prat. He was awarded with the position of archbishop of Sens for his work in negotiating the concordat of Bologna. Yet the only time he entered his cathedral is when he was carried in for his funeral[88]. In some cases, states threatened to totally break away from the obedience of the papacy and the Pope. In 1508 Ferdinand of Aragon threatened to withdraw his obedience because a bill of excommunication sent into Ferdinand’s kingdom of Naples[89]. Other kingdoms followed through on similar threats, for example the Order of German Knights in East Prussia 1525[90]. Historians such as Koenigsberger argue that states made convenient reason to renounce allegiance to Rome as it meant they were able to establish control more effectively[91]. This would show the Bible was not the centre of the intellectual and moral world as governments and states were able to function well without it with governments being the real rulers.

Even art and literature, which had once been employed to serve the church was now used to glorify the Princes and other state members[92]. There was a departure from the traditional religious Gothic art[93], there is also evidence that the inspiration for works of art were being taken from pagan sources, not just Christian[94]. The way art and literature shifted its focus from the religious to the secular shows the Bible was no longer the centre of the intellectual and moral world. States became more tolerant of those who were seen as heretics. Francis I was one who adopted a more lenient attitude and protected critics of the church from prosecution[95]. Not only did states enact control over religion, Machiavelli felt religion was used as a useful tool for the state[96]. If the state was more powerful than religion, essentially it made the rules for moral life through law (which was not in accord with the Bible) [97] which makes the Bible secondary to the state, disproving Hills theory.

The rise of the secular state could be the explanation for an increase in what could be considered immorality by followers of the Bible. Wrightson and Levine’s research indicates there were a growing number of bastard births during the 16th and 17th century. At one point the illegitimacy ratio was 9 per cent in the year 1601-10[98]. There is the possibility figures may have been higher but many simply made themselves scarce and did not reveal their bastard child[99]. The “Godly laymen” who represented the Bibles teachings within certain villages, such as Terling, were totally against these illegitimate births, as they were immoral[100]. This shows that the moral rules being set out by the Bible were being ignored, which disproves Hills theory. It could be that the Bible was replaced by the state, as the “moral absolute”, as suggested by Mattingly[101]

Gilmore suggests that humanists, such as Valla, Politian and Mercula made investigations and studies of monarchist states such as Spain and Italy[102], evidence of the growing interest in secular states. Even Erasmus, who was hired as a bishop in 1494 was said to have had secular interests[103], this is further evidence that secular society was displacing the Bible as the centre of moral and intellectual life. This could explain the evidence of Christian apathy which occurred around this time. In 1453 Nicholas V appealed for Christians to come together for a crusade[104], but this was largely ignored and a policy of appeasement was made with the Turks instead[105]. If the people cared to protect the Bible against the Muslim threat then they would have mounted some form of offensive.

It must be acknowledges that, there were many religious wars during this period, but Green feels that the wars that happened between 1562 and 1592 were more about the King maintaining his absolute authority, than any real religious reason[106]. Also, most European rulers are said to have only became Protestant in order to justify the confiscation of religious property and set themselves up as leader of both Church and state[107]. The new secular state was of interest to intellectuals, who now seemed to want to separate themselves from the church, evident in the Royal Society who changed there name to Nulluis in Verba (i.e. they refused to be bound by the words of any authority, however sacred) [108]. Also, people such as Machiavelli, were now looking to the state for salvation, rather than the Bible[109]. This shows the rise in the secular state disproves Hills theory.

However, Hill argues that the Bible was central to the political world[110]. This in turn would make the Bible the centre of all intellectual and moral life. There is evidence to suggest the importance of the Bible in the secular political world. Hobbes made 6 political works and in all there were 1,327 Biblical quotations within it[111]. James Harrington, another secular writer, quoted and cited the Bible more than any other source[112]. Politicians even quoted the Bible within their speeches, in 1648, Cromwell told a group of MPs, “thou shalt not suffer a hypocrite to reign”, in reference to King Charles[113]. The fact even politicians treated the Bible as a reference source using it for their intellectual and moral compass, proof Hills statement was correct. These were the men who were most separated from religion in this secular state, yet even they saw it as their centre, therefore one can speculate that most citizens would have just as much, or even more so.

Many laws were enacted by the state, which shows they wished to protect the Bible and its teachings. In 1529 a law was passed in Ausburg forbidding the destruction of religious objects[114] (this would include the Bible). In France, the definition of Heresy was widened, it now included all discussion of scripture by laymen, distribution of religious books without a licence and the speaking of words contrary to the Holy Catholic faith and the Christian religion[115]. There were also an increased number of court prosecutions relating to religious observance and personal morality[116]. Festivals were looked down upon by the courts, and in 1624 five men were prosecuted for the crime of dancing on a Sunday[117]. This shows the state took special interest in protecting the Bible and its teachings. Even though the state may have been becoming more secular, it is evident that even state members saw the Bible as the centre of the moral and intellectual world during the 16th and 17th century.

There was an intimate relationship between religion and the monarchy. This is indicated in the coronation ceremony for the Kings of France. The king was anointed with a celestial balm, which imitated the ceremony of a Bishop. He was also given a crown which resembled the crown of thorns that Jesus was forced to wear. Once the coronation was over the King was said to now be, a holy man, a saint and the most Christian King[118]. Due to these coronations, Kings were said to feel they had an obligation to stop the spread of heresy, for example Francis I, who was heavily opposed heresy[119]. Even soldiers of the King showed their religious affiliations as they often went into battle singing Psalms[120].

In many cases, states were not secular, and were entirely crafted around religion. The peace of Ausburg in 1555 left Germany divided up into separate states based upon their religious association[121]. The leaders of Protestant states became their own pope; they changed to either Protestant of Catholic by a local veto[122]. This shows religion was very much a part of the creation of the state and shows that a secular state was not becoming the sole centre of the intellectual and moral world. It must also be noted that some still thought that religion was the highest order, not the state. Dante for example, felt that man’s highest goal was “the grace of God” [123], rather than any intellectual or secular based goals. Showing the Bible was valued more as the intellectual and moral centre than the state could be, despite it becoming more secular. Some even thought that the state only existed because it was created by God. Generally these comments were made in negative connotations towards the state. St. Augustine for example, felt that Governments only existed because people were wicked, and they were sent by God for punishment for their subjects’ sins[124]. Ferguson believes Luther would be another who would agree with this statement[125]. This shows, that despite the state becoming more secular, the Bible was still the centre of moral and intellectual world as it still commanded more authority as the rational was, it was all created by God anyway.

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To conclude, I do agree with Hills statement that ’The Bible was central to all intellectual as well as moral life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’ to some extent. The three major changes that I have highlighted all do seem to indicate that the Bible was the intellectual centre of their worlds. The printing press seemed to be used to mainly print works which were either the Bible itself, or about the Bible. A similar trend was seen in science. Scientist such as Newton studied the Bible, indicating its intellectual importance. In terms of the state, there is clear indication that the state was becoming more secular, but there seems to be a respect for the Bible from the state, it was supported by the state through laws. In many cases religion was the reason for the states existence, as seen in Germany and their divided states. We also see, what could be conceived as sensitivity, in men who didn’t publish revolutionary/heretical ideas which would have discredited the Bible like Copernicus. The intellectuals such as Machiavelli and Erasmus show the relationship between the Bible being the intellectual and moral centre of the 16th and 17th century.

Machiavelli’s views were often seen as heretical, so much so no good Christian was allowed to read his work[126], but even he acknowledge the linear view that God did sometimes have a hand in occurrences that happened on earth[127]. Erasmus, despite any secular interests, died a strong Catholic, still believing in the principles of the Bible[128]. Showing how important the Bible was morally, to the intellectuals of the 16th and 17th century. However, what I disagree with about Hills statement is that it was the ‘centre’ of moral and intellectual life. This implies it was the most important aspect of moral and intellectual life, with either no other characteristic of intellectual/moral life, or all other types being subservient to the Bible. This I do not agree with, whilst I believe that the Bible was extremely important to life in the 16th and 17th century but other interests were of equal import. The printing press did not just print religious works, it produced the work of science, the classic and an indicating growth in popularity of the study of the state. The growing state, and the new interest in science, could be conceived as the main features which helped society evolve into what we see it today. So although I feel Hill is right to a certain extent, I feel that although the Bible was important to 16th and 17th moral and intellectual life, it was not the centre.


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Peter Burke, The Renaissance sense of the past (Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd, 1969)

Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (Maurice Temple Smith Ltd, 1978)

Peter Burke, The Renaissance, second edition (Palgrave, 1997)

Euan Cameron, Early Modern Europe an Oxford History (Oxford University Press Inc, 1999)

Wallace K. Ferguson, The Renaissance, (Henry Holt and the Company Inc, 1945)

Wallace K. Ferguson, Facets of the Renaissance (Harper and Row Publishers inc, 1963)

Field and James, Renaissance and Revolution (Cambridge University press, 1993)

Myron P Gilmore, The world of Humanism 1453-1517, (Harper and Row Publishers limited, 1962)

V.H.H Green, Renaissance and reformation (the University Press Aberdeen, 1952)

Kaspar Von Greyerz, Religion and society in early modern Europe 1500-1800 (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006)

Hessayon and Keene, Scripture and Scholarship in early modern, (Ashgate Publishing limited, 2006)

Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the seventeenth-century Revolution (Penguin group 1993)

G Koenigsberger, Early modern Europe 1500-1789 (Longman group UK limited, 1987)

Dennis Nineham, The Use and Abuse of the Bible (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1976)

Martyn Rady, France 1494-1610 Renaissance Religion and Recovery (Hodder and

Stoughton Ltd, 1992)

J.M Thompson, Lectures of Foreign history 1494-1798, (Basil Blackwell, 1947)

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Non Published references

Cortés. (2007) [DVD] Producer Andrew Greive [Viewed 15th December 2009]

Gutenberg Bible History, Origin of the Gutenberg Bible <> [Accessed 1st October 2009]

[1] Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the seventeenth-century Revolution (Penguin group 1993) p.20

[2] H. G Koenigsberger, Early modern Europe 1500-1789 (Longman group UK limited, 1987) p.135

[3] V.H.H Green, Renaissance and reformation (the University Press Aberdeen, 1952) p.112

[4] Dennis Nineham, The Use and Abuse of the Bible (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1976) p.96

[5] Wallace K. Ferguson, The Renaissance, (Henry Holt and the Company Inc, 1945) p.5

[6] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.132

[7] J.M Thompson, Lectures of Foreign history 1494-1798, (Basil Blackwell, 1947) p.16

[8] Green, Renaissance, p. preface

[9] Thompson, Lectures, p.16

[10] Peter Burke, The Renaissance sense of the past (Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd, 1969) p.3

[11] Hill, The English, p.29

[12] Myron P Gilmore, The world of Humanism 1453-1517, (Harper and Row Publishers limited, 1962) p.186

[13] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.108

[14] Gilmore, The world, p.187

[15] Wallace K. Ferguson, Facets of the Renaissance (Harper and Row Publishers inc, 1963), p.5

[16] Hill, The English, p.10

[17] Hill, The English, p.10

[18] Gutenberg Bible History, Origin of the Gutenberg Bible <> [Accessed 1st October 2009]

[19] Hill, The English, p.18

[20] Hessayon and Keene, Scripture and Scholarship in early modern, (Ashgate Publishing limited, 2006) p.1

[21] Kaspar Von Greyerz, Religion and society in early modern Europe 1500-1800 (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006) p.225

[22] Greyerz, Religion, p.226

[23] Gilmore, The world, p.225

[24] Thompson, Lectures, p.22

[25] Peter Burke, The Renaissance, second edition (Palgrave, 1997) p.89

[26] Thompson, Lectures, p.19

[27] Thompson, Lectures, p.19

[28] Gilmore, The world, p.190

[29] Gilmore, The world, p.225

[30] Gilmore, The world, p.190

[31] Keene, Scripture,p.117

[32] Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (Maurice Temple Smith Ltd, 1978) p.223

[33] Burke, Popular Culture, p.223

[34] Keene, Scripture,p.117

[35] Hill, The English, p.22

[36] Burke, Popular Culture, p.223

[37] Hill, The English, p.11

[38] Hill, The English, p.40

[39] Hill, The English, p.17

[40] Hill, The English, p.11

[41] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.128

[42] Hill, The English, p.7

[43] Hill, The English, p.11

[44] Burke, The Renaissance, p.59

[45] Dennis Nineham, The Use, p.111

[46] Hill, The English, p.25

[47] Thompson, Lectures, p.64

[48] Keene, Scripture,p.117

[49] Thompson, Lectures, p.65

[50] Thompson, Lectures, p.27

[51] Thompson, Lectures, p.23

[52] Greyerz, Religion, p.187

[53] Burke, Popular Culture, p.224

[54] Greyerz, Religion, p.187

[55] Hill, The English, p.15

[56] Burke, The Renaissance, p.59

[57] Burke, The Renaissance, p.64

[58] Keene, Scripture,p.111

[59] Green, Renaissance, p. 45

[60] Burke, The Renaissance, p.138

[61] Green, Renaissance, p. 55

[62] Field and James, Renaissance and Revolution (Cambridge University press, 1993) p.6

[63] Green, Renaissance, p. 51

[64] Green, Renaissance, p. 53

[65] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.135

[66] Euan Cameron, Early Modern Europe an Oxford History (Oxford University Press Inc, 1999) p.193

[67] Cameron, Early Modern, p.189

[68] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.136

[69] Thompson, Lectures, p.19

[70] Cameron, Early Modern, p.172

[71] Cameron, Early Modern, p.197

[72] Hill, The English, p.21

[73] Hill, The English, p.23

[74] Hill, The English, p.23

[75] Keene, Scripture,p.128

[76] Keene, Scripture,p.128

[77] Keene, Scripture,p.129

[78] Thompson, Lectures, p.17

[79] Thompson, Lectures, p.17

[80] Greyerz, Religion, p.227

[81] Greyerz, Religion, p.227

[82] Greyerz, Religion, p.226

[83] Cortés. (2007) [DVD] Producer Andrew Greive [Viewed 15th December 2009]

[84] Thompson, Lectures, p.19

[85] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.39

[86] Ferguson, Facets, p.20

[87] Ferguson, Facets, p.28

[88] Gilmore, The world, p.166

[89] Koenigsberger, Early modern, p.60

[90] Koenigsberger, Early modern, p.61

[91] Koenigsberger, Early modern, p.61

[92] Green, Renaissance, p. 32

[93] Ferguson, The Renaissance, p.71

[94] Thompson, Lectures, p.25

[95] Martyn Rady, France 1494-1610 Renaissance Religion and Recovery (Hodder and

Stoughton Ltd, 1992) p.43

[96] Ferguson, Facets, p.36

[97] Hill, The English, p.28

[98] Greyerz, Religion, p.178

[99] Greyerz, Religion, p.186

[100] Greyerz, Religion, p.180

[101] Ferguson, Facets, p.36

[102] Gilmore, The world, p.182

[103] Gilmore, The world, p.224

[104] Gilmore, The world, p.15

[105] Gilmore, The world, p.18

[106] Green, Renaissance, p. 266

[107] Rady, France, p.42

[108] Dennis Nineham, The Use, p.61

[109] Ferguson, Facets, p.34

[110] Hill, The English, p.31

[111] Hill, The English, p.20

[112] Hill, The English, p.21

[113] Hill, The English, p.33

[114] Keith Whitlock, The Renaissance in Europe (Yale University Press, 2000) p.212

[115] Rady, France, p.44

[116] Greyerz, Religion, p.182

[117] Greyerz, Religion, p.188

[118] Rady, France, p.40

[119] Rady, France, p.42

[120] Burke, Popular Culture, p.225

[121] Thompson, Lectures, p.73

[122] Thompson, Lectures, p.75

[123] Ferguson, Facets ,p.23

[124] Ferguson, Facets, p.37

[125] Ferguson, Facets, p.37

[126] Koenigsberger, Early modern, p.77

[127] Burke, The Renaissance, p.77

[128] Green, Renaissance, p. 111

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