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The Abbey of St. Victor was frequented by a number of very famous medieval people. On this episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces us to three fascinating people who spent time there.

The Abbey of St. Victor, Paris

The Abbey of St. Victor in Paris was founded around 1108. It began as an Augustinian community, and a number of very famous medieval people made their way through the abbey. Thomas Becket studied there. He was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral, so that’s a fascinating story. Peter Lombard spent some time there. He would come to be the author of the Four Books of Sentences, a standard medieval textbook on theology. It was the book that Martin Luther had to study and master. We’re going to look at three key figures who had a long association with the abbey. They’re all from the 1100s, and they are Hugh of St. Victor, Richard of St. Victor, and Adam of St. Victor.

Hugh was born around 1096 in Saxony. He made his way to Paris and died there in 1141. From 1120 through 1140, he was master of the school at St. Victor. He gets credit for books he likely didn’t write; they were probably written anonymously by others in the abbey and were later attributed to him. But one book that we know he did write was his book on the sacraments. In this book, he starts by talking about why we need the sacraments. The first line says, “Man’s first sin was pride.” From that first sin came three consequences—death, depravity of the flesh, and depravity of the mind. So far, Hugh of St. Victor is rather Augustinian in his outlook, and when he turns to Christ, he remains Augustinian. This is what he says:

From our nature he took a victim for our nature that the whole burnt offering to be offered up for us might come from that which is ours. In other words, this Redeemer, Christ, had to be us; had to be flesh; had to be truly human. This he did in order that the redemption might have to do with us by this very fact that the offering had to be taken from that which is ours. We are truly made partakers of this redemption if we, through faith, are united to the Redeemer Himself who, through the flesh, entered into fellowship with us.

We also have Richard of St. Victor. Richard was born in Scotland and also made his way to Paris. From 1162 until 1173, he was head of the abbey at St. Victor. He died there in 1173. He is classified as a mystic, but he also wanted to systematize and bring a structure to mysticism. Among his many books was a book on the Trinity. He opens that book by talking about the three ways we have of knowing: by experience, by reason, and by believing. He continues, “The main things we know, or the main reason we can know, is by faith, by believing. That is first.”

Finally, there is Adam of St. Victor. He was a theologian too, but he was also a poet. Let’s just end with a stanza from one of his poems:

“Here the world’s perpetual warfare holds from heaven the soul apart;

Legioned foes in shadowy terror vex the Sabbath of the heart.

O how happy that estate where delight doth not abate!

For that home the spirit yearneth where none languisheth nor mourneth.”

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On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces Esther Edwards Burr: daughter of Jonathan Edwards, wife to a Princeton President, and mother of a US vice president.

Esther Edwards Burr

Esther Edwards Burr was the third of eleven children born to Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. She was born on February 13, 1732, in Northampton, Mass. She lived through the Great Awakening as an eight- to ten-year-old, and it’s fascinating how that event formed and shaped her. In 1752, she was married after a whirlwind courtship to Aaron Burr Sr.

Aaron Burr was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Newark, N.J., and president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in Newark. He went to Massachusetts with the goal of proposing to and marrying Esther Edwards. After five days, she said yes to his proposal, and he returned to Newark. Two weeks later, she came to Newark, accompanied by her mother. When she got to Newark, she and Burr got married.

In 1752, she had a visit from a friend named Sarah Prince. Sarah was the daughter of Thomas Prince, who was pastor of Old South Church in Boston and a supporter of Edwards through the Great Awakening. Esther and Sarah were about the same age, and they became friends over the course of Esther’s many trips to Boston, during which she spent time in the Prince household. Sarah would also visit Esther in Newark, but eventually she was no longer able to do so. Sarah and Esther decided that they would keep journals and that they would periodically share those journals with each other as a way to continue their friendship. So, from October 1, 1754, until the fall of 1757, Esther Burr kept a detailed diary of most of her days and what was happening in her life.

Some of the accounts and entries are very short. On Monday, January 12, 1756, all she says is, “Mr. Burr gone to New York and I as busy as a bee.” Some of them are a little bit more full and give insight into the life she had. One of them tells the story of when she visited Princeton when they were building the new home of the College of New Jersey. She says, “Soon after breakfast we went up to the college to take a more particular view of that,” that is, the college building, “and our house. The college is a famous building, I assure you, and the most commodious of any of the colleges as well as much the largest of any upon the continent.” And that was true. At the time of Nassau Hall’s construction, it was the largest building in the American Colonies. Esther Edwards Burr goes on to say, “There is something very striking in it and a grandeur and yet a simplicity that can’t well be expressed. I am well pleased with the house they have begun for us. You have a room in it,” she says to her friend Sarah Prince. On another day, she talks about soldiers being quartered in the house. She says, “In the evening, fifty soldiers to sup at this house and lodge, which surprised me much. But they behaved better than I expected considering they came from Rhode Island.” I’m not sure what that means, so I’m just going to leave it at that. “They are going for recruit,” she adds. “How many difficulties one meets in a journey just so with our journey through this life.”

Esther Edwards Burr gave birth to Aaron Burr Jr., the future vice president of the United States, on February 6, 1756. Aaron Burr Sr. died in the fall of 1757. Jonathan Edwards came down to be president of Princeton, and he died in the spring of 1758. And on April 7, 1758, Esther Edwards Burr died of a fever. She was the third child of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, the wife of Aaron Burr Sr., the mother of Aaron Burr Jr., and a Colonial diarist.

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How should Christians think about war? On this episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols discusses how Augustine helps us to approach this question from a Christian perspective.

Just War

Augustine of Hippo provided the church with a number of crucial phrases. We have the phrase ex nihilo, meaning that creation was made out of nothing. Another phrase that Augustine gave us is not only important for the church but actually one that’s important for political philosophy. The Latin expression is jus ad bellum, or “just war.”

Augustine’s thinking on the topic grew out of his circumstances. In 410, as the Visigoths were laying waste to Rome, the Romans blamed the Christians and their refusal to participate in the civic religion for the city’s downfall. Augustine wrote an apologetic response: The City of God. In this book, Augustine provides helpful guidance for thinking about what it means to be a Christian in challenging times. But he also sketches out his idea of a just war. He laid out two components to his theory of just war: the first concerned legitimate reasons for going to war, and the second concerned how a state or a military ought to conduct itself in order to wage war in a just manner.

These were important questions for Christians. Many Christians up until Augustine’s day were pacifists, based on their reading of the sixth commandment—“Thou shalt not kill.” Augustine thought about the issue a little bit differently. His reading of the New Testament, and particularly regarding Christians’ obligation to the state as outlined in Romans 13, led him to believe that the state does have an obligation in waging war. So he moved away from a pacifist understanding of war. But how are we as Christians to approach the topic of war from a Christian perspective? This is where Augustine helps us. The first thing he does is ask how we are to think about war and about the point of war. It sounds counterintuitive, but this is what Augustine says: “We wage wars because we are interested in peace. It is ultimately peace that we seek, not war, and war is a means not to itself, but it is a means to peace.” He goes on: “For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing part which compels the wise man to wage just wars, and this wrongdoing, even though it gave rise to war, should still be a matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrongdoing. Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils—so horrible, so ruthless—acknowledge that this is misery.” Augustine is saying that war is misery, but it is necessary for peace.

In thinking about war, Augustine lays out criteria for a just war, reasons why a nation should go to war. He makes the case that, first of all, war should be a last resort. Are there other options? States should exhaust diplomatic options before going to war. He then asks, what are the parameters of war? He talks about whether the war will end once the cause for the war is avenged and the reason for the war is accomplished. He asks if there has been a wrong committed that warrants a war. Then he asks, is force used properly? In a war, there should be a distinction between combatants and noncombatants, and civilians should be protected. In asking these questions, Augustine helped us as Christians to think about just war.

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On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols reflects on the life and ministry of Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Remembering Dr. R.C. Sproul

It’s with a heavy heart that I welcome you back to this episode of Five Minutes In Church History. We acknowledge the passing of Dr. RC Sproul. Dr. Sproul, of course, with no stranger to Five Minutes In Church History. We even had him on here talking about his books for his “Time on a deserted island” – and he will be missed.

On this episode, we’re going to spend a little bit of time talking about his life. He was a figure in church history, and will have a legacy in church history.

I remember reading that he was “an American born theologian”. Well, I’d like to modify that a little bit and say, “He was a son of Pittsburgh”. Yes, he was an American, but he was born in Pittsburgh on February 13, 1939.

His dad, also RC Sproul, was the proprietor of RC Sproul and Sons Accounting. Its offices were right in downtown Pittsburgh. On Christmas Eve of 1942, Dr. Sproul – just a young kid at the time – his father landed in Casablanca and Morocco to serve in World War II.

When you talked to RC about his early childhood, he will tell you that it was about the war. It was the time, these early years of the 1940s, that were dominated by World War II. In fact, he remembers typing his very first letters – they were X’s & O’s. He was sitting on his mother‘s lap as she was typing letters to her husband, and he would hop up on her lap and at the bottom of that letter type his lines of X’s & O’s – hugs and kisses for his dad.

He would spend much time behind a typewriter for the rest of his life.

You wouldn’t have known it if you had popped in on RC has a high school kid. You would have thought he was all about sports. He said he loved hockey the best. But, he was probably the most proficient at baseball. He was good enough at sports to get a scholarship to college – an athletic scholarship.

He went to Westminster College. He went unconverted. But, in his freshman year, he was led to Christ by the captain of the football team.

And then, it was in college that he met a professor, Dr. Thomas Gregory, who had a profound impact on his life. It was Dr. Thomas Gregory who introduced RC Sproul to Augustine, to the great reformers, and to this wonderful stream of the classical reformed tradition.

It was also in college that RC Sproul not only had his first conversion, but as he would say his second conversion.

One night, as he made his way to the chapel – almost drawn there, he said – he found himself going through the large oaken doors under the Gothic arch. And there, he had his conversion to the holiness of God.

I remember him saying one time that when he was first a Christian, he devoured the Old Testament. And as he devoured it and read it, he realize very quickly that this God of the Old Testament is God who plays for keeps.

Well, before he graduated from college, he married his childhood sweetheart, the love of his life, Vesta.

His first book was entitled The Symbol. He wrote it in 1973, and I love the dedication to that book. He writes in there: “To Vesta – To the Romans,a pagan goddess. To me, a Godly wife.” It’s hard to Think of RC without thinking of Vesta.

Well, after The Symbol, RC went on to write many books: The Holiness of God, of course, stands out; Chosen by God, his book that he co-authored with his mentor from seminary John’s Gerstner; the book Classical Apologetics

These are all part of Dr. Sproul’s legacy. Of course, Ligonier Ministries is a part of his legacy, founded there in the hills of western Pennsylvania 1971 at the Ligonier Valley Study Center and then it moved to Orlando.

He was involved in the Chicago Statement.

He took a courageous stand against Evangelicals and Catholics together. Because, as he read it, he said the Gospel is at stake here.

And, in 2011, Dr. Sproul founded Reformation Bible College.

But as you pull on the strands of his life, you keep coming back to that doctine that he came to grips with as a college student there at Westminster College: The Doctrine of God.

As RC once put it: God is holy and we are not; and in between stands the God/man, Jesus Christ and his perfect work of obedience in his atoning death. 

That was the message in the legacy of RC sprawl.

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There are 37 million local congregations in the world. Every one has a history. On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at some of the interesting histories of local churches.

Histories of Local Churches

Let’s take a look at the history of the church. We’ll do that first by looking at the

church around the world. One statistic informs us that there are three hundred

thousand local congregations across the United States. Another statistic tells us that there are 37 million local congregations around the world. I have a simple one-mile commute to work, and over the course of that mile I pass four churches. I used to live in Lancaster, Pa., and as I drove around I tended to count silos and churches. I don’t know how many of the 37 million churches are in Lancaster, but there are a lot.

Archaeologists tell us that the oldest church building dates to AD 230. It is in

northern Jordan, and it’s actually underground. Remember, this was a time of

persecution, when the church and Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire, so this is literally an underground church building. It also has an inscription on the floor that reads, “The seventy beloved by God.”

Of course, the earliest churches were actually house churches—congregations that met in members’ houses—and there were also congregations that met in

synagogues when the members of the synagogue converted to Christianity. Many

local churches have fascinating histories. The church I grew up in had church first

and Sunday school afterward, which was a practice that went all the way back to the beginnings of the church. It was a circuit church, meaning that the pastor preached there and then preached at another church. So, he would preach at this church first, and then he’d hop on his horse and ride to the next town and preach there. And that tradition of having an early service stuck.

I recently spoke at another church that had a fascinating history. This church was

founded in 1942 by a student of J. Gresham Machen named Henry Wellben. Wellben went to Princeton as a student and was with Machen for one year—the 1928–29 academic year—and when Machen left Princeton after that year and founded Westminster Theological Seminary, Wellben went with him. He graduated in 1932, pastored a few churches, and sided with Machen in the dispute over missions within the Presbyterian church, and for that he found himself in hot water in his churches. Finally, in 1942 he planted this church where I spoke celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary.

And this pastor has an interesting history. He was still pastoring when the Korean War broke out, and suddenly some black sedans pulled up to his house and he disappeared. He had grown up in Korea and was a son of missionaries, so, during the Korean War, he was enlisted by the CIA to serve as a spy. After the Korean War he went back to planting churches again.

As we look at the three hundred thousand churches across the United States and the 37 million churches around the world, we know that these churches all likely have interesting histories. And the churches that are faithful to God’s Word and faithful to proclaiming His Word, we know that not only do they have interesting histories but they are histories that ultimately tell of the faithfulness of God.

What is the history of your local church? Maybe you can be the local church historian and can uncover some fascinating and interesting facts and ideas from the history of your church. Every church has a history. What’s the history of your church?

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The Bible is all through Shakespeare. On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at Shakespeare’s use of the Bible, the versions he used, and the books he quoted most often.

Shakespeare’s Bible

William Shakespeare is, of course, known as one of the greatest names in English literature. And one of the fascinating things about Shakespeare is how extensively he quotes and refers to the Bible. In fact, one scholar has put together a book of biblical references in Shakespeare’s plays, and it is a big volume that totals more than eight hundred pages. The Bible is all through Shakespeare.

When we’re looking at Shakespeare’s use of the Bible, one of the first questions to ask is which version he used. Scholars, after looking at the references in his poems and plays, have concluded that he used three versions. The main version he used is the Geneva Bible, which was published by English and Scottish refugees in Calvin’s Geneva in 1560. It’s very likely that Shakespeare owned a copy. Shakespeare also refers to the Great Bible, which was commissioned in 1538 by Thomas Cromwell. It first appeared in 1539 and was widely circulated during Shakespeare’s time. The third version was called the Bishop’s Bible. A revision of the Great Bible, it was produced by a group of bishops between 1561 and 1564, hence its name.

So, those three Bibles in the English Bible tradition are the versions that Shakespeare used, with the Geneva Bible being the one he went to most often. Scholars have determined this by comparing the text of Shakespeare with the language of the various versions of the time. So, for example, in Richard II, Shakespeare writes, “Lions make leopards tame. Yea, but not change his spots.” That is a reference to Jeremiah 13:23: “Can a leopard change his spots?” Fascinatingly, only the Geneva Bible has “leopard” in that passage. All of the other English versions of Shakespeare’s day have the word “cat” as in big cat, but it’s the Geneva Bible that has “leopard,” so that is the version that Shakespeare was depending on in this case.

Shakespeare was fascinated by Revelation. Again, in Richard II, Shakespeare writes, “My name be blotted from the book of life.” And that is taken right from Revelation 3:5: “to blot out the name in the book of life.” In fact, that shows us that Shakespeare was reading the Bishop’s Bible, because it was only the Bishop’s Bible that uses the phrase “blot out.” The others use the expression “put out.”

Of the books of the Bible, Shakespeare quoted the Psalms most often. In As You Like It, he writes, “How brief the life of man, the stretching of a span,” referencing Psalm 39:6: “Thou hast made my days as it were a span long.” And in Timon of Athens, Shakespeare writes, “Who like a boar too savage does root up his country’s peace.” This is a reference to Psalm 80:13: “The wild boar out of the wood doth root it up.”

Sometimes Shakespeare quoted the Bible directly, sometimes he quoted it indirectly, and sometimes what Shakespeare wrote merely resembles and reflects the words of Scripture. But one thing is clear: among the many fascinating things in Shakespeare’s plays, you will also find many references to the Bible.

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On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols discusses the mysterious origin and the doctrinal content of the Baptist Confession of 1693.

There’s a delightful set of texts called the Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation. It is in four volumes, and the very last document it includes is the Baptist Catechism of 1693. This was a few generations after Luther; the Reformation at this point was firmly established. We have the Lutherans, we have the Reformed church, we have the Presbyterians, and, as this catechism attests, we have the Baptists.

In this edition of the Baptist Catechism, there is a brief introduction, the first line of which is this: “Mystery surrounds the origin of this catechism.” That’s a great line. The mystery is this: there is no first edition. It does not exist. There is a general scholarly consensus that the catechism was first published in 1693, but the oldest copy comes to us from 1695. Second, there is mystery surrounding the author. This catechism was called, at one point, Keach’s Catechism. That title refers to a man named Benjamin Keach, who lived from 1640 to 1704. But another writer is believed to have participated in drafting this catechism, and, perhaps, he was the main author of it. His name was William Collins; he died in 1702. So, it’s a little tricky to figure out exactly where this catechism came from and exactly who wrote it.

This catechism starts off with doctrine questions. It has about forty-three questions that get right at the heads of doctrine, and then it turns to our duty and walks through the Ten Commandments. That raises the question, “Who can keep the law?,” which causes the catechism to discuss some more doctrine, including the doctrine of salvation. It ends, as many catechisms do, by looking at the Lord’s Prayer and the spiritual discipline of prayer.

Let’s take a look at the first few questions and answers from the Baptist Catechism. The first question is, “Who is the first and chiefest being?” and the answer is, “God is the first and chiefest being.” It’s interesting to see where the great catechisms of the church begin. The Heidelberg Catechism begins, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” So, it looks at salvation and what it means for us and how it fills our hearts with gratitude. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s famous first question and answer are, “What is the chief end of man?” and “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” And the Baptist Catechism of 1693 starts with God, asking, “Who is the first and chiefest being?”

The second question is, “Ought everyone to believe that there is a God?” And the answer is this: “Everyone ought to believe there is a God and it is their great sin and folly who do not.” So, there’s our obligation: this great, chief being is God and our obligation is to believe that He is.

So, this raises a question, and that’s question three: “How may we know there is a God?” This is the answer: “The light of nature in man, and the works of God, plainly declare there is a God; but His Word and Spirit only, do it fully and effectually for the salvation of sinners.” So, that God exists is known through the light of nature, through the world that God made; it’s a testimony to His presence, a testimony to His existence. But He is known fully and effectually through the Word and through His ministry of the Spirit, and that is the knowledge that leads to salvation.

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On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols takes time to reflect on the legacy of the Reformation and how it shapes the task of the church today.

The Next Day

The year 2017, of course, was the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and October 31 was marked by commemorations of that movement and of Martin Luther’s nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. But after October 31 is November 1—the day after. It is worth asking what comes next. It is a good time to pause and reflect on what we can learn from the legacy of the Reformation and also to think about our legacy. Church history is a book that is still being written, and chapters are still being added to it.

We have a lot to be thankful for as we look back to the Reformers. We think not only of Luther; it wasn’t just his Reformation in Wittenberg. It was across the German lands. But we can go down to the Swiss city-states and see the Reformation there. And what a great legacy those places have left for us. We could go over to England and the legacy of the British Reformation under Henry VIII and we could also go a generation ahead of that and see the Puritans and what a great legacy they’ve left us. We have the Scottish Reformation and John Knox. And as all of these different branches of the Reformation made their way to the New World and settled into America, the landscape of American Christianity took shape. Ultimately, we can trace our roots back to the Lutheran church in Germany.

Scripture talks about how we drink from wells that we did not dig and we eat from vineyards that we did not plant (Deut. 6:11). We have to think of that when we think of the Reformers: they dug the wells, they planted the vineyards, they’ve helped us think through theology, they’ve helped us think through how to function as a church, and above all they’ve helped us think biblically about what we do and how we live. We drink from their wells and we eat from their vineyards.

But if Christ does not come back, there will be centuries still to come and many will come after us. What kind of wells are we digging for them? What kind of vineyards are we planting for them? Are they going to enjoy the same wells and the same vineyards that we’re enjoying from the Reformers? As we think through these questions, there is a monument to Luther at Eisenach that is worth contemplating. On the back of the statue are the words from his hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Above all, the Reformers reminded us of the importance and the primacy of knowing who God is. From there, we understand who we are. From there, we understand who Christ is and our relationship to God. It all flows from this knowledge of God.

Another thing about this monument that we need to note is that Luther is holding a Bible. This captures the essence of the Reformation. The Reformation was a movement that had tremendous reach and staying power; it impacted not just the church but also the culture. It was not simply a church history event; it was a world history event. And it happened because the Reformers knew they had to stand on the timeless, eternal, abiding truth of the Word of God. And if we want to leave a legacy for those who come after us, we need to realize that we too must stand upon the solid and sure foundation of God’s Word. That’s our task in our moment of church history: to be timeless by appealing to the eternal and living and the abiding Word of God.

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When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. Recorded on location in Germany, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at Luther’s teaching on Scripture and his three steps for reading and studying the Bible.

Martin Luther and the Bible

When it comes to the Reformation, one of the most important topics to discuss is Martin Luther on Scripture. There are a number of things that we could say about this topic, but let’s look at just a few.

The first is the authority of Scripture. We see this in Luther at the Leipzig Debate in 1519. One of the monuments to Luther, in Eisleben, has an etching on the side of a very angry-looking Roman Catholic official. That angry-looking official is Johann Eck. On the other side of Eck is Luther, and Eck is holding in his hand some bound-up documents, while Luther is holding a book—the Bible—and that tells it all. Eck at Leipzig appealed to the teachings of the councils, the teachings of the church, and those rolled-up documents represent that. He came at Luther and the Wittenberg Reformers from the context of the church and the church’s authority. And Luther said to Eck, “I have an authority that is older than yours,” and, of course, this astounded Eck and he said, “Name them.” Luther said, “Paul and Peter and John.” He appealed directly to the authority of Scripture at Leipzig and, of course, he did the same thing at Worms. So, at Worms he said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” When he said, “Here I stand,” he was standing on Scripture and standing firm on the foundation of Scripture. And because Scripture is authoritative, we should read it and we should study it.

Among the many things Luther said about the Bible, he offered a lot of counsel about how to read it and study it. One text in particular that helps us is a preface to a collection of his writings in German. He gives three steps for reading and studying the Bible. The first step is oratio, or “prayer.” The Psalms are especially helpful here. Luther was very familiar with the Psalms. As a monk, he would have been in the Psalms seven times a day. They took Psalm 119:164 very literally: “Seven times in the day I will praise Thee,” that text says. So Luther and his fellow monks would take seven periods out of their day to spend in the Psalms. Luther loved the Psalms. Some contend that Luther had the Psalter memorized, and he often had the Hebrew Psalter with him, and after that he would also have the Latin Psalter with him as a monk. This was a book he lived in, and it was a book that taught him not only that he should learn Scripture but that he should pray Scripture. So, the Psalms can be very helpful for us as we think about Scripture and as we seek to approach it prayerfully.

The second step is meditatio. Luther says the temptation is to push on, to rush on, to just simply read the text. Luther cautions us, he counsels us, he encourages us to simply pause, to meditate on God’s Word. And again, the Psalms are helpful here because the psalmists often call on us to meditate on God’s Word.

The third step in studying the Bible is tentatio, or “struggle.” Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel, we wrestle and struggle with Scripture. The struggle, Luther says, comes from our unbelief, our doubt, our stubbornness; ultimately, it comes from our sin, and the Word of God confronts it all.

That’s Luther on Scripture, the authority of Scripture, and how to read and study and learn and labor in and even love this Word that God has given us.

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 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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We’re all familiar with the Reformation in Germany. But what about the Reformation in Spain? On today’s episode, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at two Spanish Reformers.

The Reformation in Spain

As you know, this is an incredibly important year—2017. This is the year we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. So, we’ll be spending a lot of time with the Reformation, especially as we get into October. Why not, right? So, let’s talk about a place where the Reformation did not make significant inroads. As you look across Europe, you realize that in many countries—Germany, the Swiss city-states, the Netherlands, Scotland, and England—the Reformation did very well. But there were places in Europe where the Reformation just was not able to penetrate, and one of those places was Spain. But that does not mean that Spain was without influence from the Reformers.

One of the people in Spain who was a significant figure in the Reformation was Juan de Valdés. He was born in 1490, and in the 1520s he came in contact with the writings of Erasmus and the teachings of Martin Luther. This led him in 1529 to write a book called Dialogue on Christian Doctrine. It was immediately confiscated and put on the index of prohibited books. This was a list maintained by the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic institution that sought to combat heresy. The Inquisition kept the Reformation from blossoming in Spain and also caused significant problems for Valdés. Once his book was on the index, he became an outlaw.

So, Valdés left Spain for Italy, where he came in contact with Peter Martyr Vermigli. Now, of course, in Italy the Reformation again didn’t make many inroads, so there too he had challenges. Meanwhile, back in Spain, all the copies of his book were being collected and destroyed. One copy made its way to Portugal, and it is the only surviving copy from the original printing of Dialogue on Christian Doctrine.

Another figure is Juan Pérez de Pineda. He too had to leave Spain and worked in Rome. He actually worked for Emperor Charles V in Rome, and he was there from 1527 to 1530. He eventually went back to Spain and started working on a translation of the Greek New Testament into Spanish. He also fell under the condemnation of the Inquisition and managed to flee to Geneva, where he carried on his work of translation. It was a Genevan printer that published his Spanish New Testament in 1556. It was a culmination of five years of hard work.The Reformation in Spain

What’s fascinating about the title page of Pérez de Pineda’s New Testament is that it has a large Y on it. Pérez de Pineda did that because the two arms of the Y represent two destinies. As you look at the Y, one arm is wider because wide is the way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and the other arm is much narrower because narrow is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to salvation. So, even on the title page, he was indicating the message of the book, and the message of the New Testament is that it leads to salvation.

In the preface, Pérez de Pineda writes, “I feel very much obliged to do service to those of my nation according to the vocation that the Lord has called me to the enunciation of the Gospel.” And he says, “It seems there is no other way to complete this task than to give the New Testament in my own language.”

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 (This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

 

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