Still Standing

How the preservation and publication of Scripture made the Reformation possible.

A.D. 300

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A New Invention Changes
the World

The earliest Christians turned to a new technology to record God’s Word. It was called the codex—what we know today as the book. By A.D. 300 the codex was even more popular than the scroll, a change that would enable future movements like the Reformation to flourish.

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A.D. 325

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The Canon &
the Scribes

The Reformers would call the church “back to the sources”—early biblical manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew. But that may not have even been possible if it wasn’t for two key events in the early centuries of the church: the formal recognition of the canon at church councils like the one held in Nicaea in A.D. 325, and the scrupulous attention of Christian scribes.

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A.D. 700

Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels

Scribes didn’t just copy the Greek and Hebrew, they also preserved Bible translations. The Lindisfarne Gospels, created in A.D. 700, is one such text: a beautiful, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin. Over time Latin lost its dominance, but the Latin Vulgate remained the official Bible of the Church—and the only version of Scripture widely available in Europe.

A.D. 1380

The Morningstar Rises

By the late-fourteenth century, the Word of God was available to only an elite few, and in a language the common people could neither read nor speak. As scandals ravaged the church, a man named John Wycliffe became convinced: reform was only possible if the common people could read God’s Word in their own language. By 1384, his translation was complete.

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A.D. 1440

Gutenberg's printing press

Gutenberg’s Revolutionary Invention

If the posting of Luther’s theses didn’t launch the Reformation, their publication did. That was only possible thanks to a relatively new invention by an obscure goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg. He created the printing press, and his first major printed work was, naturally, a Bible.

A.D. 1453

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Collapse of the Byzantine Empire

When Byzantium fell to the Ottomans, the great Orthodox church Hagia Sophia became an imperial mosque—and Christian scholars fled to Europe. They brought with them a knowledge of the Greek language. Thanks in part to their expertise, the Reformers could study the New Testament in its original language and, ultimately, translate it into the common tongue.

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A.D. 1516

The Race to Publish the Greek New Testament

The first printed Greek New Testament was called the Complutensian Polyglot, a beautiful parallel Bible containing numerous scriptural texts. But copies spent eight years in a warehouse waiting for the pope’s permission to publish. This gave Erasmus a window of opportunity: he published his own version. It became the first published Greek New Testament—and the basis for the Bible translations of the Reformation era.

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A.D. 1517

Martin Luther

Martin Luther Revolutionizes Bible Study

It was only after Luther read the Bible in its original languages (rather than Latin) that he came by his world-changing Reformation insights. And by translating the Bible into German he made God’s Word available to common people, too.

Discover how Martin Luther revolutionized Bible study in this article from Faithlife’s Bible Study Magazine.

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A.D. 1611

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The Authorized Version & the Bible Translation Boom

The Reformers emphasized the biblical teaching that all Christians are priests before God. The King James Version, and many other Bibles from the same era, made Scripture available in the languages Christians spoke and read—not just Latin. After all, if we’re all priests, shouldn’t we be able to read and understand God’s Word?

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