John Huss And The Reformation Era
The Reformations that took place throughout the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries changed the course of history. God brought men to the forefront of the world stage to proclaim the truth with boldness and sincerity. Many times, the courage displayed by the reformers cost them their lives. When any church moves away from God`s word as its primary authority, it leads them down a road of certain destruction. The primary cause of the Reformations derives from a return to the authority of Scripture, with the theological groundwork laid by men like John Wycliffe and John Huss; it began even before Martin Luther stepped onto the scene in Germany. Wycliffe and Huss should be remembered because they made sacrifices for the sake of the truth. Many stories from history tell us of men and women who stood up for the authority of God`s Word. When one thinks of the Reformation period, many automatically turn their minds to Martin Luther. Although Luther played a crucial role in the Reformation, many came before him who held the same views when it came to the authority of the Bible.
Who Was John Huss?
John Huss is an important figure to recognize simply because he stood up for the authoritative word of God and fought against the heresies that were certainly evident within Catholicism. He was a Czech reformer in Bohemia.
John Huss: His Educational Background
When he reached the proper age, his mother enrolled him at the University in Prague. He received a Bachelor of Arts in 1393, a Bachelor of Theology in 1394, and a Master of Arts in 1396. Two years after he received his Master of Arts, he began giving lectures at the University and taught at the Church. Early on in his studies, he was an ardent believer in the Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. (Wylie, p. 140) The Chapel of Bethlehem was established to lead a reforming movement intended to stand against the immorality of the laity and the clergy, and Huss was appointed to preach there in 1402 (Wylie, History of Protestantism, p. 140).
John Huss: His Encounter With Wycliffe
While he was preaching there, he engaged in a deeper study of Scripture. Huss encountered the works of John Wycliffe while in Bohemia. In 1383, Queen Anne of Bohemia married King Richard II of England (Shelly, p. 240). Wycliffe`s writings were brought over by the two nations’ union ten years after Huss’s birth. “By this time he had become acquainted with the theological works of Wycliffe, which he earnestly studied, and learned to admire the piety of their author, and to be not wholly opposed to the scheme of reform he had promulgated.” (Wylie, p. 141). Huss became one of the most famous preachers in Prague after preaching at the Chapel of Bethlehem. William Durant writes about Huss saying, “Many figures high in the court were among his listeners, and Queen Sophia made him her chaplain (Durant, History of Civilization, 162). In 1404, Huss had Wycliffe`s writings in Prague (Wylie, History of Protestantism, p. 142). He saw that Wycliffe had denied the hierarchical authority of the church and advocated simply teaching from the word of God. Huss had reached the point where he realized that the Bible should be recognized as the supreme authority, even over the papacy. When he came to that realization, and whether he liked it or not, he was at war with one of the most powerful institutions of the Medieval era. Huss continued to study Wycliffe and his writings even after the administrative clergy of the cathedral had prohibited Wycliffe`s work from the University of Prague. The clergy, “Submitted to the university masters forty-five excerpts from the writings of Wycliffe, and asked should these doctrines be barred from the university (Durant, p. 162).” Most of the masters declared that the professors at the university should neither adhere to Wycliffe`s teachings nor defend them (Durant, p. 164). Huss and a few others disagreed with the verdict and went on teaching.
John Huss: His Complaints
Eventually, Huss was excommunicated by the Archbishop of Prague. Huss agitated the matter when he attacked the sale of indulgences. The Pope had issued a special indulgence to raise funds for his quest against the region of Naples. Huss adamantly condemned the action of the Pope; he called him out for selling indulgences to make money for his agenda. In 1409, after further use of Wycliffe`s works, Huss and his associates disregarded the archbishop`s commands. After the archbishop complained to the Pope, he issued an interdict upon the city of Prague. By order of the Pope, “The Archbishop of Prague ordered all writings of Wycliffe that could be found in Bohemia to be surrendered to him; 200 manuscripts were brought to him; he burned them in the courtyard of his palace.” (Durant, p. 164). When Huss was summoned to appear in the papal court by Pope John XXIII, Huss refused to appear at the court in Rome. During Huss`s period of exile in southern Bohemia, he further studied Wycliffe and wrote, On the Church (Shelley, p. 240). In his work, he asserted that “A pope, `through ignorance and love of money can make many mistakes, and that to rebel against an erring pope is to obey Christ.’” (Galli, p. 271) The Council of Constance was approaching quickly, and Huss would agree to appear; little did he know that he would soon face death for what he believed. Huss wanted a chance to present his views in front of the authorities. He “Had hopes of presenting his views to the assembled authorities, but upon his arrival, he found himself instead a victim of the Inquisition.” (Shelley, p. 240).
John Huss: His Last Breath
The way of the Inquisition was adopted from ancient Roman law and aimed to investigate cases of persons suspected of heresy (Holder, p. 205). Huss was arrested and ordered to renounce his faith or be burned as a heretic. Like Luther, Huss was even willing to conform to the teaching of the Church if they could only show him that there was a scriptural basis for their theology. He refused to recant and held fast to the teaching of Scripture. Later, he was imprisoned in Constance for eight months and during this period he wrote letters that speak to his steadfast faithfulness to the cause of Christ. On July 6, 1415, both Wycliffe and Huss were condemned at the cathedral of Constance. The council ordered that Huss`s writings be burned. Durant writes, “The council condemned both Wycliffe and Huss, ordered Huss`s writings be burned, and delivered him to the secular arm.” (Durant, p. 166). Huss sang songs of praise as he was engulfed in the flames that took his life.
Electives Taught at Ethnos360 Bible Institute
Here at Ethnos 360 Bible Institute, we offer electives every semester in addition to two years of chronological Bible study. One of these electives is called, “The Rise and Fall of Denominations.” This course will take you through Church History. In just a few weeks, you will get a bird’s eye view of events such as the Reformation Era. This class includes stories of major historical figures like John Huss and Martin Luther. Sign up for a Campus Visit Weekend and request your free information packet today!
Durant, Will. The Story of Civilization: The Reformation. Simon and Schuster.
Galli, Mark, and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville, TN: Broadman &
Holder, R. Ward. Crisis and Renewal: the Era of the Reformations. Louisville, KY: Westminster. John Knox Press, 2009.
Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013.
Wylie, J. A. The History of Protestantism. Vol. 1, Pella, IA: Inheritance Publications, 2018.