John Huss, the early reformers, and how the Church of Rome sees them, Part 1


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Wood cut from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Latin copy in Sao Paulo) - Jerome Heretic, 1493, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Because of my respect for John Huss (John of Husinec), an early Czech Reformer, I read an article which The Antipas Chronicles had reblogged – thank you Meg! Written by Shaun Willcock of Bible Based Ministries, UK, 600 Years Later: Rome’s Revisionist Re-Working of John Huss’ Martyrdom shows that Rome seized the opportunity afforded by the commemoration of this anniversary to make a play for Christian unity, one of Pope Francis’ constant themes. 

Huss was a Catholic priest who lived in the late 14th / early 15th century in that part of the Czech Republic once known as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Czechs and Germans resided there, and after his martyrdom the kingdom exploded in strife along ethnic and religious lines in the wars known as the Hussite Wars. It’s worthy of note that some of our Christian brethren chose to suffer rather than go to war. (The Pilgrim Church, page 143-145)

Huss was Rector of the University of Prague and Preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in that city. He was admired as a preacher and from all I can gather was well-loved. He got into trouble with Rome when he became a student of God’s Word in order to better fulfill his preaching responsibilities, and also came under the influence of the early English reformer, John Wycliffe.

Huss’s fellow priest, Jerome of Prague, had studied under Wycliffe at Oxford, and when Jerome returned to Bohemia he brought back some of Wycliffe’s works. Huss read them and agreed with some things, but believed that Wycliffe had gone too far in his desire for reform. However he was still influenced by Wycliffe for good, and by his growing understanding of the Bible and salvation by grace, towards reform. In The Pilgrim Church, E.H. Broadbent wrote about these things in this way:

One of the foreign students who listened to Wycliff in Oxford was Jerome of Prague. He returned to his own city full of zeal for the truths he had learned in England, and taught boldly that the Roman Church had fallen away from the doctrine of Christ and that every one who sought salvation must come back to the teachings of the gospel. Among many on whose hearts such words fell with power was Jan Hus (John Huss), theological doctor and preacher in Prague, and confessor to the Queen of Bohemia. His sincere faith and striking abilities, with his eloquence and charm of manner, worked mightily among people already prepared by the labors of the Waldenses who had been before him. (p. 143)

Recently I reread what another author had to say about Huss that is helpful in getting a better sense of his character and life. To introduce this, we need to realize that Bohemia was already divided into factions – pro-reform and establishment – before Huss’s death. Here’s what S. Harrison Thomson said about him in Czechoslovakia in European History:

Anything which either side to the dispute might do only aggravated the bitterness until, in late October 1412, Hus acceded to the king’s [King of Bohemia’s] suggestion that, in order to save Prague from the effects of an interdict, he should leave the city. Some of his most important works, Latin and Czech, were composed or completed while he was in exile from the capital at Kozi Hradek in southern Bohemia, notably the work on simony in Czech, and the Latin De ecclesia [The Church], his most systematic and impressive work. During his exile he preached generally in the native tongue, and a long-held conviction that the vernacular was an effective tool in the spread of the Gospel was further strengthened by the results of this ministry. It was during this time that he gave especial attention to the orthography of the Czech language, to bring order out of the disparate and confused practices then dominant. At the same time, like Luther a century later, he modeled his speech after the expressions of the common people, thus consolidating the vigor of a natural idiom with the loftier content of religious fervor. His Orthographic bohemica, written between 1406 and 1412, may be regarded as the foundation of modern Czech and Slovak, orthography. (p. 81)

But Huss’s greatest accomplishment wasn’t won by study, or even by all the ways in which the Lord Jesus Christ prepared him, but by the grace of God working in him to help him stand for the Lord – for truth against error – and to be given a crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

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GALLERY

~ click to enlarge ~

John Huss before the Council of Constance, by Václav Brožík, 1883, Wikimedia, Public Domain.

Čeština - Zástupce koncilu u Mistra Jeronýma Pražského, 1873, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Wyclif Giving The Poor Priests His Translation of the Bible by William Frederick Yeames

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FURTHER READING

Rumblings of Reformation: Jan Hus and the Hussite Rebellion

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8 thoughts on “John Huss, the early reformers, and how the Church of Rome sees them, Part 1

  1. Good post. I also read the other article. Did you know that ‘Hus’ means ‘goose’ and that the well known saying ‘The goose is cooked, is a reference to his martyrdom? It is also said that Huss prophesied about Luther. one source records this:
    “As the official executioner was about to light the pyre at the feet of the reformer, he said, “Now we will cook the goose.” (Huss in Bohemian means goose.) “Yes”, replied Huss, “but there will come an eagle in a hundred years that you will not reach.”[5]”
    [5] This version of the prophecy is from Ogden Kraut, 95 Theses (Genola, UT: Pioneer Publishers, 1975), p. 150. The prophecy has been preserved in different forms, sometimes translated to be more easily understood. For example, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” (see http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/john-hus.html). Another version is “You are now going to burn a goose (the name of Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language), but in a century you will have a swan whom you can neither roast nor boil.” (See http://www.scionofzion.com/john_huss.htm). Lutherans use a swan as a symbol and there was apparently a swan on Luther’s coat of arms. And again, “It is thus that you silence the goose, but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you shall not be able to silence.” (See http://www.apibs.org/topical/hist6.htm).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Dan! These were amazing times. The article about Pope Francis seeking an opportunity to promote Christian unity through the anniversary of Huss’s death motivated me to write about Huss – but, I wanted to do more than speak again only about Rome’s guilt. Glad you liked this post because it was a challenge, especially after I read a Roman Catholic article on Francis’ play for unity using Huss and realized that many actually see Huss as despiccable, a villain responsible for a long war. I tried to not let the article shake me and went back to the secular source (Thomson) where he explained so much.

      What you have brought up is very interesting both for the “prophecy” and then how it was recorded differently and yet kept its essential meaning. I’d heard about the swan and goose but not the other versions. Thank you for an interesting comment! God bless you!

      Oh, we should never say his goose is cooked again!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I truly enjoy biographical studies of the early church. I have two greatly informative bios on Chrysotom and Jerome. I also have an update version of Eusibius’ Ecclesiastical History beautifully done. It amazes me the sacrifice that others went through so that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know you’re a reader, Dawnlizjones. And from some of the books you’ve mentioned, which are on your shelves, you’ve read some helpful serious things. Awhile ago I read Eusebius – it was part of my intro to church history. The bios on Chrysostom and Jerome sound interesting. Athanasius is someone I’d like to study. Yes, the suffering… Sometimes it’s frightening but reading Revelation and history puts the suffering in perspective. Paul’s life was so amazing too, and the Lord had him experience so much for the sake of His church.
      Stay tuned – please do! So glad you enjoyed this!
      :0)

      Liked by 2 people

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