The Importance of the Printing Press to the Development of the Reformation

The Importance of the Printing Press to the Development of the Reformation
Both contemporaries and historians acknowledge that the printing press was significant in the spread of ideas of the Reformation. It has been argued by Elizabeth Eisenstein that printing did not just spread Protestant ideas but helped to shape the Reformation in the first place ?Printing was a cause of religious changes, and not simply a consequence? (The Printing Press as an agent of change, CambridgeUniversityPress) Printing ended the scribal corruption and copying errors which made it easier to define theological positions exactly and made it easier for Luther to attack the corruption of the Doctrine. With regard to the sola scriptura, an appeal to the Bible as the sole authority had been made before Luther by other reformers such as Wycliffe; but an evangelical, or bible based, religion only became possible once the Bible could be mass produced. In September 1522 Luther published the September testament, a translation into German of Erasmus?s Greek New Testament. Within 12 Years, 200,000 copies of the September testament had been sold and by 1534, Luther had completed his translation of the Old Testament as well. The Church had faced heresy before and had generally contained it slowly but surely, but now it seemed defenseless.
The printing press gave it no time. We can see the effect the printing press had on the rate of literacy, in the 60 years since printing had been invented, literacy had grown 20 percent in towns. Although there were some Catholics writing to Luther, they were outnumbered twenty to one by those writing in favor of him. All could have been different if Luther didn?t use to such great effect as he did, he used the press as a weapon in personal contests with his opponents. In the early years of the reformation, the Lutherans won the battle of the books hands down. Through the press Luther could also give shape to the services and methods of the new, emerging Church. He was able to publish Hymns and an authentically Lutheran version of Mass. Luther himself recognised his indebtedness to the press, proclaiming that printing is: ?God?s highest and extremist act of Grace, whereby the business of the gospel is driven forward.? Although Printing did not ensure Luther?s total control over the Reformation. The press could spread the ideas of one man more quickly and certainly than ever before. John Foxe, writing in the 1560?s paid homage to the power of the Press in spreading the ideas of the Reformation. He compared the success of the Protestants with the relative failure of the Lollards, and attributed their success to the Press. Before the printing press was introduced it was One man, Luther against the whole catholic church and all their members, but through the printing press, literacy was developed and with this they could read themselves and read what they wanted rather than being told from corrupt teachings, Luther used the press to his advantage and his opposition never used the press as well as him, and in a time when this was the main way of communication, I think it was very crucial to the development of ideas and effectively the development of the Reformation. However, there is some controversy amongst 20th century historians about whether or not the printing press caused the Reformation. Febvre and Martin more cautiously state that ?Books played a critical part in the development of Protestantism in the 16th Century, regarding the press as a contributing factor rather than a casual factor in the Reformation.

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