"A common myth that we hear from time to time from a number of different directions, is that Bibles were in essence Gutenberg's invention: a testimony to Northern European printing ingenuity, but not an ancient practice. Of course it is true that printed Bibles necessarily followed the development of printing, but Bibles were being made long before then. Likewise, others will claim that even if Bibles existed before the Reformation, they were so extraordinarily scarce that ordinary people could not possibly have them.
Indeed, I recently had the pleasure of interacting with a lay apologist for Catholicism who, buying into the myth, apparently believed that people didn't have Bibles before the sixteenth century."
He goes on to write a somewhat lengthy article dispelling the "myth" that ordinary people did not have access to Bibles prior to Gutenberg's time once again vanquishing another ignorant Catholic. The text of the entire article can be found here.
I wrote a comment which he apparently decided not to let appear on his blog, although he does not seem to have a problem posting other comments of adulation concerning his article. I wrote, typos and all:
I hear this canard often from Protestant polemicists. Perhaps this a myth that Protestants have invented, but having been to Europe and having seen several ancient monasteries in France where the Scriptures were copied, as well as seen the inside of a numer of ancient sanctuaries, they all had a place where the Scriptures were available to be read. I do not know of any educated Catholic who would make the claim that the Scriptures were so scarce in ancient or medieval times that very few could read them. Like the notion that medieval man believed in a "flat earth," this is simply a retelling of a Protestant fable that Martin Luther rescued the Bible from the Church. It is unfortunate that an anonymous lay apologist for Catholicism bought into the Protestant myth that the Catholic Church suppressed the Bible and kept it from the masses. Shame on them.
The fact of the matter is that most people did not have the Scriptures in their home where they could be read at leisure. There was no ancient Gideon Society distributing Bibles at every inn or tavern or Berean bookstore where one could go and buy them. Almost every Catholic church or chapel, monastery, convent, and priest would have a copy of the Scriptures so that they could be read and studied.
Additionally, I would suggest that many early Christians memorized the Scriptures. Memorization was a skill far more developed in former times than now.
For those who weren't literate, the Church had icons, statues, paintings, stained glass, not to mention the liturgies, hymns, chants, sacramentals, etc... which served to tell the story of the Gospel.
It is unfortunate that you didn't give a time period for your article. I still remember a couple of verses in Old English from Matthew that I had to memorize from the Wessex Gospels (10th century AD)in High School.
However, I do very much appreciate your corroboration in dispelling the Protestant myth that the Catholic Church prevented ordinary people from having access to the Scriptures.
In short, while it is true that the Catholic Church has on occasion banned heretical or erroneous translations of the Scriptures. It has never kept the Bible out of the hands, hearts and minds of the faithful.
I DO truly appreciate it when one of our separated brethren dispel myths about the Catholic Church, in this case, Myth No. 30: "Bible forbidden to laymen, placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Valencia" which may be found on page 8 of Loraine Boettner's sourcebook for anti-Catholic rants and raves, Roman Catholicism. Anti-Catholics often raise the claim that Catholic Church kept the Bible out of the hands of the people up to the time of the Reformation. It was nice to see Turretinfan, despite trying to get in his obligatory digs against Catholicism, take the time to undermine a cherished myth of Protestantism. One must wonder if that was his intention.
On the other hand, I DO find it unfortunate that Turretinfan picks and chooses what may appear as comments on his blog. When one places restrictions on what one may see and hear in the marketplace of ideas, it has been my experience that people tend to end up doing their shopping elsewhere. Fortunately, I have my own blog and can post my replies here.
NEXT UP: "Light of Nations" ~I promise!