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Bible notes hint that the English Reformation may have been a gradual process

Bible notes hint that the English Reformation may have been a gradual process

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Dr Eyal Poleg is a historian associated with Queen Mary’s University in London. He noticed that some pages of a Latin Bible, printed in 1538, the era of King Henry VIII, were much thicker that the other pages. He surmised that they may have hidden notes that had been written in the margins of the Bible. To test his theory he enlisted some unique help when researching rare books. He asked for the assistance of Dr Graham Davis of the St Mary’s School of Dentistry. Dr Davis is an expert in 3D X-ray technology.

At first, the Lambeth copy first appeared completely ‘clean’. But upon closer inspection I noticed that heavy paper had been pasted over blank parts of the book. The challenge was how to uncover the annotations without damaging the book.

Dr Eyal Poleg

Dr Davis took two images of the thick pages. One image included the printed page and the superimposed notes. The second image was of just the printed page. He then wrote a computer program that would eliminate the printed portion of the page, leaving just the then fully legible notes on the page.

This copy of the Latin Bible was the first to be printed in England. The notes are reportedly copied from Thomas Cromwell’s Great Bible, perhaps sometime between 1529 to 1539. They were later covered over around 1600. This history of the notes in the Bible leads Dr Poleg to surmise that rather than an abrupt event, the English Reformation was likely a gradual process.

This story is from the Church Times. and the Independent.
The images are screenshots of the slideshow in the article.


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MaryLou Scherer

Christianity, the way we know it these days is nothing but the product of a number of reformations, with some elements left behind and new interpretations of the scriptures and cultural elements added along the way.

I agree with Mrs Sjoholm-Franks

Paul Woodrum

Hardly a novel claim. When studying English Constitutional History, I did research in Elizabethan state and local documents, and church records. It was fascinating to document how long it took proclamations, for example the order that the Table of the Ten Commandments be placed above parish altars, and the speed with which this was carried out in different parts of the realm, vestries first approving printed copies, then painted-on-wood copies and finally the commandments carved in stone, depending, in part, on long-developing dissatisfaction with the ecclesiastical status quo. I can’t think of any historical event that didn’t have a long gestation period whether the early, rapid spread of Christianity or the French Revolution.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

“…the more we have to reform to keep scriptures and the entire belief system relevant to the times we live in..”

Let’s acknowledge the candid nature of this claim.

Margaret Sjoholm-Franks

I am inclined to think that the reformation is still an ongoing process, the more we know about the world and human nature the more we have to reform to keep scriptures and the entire belief system relevant to the times we live in

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