Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Mars Adds His Corruption to the Lutheran Reformation (1524-55)

Peasants’ War (1524)

In Germania and Noricum a widespread rebellion by peasants, along with some nobles and even cities, broke out. It was the culmination of over 100 years of protests against harsh conditions and oppressive responses. It was inspired by Martin Luther’s own example of rejecting imperial and papal authority and the words he himself had used to do so. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Jupiter Corrupts Christian Discernment (1521-22)

Diet of Worms (April 1521)

Once Martin’s criticisms of the Latin Church reached a certain level of popular support, he attracted the attention of political leaders. Once political leaders get involved, so too does Jupiter. The question no longer concerns the truth. It becomes one of expediency. Even if rulers understand themselves as Christians, and do have tufluvian personalities, they face a dilemma: serve Jupiter and keep control or remain faithful to Jesus and lose it.

When controversy burst outside the bounds of Wittenberg, and even Saxony, Frederick believed that no harm should come to Martin without a proper hearing. Charles 5th (1500-58), Holy Roman Emperor and Frederick’s boss, agreed to hear Martin—and give him a chance to recant—before harming him.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Universal Impact of Luther's Individual Insight (1517-21)

Sale of indulgences

In 1517, Johann Tetzel (1465-1519), a Germanian Dominican friar, was selling indulgences near Wittenberg, Germania. Why? Albert of Mainz was archbishop of two dioceses and bishop of a third. To rule more than one diocese at a time, he needed the permission of the pope. Leo 10th gave him permission in return for a large donation toward the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Albert borrowed the money from the banking house of Fugger in Augsburg. Leo allowed Albert to sell indulgences to repay the loan. Half the money raised went to Leo and half to the Fuggers.

Wittenberg University and Luther

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an important member of the faculty at the university in Wittenberg. Frederick 3rd (1463-1525), ruler of Saxony, had only recently started the university (1502). Martin had only, even more recently, begun his teaching career there (1512).

Ninety-five Theses

On October 31, 1517, Martin posted 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Some of these expressed his individual insight that indulgences were absurd since all human beings were saved by grace through faith. He also criticized other practices of the Latin Church that troubled him. There was nothing subversive about this. The door served as the community bulletin board. Posting assertions there was the normal way of inviting comments. Martin wrote his theses in Latin and expected responses in Latin from his learned colleagues.

Printing press

While Martin expected feedback from other professionals, his point of view nonetheless proved remarkably popular. Someone immediately translated his 95 Theses from Latin into German and rushed them into print. Soon readers across Latin Christendom debated them verbally. They also broadcast them in thousands of pamphlets made possible by the rapidly developing printing press.

Popularity of assertions

Martin’s assertions became wildly popular because many people across Latin Christendom already disapproved of various errors in Latin Christian teaching and practice. People in Germania also had a heightened sense that their interests were different from, and sometimes contrary to, those of the pope in Rome.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged. 

Martin Luther's Personal Troubles (1517)

Martin’s struggle with sin

Martin Luther (1483-1546) entered an Augustinian monastery in 1505. Even as a monk, he was tormented by a sense of his own sinfulness as well as his absolute inability to overcome it by his own efforts and merit salvation. Martin firmly believed the Latin Christian theology of his day in that he felt like he was a debtor to God. What he could not believe was that any amount of good works on his part could make him a creditor to God.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Sack of Rome (1527)

When popes took to commanding armies in a manner pleasing to Mars, they exposed themselves—and the people of Rome with them—to military attack. In 1527, mutinous armies of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, sacked the city of Rome. They even trapped Pope Clement 7th in nearby Castle Sant’Angelo until he paid an enormous ransom.

John Colet

At 26, John Colet (1467-1519) left Britannia to travel around Gallia and Latium imbibing the works of classical culture. He studied Greek, ancient texts, and early works of the Church Fathers. He heard Savonarola preach in Florence.

Back home, he met Erasmus at Oxford (1498). The two became lifelong friends. A third friend was added around 1505 when John met Thomas More. He eventually became More’s spiritual advisor. All three lived as inspiring Christian humanists.


Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) received his early education from the Brethren of the Common Life. He became a monk in 1488 and a priest 1492. For him as an adult, however, the center of life was not a monastery, court, or university but the homes of friends like John Colet and Thomas More. Together they reveled as intellectuals in the renaissance of classical culture.

Julius 2nd (r. 1503-13)

Giuliano della Rovere, a nephew of Pope Sixtus 4th (r. 1471-84), became pope himself and took the name Julius 2nd (1503). Head of the Latin Church, he ironically displayed great devotion to Jupiter, false god of politics, by participating in a bewildering and shifting series of alliances. He expressed his love for Mars, false god of war, by personally leading military campaigns against political enemies in Latium and Noricum. He did all this to free himself and his territories from interference by the French king.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Council of Constance (1414-18)

Sigismund (1368-1437), king of Hungary (from 1387) and Germany (from 1410) added his authority to the chorus of voices calling for a new council of the Latin Church. The Great Schism had to end and one new pope, supported by all, needed to be chosen. Tensions in Bohemia also needed to be resolved. It finally met in the northern Norican city of Constance. Up to 70,000 people came.

Brethren of the Common Life

Geert Groote (1340-84) started this religious order in Deventer, Germania, around 1380. With it began a new movement called the New Devotion, which spread gradually throughout Germania. People drawn to it sought a closer relationship with God through quiet devotion as they lived and prayed together and educated and cared for others. We may still sense the serenity of the movement by reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (ca 1380-1471) who was a student in Deventer from 1392 to 1399. Erasmus (1466-1536) also studied there.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Jan Hus

A Bohemian scholar named Jerome carried the writings of John Wycliffe from Oxford (Britannia) to Prague (Germania). These writings greatly influenced Bohemian church reformer Jan Huss (ca 1369-1414, >1391). They even sparked riots. Bethlehem Chapel, near the university, provided a center for Hus and others supportive of Wycliffe’s reforms. Built in 1391 to serve as a place for preaching in Czech rather than Latin, its focal point was a pulpit rather than an altar. Both Hus and Jerome preached from it. 

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

John Wycliffe (ca 1325-84)

The Latin Christian Church in the 1300s was ripe for criticism. One of the more significant critics of Church and pope at the time was John Wycliffe (Britannia, ca 1325-84, >1367). He asserted that popes no longer served as witnesses to Jesus now that they lived like wealthy politicians, the Bible should be translated into languages ordinary people understood, and the selling of indulgences was wrong.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

The Great Schism

After the Babylonian Captivity of the popes at Avignon (1309-78) came something even worse: the Great Schism (1378-1417). In 1378 cardinals elected one man as pope and he lived in Rome. Disappointed in him, they elected another man who lived in Avignon. Beginning in 1409 a third man claimed to be pope. Circumstances reached the depth of absurdity when one of the popes began to call for a crusade against another and started selling indulgences to pay for it.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.

Avignon Papacy

During the time of the Avignon papacy (1309-77), first called the Babylonian captivity by Petrarch (1304-74), the Latin Christian Church had seven popes, all Gauls. The first, Clement 5th (r. 1305-14), was pope when the papal bureaucracy moved from Poitiers in Gallia, where it had been for four years, just across the Rhone River into Noricum at Avignon (part of the Holy Roman Empire).

Monday, August 22, 2022

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Around 500 AD, Benedict of Nursia abandoned a collapsing Rome devoted especially to Venus (false goddess of sex) and Bacchus (false god of consumption). He chose instead to pursue simple living, centered on Jesus Christ, in a cave about 50 miles (80 km) east of the city. Finding his example inspiring, others joined him. He eventually founded a monastic community known as the Benedictines. They recently celebrated their 1500th anniversary.

After 600 years of existence, the widely respected Benedictine order had changed dramatically in character from its humble beginnings. Monasteries had grown wealthy from donations by pilgrims and rich nobles. They had acquired larger buildings, more elaborate sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and more complex chanting. Monks had long since abandoned their need for and commitment to manual labor.

First Look: Vikings

Columba and his band of twelve monks were the first to carry Celtic Christianity, with its emphasis on preserving the written word, from Hibernia. They took it to Iona, an island off the coast of Caledonia, in 563. There they started a center of learning that kept the light of knowledge burning during the dark days which followed the collapse of the western provinces of the Roman Empire in the 400s. The monastery on Iona sent their monk Aidan to Lindisfarne, an island on the opposite side of Caledonia, to start another center of learning in 635. Eventually the Christianity and literacy practiced by the monks of Iona and Lindisfarne spread to Britannia and Gaul.

Vikings were warriors swarming out of Scandinavia. What became the Viking Age began when they attacked the monastery at Lindisfarne (793). There they destroyed the church building, killed some monks while capturing others for slaves, and carried away booty.

Monday, August 15, 2022

First Look at Charlemagne

Charlemagne and Saxons (Germania, 772-804)

Charlemagne (742-814, r. >768), king of the Franks, begins his conquest of Saxony early in his long reign (772). He pursues this goal for more than 30 years. During this time, Charlemagne is not content to seize territory. He wishes to impose even a religious uniformity upon his new subjects. He commands his Frankish Christian armies to kill Saxon Olympian soldiers but, more importantly, to destroy their sacred places, steal any gold and silver objects found in them, convert Saxons at sword point, and execute those who relapse into Olympianity (reputedly 4500 in one day in 782).

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Boniface: Apostle of Germania

Boniface (ca 672-754; fl. >716) is, like Willibrord, both born in Britannia and a Benedictine monk. He even gains his first experience as a missionary ministering with Willibrord in Frisia (716). When Boniface travels to Rome, the pope sends him as a missionary to Germania (719). 

On one occasion, while preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and challenging the devotion of the Germani to the Olympian gods, Boniface approaches a large and ancient oak tree sacred to Jupiter. He dares the god to strike him dead as he buries his axe in its trunk. Instead, a sudden gust of wind drops the tree. All the Olympians present instantly choose to become Christians. Thousands more do so in response to his preaching. 

Willibrord: Apostle to the Frisians

Willibrord (ca 658-739) is known as the “Apostle to the Frisians” of northwest Germania (today’s northeast Holland and northwest Germany). Willibrord is born in northern Britannia in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. As a young adult he travels to Hibernia to study at an Anglo-Saxon monastery (678-690). Egbert (639-729), his teacher, chooses him and others in response to a request for missionaries made by Pepin 2nd (635-714). At this time Pepin is Latin Christian leader of the Franks and new tentative ruler of the Frisians. Once in Frisia, Willibrord successfully starts numerous churches and monastic communities. In 716 the Olympian Redbad (ca 648-719, r. >680), traditional ruler of the Frisians, reasserts his control and orders church leaders killed and church buildings torched. Following his death, Willibrord returns to Frisia with Boniface under the protection of Pepin’s son Charles Martel (“the Hammer”) (ca 688-741, r. >715).

Friday, August 12, 2022

Early Christianity in Britannia (ca 50-664 AD)

Joseph of Arimathea

Matthew tells us that Joseph of Arimathea, and early disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for the body of Christ and laid it in his own tomb (Matthew 27:57-60). Medieval legend tells us that this same Joseph is among the earliest disciples to bring the Good News to Britannia. Certainly anonymous Christians bring it as they travel to the province. 

Latin Christianity in Britannia

Latin theologian Tertullian (writing ca 200 AD) and Greek theologian Origen (ca 185-ca 253) both write of Christians present in Britannia. A contemporary summary of the Council of Arles (314) records the presence there of three bishops from Britannia. When ruler Theodosius makes Christianity the Empire’s sole official religion (391), this ruling applies to the Roman province of Britannia as well. Patrick, a native of Britannia and Christian missionary to Hibernia (Ireland) in 432, has grandparents who are Christians.

Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Ravenna was the major port in Latium from which travelers would embark for Constantinople. It still boasts six sumptuous church buildings constructed in the 500s and decorated in the Greek Christian style. A mosaic in the basilica of San Vitale (completed in 547) portrays the Greek Christian emperor Justinian as the representative of Jesus Christ on Earth. As such, he is being served equally by soldiers and bureaucrats—and clergy.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Beginnings of Western Monasticism

Sack of Rome (Latium, 410)

After standing inviolable for over 800 years, Rome is sacked by Goths in 410 and, much too soon again, in 455 by Vandals.

Monasteries: source of new order (Western Christendom, 400s)

As the western provinces of the Roman Empire collapse into disorder, men seeking some meaningful and viable alternative begin exploring the possibilities of living together in monastic communities. At first these are nothing more than local attempts to create a little social order around Jesus as the center. Centuries later monasteries would be primary sources of new order across Christendom.

Important Developments in Fourth-century Christianity

Christianity: persecuted (Roman Empire, 303-312)

Under the rule of Diocletian, the Roman government starts its severest persecution of Christians (303). Across the Empire, assembly for worship is forbidden, church buildings are looted then torn down, Bibles are burned, Christian politicians, bureaucrats, and soldiers are stripped of rank and benefits and cast out, and church leaders especially are targeted for harassment, torture, and execution. Even after the voluntary retirement of Diocletian in 305, the persecution continues another seven years. Despite it all, the Church remains standing.

Christianity: legalized (Roman Empire, 313)

Constantine and Licinius, the two rulers of the Roman Empire, meet in Milan and issue a written agreement (313), the Edict of Milan, in which they grant Christianity legal status and thereby end the centuries-long persecution of Christians within the Empire.

Monday, August 8, 2022


Nehemiah, cupbearer for the Persian emperor Artaxerxes (r. 465-424) in the capital city of Susa, hears of the difficulties facing his fellow Jews in Jerusalem. By the grace of Yahweh and permission of the emperor, he goes there in 445 (Nehemiah 1-2).

Strong local Olympian leaders oppose the establishment of a vibrant Jewish community in Jerusalem. For the Jewish community to gain strength against this opposition, Nehemiah sees it first needs to rebuild the city’s walls. He immediately sets men to the task.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Fall and Rise of Yahweh's Temple

Destruction and Exile

Since calling Abraham to his side in the late 1900s BC, Yahweh had understood his relationship to Abraham and his descendants, as well as theirs to him, as unique. Yahweh spoke of it many times in just this way: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Yahweh’s intention was to be a blessing to them and a blessing to the other peoples of Earth through them. To cultivate this special relationship, Yahweh promised Abraham to grant his descendants a special place in which to live. Yahweh granted this Promised Land to his people Israel in the late 1400s BC. 

Sadly, Yahweh’s people chronically rejected Yahweh’s special relationship with them and theirs with him. This despite Yahweh’s persistent attempts to strengthen that relationship and to weaken his people’s misguided devotion to the six false Olympian gods.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Jeremiah and the End of Judah

Jeremiah spoke words of Yahweh to Yahweh’s people for over 40 years. Yahweh’s goal was to call his people back to him—to win them away from false Olympian gods once again. 

In Jeremiah’s time, Yahweh’s people much prefer the Olympian gods to him. With Pluto, false god of money, the rich trick the poor out of their money and leave the poor to starve. Loyal to Jupiter, judges know this but wink at their wealthy friends as they fail to establish justice and reestablish righteousness (or a rightly ordered society).

The Ministry of Isaiah

Like Amos, Isaiah speaks against religion. We may think of religion as a system of merit in which one conforms to a moral code and, by doing so, earns moral points. The more moral points one earns, the happier one’s god is with one and the more quickly one’s god must fulfill one’s desires. Also, if one possesses more moral points than another, then one is morally superior to that other and gets to look down on them with satisfaction.

Through Isaiah, Yahweh tells his people he is not interested in their religion. He is not a means to their ends. He neither awards moral points nor maintains a moral credit and debit account. Consequently, he freely disregards all the sacrifices of animals occurring in his house in Jerusalem. He does not care at all for the festivals being celebrated even if they are according to his law. He can no longer bear all the people traveling to Jerusalem to visit him (Isaiah 1:10-17). They say his name with their lips but their hearts are with the false Olympian gods (29:13-14). Proof: they tell his prophets to proclaim their smooth illusions rather than speak his tough truth.

Josiah's Example of Public Repentance

Like Hezekiah, Josiah (r. 641-610) wholly commits himself as king of Judah to Yahweh. He becomes king when he is only 8 years old. When he is 18, he commands that money stored in the Temple of Yahweh be used to repair it. In the process of gathering the stored money to count it, the priest Hilkiah discovers the “Book of the Law” (2 Kings 22:8)—likely the Book of Deuteronomy.

After Deuteronomy is read to Josiah, he humbles himself, repents of the disloyalty of Judah toward Yahweh, and seeks to know Yahweh’s present will. A woman named Huldah, a prophetess, declares to him the word of Yahweh: all of the disasters following chronic disloyalty will fall upon the people of Judah and Jerusalem. Because Josiah humbled himself and repented, however, Yahweh will not bring these disasters upon Jerusalem during his lifetime. (ch. 22).

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Arrogance Preceding Crushing Defeat

Hezekiah is 25 when he begins to rule Judah in 726 BC. He becomes one of the few kings of Judah to remain as loyal to Yahweh as his ancestor David had been. One important way in which he expresses his loyalty to Yahweh (only true god), rather than to Jupiter (false god of politics), is by withholding tribute to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:7).

Years pass between that refusal to express loyalty to Assyria and Assyrian retribution. Finally its huge army marches on tiny Judah and quickly captures all its fortified cities except Jerusalem (18:13).

The Book of Amos

Jeroboam 2nd (r. 825-784 BC) is the last king to rule over a politically expansive and economically prosperous Kingdom of Israel. Soon Yahweh will allow Assyrian aggression to end the Kingdom of Israel for its chronic disloyalty to him (2 Kings 14:23-29). 

During this time of illusory rejuvenation, Yahweh calls the shepherd Amos (active 797-787) away from his flocks in Judah to warn Israel of its impending destruction.

Through Amos, Yahweh challenges Israel’s devotion to Jupiter (false god of politics). Fighting back, royal officials forbid prophets to speak the challenging but liberating words of Yahweh (Amos 2:12). Yahweh persists in sending these defiers of a destructive status quo because he does not act without first revealing his intentions to his people through his prophets (3:3-8). Yahweh tells the leaders of his people to seek good and not evil by establishing Yahweh’s justice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


Across the Jordan River, opposite Jericho, Elisha sees Elijah ascend to Heaven in a whirlwind (896 BC). Just before that, Elisha had asked Elijah for a double portion his spirit (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah had told Elisha that he’d get it if he saw him ascend to Heaven. Now Elisha’s got it.

At this time Jehoram, son of Ahab and Jezebel, becomes ruler of Israel (896-884) while Jehoshaphat continues as ruler of Judah (914-889). Jehoram would do what was evil in Yahweh’s sight but not as much as his notorious father and mother had (3:2). Jehoshaphat had been doing what was right in Yahweh’s sight—mostly (1 Kings 22:43).

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ahab and Elijah

The Book of 1 Kings is 22 chapters long. Solomon, wisest and richest of Israel’s kings and builder of the one temple dedicated to Yahweh, dominates 11 of them. Ahab, king of Israel (918-897 BC), features in 7 of them. Why this attention to Ahab? An ironic reason: Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him (1 Kings 16:30). A more edifying reason: Yahweh’s creative response to Ahab’s multi-faceted evil through the prophet Elijah. 

Ahab sins: he perpetuates the sin of Jeroboam by subordinating the worship of Yahweh to that of Jupiter (called Baal), marries Jezebel of Sidon (a foreigner and enthusiastic Olympian), builds a temple in the capital city of Samaria and dedicates it to Jupiter, and sponsors the worship of Venus (vs. 31-33). These are just the highlights.

Rehoboam and Jeroboam

During his rule (1015-975 BC), Solomon condemns thousands of innocent Israelites to hard labor first to build the Temple of Yahweh and then to construct a palace for himself. When he dies, the people of Israel tell Rehoboam his son that they will serve him only if he lightens their load (1 Kings 12:4). When Rehoboam consults advisors to his father, they encourage him to do this. When he asks his friends, they tell him to stay tough. Contrary to both, Rehoboam tells the Israelites he will impose his will on them by making their load heavier than they ever imagined. The Israelites abandon him and make a man named Jeroboam their king. Only the people of Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to Rehoboam (vs. 16-24).

Monday, August 1, 2022


Just before David dies (1015 BC), he appoints his son Solomon (1034-975, 59 years) ruler in his place. Priest Zadok and prophet Nathan affirm David’s choice by anointing Solomon king. David soon dies and, after a brief dynastic struggle, Solomon rules as king (1 Kings 1-2). 

One night Solomon has a dream. In it Yahweh asks him what he desires. Given his youth, Solomon requests wisdom enough to rightly govern the people of Yahweh. This response so delights Yahweh that he grants wisdom to Solomon plus the riches and honors he did not seek (ch. 3).