Sunday, September 13, 2020

The year was 1557 and we remember Sir John Cheke—a teacher, scholar, statesman, and theologian. The reading is an excerpt from 1 Clement.

It is the 13th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1557.

It was decades before the King James Bible would become the authorized English edition. It was in this year, 1557, that a Puritan exile in Geneva, under the eye of John Calvin, finished the Geneva Bible. It was the Bible that would come to the new world with the pilgrims and would have much more authority than, say, the later King James Bible. Other dissenting protestant types would see the King James Version as suspect. After all, that was the Bible used by the crown against dissenters.

The Geneva Bible also was the first study Bible. The idea of gloss and notes to help the reader understand the text was not new. But this is the first Bible to put these notes in the Bible. As more and more were being encouraged to read the Bible for themselves, the more pressure came from above to make them read it correctly. There is a small irony in those teaching the doctrine of perspicuity (that is, the clarity of Scripture) would also insist on notes in the text to explain the text.

In 1557, at the Boar’s Head Inn in Aldgate outside of London, a group of government officials raided the Inn and arrested a group that was performing a play inside. The play called “A Sackfull of News” became the first officially censored play by the crown. “A Sackfull of News” was a somewhat common name for ribald performances and social commentary. Think of SNL or the Daily Show but naughtier. The actors were arrested, and officials confiscated the playbook. It was Mary’s Privy council, in conjunction with the Mayor of London, that arranged for the arrest. However, the actors were released from custody the following day.

And staying in Marian England, it was on this, the 13th of September in 1557 that Sir John Cheke, a teacher, scholar, statesman, and theologian, died. Cheke was the Protestant tutor hired by Henry VIII to tutor the young Tudor, Edward VI. Cheke would also teach a young future Queen Elizabeth. His fame and teaching skills led him to Cambridge, where he taught ancient and classical Greek. John Milton said of him, “[He] taught Cambridge and King Edward Greek.”

His contribution to Greek included working out the proper pronunciation of diphthongs. Diphthongs are two vowels that make one sound that is modified by changing the shape of your mouth. It sounds uninteresting, it really is interesting. When Edward became King, Sir John was named to his privy chamber. A scholar and fervent supporter of the Reformation, he translated the Book of Common Prayer into Latin. However, his fortunes changed when Edward died, and Mary ascended the throne.

When Edward died, Cheke supported Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne. For this, the soon-to-be Queen Mary had him put in the tower. Cheke was released and went into exile, although he was double-crossed and re-arrested in Brussels. When Mary offered Cheke the option to be freed upon the recantation of his faith, Cheke did so. He was released to his wife and children but was sickly and supposedly ashamed of himself. Within months he died.

We hear about so many on this show who didn’t recant and gave their lives for their faith. I take encouragement that we also celebrate the saints who may have reacted like I fear I might act in the same situation. We are all sinners and saints, sometimes courageous and often afraid. The knighted and sainted Sir John Cheke ascended to fame quickly but died in infamy at the age of 43. We remember him on this, the day he died—the 13th of September in 1557.

The reading for today comes from the epistle we know as “1 Clement,” said to have been written by Clement, the bishop at Rome. While not part of the Christian Scriptures, it is one of the earliest writings we have from the Christian church.

For Christ is of those who are humble-minded and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Scepter of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so. But He came in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him...You see, beloved, the example which has been given us. If the Lord so humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of September 2020, presented by 1517 at The show is produced by a man who only needs one study Bible, his trusty Extreme Teen Study Bible, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. I only use my NIV Outdoorsman Study Bible in Camo. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.

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