Background to the Reformation
Going medieval on religion
The prophecy and the dream
- Daniel Hames trained for ordination at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He has degrees in Theology and Ecclesiastical History, and is a Theology Network Associate Staff Worker for UCCF. View all resources by Daniel Hames
The Bohemian 'morning star of the reformation', John Huss (1370-1415), was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. He had been influenced by the writing and theology of the Englishman John Wycliffe, and contested the abuses of the Roman papacy. Led to the stake by seven bishops, the firewood was piled up to his chin, and as the fire licked up over his body, he sang: "Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me". Someone remarked that he had prepared for the stake as one would for a marriage-feast.
As he was taken to his death, Huss refused to recant and was heard to say, 'You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.'
'Huss' means 'goose' and his prophecy was fulfilled remarkably when 102 years later in 1517, Martin Luther, whose family seal was a swan, wrote both his 'Disputation Against Scholastic Theology' (Ninety-Seven Theses) and his more famous 'Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences'. Luther's initial outrage with the abuses of the Catholic church led to his 1519 gospel discovery of justification by the word of God, and year of remarkably potent writing in 1520. Those who would stifle the word with human authority- whether scholastic theology, or the magisterium of Rome- could not silence the man or the movement that grew around him.
On the night of October 30th, 1517, Frederick Elector of Saxony had a dream about a monk who wrote on the Wittenberg church door with a pen so large that it reached Rome. The pen became stronger as the authorities attempted to break it, which the monk exaplined thus, 'The pen belonged to an old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old.' On waking-up the following day Frederick shared his dream with his brother, not knowing that Luther was nailing his Ninety-five Theses up that morning.