Grafton learns the cost of Bible printing

Grafton’s mark was a young tree (graft) growing out of a cask (tun).

The early printers of the Bible incurred great risks. Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, together with Miles Coverdale, were entrusted to arrange for the printing of Thomas Mathew’s translation. The work was given to the printers in Paris, as the English printers were not very highly esteemed. The book was nearly completed when the Inquisition effectually stopped the further progress of the work by seizing the sheets, and Grafton with his companions were forced to flee. Richard Grafton and Whitchurch contrived to obtain their types from Paris, and the Bible was completed in 1539. Thus they became printers themselves, and as a reward for his labor, when the Roman Catholics again became rulers in high places, Richard Grafton was imprisoned.

The title of the Bible which was begun in Paris and finished in London is as follows:—

The Byble in Englyshe. 1539. Folio.

“The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye the content of all the Holy Scrypture, bothe of the Olde, and Newe Testament, truly translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke textes, by the dylygent studye of dyuerse excellent learned men, expert in the forsayde tongues. Printed by Rychard Grafton and Edward Whitchurche. Cumpriuilegio—solum. 1539.”

Grafton was a voluminous author who wrote part of Hall’s Chronicles and an abridgment of the Chronicles of England. His printer’s mark was a graft, or young tree, growing out of a tun (shown above from the Thomas Jefferson building in Washington, DC).

—Adapted from Ditchfield’s Books Fatal to their Authors.

Origen’s take on persecution

[Imaginary portrait of Origen]

Origen was the son of a martyr and himself suffered imprisonment and torture late in life. A teacher and theologian, he wrote on persecution as one who had witnessed it and who was prepared to experience it. Although he suffered for his faith, contemporary church leaders condemned some of his teachings because they veered into heretical territory. Continue reading “Origen’s take on persecution”

Sentenced to Siberia

Basil Malof in 1939.

Basil Malof (born William Fetler—he changed his name because Fetler had been forced on his grandfather by German occupiers) was a successful Protestant evangelist in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), and publisher of the first religious journal in Latvia, Kristigais Vestnesis (Christian Herald). Converted at fifteen, he was baptized at night because the Orthodox Church persecuted evangelicals. Continue reading “Sentenced to Siberia”

Elisha Paine and the Freedom to Worship

When Elisha Paine preached as a Baptist, Massachusetts authorities threw him into a dirty prison at Worcester for unlicensed preaching (February 1743). He refused to post bond, believing to do so was to comply with an unbiblical and corrupt system. After his release in May, he continued to preach in that area for two weeks, then preached throughout New England from July into December. By the end of the year had given over 240 sermons. Continue reading “Elisha Paine and the Freedom to Worship”

Fifty Captives Freed for a Blind Man

In July 1900, Boxers martyred “Blind Chang” at Chaoyang, China.

Formerly an alcoholic, thief, gambler, and member of the notorious gang known as Vegetarians, he had become blind after expelling his wife from their home and forcing his daughter into prostitution. He made his way to a mission station where he was given a place to stay. There he heard the gospel and was transformed by the power of Christ. Continue reading “Fifty Captives Freed for a Blind Man”

Tertullian’s Thought on Persecution and Martyrdom

Tertullian
[Imaginary portrait of Tertullian.]

[Adapted from text by Roy Stults from his unpublished Historical Perspectives on a Theology of Suffering, Persecution, and Martyrdom] Tertullian was a prolific Christian writer of the early third century—an apologist (defender of the faith) and theologian. (Among his contributions to theology was the term “Trinity” to explain the Bible’s teaching on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.) Persecution and martyrdom were often discussed in his apologetic writings. He shared some themes of earlier apologists but expanded the literature by introducing new themes that he wove into a unique argument to meet the situation of his day. Continue reading “Tertullian’s Thought on Persecution and Martyrdom”

The Price Some Paid for the Bible


Ditchfield, in Books Fatal to their Authors, mentions several Bible translators who paid dearly for their efforts. One translator who escaped punishment by the skin of his teeth was Arias Montanus, who produced a Polyglot Bible at the command of King Philip II of Spain, but was denounced for it to the pope because he had strayed from the Latin Vulgate. Montanus pleaded his case in Rome where the pope eventually pardoned him. His work, however, was placed on the Index Expurgatorius to which he had, in his day, added others’ works. Continue reading “The Price Some Paid for the Bible”

Christian Captives in North Africa

Robert Bridges
During the Middle Ages, Arabs, Moors, and Berbers captured many Christians and worked them as slaves or held them for ransom in North Africa. In 1415 the Portuguese captured the city of Ceuta, which for centuries gave them a toe-hold in North Africa. Robert Bridges, poet laureate of England from 1913 to 1930, made use of these historical facts in setting a blank-verse drama titled The Christian Captives. The story is a tragedy of thwarted love in five acts.

The desire of the King of Fez to regain Ceuta after the Portuguese invade Tangier is a central theme of the play. The Christian captives appear in the story as a chorus, introducing an Islamic princess to Christianity. They serve as a bargaining chip in negotiations between the Christians and the Muslims in an otherwise improbable tale. Continue reading “Christian Captives in North Africa”