ST. PETER’S KIRK, LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS
Our first stop in Europe was Leiden, the Netherlands. After putting our things in the rooms, we got back in the car and drove into Leiden to look for the St. Peter’s Kirk (church) where the Pilgrims worshipped before going to America.
The church is normally locked, but there had been an art festival in the building and when we got there in the early evening, the art people were removing things from the church. We went right in and no one questioned us. We were able to take many photos of the church itself as well as the monument at one end of the church that is dedicated to John Robinson and the story of the Pilgrims. One plaque says, "In memory of John Robinson pastor of the English church in Leyden 1609-1625. His broadly tolerant mind guided and developed the religious life of the pilgrims of the Mayflower. Of him these walls enshrine all that was mortal. His undying spirit still dominates the consciences of a mighty nation in the land beyond the seas. This tablet was erected by the General Society of Mayflower Descendents in the United States of America, A.D. 1928.”
THE CHRISTIANS ARE GONE
In a video interview with a woman at the church, Brian referred to the church’s history and asked her what has happened to all of the Christians who used to be there. In slightly broken English she replied, “I think there are no more Christians anymore.” To me, that sad statement encapsulates what has happened to England and Europe. Indeed, the Bible-believing Christians are gone and paganism, in all of its sensuality, pomp and vainglory, has taken over.
BIBLE MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM
The museum is located in a 17th century building and the collection of Bibles focuses on the German editions in the Netherlands (the Lower Countries) and begins with the oldest Bible printed in the Netherlands, dating to 1477. The museum owns more than 1,000 Bibles but only a few are on display. They have some editions of the German Bible that were not Luther’s, and it would be interesting to find out if these are some of the Anabaptist editions that I have read about. We didn’t have time to look into this on our current trip. The museum has some nice models of the Tabernacle, the components of which were built in the 19th century by Leendert Schouten, as well as models of the Jerusalem Temple area. It also has a collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt, including some mummies. The most valuable to me was a statue of Isis holding the baby Horus, from which the Madonna and child was probably originally borrowed.
Brian video interviewed two people who work at the museum. He asked one woman, who claimed to be a Christian, if she was certain of going to heaven. She replied, “That is difficult; what is heaven?”
Brian interviewed the taxi driver who took us to the Bible Museum. He claimed to be a Christian but when asked if he believes that the Bible is true, he answered, “It is difficult.” When he was asked what he thought of Amsterdam, he replied that it is getting too strict. Prostitution is legal and marijuana is sold in convenience stores, but it is too strict!
It is strange that Billy Graham would choose this city, certainly one of the most wicked in Europe, for his conferences for itinerant evangelists.
We also visited a small Torture Museum in Amsterdam that had many torture instruments as well as descriptions and enlargements of torture scenes. It reminded me of how apostate the Roman Catholic Church is, though there was no mention of Rome in the descriptions of the tortures at the museum, only vague references to “the church” and “the authorities.”
In the afternoon we drove to the little town of Grimstaden near Brussels where we were scheduled to visit the Tyndale Museum and the Erasmus Museum.
CATHOLIC CHURCH, VILVOORDE, BELGIUM
Before our 9:30 a.m. appointment at the Tyndale Museum on March 25, 2003, we went to the Catholic Church of Vilvoorde, which is just a block away. A side door was open and when we went in, we saw that the priest was performing mass in a side room for a small group of elderly people. We went through the church and took many photos. There are the standard images of Mary and baby Jesus and Mary holding Jesus at the foot of the cross. The church has four confessional booths. Several of the banners and images around the church portray the host and the cup of the mass exalted. One shows the host and the cup as having power over death (depicted by a skull).
TYNDALE MUSEUM, VILVOORDE
We had an appointment at 9:30 to meet Frans vander Wel for a tour of the Tyndale Museum. To our knowledge, this small museum is the only one dedicated to Tyndale in the world. It is located in two rooms attached to the oldest Protestant church in Vilvoorde. Frans is a retired church member who volunteers his services to operate the museum. He said they had more than 200 visitors last year. One of the museum's treasures is a large model of the Vilvoorde castle where Tyndale was imprisoned and executed. There were also two old line drawings of the castle and line drawings of the two Catholic inquisitors who prosecuted Tyndale, none of which I have seen in any of the published histories of the Bible or in Tyndale biographies. (The one exception is the 2002 book Tyndale’s Testament that was published for limited scholarly distribution.) In an area one floor beneath the museum, accessed by a small stairway at the back of the main museum room, there is a model of Tyndale's jail cell.
SITE OF OLD CASTLE, VILVOORDE
We next visited the site of the old Vilvoorde castle. Today it is occupied by an abandoned prison that incorporates some of the original castle stones into its construction. We could not go into the prison but we took some photos from outside. The River Seene, into which Tyndale’s ashes were thrown following his execution, is a narrow and very polluted body of water that flowed in front of the castle. Frans told us that untreated human waste is dumped into the river in Brussels, and our noses attested to the truth of that. That this is the actual site of the old castle is also witnessed by the fact that Castle Street ("Kasteel Straat") dead-ends at the river just across from the prison.
TYNDALE MONUMENT, VILVOORDE
Our final bit of research in this area was a visit to the Tyndale Monument in downtown Vilvoorde. It has been relocated three times, the last time in 1989. Frans told us that when it was moved in 1932, the possibility was raised of it being relocated near to the Tyndale Museum, but the Catholic leaders resisted this, not wanting the monument located close to their church. The monument is a statue about 12 feet tall in a park named Tyndale Park that is perhaps 100 yards square and that is surrounded by houses and businesses. A children’s playground is the other prominent feature of the park. Carved into the stone monument are the words “To the memory of the Englishman William Tyndale.” The plaque on the monument says in four languages:
“William Tyndale who suffered martyrdom under Spanish rule on Oct. 6th 1536, was strangled and burnt at Vilvorde among his last words were these: ‘Lord, open the eyes of the king of England.’ This prayer was answered within a year by the issue under royal authority of the whole Bible in English. This memorial was erected by friends of the Trinitarian Bible Society of London and of the Belgian Bible Society, Oct. 1913.”
APOSTASY AND SAD SPIRITUAL CONFUSION
Born a Christian
See the interview....
As has been the case with each of the sites we have visited pertaining to the history of the Bible, the churches and people involved today are not born again and do not believe the Bible. The Protestant church that houses the Tyndale Museum in Vilvoorde is part of the liberal United Protestant Church of Belgium. In a video interview, Frans (who was very kind and helpful to us) told Brian that he is not born again but that he has been a Christian since birth. I asked him if his Protestant church has any relationship with the Catholic Church across the street, and he replied that they do have close relations and that two times a year they now have joint ecumenical services. One service is held at the Protestant church and the other is held at the Catholic Church. The Catholic priest conducts some of the ecumenical Bible studies. Frans thinks Rome has changed and it is no longer necessary to separate from it. He told Brian that both churches have the same problem and that is that they are losing their young people. Brian asked him, “Do you believe that a person has to be baptized to be a Christian.” Frans answered, “Yes, because I was raised in that tradition.” Brian asked, “How does a person become a Christian?” Frans answered: “I was by birth, so I don’t know. I was raised in that tradition. My parents were Christians; we went to church.” Brian asked, “Does the Reformed Church of Holland preach the new birth?” Frans answered: “That depends on the church where you go. There are very modern preachers who do not; but there are others, they do.”
ERASMUS MUSEUM, BRUSSELS
In Brussels we visited the Erasmus Museum, which is located in a house that dates back to the 15th century in which Erasmus stayed for five months in 1521. Behind the museum is a quiet garden area and part of it is planted with medicinal herbs that Erasmus used for his ailments. When Erasmus stayed at the house, it was in the country. He wrote, “All this summer I have lived in the country and things have never gone so well. I have now been so invigorated by the country air that you would not recognize me.” The museum opened in 1932, and we were told that it had 30,000 visitors in 2002. It houses the world’s most extensive collection of materials pertaining to Erasmus, including many rare works. It even has Erasmus' skull on display!
We had an appointment to interview Guido Latre, a professor at Louvain University (also spelled Leuven). Latre is an expert in Tyndale’s time on the Continent. He co-authored (with Paul Arblaster and Gergely Juhasz) the book “Tyndale’s Testament” (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2002). He gave Brother Brown a copy of this book.
Latre’s book contains excellent photos of the line drawings of two of Tyndale’s inquisitors, Ruardus Tapperus and Jacobus Latomus Camberonensis, of Louvain University. It is interesting that in connection with our research into the history of the Bible we interviewed a professor of the same university that once condemned Tyndale.
Latre was very knowledgeable about Tyndale’s movements on the Continent, but it was obvious that he is not sympathetic to Tyndale’s theology. He told us that he believed that Tyndale’s antagonist, Joyce, had the better theological position of the two and that his translation of resurrection as “life after life” is to be preferred. That smacks of the modernistic position that denies the physical resurrection. Latre also stated that John Foxe probably exaggerated some of the stories about Tyndale, such as the one about the shipwreck and the loss of his manuscripts, but this is merely opinion, as we have no proof that Foxe was wrong. Since Foxe was writing only a short time after the events and interviewed people who were close to them, one should require hard and sure evidence before rejecting his testimony. Latre said that Tyndale was “undiplomatic” in resisting Henry’s divorce from Catherine. Personally, I would not characterize that as undiplomatic but as faithfulness to God and His Word.
We also interviewed the deputy curator of the museum. She told us that Erasmus completed the 3rd edition of his Greek New Testament there and that he used Greek manuscripts from the library that was located in the house that was owned then by the Saints Peter and Guido Catholic Church a block or so away. She said that they do not know the identity of these manuscripts but it is certain that the library possessed some. She also told us that Erasmus was not a humanist after the modern definition but after the Reformation definition, meaning that he was a lover of learning and personal liberty and that he refused to depend strictly upon the “church’s” authority, desiring to go to original sources such as the Greek for the New Testament. She also said that Erasmus died in Switzerland among his Reformation friends, though he remained in the Catholic Church to the end. There is a famous large painting (in the first room of the museum that one enters after going through the office area) depicting Erasmus with some Reformers in Basel.
Sadly, Erasmus was one of those men we often find at crucial stages in church history; he was an “In Betweenite,” a “Mr. Facing Both Ways.” He wrote sharply against many Catholic errors and respected the Reformers and even the Anabaptists in many areas but he refused to join himself plainly with them and take a clear stand. His Catholic enemies complained that he laid the egg that Luther hatched, but he added a complaint of his own that the bird was not one to his complete liking!
As we have found at each historic site that we have visited, the people involved with these things today are unbelievers. While the people we interviewed at the Erasmus Museum are knowledgeable about Tyndale and Erasmus, they are sadly ignorant of the truths of the Bible that those men translated. One individual admitted to us that she is not a Christian (though she was raised Catholic) and that she has no purpose for living. She told us that she waited until she was older to have her two children because she had difficulty convincing herself that she should bring children into a meaningless world. She said that she does not believe in life after death, though she seemed genuinely interested in our testimonies that we have confidence of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. She asked if each of us had that same faith and when we assured her that we do, she commented, “It would be easier to live like that, to know for sure.” Brother Brown intends to send this person some French gospel tracts.
We spent the night in the little German town of Bacharach, which is located right on the Rhine River. An old castle occupies a prominent place on the high hill above the town. The streets are cobblestone in semi-circular patterns and some of the houses date back to the 1300s. Our hotel was about 600 years old but had all of the modern conveniences. The lady in charge, who is from the Philippines, said that she is a Catholic Christian and that she practices her religion but in her own way and does not follow everything the pope says. When Brian tried to talk to her about the gospel, she cut him off and said that discussing religion is too long and involved and that you can’t just “inject” things.
THE GUTENBERG MUSEUM
In Mainz we visited the Gutenberg Museum, which is very elaborate and has many visitors. We were not allowed to take any photos but we purchased postcards and books that contain photos. A central feature of the museum is a large-scale model of the Gutenberg printing shop, and well-trained staff workers give explanations of his printing process. The collection of old Bibles is spectacular. There are two copies of the original 180 copies of the Gutenberg. Artists individually colored each of the original Bibles; thus each is unique. The Gutenberg Museum is the only museum possessing two copies displayed side by side for easy comparison. There is an 1830 copy of the original portrait of Gutenberg that was burned in a fire in 1870. The museum also has several German Bibles that were printed before Luther’s edition. These include one from 1475 by Jodocus Pflanzmann; 1473 by Johann Sensenschmidt; 1480 by Anton Sorg; and 1485 by Johann Gruninger. It would have been interesting to have studied the textual basis for these, to have seen, for example, if “God” is included in 1 Timothy 3:16.
There are also many displays in the Gutenberg Museum that depict the history of writing, printing, and papermaking, going back to the oriental woodcut methods of the 7th century A.D. I have seen bits and pieces of this at other libraries and museums, but the Gutenberg contains the most extensive information available in one place. I purchased some books on Gutenberg and early Bible printing for my library, and Brother Brown bought a beautiful two-volume facsimile of the 1534 Luther Bible.
ST. MICHAEL’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
Across from the Gutenberg Museum is the St. Michael's Catholic Church of Mainz. Part of it was constructed in 975 A.D. and is thus over 1000 years old. The archbishops of Mainz held an important position during the Holy Roman Empire, occupying the seat of one of the seven Electors who selected the Emperor. There are large stone engravings of the various archbishops going back to the 15th century. The church is open to visitors and we took many photos.
Brian interviewed a young man who works there as a sacristan. He said that to go to heaven you have to live a good life. He also said that people could go to heaven in many other ways, such as Islam and Buddhism. He seemed interested in knowing what Brian had to say about salvation and asked him many questions. It appeared that he has been reading the Bible and that he knows that what he reads in the Bible and what he sees in Roman Catholicism are different.
I talked to another man who was in the church. Pointing to the baptismal font, I asked him if he was baptized there. He told me that he was visiting from Stuttgart and that he was indeed baptized as an infant but in a Lutheran church. When I asked him if he is born again he replied that he is not but that he thinks that his wife is. He called her a “decided Christian.” He told me that his wife’s church and a Baptist church in the area got together recently for some sort of evangelism campaign. I urged him that he also needs to become a “decided Christian,” and he replied smilingly, “My wife is working on that.”
Experience it for yourself
We enjoyed driving down the German autobahn, which is like an interstate highway in America, with controlled access ramps, but in many parts there are no effective speed limits. The left lane is for those who are going well over 100 miles an hour and no one blocks that lane by going slow. We were going 90 to 100 miles per hour and were passed like we were sitting still by powerful cars, such as BMWs, Mercedes, and Jaguars.
CRIME MUSEUM, ROTHENBURG, GERMANY
Rothenburg dates back to 960 A.D. and is the oldest surviving walled city in Europe. There are many interesting museums in the town, such as the Craftsman’s House that contains antiques depicting how a craftsman worked and lived in the Middle Ages; but the most important for our research is the Crime Museum. It contains artifacts about law and crime in Europe dating back to the 12th century. Most interesting in light of church history are the instruments of torture that were used by Rome. This is probably the largest crime and torture museum of its kind anywhere, with displays on four large floors. The displays are well presented and are explained in English. They also allowed us to photograph freely.
THE FRANCISCAN CHURCH AND ST. JAKOB'S, ROTHENBURG
We visited two old Lutheran churches in Rothenburg. One is the Franciscan Church and the other is St. Jakob's. Both date back to the 14th century and began as Catholic churches. The Franciscan, as the name suggests, began as a church and monastery operated by the Franciscans, who played a large role in the inquisition. The church was first dedicated in 1309. The monastery was disbanded during the Reformation and was taken over by the protestant congregation of St. Jakob’s. It is not very ornate and there is no tabernacle or host, but the building does contain many things associated with Rome, such as a Madonna and candles burning before a little low-key altar. St. Jakob’s is a massive cathedral style church that towers above Rothenburg. The first part of it was built in 1311. The ornate High Altar was built in 1446 and features paintings of the 12 apostles, one of whom is depicted wearing a pair of spectacles! An altar in another part of the church is dedicated to Mary. One scene depicts Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And remember, this has been a Protestant church for hundreds of years.
We spent the night in Rottweil, Germany, on our way to Switzerland and northern Italy. Rottweil is the oldest town in this part of Germany and dates back hundreds of years. The Romans built a military base here in 73 A.D. The town is famous for the Rottweiler breed of dogs. In the late afternoon, we went through two old churches in Rottweil.
BELIEVING MEANS NOT KNOWING; FUNDAMENTALISM IS DANGEROUS
The Minister of the Holy Cross Catholic Church dates to the 12th century. When we arrived, a priest was conducting a mass for a handful of (mostly) elderly women. The next morning Brian went back over and they were having morning prayers and a baptism. Brian video interviewed a woman who told him that she is an active Catholic but does not know for sure if she is going to heaven and that, in fact, no one can know for sure. She said, “Nobody’s sure; believing means not to know really.” Brian asked her, “When you stand before God, what will He base His judgment on; will He weigh your good works against your bad works?” She answered: “No, God does not weigh good works against bad works; He’s just love.” Brian asked, “Are there other ways to get to heaven but by Jesus?” She replied: “For Christians Jesus is the way; all people will be coming to heaven, whether they are Muslims or Buddhists. ... God has many names. ... Allah is another name for God.” Finally, she said, “What you are telling me is fundamentalism.” Brian then asked, “What do you think of religious fundamentalism?” She replied, “It’s dangerous. It might be dangerous when there is no respect for other opinions.”
DOMINICAN CHURCH (PROTESTANT)
We also went through the Dominican Church. Construction on this began in the 13th century. It was a Catholic Church until 1818 and was the location of a monastery of the Dominicans, who, with the Franciscans, had a large role in the inquisition. In 1818, Dominican Church became the Protestant town church. The statue of Mary on the Rosary Altar was alleged to have turned its eyes twice in 1643 during the Thirty Years War when the town was under siege by the French. It didn’t turn its eyes while we were there, though.
We went through the Dominican Museum in Rottweil, but it was a disappointment. We thought it would have things pertaining to the history of the Dominicans, but it was largely a collection of statues of Mary and other “saints.”
STATUE OF ZWINGLI
In the late morning we drove to Zurich, Switzerland. On the shore of the Limmat River near the Grossmunster Church is a large statue of Zwingli. Brian interviewed three young women who were standing near the monument and asked if they knew who Zwingli was. None of them did. This is quite amazing, because Zwingli was not only a religious leader but a political one, as well, and was thus a founder of post-reformation Zurich.
The Grossmunster was Zurich’s principal church during the Reformation under Zwingli and Bullinger. The church itself is supposed to date back to the 9th century, and legend has it that the patron saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula, were martyred somewhere down the hill toward the river and that they carried their decapitated heads to the site of the present church building. Construction on parts of the current building began before 1100 A.D. and was completed in 1260. A monastery existed at Grossmunster until 1832 and a corresponding convent existed at the nearby Fraumunster.
NO LIFE AFTER DEATH
Brian interviewed two men in the crypt of Grossmunster. They told him they were visiting from Germany. He asked them, “Do you believe there is life after death.” One replied, “Not in the biological sense. Maybe you live on through the memories you leave behind, your ideas, your family, in that sense you go on.”
THE THIRD BAPTISM
Like most of the Protestant church fathers, Zwingli was a persecutor of the Baptists. Because they refused to submit to the unscriptural infant baptism, the Baptists were imprisoned, tortured, drowned, and burned. Some were drowned at the Market Bridge near Zwingli's Grossmunster Church.
After leaving Zurich, we drove through the Alps and saw one lovely scene after another as we made our way to the town of Wassen, where we spent the night. Along the way there are small prayer chapels that contain images of Mary or various other saints. One that we stopped at had a statue of Mary and baby Jesus and room for about four people to pray, but it was locked.
We stayed in a small hotel in Wassen, a little town nestled in the Swiss Alps. After we put our things in our rooms, we walked down to the Catholic Church that is situated on a prominent point overlooking the town and with spectacular views of the valley. A small chapel beside the main church contains an image of Mary with several swords piercing her heart, depicting the Catholic dogma that she suffered with Jesus for our sins. For supper, we drove to the next town and had a great cheeseburger. There were lots of skiers and snowboarders around and it appeared that they were having a competition of some sort this weekend.
ROCK AND ROLL
One thing that has followed us throughout the trip, regardless of the country or language, is American and British rock and roll. Even in tiny restaurants and bed and breakfasts in out of the way places--even in places where nary a soul speaks English--we heard English rock and roll. The people no longer know anything about the Bible but they certainly know about Elvis and the Beatles. And rock music has always been against the God of the Bible and His authority. A billboard that is seen frequently these days in Italy encapsulates the rock philosophy. In large letters it proclaims, “Fun, Sex, and Rock and Roll.”
That being true (and who can dispute it?), how foolish does the idea appear that the addition of Christian words could somehow sanctify this music so that it is acceptable to a holy God! To Christianize rock & roll is to imitate the Roman Catholic Church in its erroneous practice of Christianizing pagan things from ancient secular Rome.
SEE PARTS 3-4 FOR THE CONCLUSION TO THIS REPORT. The entire report can be found at the Way of Life web site -- http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/in-thefootsteps-bibletrans/index.html