Chained Bible Response Needed


How can I answer this:** The “church” mandated that the Bibles chained to the rostrums were in LATIN, a language really known only to the church hierarchy so it’s “availability”, to the limited degree it might have been, was irrelevant to the masses and even most of the monks.**


All Bibles were in Latin at that time…and all were hand written…lined in gold and very expensive. They were chained so as not to be stolen…


Hi, Jaguar:

Well, Bibles were chained to rostra for the same reason telephone books are chained to the booth - for the purpose of deterring theft. Bibles were all hand written for a long time, that is, until movable type was invented.

As for Latin, it was pretty much the language of scholars for many centuries. Anybody who was literate could read and write in Latin.



Bibles were chained since they were really expensive…The cost of a decorated Bible then could easily bankrupt a poor Parish.

Plus, the masses knew the basic Bible stories and lives of the Saints through those Stained glass windows, wall paintings, Mystery Plays, Passion Plays. These were the ‘Poor Man’s Bible’ that helped them remember most of the Scriptures even if they were illiterate.

And even before Wycliffe and Luther, there were translations of parts of the Bible like the Psalms, Gospels, the Apocalypse in the vernacular that can at least be read by literate people, so at least they knew them.


But I think he’s trying to make the point that the Church didn’t want the common people to read it for themselves.— Actually, that makes sense, considering what has happened over the past 500 yrs.


A hand-copied Bible took a long time to produce and was worth the equivalent of a year’s wages…clearly something that would be a temptation to even otherwise honest folk.

Thus, by chaining the bibles, the Church could simultaneously prevent them from being stolen while making them available for people to read.

Otherwise, the Church could have simply locked them away in a closet with NO access.

The fact that they were chained in a place where people could access them says a lot, don’t you think?


The actual point though, is that first and foremost, very little of the general populace at the time could read. Literacy wasn’t the norm among the common folk. In addition, even if you could read, there wouldn’t be much in the way of books to read because the printing press hadn’t been invented yet - that came around the time of the Protestant Reformation, allowing the Bible to finally be available to more than the rich.


But it is important to realise that this didn’t just apply to bibles - most ALL books, of any kind whatsoever, were in the classical languages of Latin or Greek before the invention of the printing press.

So if you wanted to read a medical or scientific textbook, a legal document, or a historical record, you also needed training in Latin and/or Greek. Most of the rest, at least in England, were in the legal lingo of Early Norman French, some of which survives to this day, which also was not the vernacular and also would’ve had to be specially learned. So it’s certainly not that knowledge was restricted in this way only by the Church.

If you only understood your vernacular in the middle ages all you might be able to read would be some (not all) poetry or fiction!

And most ALL books, even in the libraries of universities or private houses, were locked away or chained to the desks or shelves, because they were indeed very valuable and needed protection from theft!


Does anyone know the #'s or %'s of illiteracy at that time?


I don’t understand why this keeps coming up…over and over and over…

Some protestants believe that people have always simply strolled into their local Lifeway and bought the KJV Bible:rolleyes:


In what years, specifically? If you’re talking 600-700 AD, a very small percentage of Europeans could read… low single digits. Unless you were royalty or studying for the priesthood (and even then, not always), you probably would never have had the opportunity to learn how to read. By the late Middle Ages, iirc, it was closing in on something like 30-40% literacy. Also, it’s very important to note that almost anyone with any kind of education at this time would have had to learn to read Latin, since almost ALL books were written in Latin or Greek, and most classes at universities were even taught in Latin. So, the fact that Bibles were written in Latin wasn’t really an impediment to most people who could read.


My understanding is that “vernacular” tongues were not nearly as standardized in the old days as they are now. Every sub-region in England or France or Italy would need its own variant translation to be understandable to the locals. Which just seems impractical.


A bit off-topic, but might be helpful; About Latin in Medieval Times

In Medieval times, many learned people (like priests, doctors and nobles) still used Latin then (Medieval Latin) as a second language.

Yet there was no single form of Medieval Latin since Latin varied by country and perhaps, by speaker. For example, The Latin of someone from France was influenced by French syntax, grammar and vocabulary, as well as the speaker’s fluency in Latin; A German speaker of Latin was influenced by German grammar, etc.

Taken from Wikipedia:

For instance, rather than following the classical Latin practice of generally placing the verb at the end, medieval writers would often follow the conventions of their own native language instead. Whereas Latin had no definite or indefinite articles, medieval writers sometimes used forms of unus as an indefinite article, and forms of ille (reflecting usage in the Romance languages) or even “quidam” (meaning “a certain one/thing” in Classical Latin) as something like a definite article. Unlike in classical Latin, where esse (“to be”) was used as the only auxiliary verb, Medieval Latin writers might use habere (“to have”), as Germanic and Romance languages do. The accusative infinitive construction in classical Latin was sometimes ignored, in favour of introducing a subordinate clause with the word “quod” (or occasionally “quia”). This is almost identical, for example, to the use of “que” in similar constructions in French.

Because of this, the Humanists complained that a speaker of Latin in one country couldn’t understand the Latin of a speaker from a different country. They sought to purge Latin of its Medieval Vocabulary and the ‘accretions’ that it had acquired in the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. For them, only the Latin of Cicero and Virgil and other works from the Roman Empire was the ‘real’ Latin; they condemned the other works done later in Latin as ‘gothic’.

They tried to insist that ‘ae’ be written in full as in Classical Latin whenever it was encountered; formerly, it was only written as ‘e’ (for example ‘Eternum’=‘Aeternum’, ‘Vite’=‘Vitae’), and ‘c’ to ‘t’ (‘Eciam’=‘Etiam’, ‘Divicie’=‘Divitiae’). Erasmus even proposed that the then-traditional (regional) pronunciations of Latin be abolished in favour of his reconstructed version of classical Latin pronunciation.

So far, the Humanists was successful, at least in education. But it became much harder to write books Science, Law, Medicine, and Politics in Latin while observing all of the Humanists’ norms about vocabulary purging and classical usage. Because the Latin proposed by Humanists lacked contemporary terms and vocabulary that can deal with modern issues,

Latin turned from a workday language to the subject of Antiquarian study, perhaps turning it more into the ‘dead language’ as it is known today.



[LEFT]Not just Bibles but all books were of inestimable value. I read a book about the development of printing and publishing that touched on this. It said a medieval medical text had been found in Germany that originated in a monastery and had a curse on the title page upon anyone who stole it. Beneath the curse was a notation from a German archbishop that he had not stolen it but found it in his library upon taking office.

We should give thanks that we now live in the Information Age.


I don’t have any idea of the numbers, but as a side note, if you wanted to take this a step further, you could point out that the rise in the literacy rate of commoners was a direct result of the University style education that was instituted by…THE CATHOLIC CHURCH !!!:eek: :eek: :eek:

Prior to the establishment of Universities, formal education was almost exclusively for the wealthy, since people were educated by privately hired tutors, which were very expensive. The University model made education affordable for the first time in the history of civilization, and according to my history, a University education ALWAYS included thorough instruction in LATIN. Why in the world would an institution who didn’t want people to read the Bible take the time to copy it by hand, in a language that any educated person would have been able to read, store it in a place that was accessable to everyone, and THEN devise a system that made formal education (and thus literacy in the language ALL Bibles were written in…Latin) a practical reality to the “common people” of the age ? This is laughable to even entertain.


Everything written was in Latin at that time, Latin was the written language for those who could read and write. Would you say that the Bible is being kept from certain peoples because the bible is not translated into every known language of the world? It has bee translated into most of the common languages but not into every known language. The Catholic Church actually was the first to translate the NT Scriptures into the NEW languages of English, German, French, etc. However translation was difficult because there was no direct word for word translation from Latin in some instances. Would this person charge the art museums of the world with keeping the art treasures away from the people in glass and alarmed cases, and not allowing the people to handle and touch the art works? Probably not, they would say "That’s different! That is no different. The Church chained Bibles so that those who could read would have access to them and that they would not walk off, since they were very valuable.


I think it is important to remember that it would have been highly unlikely for a local parish Church to have more than a single copy of the Bible. The Mass and the readings were in Latin so even if there were reliable, accurate vernacular translations available (which there weren’t) a Church would have invested in a Latin Bible as a necessity. A very wealthy parish might have enough money to purchase a vernacular book of the Psalms (just as an example) but if the parish was that wealthy, the parisioners probabaly already bought their own books.:slight_smile:


Uh, most “common people” of the time couldn’t read to begin with. And if they could, there is no way they could have afforded a Bible, even after the invention of movable type.:rolleyes:


First off, the charge levied on the Church of restricting the use of the Bible is slanderous and historically dishonest. This is a tactic levied against the Church to demonstrate that the Church could not have been the Church Christ started, thereby arguing the legitamacy of their particular sect of Christianity. A fool’s errand.

I think it is difficult for people of this century to understand or comprehend what life would have been like prior to the Reformation. Common folk would not have had the opportunity to spend time learning to read or write. No matter what country the person resided in, that society was strictly agrarian. If a person was lucky enough to even own a parcel of land, he’d spend tireless hours in the fields harvesting crops just to earn enough money at market to pay his mortgage on the land. His children, once they became able bodied, would also be in the fields working long arduous days for the family. However, I would argue that the majority of peasants weren’t so lucky as to own land. They would have worked someone else’s land, harvesting their crop, and given a meager share of the crops to feed their family. Sunday Mass would have been their only opportunity to hear the Word of God. At Christmastide, the people would have been witness to the Nativity plays in a village square to tell the story of the birth of the Savior. Throughout the year, traveling bands of players (actors) would have acted out morality plays to instruct the uneducated masses with some moral lesson. Did people deserve to learn the lingua franca? Of course. Should they have spent the time to learn to read? No, not to the detriment of their family.

But, of course, whenever makes a claim and tells you to prove it wrong, tell them that they’d have to substantiate it first.

Dominus vobsicum


All Bibles were in Latin at that time…and all were hand written…lined in gold and very expensive. They were chained so as not to be stolen…

To build on that they were also made of sheep skin. Every page was a dead sheep. thats alot of sheep and very expensive. A monk would might spend 3 - 5 years making a bible.

Adding all that up a bible was probably about as expensive as a house, a nice house. Of course they were chained up.

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