By Eugene F. Rice, Jr., W. W. Norton & Co, 1970, 0-393-09898-2
Good overview of the period.
[p10] “The art of printing,” [Pope Alexander VI] said, “is very useful insofar as it furthers the circulation of useful and tested books; but it can be very harmful if it is permitted to widen the influence of pernicious works. It will therefore be necessary to maintain full control over the printers so that they wmay be prevented from bringing into print writings which are antagonistic to the Catholic faith or which are likely to cause trouble to believers.”
[p12] The achievement of the Swiss was to develop infantry tactics which permitted masses of unmounted troops to maneuver in the open field, defend themselves against cavalry charges, and engage in shock offensive action themselves. […] By such means, men described with aristocratic disdain by a Milanese ambassador as “rude peasants who feed on cheese and curds” routed the chivalrous knights of the Burgundian dukes (at Morat in 1476) as efficiently as English yokels armed with longbows had defeated the mounted mobility of France at Cr'ecy.
[p54] Medieval theologians had commonly respected poverty, emphasized the “glittering wretchedness” of wealth, an distrusted merchants. St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) expressed perfectly the prejudices of peasants, artisans, and aristocrats when he wrote, “Properly speaking, commerce is condemned, for it encourages the passion for money [cupiditas lucri], which is without limit and almost infinite. Therefore commerce, considered in itself, has something shameful and about it.” [Summa theologiae, IIa IIae, quaest. LXXVII, art. 4.]
[p71] [Talking about the origins of the trinity.] Both in the Vulgate (the Latin translation by St. Jerome, c. 340-420, which was authoritative in the Middle Ages and in the Roman Church) and in the King James version, the tex of I John 5:7-8 reads as follows: “And there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agreen in one.” Erasmus proved the firts of these verses to be apocryphal. He found it in no Greek manuscript. It was missing in several of his oldest Latin manuscripts. He discovered that it was unkown to any Christian writer before the fourth century. He argued, with perfect cogency, that if the tex had exists, it would have surely have been quoted by orthodox writers in a period when the doctrine of the Trinity was the center of theological controversy; and he concluded–modern scholarship confirms him–that the textmust have been interpolated into the New Testament after the Council of Nicaea (325) in order to give biblical sanction to the Trinitarian formula adopted there.
[p99] Renaissance princes were desperate for money. Their largest expens was warfare. […, p100] “No money, no Swiss” was a sixteenth century axiom.”
[p137] Anabaptists […] read Matthew 5:34, “Swear not at all,” and they obeyed. This seemingly innocuous refusal to take oaths isolated them in a society accustomed to confirm by oath innumerable transactions and contract,s and placed them in a posture of civil disobedience, for Swiss and south German cities normally required their inhabitants to swear a yearly oath of obedience to the municipal authorities. They read in Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians that Christians should not go to law, so they avoided lawyers and refused to got to court. They read that the early Christians had held all property in common, and in order to conform
[p138] to this New Testament standarde they broke the ooks on the doors of their houses and cellars an lovingly shared their goods with one another Some Anabaptists practiced evangelical communism. Because Christ said, “Resist not evil,” and commanded Peter to put his sword into the sheath, Anabaptists were usually pacifists, and in the face of persecution, nonresistant. “True Christian believers,” wrote Conrad Grebel, “are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter; they must be baptized in anguish and affliction, tribulation, persecution, suffering , and death; they must be tried with fire, and must reach the fatheland of eternal rest, not by killing their bodily, but by mortifying their spiritual enemies. Neither do they use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them.” [Spritual and Anabaptist Writers, ed. by G. H. Williams and A. M. Mergal (Library of Christan Classics, Vol. XXV, Philadelphia, 1961), p. 80]
Revolutionary biblical literalism of this kind coulde lead to picturesque excess. Some Anabaptists actually preached from the rooftops, or obeying Christ’s command to become like little children, played and babbled like infants, or ran about naked because of a verse in Isaish, or practiced polygamy in imitation of the Old Testament patriarchs, or persuaded credulous women that it was impossible for them to be saved without sacrificing their virtue, for, they argued, the Lord said that only he who was willing to part with all he held most dear would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In 1532, demented by persecution, millenarian enthusiasm, and expectations of eschatological revenge, Anabaptists captured the episcopal city of M"unster, in northwestern Germany, and briefly established a heavenly Jerusalem–communist, polygamous, and violent.
[p139] Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinist, and Catholics all feared, detested, and persecuted the Anabaptists.
[p143] The best-known paragraph in Loyola’s Spiritual_Exercises (written 1522-1542) catches perfectly the commitment, passion , and discipline of mid-century Catholic militancy: “To arrive at complete certainty, this is the attitude of mind we should maintain: I will believe that the white object I see is black if that should be the decision of the hierarchical Church, for I believe that linking Christ our Lord the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church, there is one and the same Spirit, ruling and guiding us for our souls’ good. For our Holy Mother the Church is guided and ruled by the same Lpirit, the Lord who gave the Ten Commandments. [The_Spiritual_Exercises _of_Saint_Ignatius, trans. by Thomas Corbishley, S.J. (New York, 1963), p. 122.]
[p150] In April 1525, Luther answered in his _Admonition_to_Peace: _A_Reply_to_the_Twelve_Articles_of_the_Peasants_in_Swabia. The peasants, he said, had seriously misinterpreted the Gospel. Their attitude was carnal, not spiritual. They sought te give their enterprise an evangelical appearance, although in tfact their single purpose was to make their properties and bodies free. His commentary on the article condemning serfdom struck bluntly home: “That in making Christian liberty an utterly carnal thing. Did not abraham and other patriarchs and prophets have salves? … Therefore this article is dead against the Gospel. It is a piece of robbery by which every man takes from his lord the body, which has become his lord’s property. For a slave can be a Christian, and have Christian liberty, in the same way that a prisoner or a sick man is a Christian, and yet not be free. This article would make all men equal, and turn the spritual kingdom of Christ into a worldly external kingdom.” [Works_of_Martin_Luther, vol. IV (Philadelphia, 1931), p. 240.]
[p151] This was not Luther’s last word on the peasant war. A month later, in May, he published his tract Against_the_Robbing_and_ _Murdering_Hordes_of_Peasants, teh only unforgivably shameful thing he ever wrote. He said the peasants were guilt of three sins: perjury, rebellion, and blasphemy. “Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, sectretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.” [Ibid, p. 249]
Virtually without exception princes and nobles, secular and ly, Catholic and Lutheran, combined to crush the peasants. The gruesome repression strengthened every despotic tendency in German political and social development. At a crucial moment, the leaders of the new religion chose not the people, but the princes. [One hundred thousand peasanst were killed as a result.]