The Importance of the Printing Press to the Development of the Reformation
Both contemporaries and historians acknowledge that the printing press
was significant in the spread of ideas of the Reformation.
It has been argued by Elizabeth Eisenstein that printing did not just
spread Protestant ideas but helped to shape the Reformation in the
first place 'Printing was a cause of religious changes, and not simply
a consequence' (The Printing Press as an agent of change, CambridgeUniversityPress)
Printing ended the scribal corruption and copying errors which made it
easier to define theological positions exactly and made it easier for
Luther to attack the corruption of the Doctrine.
With regard to the sola scriptura, an appeal to the Bible as the sole
authority had been made before Luther by other reformers such as
Wycliffe; but an evangelical, or bible based, religion only became
possible once the Bible could be mass produced.
In September 1522 Luther published the September testament, a
translation into German of Erasmus's Greek New Testament. Within 12
Years, 200,000 copies of the September testament had been sold and by
1534, Luther had completed his translation of the Old Testament as
The Church had faced heresy before and had generally contained it
slowly but surely, but now it seemed defenseless. The printing press
gave it no time.
We can see the effect the printing press had on the rate of literacy,
in the 60 years since printing had been invented, literacy had grown
20 percent in towns.
Although there were some Catholics writing to Luther, they were
outnumbered twenty to one by those writing in favor of him. All could
have been different if Luther didn't use to such great effect as he
did, he used the press as a weapon in personal contests with...