Note, this is about final assignments, not finals…It’s the last two weeks of the year, so that means a paper crunch for students across the board. I’m not exception, attempting to crank out a paper for my African immersion course by Thursday.
Though I’ve also got one short C&T paper to write as well by next week, what’s on my mind is a much larger assignment–my Religion term paper. I figured out fairly soon that, for the class about the Gnostic Gospels and medieval heretics, I wanted to do it about the latter. I had neither the philosophical background nor the New Testament knowledge to study the former with ease. I was soon attracted to the Hussite Revolution, a pre-Luther movement in what was then Bohemia, or the Czech Republic. What attracted me at first to the subject was how it split–the more radical Taborites broke off from the more conservative Prague Hussites, and, at one point, actually went to war with each other as the Pope launched a crusade.
However, there is a disappointing lack of primary sources about the Hussites in English. The Czechs obviously dominate scholarship in the area, though there was some secondary sources in English. However, there wasn’t enough for me to go on. I gravitated to John Hus himself, their leader and martyr. The main reason was, the majority of the scant primary works translated into English are Hus’. In fact, everything I have to go off of comes from two sources: An early 20th century translation of his treatise on the church, de ecclesia, and a deceased church historian, Matthew Spinka, who’s translated some of his letters, a first-hand account of his trial, and one of his minor treatises from Latin into English.
I explored potential paper topics (this is a 20-30 pager) for a while: Hus’ philosophical predecessors, his actual influence on the topic, the source of Utraquist theology (the belief that both elements should be given out in Communion) but I kept running into the same problem: I had no primary sources to work off of. Of all the pre-Hus and post-Hus theologians in the movement, only one has had anything of his translated into English. I can’t do a term paper based off secondary sources, I need something.
So, what I’m doing now, and what I started Sunday, is a comparison of Hus’ actual beliefs, derived mostly from de ecclesia, and the charges that led to his burning at the stake. Like I said, his courage is what attracted me to him. He was told he’d be granted safe-passage to the Council of Constance in 1415, which was held, in part, to condemn him. He honestly believed he could sway the Council, or at least inform them of his views. However, the Council turned into a battle of whether Hus was a Wyclifite or not (A British theologian who influenced him). He had little opportunity to expound his own beliefs, and when charged were finally presented based on his actual work, they were mostly misunderstood. Plus, he was locked in jail the whole time. (So much for the safe passage thing…) He continued to deny the biggest charges, and the cardinals rewarded him by burning him at the stake. But the Hussite movement exploded thereupon. So the Council was, in the long run, not very successful in suppressing the Hussites.
If you enjoyed that, just wait till you read my term paper!