Johann Gutenberg

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Was the Protestant Reformation a significant outcome of the printing press?

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Although having the Bible available to be read widely by the laity was an important aspect of the Protestant Reformation, it was not the sole cause of the Reformation. There is an important distinction between use of the printing press by Protestants and the causes of the Reformation. The main causes of the Reformation were social, political, and theological. On a political level, monarchs chafed at sending revenue to Rome and wished greater control over church temporalities. On a social level, the rise of the bourgeois lead to a mass of people who were educated and independent thinkers, neither powerless peasants nor aristocrats allied to the church hierarchy. On a theological level, Luther and the other reformers were objecting to practices withing Roman Catholicism they saw as corrupt and unbiblical. Although the printing press was used to spread pamphlets as well as copies of the vernacular Bible, this could have been achieved, albeit not as efficiently, by well-organized scriptoria.

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