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Holy Scripture and the Quest for Authority among Three Late Medieval Masters


John Wyclif (d. 1384), Thomas Netter (d. 1430) and Jean Gerson (d. 1429) had a good deal in common. They were all theologians, and thus ‘masters of the sacred page’ by trade. They all recognised the absolute authority of Scripture in matters of the Catholic faith over and against any pretensions of canon law. What separated them, therefore, was not the recognition of authority as such, but rather the correct application of that authority. Wyclif exercised his rights as a university master to dissent from ecclesiastical determinations that ran contrary to the truth as revealed in Scripture. Netter and Gerson set out to curb this sort of magisterial excess which they believed would inevitably lead to the destruction of all proper norms of authority within the Church. Rather than being a simple tale of heresy and orthodoxy, therefore, this late medieval conflict turned on the question of professional expertise, rights and responsibilities.

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The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
  • ISSN: 0022-0469
  • EISSN: 1469-7637
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-ecclesiastical-history
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