I had little idea how much background in Christian history these students had. And how much/little interest would there be? In my introduction I mentioned how amazingly God joined up the dots for the English Reformation in Cambridge with a good edition and translation of the New Testament (1516) , successful smuggling of Luther's books down the river (1521), gifted reformers meeting in secret (1523) and then the very first Reformation sermon (1525). Later the boy king Edward VI (1547-1553) provided a brief window of opportunity for the Reformers before crushing persecution and the burning of 300 martyrs under Mary 1.
That 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament with a brilliant Latin translation was the work of Erasmus, who was brought to Queens' College Cambridge to fulfill this work. Two of the students caught me afterwards. 'Erasmus of Rotterdam', they exclaimed. 'What was he doing in Cambridge? We have been studying him and he seems to have been a very big influence on the Continent helping to prepare for the Reformation'. You can imagine my delight. Genuine interest! And when we reached Erasmus' Tower at Queens' College and looked up at his study window I could sense some frisson for these two. Really? Up there!
There is real irony too. John Fisher, the President of Queens', brought Erasmus to his college but as a Roman Catholic detested the Reformers and Luther's interpretation of Scripture. Indeed, he ordered the burning of Luther's books in the Market Square. Erasmus, also Roman Catholic had no intention of breaking away from Rome though his personality and brilliance emphasized that religion should be about who we are and not what we do in a faith that is deep and reasonable. As one historian put it: 'He did most to make educated Europe think that things must change because they could not be borne any longer.'