Did the Church Ever Ban the Bible?

Did the Church Ever Ban the Bible?

Full Question

Has the Church and/or the priesthood ever actively discouraged study or reading of the Bible by the laity?


Individual clergy may or may not have done many things throughout history. However, the Church has never actively discouraged the reading or studying of the Bible except in cases of heretical groups and literature.

Up until recently in history, this would not have been much of an issue. The average person couldn’t read, so there was nothing for the Church to discourage, and until the invention of the printing press, copies of the Bible were relatively rare. In those periods the Church did indeed forbid heretical groups from preaching heterodox interpretations of the Bible and the faithful from attending such gatherings. But that is a far cry from banning the faithful from learning about the Bible.

Once the printing press made copies of the Bible more available, the Church did forbid certain versions that contained heretical translations and commentary. Once again, that is far different from the claim that the Church forbade the faithful to read or study the Bible.

The fact that Latin Vulgate version of the Bible was available to Catholics, as were various approved vernacular translations, flies in the face of the accusation that the Church tried to keep the Bible from the faithful. The Catholic Church even produced an English version of the Bible (Douay-Rheims) before the King James Version!

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