‘Judaising’ in the Period of the English Reformation ?The Case of Richard Bruern

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Mr. Christopher Hill has recently noted a tendency among some sections of Puritan opinion to declare for the full Jewish Sabbath, and a parallel tendency in their opponents to impute to them Judaising motives. He com? ments :

'Many Puritans regarded themselves as the chosen people, and their reliance upon Old Testament texts is notorious. "Judaising" meant, among other things, looking back to the customs and traditions of a tribal society, still relatively egalitarian and democratic; its standards and myths could be used for destruc? tive criticism of the institutions that had been built up in medieval society.51

Throughout his book, Mr. Hill notes many instances of connections between Puritanism and its earlier forebears in England,2 and this particular instance of 'Judaising' can also be traced in earlier periods, where it shows even more clearly the uncertainties and eccentricities of a faith based on the individual's interpreta? tion of Scripture.

We can find a very early Lollard, John Seygno, asserting that the Sabbath should be reckoned according to the manner of the Jews, and that it was sinful to eat pork.3 Later, William Fuer of Gloucester, who abjured his opinions in 1448, stated firmly that only the Sabbath should be observed?and that accord? ing to the Old Testament?only the prepara? tion of food being lawful upon that day.4 In 1472 the Lollards of Lydney were of the opinion that the authority of the Old Testament was preferable to that of the New.5 Yet again, in 1491, Richard Hilling, of Newbury, believed that the priests were the disciples of Antichrist, as would soon be shown at the coming of Enoch and Elijah.6

Later still, in 1542, two parishioners of Kelvedon, near Witham, in Essex, were dis? cussing a recent sermon with their vicar, who had evidently disliked it. One of them said to him: 'Why maister vicar he preached nothyng but the Gospell, and by the Gospell I truste to be savyd.' But the priest burst out in reply: 'Truste thowe well to the Gospell, and thow shalt goo to the devyll; for I cannott see by noo poynt of my learnyng but that the fayth shalbe taken frome us and gyven to the Jewys; for wee bee the Gentylles, and the children of unpromyse and they bee the children of Israeli and children of promysse.'7

But by far the most interesting of these early 'Judaisers' was Richard Bruern, a fascinating character in himself whose life was full of incident, and yet, like so many, unfor? tunately, poorly served by the Dictionary of National Biography.9 Bruern must have been born c. 1519, for he was about 32 at the time of Stephen Gardiner's trial.9 He went up to Lincoln College, and soon showed himself an apt student, for in 1545 Leland lists him among the most noted scholars of the day, calling him 'Hebraei radius chori'. Later on Bishop Cox also bears witness to his excellence as a Hebrew scholar.10 He was admitted B.D. in July 1547, and within a year was created Regius Professor of

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