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It’s easy for modern-day Christians to sneer at believers in early medieval times.

After all, the folk did not question Saint Augustine’s teachings that babies who died unbaptized would be damned but receive the lightest of punishments. Although these children did nothing wrong, he reasoned they were born with original sin, which only baptism could remove.

One common response to my posts about this subject is something like: how could the early medieval faithful believe a teaching that goes against the Bible?

Most early medieval Christians could not look up Scripture for themselves. The vast majority couldn’t read. Only wealthy parents could afford tutors for their sons and daughter rather than have their children do farm work. Schools run by the Church were mainly to train the clergy.

Besides, only an elite few could afford books. Commoners needed their land for crops, not a herd of sheep whose skins would become pages. To peasants, sheepskin was something to wear, not read.

And then there was the labor to hand write the Latin, add artwork, and bind the books. Bibles were as inaccessible to peasants as yachts are to most of us.

So most of the laity, especially commoners, had no choice but to know the Bible only through murals and statues and sermons. They believed what the priests told them and little beyond that.

Today, we have mass-produced Bibles in multiple languages and multiple translations of a language. Heck, we can even Google a verse. Darn near everyone in the First World can look up a concept quickly and easily, study it, and argue about it, and that process cultivates a more mature understanding of the faith.

But many 21st century Christians have Bibles that remain unread on their shelves. Many who profess to follow the faith choose to be as ignorant as their counterparts in the Dark Ages. And that should distress us more.

Carolingian manuscript

From a manuscript crafted in 820 (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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