Jerome Of Prague, (1365 - 1416) was a Czech scholastic philosopher, theologian and professor. His notion on the Church as the fellowship of believers as opposed to the legal and ministerial structures of the Roman Church was among the issues that eventually caused him to be burned at the stake. Much of his thinking has made modern protestants call him one of the early reformers and one of the first Reformation leaders in central Europe. We should note that about this time the structure of the Roman Church was in something of a shambles with the Avignon Papacy (1309-1378) followed by the Papal Schism (1378 - 1417). Both of these had more political ramifications than theological ones. Theology, or eat least ecclesiology, did play a role in Jerome being branded an heretic.

As a student at the Charles University of Prague, Jerome came under the influence of the Czech Reformer Jan Hus, with whom he would collaborate. At Hus's suggestion, Jerome went to England to study at Oxford. There he adopted the philosophical theology of the English Reformer John Wycliffe. He returned to Prague in 1401 and, as a university professor began spreading Wycliffe's teaching. For the next several years, Jerome moved around a good bit, for a time in Paris, then Jerusalem, Heidelberg, Vienna, Russia, Lithuania, Hungary and Cologne. In his native Bohemia he sided with nationalistic students against what was perceived as the interference of the Pope in the affairs of the state. He denounced a Papal bull proclaiming an indulgence for a crusade against Naples, not one of the Crusades as we think of them today, this crusade was to consolidate papal power toward the end of the Papal Schism.

Jerome continued to propagate his reform doctrine at various academic centers throughout Europe, Jerome taught at the Sorbonne (1405) and at the universities of Heidelberg and Cologne (1406) but was forced to leave by ecclesiastical authorities in each city. Returning to Prague, he and Hus resumed public debates and proposed to reform the structure and customs of the church through a general council. As an example of his dissent to traditional sacramental theology, he insisted that the wine of Holy Communion be extended to the laity, as practiced by the early church. (This sounds odd to us today, but the controversy continued through the reformation.)

Jerome was forced to leave Vienna in 1410 and was expelled from Poland after King Władysław II had invited him to reorganize the University of Kraków. Again at Prague, in 1412, he joined Hus in a public disputation in which they maintained that the faithful are not bound to obey papal commands that conflict with the laws of Christ. He then led a procession through the city, climaxed by burning Antipope John XXIII's (Pisa, see Papal Schism) decree authorizing the sale of indulgences. Sale of indulgences would be a major cause of Luther's reformation as well.

In April 1415, against the advice of his followers, Jerome went secretly to the Council of Constance in an unsuccessful attempt to defend the teaching of the imprisoned Hus. As he was leaving Constance, he was arrested and imprisoned. Confined for more than a year and ill, he disavowed the condemned doctrine of Wycliffe and Hus, after repeated interrogation by the conciliar tribunal. Accused of ambiguity and insincerity at his final appearance before the council (May 26, 1416), he then withdrew all earlier retractions of reform views and declared that his confession of Roman Catholic orthodoxy had come out of fear and weakness. Accordingly, he was judged a relapsed heretic and sentenced to burn at the stake. The Bohemian Hussite Church considers Jerome (with Hus) the first martyr for the Protestant Reformation.

Of Jerome's writings, all that remain are his university lectures and disputations and two treatises, Positio de universalibus ("A Position on Universals") and Quaestio de universalibus ("The Question of Universals"). 9/17/17 9/17/17