John Foxe

In recent weeks the American news media in their zeal and haste for a scoop reported stories that were later proven to be false. Some have claimed a hidden agenda spurred their publication. Along the same lines many historical books are published annually with new research revealing long secret truths about a person or event of- the past, the newly exposed truth just so happening to coincide with the author’s own political sense of correctness.

With this background, we need to look at a novelist/historian from the 16th Century named John Foxe. Born in Lincolnshire, England in 1516, and obtaining an education from Oxford and Magdalene College, he was known by all for his piety and wisdom. He was also an ardent supporter of the Reformation. When Queen Mary ascended to the throne of England, Foxe and his family escaped for their lives to the continent. Only after Elizabeth I became queen did they return. Through his years of exile John Foxe wrote faithfully, updating and revising an unpublished manuscript. Finally in 1563 his book was ready for publication titled, “The Acts and Monuments of these Latter and Perilous Days”. It soon became better known by a different title; “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”. Containing the life histories and martyrdoms of John Wickliff, John Huss, Hugh Latimer, Thomas Cranmer, and others, it was revised by Foxe for accuracy and republished in 1570, obtaining great popularity. It was said that Sir Francis Drake read it aloud to his crew while journeying to the New World. It was the crowning achievement of Foxe’s life, but in the end, it took a toll on his personnel health and he died in 1587 at the age of seventy—one.

That his book was written by a partisan observer of events is certainly true. What is also true is that it has held up against all attempts to disprove it’s accuracy. Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus, “What is truth?” We could call truth a valuable commodity, one that all who educate or report of daily events should seek to own. Sadly, truth can be suppressed or distorted, but as John Foxe has shown, even though presented with a biased point-of-view, accuracy and truth cannot be disproved. How important to you is it that your words be truthful and accurate? It is a character trait we should all desire.

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