The Church and the History of Printing
Considered by many to be one of the most influential inventions ever, the printing press has evolved from its humble and tedious beginnings to being the catalyst for many communication devices. Gutenberg’s printing press was invented in 1455 and was the first step in a very long journey. Although we are no longer relying on wooden blocks and ink pads, this same press is still being expanded upon today.
However humble the early years of printing, this amazing machine has had a significant role in spreading God’s message. In fact, Martin Luther described printing as “God’s highest and extremist act of grace, whereby the business of the gospel is driven forward.” With the invention of the printing press, scripture could be placed into the hands of the common man. The most commonly printed materials were those categorized as sacred writings on sacred subjects.
The capacity to supply such printed materials increased demand, especially for books. The more the press was used, the more the level and spread of education and knowledge increased. Furthermore, the press freed scribes to engage in other pursuits. The press fostered the founding of knowledge and new ways of thinking. For instance, scripture was translated into other languages, which fostered varied interpretations of sacred text as well. With the existence of print, dialogue and discussion of these texts was more prevalent.
Over the years, there have been many debates about what translation of scripture was the proper, or most theologically sound, text. Without the printed versions of these translations of the Bible and many other religious texts, there are untold numbers of people, from radical to conservative religions, who may have never interpreted or read the messages for themselves. With the availability of printed material, many thought processes were readily available. People could decide for themselves what they believed as they read.
The printing press brought about many changes in the church, and today’s printing technology is no different. Today, we use printed material to promote special events, create church bulletins, design study booklets and many other valuable and educational materials for the cause of our beliefs, no matter what they may be. Without the invention of the printing press, today’s knowledgebase would have gotten a much later start. As a result, today we design printed materials for every kind of purpose from the secular to the sacred. It is easy to regard print as an indulgence in a world of electronic media. Nonetheless, the history of print with all of its successes and the history of the church remain forever linked.