By Lloyd A. Harsch, NOBTS
Nothing happens in a vacuum. The same is true of the Reformation. Before Luther, before Calvin, there was John Huss (also spelled Jan Hus). Huss (which means goose) was born between 1369 and 1373 to peasants in Husinec (which means goose town). With few options for making a living, Huss decided to become a priest. He was initially drawn to the priesthood by the money and prestige it could bring, but as he studied, he developed a deep personal faith. Huss entered the University of Prague in 1390, earning a master’s degree in 1396. He then joined the faculty, becoming dean by 1401.
The Renaissance, which was just getting under way, brought a renewed sense of learning and scholarship. One of the results was the founding of numerous universities. Charles IV founded the University of Prague in 1348. He was also the first Bohemian king to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The new university drew heavily on German scholars for its faculty. By the time that Huss joined the faculty, Germans still greatly outnumbered Czech faculty.
In 1382, Charles’s oldest daughter, Anne, married King Richard II of England. As a result, a number of Czech students came to England to be educated at Oxford, where they encountered the reform works of John Wycliffe. When they returned to Bohemia (modern Czech Republic), they brought Wycliffe’s books and ideas with them. This had a significant impact on Huss.