For a relatively brief period in the 1570s and ’80s, the Family of Love was one of the most hated religious movements in England. This was due in large part to a series of polemical works by a handful of reform-minded Protestants who saw Familism as a reprise of Catholic allegorical interpretation. Members of the movement were accused of extending their loose approach to scripture to loose living and political subversion. This article examines the Family’s response to these attacks. While the documents clearly show the Family on the offensive, they also exhibit a deeper concern for obedience to both the “literal” sense of scripture and the established order. Ironically, both Familists and their detractors used the famed martyr William Tyndale to measure their opponent’s departure from proper Christianity. The following analysis explores this shared milieu in which Tyndale’s work was both a touchstone for the marginalized Christian and a basis for broader Elizabethan arguments on the importance of obedience.
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