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Journal > Volumes > 41 (2010) / 3 (Autumn)
Vows, Oaths, and the Propagation of a Subversive Discourse
Jonathan Michael Gray
Virginia Theological Seminary

In sixteenth-century England, two discourses of divine promises existed side by side. First, Protestants and Catholics both upheld oaths as binding promises, undergirded by the sanctity of God and his holy name. Second, Protestants attacked monastic vows, claiming that these divine promises could and should be broken. Protestants did not want their challenge of monastic vows to subvert the sanctity of oaths. As such, during their campaign against monastic vows, Protestants attempted to safeguard the binding nature of oaths by emphasizing the qualitative difference between vows and oaths or (in the case of English Protestants) emphasizing the distinction between monastic vows and other lawful promises, and then striving to demonstrate that monastic vows were unlawful based on their content, conditions, or circumstances. The same arguments Protestants used to attack monastic vows were, however, adapted and applied in a subversive manner to the state oaths of the English Reformation.

Pages: 731 - 756