Part 1 Chapter 1►


A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the Department of Church History
Pacific School of Religion


In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Bachelor of Divinity


Enrico C. S. Moln疵
Berkeley, California, February 1947

Transcribed, formatted, and edited by
Oberlin, Ohio, June 2006


The two-fold aim of the following thesis is defined by its title: it presents a translation, from the Czech language, of a religio-political treatise called The Net of Faith, written sometime between 1440-1443 by Peter Chelčick,[1] a yeoman from southern Bohemia, and a contemporary of the Hussite Revolution. Chelčick was the most original thinker of the Bohemian Reformation; today there are preserved over fifty[2] writings of different lengths that came from his pen. His most mature and most representative work is The Net of Faith.

I consider this translation of The Net as the core of my thesis; to it I have prefaced several chapters in which I have endeavored to evaluate the significance of Peter Chelčick, to show his unique position in the Czech reformation, and to underscore his characteristic contribution to European Protestant religious thought.

In choosing this subject for my thesis I am conscious that I am also paying back a debt that I owe Chelčick; the reading of his book led me to the choice of my vocation. I am also aware that he and his work are literally unknown in what is loosely termed the West. (For that matter, and it is sad to admit, the whole ideological content of Czechoslovak Protestantism as well as the ecclesiastical history of the Slavic peoples remain, for the great part, an uncharted map to Anglo-American Protestantism, which is still often compelled to inscribe the blank spaces with the legend hic sunt leones.)

The Net of Faith consists of two parts: in the first part, composed of ninety-five chapters, Chelčick presents his basic philosophy; the second part, divided into fifty-one chapters, contains 訴llustrative material in elaboration of Part I. Even though this section is from the literary point of view by far most interesting in that it vividly portrays the different facets of medieval life, it is omitted in the present thesis. In translating I used the critical edition of Peter Chelčick痴 Net of Faith made by Dr. Emil Smet疣ka, Professor of Czech Language at Charles University, Prague[3]; this I often compared with the facsimile reprint of the first printed edition of 1521, a copy of which is available in the Library of the University of California.[4]

I am indebted to Professor George H. Williams of Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, who read parts of the translation while it was in the process of growth, and who has made many helpful suggestions; to the editors of The Moravian for permission to use large portions of my article, 典he Prehistory of Moravianism, which appeared in that magazine, and especially to my brother, Rev. Amedeo Moln疵 of Prague, who supplied me with much needed critical literature about Chelcick published in Bohemia during the war years, beside contributing many constructive suggestions. And finally, I owe many thanks to my wife who learned that helping with a thesis in many practical ways is essential in making marriage a success.


AT The Complete Bible An American Translation, Chicago: The University Press, 1941
KJ The Holy Bible, King James Version
NF The Net of Faith (this document)
RSV The New Testament, Revised Standard Version, Revised 1946

Czech Pronunciation[5]

Special symbols called diacritical marks are placed above standard characters to indicate sounds peculiar to Czech, which is a phonetic language that has only one sound for each letter. Emphasis is always on the first syllable and the diacritical marks do not change the way syllables are emphasized. When vowels appear together they are both sounded instead of being combined to form a diphthong. For example, the word 僧outh would be pronounced 僧oh-ooth. Vowels with a diacritical mark are lengthened.



Examples / (Notes)






lets (never the 祖 sound in 祖ar)






auch (German), loch (Scottish)

Ď, ď


duke (British pronunciation 租yook)














year, yard (never the 阻 sound in 阻ar)



(sometimes preceded by a short 爽h sound)



tenure (奏en-yoor)






(rolled slightly, sometimes preceded by a short 爽h sound)



(similar to the English 喪 followed by the 憎 sound)



Ť, ť


tune (British pronunciation 奏yoon)

u, , ů





(same as 訴 and 啄)


azure, pleasure

Notes About the Translation

The translator tried to put into modern English thoughts preserved in medieval Czech. In order to do this he felt he had to have liberty in translation and occasional license to paraphrase. As to the faithfulness to the Czech original, the translator endeavored not to commit major distortions of essential meanings. Where he felt it advisable to freely paraphrase a certain passage or to condense a section in his own words, he marked the beginning and end of each paraphrase by a pair of square brackets: [ ]. In particular, in chapters 24 to 95 Chelčick uses biblical grounds to controvert and expose the fallacy of some objections raised against his arguments. Since these chapters represent an elaboration of the previous material, the translator has presented only their short synopsis. Those portions that offer new insights into Chelčick痴 philosophy have been fully translated.

Notes About the Transcription

It is truly a tragedy that Rev. Moln疵 did not fully translate The Net of Faith. Unfortunately, I know no Czech (my sincere apologies go to those who do I am sure that I have made many mistakes), so the best that I can do is to reproduce what he left us. I have made minor corrections to the spelling and grammar while preserving the meaning of the text. This transcription is under no copyright protection. It is my gift to you. You may freely copy, print, and transmit it, but please do not change or sell it, and please inform me of mistakes so that I can correct them.

Why have I bothered to do this? The short answer is that the Holy Spirit told me it was important. Chelčick wrote The Net of Faith around 1443. 451 years later Tolstoy brought it to our attention in his Kingdom of God is Within You, lamenting its obscurity and exposing the 田onspiracy of silence that surrounds this part of the Gospel. It was another 53 years before Rev. Moln疵 made the first and only English translation, but his ultimate goal[6] remained unfulfilled for 59 more years: his translation existed as a single copy the original manuscript in an academic library. Silence has reigned for 563 years. This is a part of my small effort to break the 田onspiracy of silence.

Sadly, Chelčick wrote nearly six hundred years ago but we have not taken his words to heart. Too many Christians still 鍍urn their whole mind to caring about comfort, licentious freedom, and temporal goods; to obtaining these things through cunning, increasing their profits through weal or woe, and gaining privileges from (those in authority) or winning those privileges back if lost. For all this they invent clever defenses and fortifications for warfare箱 The Church is older but no wiser, and Protestant Denominations are now guilty of much that Chelčick railed against in the Roman Church. Those few of us who are like Peter Chelčick still long for a Church that is true to the gospel.

It is worth noting that in Chelčick I have not only a kindred-spirit, but a fellow-countryman as well. My father痴 family comes from the region around Chelčice from an area extending 20 miles to the east and 45 miles to the northwest, to be exact and has been traced back there to the late 1600s. It is entirely possible that my ancestors were personally inspired by Chelčick during his lifetime.

Finally, I would like to thank 杜y good friend in Pacifica for making this transcription possible.

Tom Lock

Notable Quotations

Our faith obliges us to bind wounds, not to make blood run. Page 106

He who obeys God needs no other authority. Page 92

You cannot improve society without first destroying the foundations of the existing social order. Page 12

The Church rather likes a wicked king, for this man if sufficiently intoxicated by her poisons will fight for her better than a humble Christian. Page 97

Wars and other kinds of murder have their beginning in the hatred of the enemy and in the unwillingness to be patient with evil. Their root is in intemperate self-love and in immoderate affection for temporal possessions. These conflicts are brought into this world because men do not trust the Son of God enough to abide by his commandments. Page 135


Table of Contents

Part 1 Chapter 1►

[1] See the key to Czech pronunciation on p. vi.

[2] Please see the bibliography. Moln疵痴 original list of 32 works has been replaced by Murray Wagner痴 list of 56 works.

[3] Petr Chelčick, Sť vry, revised new edition, Emil Smet疣ka, ed., Prague: Melantrich, 1929.

[4] Petr z Chelc枴cz, Siet Wiery, Bohemiae Monumenta Typographica. Facsimile Reprint of the Vil駑ov Edition of 1521, ed. by Zdeněk Tobolka. Prague: Taussig, 1925.

[5] The transcriber has expanded Moln疵痴 original key to pronunciation.

[6] (The Net of Faith) should be made available to the English speaking public.