January 3, 1521: Pope Leo X creates a bull of excommunication for Martin Luther that would have deprived him of civil rights and protection, but before its execution, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V allows Luther the opportunity to recant his beliefs at the Diet of Worms. When Luther instead affirms his beliefs, the bull is carried out.
January 3, 1892: Literature professor J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a devout Catholic, is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
January 4, 1581: James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, is born. Famous for a chronology of the Bible that was repeatedly printed in King James Versions, he was so highly esteemed that Oliver Cromwell gave him a state funeral and had him buried in Westminster Abbey.
January 4, 1965: T.S. Eliot, the most influential English writer in the twentieth century and a devout Christian who wove his religious convictions into his work, dies. [An Episcopalian of the high-church tradition, I might add.]
January 5, 1066: Edward the Confessor, the only English king ever canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, dies. Builder of Westminster Abbey, he was buried there January 6.
January 5, 1527: Swiss Anabaptist reformer Felix Manz is drowned in punishment for preaching adult baptism, becoming the first Protestant martyred by other Protestants.
January 5, 1964: Roman Catholic Pope Paul VI and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras meet in Jerusalem, the first meeting of the two offices since 1439, more than half a millennium before.
January 6, 548: The Jerusalem church observes Christmas on this date for the last time as the Western church moves to celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25.
January 6, 1832: French artist Gustave Dore, known for his drawings and lithographs for the Bible, Dante's Inferno, and other works, is born in Strasbourg, France.
January 6, 1850: Charles Spurgeon, who would become one of the greatest preachers of all time, converts to Christianity after receiving a vision, "not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was," he wrote, "I can never tell you how it was, but I no sooner saw Whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe, and I did believe in one moment".
January 6, 1884: Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel, founder of the science of genetics, dies.*
January 6, 1412 (traditional date): Joan of Arc, the French peasant mystic Christian who became a national heroine and her country's patron saint, is born.
[*For those who think that Christianity is historically anti-science, I draw your attention to Brother Gregor, the father of modern genetics, and also to the devout Sir Isaac Newton, who I think had something to do with physics (just kidding, Dad), and St. Basil, the originator of hospital laboratories.]
[Selections courtesy of Christianity Today.]