Theologian Fred Sanders clarifies the meaning of “Protestant” :
Today (April 19) is the anniversary of the 1529 Protestation of Speyer, which is generally regarded as the first time that the word Protestant was used to refer to a religious position distinct from Roman Catholicism. A coalition of German princes and leaders refused to abide by the imperial ban on Luthers teachings, and called instead for the free spread of gospel teaching in their territories.
These days, in English at least, we sometimes hear that Protestants are by definition people who protest, that is, people defined by their disagreement with something, their dissent, their rejection of something. It is, in other words, considered a term that stands for nothing positive, but draws its meaning only by negation.
Now, I dont make much of this, but it seems to me like a bit of bogus etymology. Protest might be the nearest cognate of Protestant in modern English, but its silly to take that as a clue to the words origin sort of like finding dance in the word concordance and deciding theyre related; or sacrilege means putting religion in a sac; or that validate is from valid + date = at the right time; or excruciate means to take off of a cross, etc. But I digress.
The word seems to come from pro + testari, to testify forth, or to hold forth a position on something. Its primary historical meaning has been to assert, to maintain, to proclaim solemnly or state formally.
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