John Wycliffe

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John Wycliffe also spelled Wyclif, Wycliff, Wiclef, Wicliffe, Wickliffe; lived between 1320 – December 1384. He was an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformer and university teacher at Oxford in England, who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century.

His followers were known as Lollards[1] which preached reforms. The Lollard movement was persecuted by the government and established an orthodox church. Wycliffe called them "The Morning Star of the Reformation".

Wycliffe was also an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common language. Wycliffe's Bible is the name now given to a group of Bible translations into Middle English that were made under the direction of, or at the might of, John Wycliffe. They appeared over a period from approximately 1382 to 1395.

While there are at least two versions the most common work was probably done by his secretary John Purvey. They were handwritten at first and the first printing did not come until 1456. A more popular second copy and General prologue came from Purvey in 1495-1496.


"This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People." is attributed to the General Prologue to the John Wycliffe Bible translation of 1384, as quoted in Lincoln at Gettysburg : An Address (1906) by Clark Ezra Carr, p. 75. [1]

The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations By Robert Andrews, page 89, item 16 gives us this same reference.

He died on the 28th of December 1384 from a stroke. His opposition was empower by his death and they began to go after those who followed some of his interpretations. By 1401 Anti-Wycliffite Statute made that persecution of his followers official. Evidently that was not enough so by 1408 the "Constitutions of Oxford" was an attempt to reclaim authority in all ecclesiastical matters which was contrary to Christ who told His ekklesia they were not to "exercise authority one over the other". Evidently Oxford missed those words of Christ to His Church.

So after that any translation of Scripture into English by unlicensed laity was a crime punishable by charges of heresy. This led to the Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic on 4 May 1415. They banned his writings, and effectively excommunicated him retroactively. This authoritarianism fueled early Protestantism. The Council decreed and the order was confirmed by Pope Martin V, that Wycliffe's works should be burned and his bodily remains dug up from consecrated ground so that it could bee burned in 1428.

Wycliffe argued that the Church had fallen into sin and that it ought therefore to give up all its property and that the clergy should live in complete poverty. Certainly the Church was very rich but the solution was not to make beggars of ministers. What had gone wrong began in interest a thousand years after the Christ took the kingdom from the Pharisees[2] and appointed the kingdom[3] to His little flock and the fall of Jerusalem.

One of the big changes at that time was many kings rose up around the world and claimed they had the right to rule one over the other. But from the point of view of the Church established by Christ we should not ever look to men who exercise authority one over the other to provide benefits. That would make the government of the world our Benefactors which Christ forbid. Lady Godiva understood this and it was the monks who did not understand this that Wycliffe objected to.

Wycliffe was on the right track and we explain what he missed in the Free Church Report and understand what Lady Godiva was really doing will explain why her picture is on the cover of the Free Church Report.


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Footnotes

  1. ...the term Lollard, which had always a heretical implication, was not applied to the Beghards till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when they had fallen seriously into disrepute. "Lollard" was applied to Wycliffe's followers and poor priests from the resemblance of their wandering life, and doubtful orthodoxy, to those of the Beghards or Lollards of the Netherlands (one of whom had been burned, as a " Lollard," as early as 1322), and whose existence as a band of "wandering and hypocritical fellows^" had been noticed in Brabant as early as 1309. These societies of devout lay people, living without monastic rule, were disliked by the regular religious, not onl};' on account of their dubious orthodox}^ but as rival associations:" CAMBRIDGE STUDIES IN MEDIEVAL LIFE AND THOUGHT Edited by G. G. Coulton, M.A, Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge and University Lecturer in English THE LOLLARD BIBLE
  2. Matthew 21:43 "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
  3. Luke 22:29 "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;"

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