(DG) Stephen Nichols:John Wycliffe–The Morning Star of the Reformation

In On the Truth of Sacred Scripture, Wycliffe called for the Bible to be translated into English. According to Roman Catholic law, translating the Bible into a vulgar, common language was a heresy punishable by death. It is almost impossible to imagine why a church would want to keep God’s word from people, unless that church wanted to hold power over the people. Wycliffe was more convinced of the power of the word of God than the power wielded by the papal office. Consequently, he and a group of colleagues committed themselves to making the word of God available.

Not only did the Bible need to be translated; it also had to be copied and distributed. This was before the printing press (invented in 1440), so copies had to be made painstakingly by hand. Despite the challenges, hundreds of the Bibles were produced and distributed to Wycliffe’s troop of pastors, who preached across England as the word of God made its way to the people. Wycliffe’s followers came to be called Lollards. They were enclaves of reform not only in England, but across Europe.

These efforts in translating, copying, and proclaiming the Bible in English were driven by a singular motive, expressed by Wycliffe this way: “It helps Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue which they know best.” In his final years, Wycliffe endured falling out of favor with the church and nobility in England. Of course, he had long ago fallen out of favor with the pope. Yet, Wycliffe declared, “I am ready to defend my convictions even unto death.” He remained convinced of the authority and centrality of Scripture and devoted to his life’s calling to help Christians study the Bible. Having suffered two strokes, John Wycliffe died on December 30, 1384.

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Posted in Church History, Soteriology, Theology, Theology: Scripture