Wednesday, December 31, 2014

John Wycliffe, Presbyter, Translator, Reformer

John Wycliffe (1320-31 December 1384)

John Wycliffe, often referred to as the morning star of the reformation was born in 1320 at Hipswell, Yorkshire in England.  He is known to have been in Oxford by 1345 and was influenced by William of Occam, Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseste.  He studied theology, ecclesiastical law and philosophy.  He became unhappy with the scholastics and the state of the church, especially the clergy in his day.  He supported the king’s power over the church in temporal affairs (and of course we must realise that the King was supposed to be Christian.)  He argued that the scriptures should be the centre of authority for the church, that the claims of the papacy had no basis in history, that monasticism was beyond repair and that the unworthiness of many priests invalidated the sacraments. 

Since he regarded scriptures as being so important, he began translating the scriptures into English, he himself probably translated the Gospels, and it is possible that he translated Acts, the Epistles and Revelations.  The Old Testament was translated by his friend, Nicholas of Hereford.  This translation had a great influence on the English language of the time. 

Wycliffe desired to see the church return to the simplicity of the first three centuries.  He desired to see an end to the hierarchy and replace it with poor priests, bound by no vows, but who would preach the gospel to the people.  He created an order of lolard preachers, who went out, two by two, bare foot, dressed in dark red robes, armed with a staff, who taught his doctrines.  Wycliffe saw the church as Christ’s body, but not necessarily being the same as the Roman Catholic Church.  

Struck with apoplexy, he died rather suddenly on December 31st, 1384 after having written many treatises.  After Richard II’s wife, Anne of Bohemia died, her servants brought many of these tracts to Bohemia, where they were to have a great affect on Jan Huss, whose writings in turn affected Martin Luther.  Wycliffe’s greatest contribution was the English bible.  Wycliffe translators, who translate the Bible into many languages is named in his honour. 

Emanuel, as you raised up John Wycliff to challenge the church to follow Yeshua and to translate scriptures into the language of the common man, raise up for us clergy who will call us to follow you, and who will make scripture clear to all, that we may truly follow Yeshua.  This we ask in the name of Yeshua, whose birth we celebrate.  Amen.  (White)

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