Wednesday, May 3, 2023

First Prize Goes to the Oxford Man! / John Wycliffe

 Painting of John Wycliffe with a blue ribbon

The Big Idea: Dark Ages Oxford professor John Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible into English, convicted that people needed it in their own language.

Better Than Being Burned Alive!

The first English Bible was translated by John Wycliffe (1330-1384) and his students during the 1380s. But it was not without peril.

Wycliffe was lucky not to have been burned as a heretic in his lifetime.

                                                                                            The British Library 

His influence angered the Catholic Church so much, thirty-four years after his death his bones were ordered dug up and burned.

…which, I must admit, seems far preferable to being burned alive.

                                                                                  Christian History Made Easy, Jones, T.P.

A devastating era

England was in its 100 year war with France. The Black Plague lasted for YEARS. The Peasant’s Revolt began, killing authority figures.

A Pope was in Rome. Another established himself in Avignon, France. Avignon was building a huge glorious palace for their Pope.

Most Popular Professor

Teenage Wycliffe went to Oxford. Oxford spanned his life from being a student to a beloved popular professor.

He specialized in Biblical studies, making the Bible alive and relevant. He was convinced it represented God and His authoritative word.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

He was an Englishman and a Franciscan. He was both loved and hated.

He was loved. He was hated.

He was loved by a wide mix of people. His students hung on his every word. Country preachers gathered around him to be mentored.

Prominent people had his back and rescued him on numerous dangerous occasions, like John of Guant, and both King Richard II’s mother, and first wife, Queen Anne of Bohemia.

As he discerned the Papacy and church hierarchy to be out of step with the Bible in its opulence and control, he infuriated every Pope during his ministry with his writings.


John Wycliffe's strong conviction of the Bible

1. Wycliffe believed the Bible is our highest authority.

Forasmuch as the Bible contains Christ, that is all that is necessary for salvation, it is necessary for all men, not for priests alone. It alone is the supreme law that is to rule Church, State, and Christian life, without human traditions and statutes.
                                                  John Wycliffe

2. Wycliffe believed God wants everyone to hear the Bible in their mother tongue.

Englishmen learn Christ's law best in English. Moses heard God's law in his own tongue; so did Christ's apostles.                                                                                                                                 John Wycliffe

3. Wycliffe’s 5-step method of Bible study was similar to our Inductive Bible Study.

Obtain a reliable text, understand the logic of Scripture, compare the parts of Scripture with one another, maintain an attitude of humble seeking, and receive the instruction of the Spirit.

                                                                                                 John Wycliffe

Wycliffe translated the Bible into English

Wycliffe spent his last years translating the Bible into English with the help of his followers. He died of a stroke when he was in his 50s (1384). His followers completed it.

The Bible translation agency that has been instrumental in translating the Bible around the world, Wycliffe Bible Translators, named their organization after him.

Long lasting impact

Wycliffe organized his followers to go to country villages two-by-two while barefoot, simply dressed with little in their possession. They preached in English quoting the Bible in English, with practical instruction.

After Wycliffe died, these men carried out the message and passion of Wycliffe for the Bible so intensely, church authorities harassed them and killed several of them. 

Finally in 1428 the Pope ordered the Church to dig up and burn his bones.

Wycliffe was a Catholic priest who intended to bring holiness and Bible relevancy to the Catholic Church in Medieval times. 

Over a century before Martin Luther was born, Wycliffe championed a message that forever changed the church for access to the Bible and a simple life guided by the Bible. 

He is often referred to as the Morningstar of the Reformation.

For more on his life:
Got Questions?  Who was John Wycliffe?
Full movie (1hr 15 min)  John Wycliffe: The Morning Star


Up next: The Goose is Cooked
Previous post: Imagine not being able to read the Bible


1. What are your impressions of John Wycliffe? 

2. Can you visualize how groundbreaking his teaching was for the everyday person? What do you think life was like from what you know of the Dark Ages? Do you think he was able to bring light into darkness?

3. Spend a little time reflecting on these two verses from Isaiah.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2 NASB

I will lead those who are blind by a way they have not known, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them and uneven land into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” Isaiah 42:16 NASB


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