John Wycliffe and the English Bible
Oxford scholar and priest, John Wycliffe, translated the Bible into English in the 14th century, decades before the invention of the printing press in Europe. His action helped birth the modern world as we know it and earned him the title, ‘the Reformation’s Morning Star.’
“During Wycliffe’s time, England was a three-tiered literary hierarchy. Like the rest of Europe’s elites, England’s intellectual elite spoke Latin. The Bible was their book… Church leaders, including Wycliffe, were a part of this exclusive club. Below them were the nobility, who spoke French or its Anglo-Norman dialect. They had some portions of the Scriptures available to them in their declining dialect. At the bottom of the social ladder were the illiterate peasants, who spoke primitive English. Hardly anyone thought of enlightening them… Most of Wycliffe’s contemporaries scorned the idea that the Bible could be translated into a rustic dialect like English…
“Some people ridicule the Protestant Reformers but relish the notion of human equality. They do not know that the Reformers paid with their lives to make the biblical idea of equality a foundational principle of the modern world. Today, we take it for granted that uplifting the downtrodden is a noble virtue. In Wycliffe’s England, the idea of raising peasants to the status of aristocracy was abhorrent…
“… Wycliffe was a hero who disowned his class and sided with the ‘swine,’ the underdogs. Why? Not because he was trying to win a democratic election. Democracy followed in his trail. Rather, Wycliffe was following Moses, who ‘chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.’ [Hebrews 11:25] He followed Jesus, who preached the good news to the poor. [Luke 4:14-21] It was neither pursuit of career nor political correctness but commitment to truth that inspired Wycliffe to begin translating the Bible into English. The same commitment empowered people to copy by hand that banned translation at the risk of their lives. Even reading that translation required special permission, and anyone caught with a copy could be tried for heresy and burned at the stake.” *
Don’t take your English Bible (or any translation) for granted, for many have paid a great price to put that translation into your hands.
* The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi, pages 145-147