Part II: John Wycliffe

The "Morning Star of the Reformation"

John WycliffeThe light began to shine again in the 1300’s when John Wycliffe, the "Morning Star of the Reformation," began to speak out against the abuses and false teachings prevalent within the Church. An influential teacher at Oxford, Wycliffe was explelled from his teaching position because of his outspoken stance. But Wycliffe was undaunted and convinced that every man, woman, and child had the right to read God’s Word in their own language. He knew that only the Scriptures could break the bondage that enslaved the people and pierce the darkness covering the nations. He set out to translate the Bible out of Latin into English- the language of the common man in northwestern Europe.

With the help of his followers, he completed his translation in 1382- the first English translation of the Bible. But how to spread God’s Word? The printing press had not yet been invented, and it took 10 months for one person to copy a single Bible by hand. Wycliffe recruited a group of men that shared his passion for spreading God’s Word, and they became known as "Lollards."  Many Lollards left worldly possessions behind and embraced an ascetic life-style, setting out across England dressed in only basic clothing, a staff in one hand, and armed with an English Bible. They went forth to preach and win England for Christ!

Wycliffe sending out the Lollards to preach with English Bibles

 

The Church clergy set out to destroy the itinerant preachers, passing laws against their teaching and their Bibles. When the Lollards were caught they were tortured and burned at the stake. A Lollard knew that when he received a Bible from John Wycliffe and was sent out to preach, he was mostly likely going forth unto his own death. Yet these brave men faced death in order to preach the Gospel and bring the Bible to English-speaking peoples in their own language. Their courage was similar to that of the Apostle Paul and Jesus’ disciples who also preached and spread God’s Word despite persecution and martyrdom.

In 1384 Wycliffe died of a stroke, but the Lollards continued to preach. The Church clergy made every effort to kill the Lollards and burn Wycliffe’s English Bibles. 44 years after his death, the Church clergy was still furious with Wycliffe and what he stood for. The Pope had his bones dug up and, alone with some of Wycliffe’s writings, had them burned and thrown into the River Swift. The Pope thought this act of desecration would serve as a warning to anyone else who thought about translating the Bible into the vernacular. But as historian Ken Connolly noted, just as Wycliffe’s ashes flowed down the River Swift, to the English Channel, and eventually connecting to the world’s oceans, so his influence has spread to every part of the earth.

 

Wycliffe Bibles are burned by orders of Church clergy