Wycliffe’s Bible: From Obscurity to Popularity – Dr. David Allen

JWycliffe-Bible-2The last Quarterly Record I have in hand (April-June 2015 – a publication of the Trinitarian Bible Society) contains an informative article by Dr. David Allen on John Wycliffe (1320-1384), “Morning Star of the Reformation.” Naturally, the article has much on the translation of the Bible that Wycliffe produced.

As a follow up to my post from yesterday, I quote a portion of Allen’s article today on the effect Wycliffe’s Bible had on the people of his day.

The translators of Wycliffe’s Bible are wrapped in obscurity. We scarcely find in Wycliffe’s writings any reference to the progress of that great work: he and those who aided him were afraid that if they blazed the matter abroad, the powerful hand of authority would prevent them continuing the translation and would inflict severe persecution upon them. The consequence therefore is that we are ignorant of the stages of the work which prepared the way for the Reformation and the spiritual destiny that awaited millions through the following centuries.

The Bible was completed by the end of the year 1382. In all probability it was John Wycliffe who translated the New Testament and Nicholas of Hereford the Old Testament. When Nicholas was forced to flee in 1382, the Bible was then revised in a free style by John Purvey, the ‘Librarian of the Lollards.’ In addition to Nicholas and Purvey, Wycliffe was also aided by other disciples, perhaps former Oxford scholars. It was an exact, literal translation of the Latin Vulgate into English, the language of the people.

So great was the eagerness to possess Wycliffe’s Bible that those who could not procure the volume of the Book would give a load of hay for just a few chapters. They would hide the forbidden treasures under the floors of their houses, and expose their lives to danger rather than surrender the Book. They would sit up all night, their doors being shut for fear of surprise, reading or hearing others read the Word of God. They would bury themselves in the woods and there converse with it in silence and solitude. They would be attending their flocks in the field, stealing an hour for drinking in the good tidings of grace and salvation (pp.22-23).

Something we so take for granted – the Bible in our own tongue. May we not forget the history of its translation and transmission to us, and may we treasure it for the best and most precious Book in all the world that it is.

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