In connection with some suggested Reformation reading books for children earlier this month, I referenced church history teacher/writer Douglas Bond’s novel on John Knox titled The Thunder.
But his newest one is actually on a pre-Reformer – John Wycliffe. It’s title is The Revolt: a Novel in Wycliffe’s England (P&R, 2016; for teens 12-15), a book reviewed here on the Redeemed Reader website. The publisher gives this brief summary of the book:
As a secretary at the battle of Crécy, Hugh West’all has come close to death many times in his short career. But when he leaves the war behind to enter the stone halls of Oxford, he meets John of Wycliffe and soon embarks on a mission even more exciting—and perhaps just as dangerous. Using his scribe’s quill to translate the Bible into English, the language of the common people, Hugh begins to understand the beauty of the gospel as never before. But he and his friends are not safe. The corrupt and decadent church is planning to choke Wycliffe’s translation and silence him forever.
Since the Reformation began with the “revolt” of returning to the Word of God because the Bible had been returned to the people of God through its being translated anew into their languages, – including already by Wycliffe in the 14th century – it is worthwhile looking at this important pre-Reformation figure.
Redeemed Reader recently did an interview with the author on his new book on Wycliffe, including some thoughts on his translation work. From that section we post a few lines today as well. Find the full text of the interview at the link below.
RR: You mention Bohemian scholars getting involved in Wycliffe’s translation work. Were other scholars in Christendom becoming interested in Bible translation at this time, or was Wycliffe a true pioneer?
DB: Very good question. Wycliffe certainly was a pioneer in Bible translation, one of the greatest, but others had gone before him, even as far back as Patrick in Ireland who was translating parts of the Bible into Old Irish so he could communicate the gospel of Jesus to the tribes in Ireland, and the Venerable Bede in eight-century England was translating parts of Scripture into Anglo-Saxon even on his deathbed (see Hand of Vengeance). So there is a long history of God raising up scholars, evangelists, pastors, missionaries who were passionate about getting the Word of God in the language of the people.
But there is a great irony here. The established (Roman Catholic) church had created Latin into a sacred language and used it as a barrier to keep the people from hearing the Word of God in their own language. The constructed doctrine of papal supremacy–that the pope interprets what the Bible says and tells you what it means—made it heretical and unnecessary for you to read the Bible in your own language. But here’s the Spirit’s ironic touché: Latin actually served to unite scholars and students from all over Europe. A student could go from Bohemia or any other language group in Europe to study in Oxford and you didn’t have to sit in a cubicle for months with headphones on doing language training. No need to learn Middle English for the Bohemian student or any other. You showed up day one for lectures and tutorials delivered all in Latin. Wycliffe exploited this and created a conduit for vernacular Bible translation all over Europe, really, all over the world. That’s my kind of hero.