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Story of the Reformer: John Wycliffe


Though John Wycliffe was born just shy of 200 years before Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation, his work was important in setting the stage and influencing the philosophies of Jan Hus and Martin Luther.

John Wycliffe was born in 1320. Almost no record of his early years exists, but he is known to have been at Oxford around 1345.

He was a philosophy professor at the university of Oxford where he also had received his masters of divinity and his doctorate. It was in his studies at Oxford that he learned Latin and fell in love with scripture. His skills with the biblical language convinced him that the Catholic Church, of which he was a part, had fallen into error due to poor interpretation and lack of accountability. In many ways as he studied scripture he became infuriated by these errors. Specifically, the Pope's authority, the Church's presumed civil authority and the importance of scripture. His conviction about the errors of the Church led him, and a group of colleges, to begin the work of translating the Bible from Latin to English so that the common people could read the very words of God. This excited the English speaking masses, but infuriated the Catholic Church. His translation of the Bible from Latin to English was a great achievement and we still have the Wycliffe English translation of the Bible in print today. He died a few years after the its completion and after death was labeled a Heretic at the Counsel of Constance.

The legacy of John Wycliffe is deep and lasting. His commitment to the translation of scripture to the heart language of the common believer has influence generations of missionaries and preachers to focus on the need of the people to hear God's words for themselves. We praise God for His work through John Wycliffe, and how he has spurred so many on to love and pursue truth. May we be spurred on by his story too.

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