John Wycliffe facts

John Wycliffe
Full name John Wycliffe
Born Mid 1320s
Hipswell, Yorkshire, England
Died 31 December 1384
Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England
Era Medieval philosophy

John Wycliffe (1320s – 31 December 1384) was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, Biblical translator, reformer, English priest, and a seminary professor at the University of Oxford. He was an influential within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century and is considered an important predecessor to Protestantism.

Wycliffe was also an advocate for translation of the Bible into english. He completed a translation into Middle English in the year 1382, now known as Wycliffe's Bible. It is probable that he personally translated the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and it is possible he translated the entire New Testament, while his associates translated the Old Testament. Wycliffe's Bible appears to have been completed by 1384, additional updated versions being done by Wycliffe's assistant John Purvey and others in 1388 and 1395.

Wycliffe's followers were known as Lollards. Beginning in the 16th century, the Lollard movement was regarded as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Early life

John Wycliffe’s family lived in a lower social class, which meant they did not live in great wealth, but they were not poor either. Later, after Wycliffe had grown up, he attended Oxford University where he earned an arts degree. He became Master of Balliol College, Oxford in 1361. He was also given a parish in Lincolnshire, which meant he had to give up the position of Master. He lived at Oxford for a large portion of his life, and worked as a member of the clergy at local churches. There were many more changes to his life. Some of his ideas were in conflict with those of the Church, but he had the support and protection of John of Gaunt, who was ruling England at the time.

Death and legacy

John Wycliffe plaque
Commemorative plaque in Richmond, Yorkshire, England

While he was saying Mass in the parish church on Holy Innocents' Day, 28 December 1384, he suffered a stroke, and died as the year ended. Wycliffe was 64 years old.

Wycliffe was instrumental in the development of a translation of the Bible in English, thus making it accessible to every day people. Several institutions are named after him:

  • Wycliffe Global Alliance, an alliance of organisations with the common objective of translating the Bible for every language group that needs it.
  • Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, one of the Church of England's designated Evangelical theological colleges.
  • Wycliffe College, Toronto, a graduate theological school federated with the University of Toronto.
  • Wycliffe College, Gloucestershire, an English independent, private day and boarding school.

Wycliffe is honoured in the Church of England on 31 December, and in the Anglican Church of Canada and in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 30 October.

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