He lived 200 years before the Reformation, but his beliefs paralleled Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In fact, historians have called John Wycliffe the “Morning star of the Reformation.”
One common value of Wycliffe and Luther was that people should be able to read God’s Word for themselves rather than having to rely on priests to tell them what it says. Toward that end, Wycliffe translated Scripture into English — a language that, at the time, was considered too common, too vulgar for God to speak.
Wycliffe Bible Translators–an organization named after John Wycliffe–also believes that all people should have opportunity to read or hear God’s Word for themselves in a language that serves them well — a language that goes beyond intellectual understanding to deep, intimate relationship.
I’m grateful for John Wycliffe’s bold investment of himself that made the first translation in to English. While I can barely understand his translation because English has evolved dramatically over the generations, he contributed significantly to the movement.
For God louede so the world, that he ȝaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf.
(John 3:16 in a later Wycliffe version)
When did this movement start, you ask? The first translation of God’s complete revelation of Himself through His Word was, in my thinking, when the Word took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Jesus probably delivered most of his teaching in either Hebrew or Aramaic — (he surely would have used which ever language best communicated to his audience, and yes, I know there is scholarly disagreement on this topic) — yet it was recorded in Greek. So, the second translation.
I’m also thankful for the many individuals who participate in the ever-accelerating movement of Bible translation today, and pray that we will see the last translator working in the last language on the last translation in this generation.
This image is of a painting by Hyatt Moore of John Wycliffe. The original hangs in Wycliffe’s Discovery Center in Orlando, Florida.