Why Wycliffe and Tyndale matter

John Wycliffe, who introduced the Bible into English back in the 14th century, shows up as a major character in the opening novella in my book, The Secret Side of Jaya, only he’s taking refuge out on the American prairie.

And a century-and-a-half later, William Tyndale picked up the mission in England, though he didn’t move on to my fiction.

Could they be the most important translators in history? Apart, maybe, from Martin Luther, who could be the basis of his own Tendril, one with 95 points rather than ten, and his German rather than English?

Here, then, we go.

  1. Wycliffe (1328-1384) was a dissident priest highly critical of the Papacy and much of Catholic teaching and practice. With his emphasis on scriptural authority, he is now seen as an important predecessor to Protestantism.
  2. He translated at least all four gospels and perhaps the entire New Testament from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English, while associates translated the Old Testament into what became known as Wycliffe’s Bible.
  3. His followers, known as Lollards, were a major underground radical movement leading up to the Protestant Reformation, despite being highly persecuted.
  4. His writings in Latin highly influenced Czech reformer Jan Hus, whose execution in 1415 sparked the bloody Hussite Wars.
  5. Wycliffe was declared a heretic and his books, burned. His corpse was later exhumed and burned, and the ashes, thrown in a river.
  6. About 150 manuscript copies, in part or complete, survive.
  7. William Tyndale (1494-1536) was a scholar influenced by Erasmus and Martin Luther.
  8. In translating the Bible, he drew directly on Hebrew and Greek texts. He was the first to rely on them in translating to English, and his was the first English translation to make use of the printing press. He introduced the word Jehovah in English.
  9. Many consider him the father of modern English, more than Shakespeare a generation later. His translations were widely plagiarized by others, including the committee of scholars who composed their authorized version for King James, where perhaps 83 percent of the New Testament and 76 percent of the Old Testament are lifted from Tyndale. The Bible was certainly much more widely heard and read throughout Britain than was the Bard.
  10. He was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake in Belgium after his criticism of King Henry VIII in divorce matters only aggravated the situation.

~*~

There we go, politics AND religion. In this case, both of a radical nature. 

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