views updated May 23 2018

WYCLIFFE, John, also Wyclif, Wiclif, and others [c.1320–1384]. English reformer and Bible translator, born at Wycliffe in Yorkshire, and Master of Balliol College, Oxford (c.1356–c.1382). His role in the Lollard movement and the politics of the Reformation have tended to overshadow his significant contribution to the language. His translations (with collaborators) of the Vulgate BIBLE were the first complete Bible in English and existed in two forms, the Early Version (c.1380–2) and the Late Version (c.1382–8), the second being more idiomatic, less archaic, and freer from Latinisms and generally more highly regarded. Wycliffe was a friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, who may have used him as the model for the Poor Parson in The Canterbury Tales. He did for Middle English prose what Chaucer did for poetry, making English a competitor with French and Latin; his sermons were written when London usage was coming together with the East Midlands dialect, to form a standard language accessible to all, and he included scientific references, such as to chemistry and optics. His style influenced Reformation and later nonconformist writing, and John Milton was among his admirers. More than 300 of his discourses survive, with some 170 manuscript copies of his Bible, circulated from Lutterworth, where he was rector (1374–84). Its opening words are: ‘In the firste made God of nought heuene and erthe. The erthe forsothe was veyn withynne and void, and derknessis weren upon the face of the see.’ Wycliffe's own share in the translations bearing his name is uncertain, but was probably considerable.

Wyclif(fe), John

views updated May 23 2018

Wyclif(fe), John (c.1329–84). English philosopher, theologian, and proponent of reform. He was resident in Oxford for most of his life. His views were not wholly original, and were somewhat protected by the fact that they were normally expressed within the university. However, he engendered controversy by stressing the importance of civil powers within the Church, which scandalized the pope and leading clergy. He is chiefly remembered for his opposition to transubstantiation and his support for vernacular scripture. Some of his ideas were preserved in Wycliffe's Wicket, but his major achievements were to provide a translation of the Bible in English, and to put forward views on the Church which were later promoted by the Lollards. He is recognized in the Church of England Lesser Festivals, 6 Oct.

Wycliffe, John

views updated May 18 2018

Wycliffe, John (1330–84) English religious reformer. Under the patronage of John of Gaunt, he attacked corrupt practices in the Church and the authority of the Pope, condemning in particular the Church's landed wealth. His criticism became increasingly radical, questioning the authority of the Pope and insisting on the primacy of scripture, but he escaped condemnation until after his death. His ideas were continued by the Lollards in England and influenced Jan Hus in Bohemia.