Wycliffe, John

(c. 1330-1384)
   pre-Reformation English church reformer
   John Wycliffe (or Wyclif) was born in Hipswell, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England. As a young man, he attended Balliol College at oxford, and he remained in that city for the rest of his life. His intellectual accomplishments were noticed by King Richard II (r. 1377-99), who appointed him first a chaplain and then rector at Lutterworth.
   In the 1360s and 1370s, Wycliffe won a reputation as a popular preacher against papal authority. He was condemned by Pope Gregory XI in 1377, and summoned before the bishop of London. However, he had such strong support at oxford and in the king's court that he was not arrested.
   Wycliffe continued to argue against papal authority and for the Bible as the only source of truth. Like Martin Luther 150 years later, these premises led him to the conclusions that the popes and councils were not infallible, and that papal decrees derived any authority they might have from their conformity to scripture. He also challenged Catholic doctrines concerning tran-substantiation and purgatory.
   Wycliffe argued that parish priests should operate as the people's servants, not their rulers.
   In 1380, he organized a band of "poor priests," known as the Lollards, who traveled from their center in oxford to preach around the country. The bishop of London responded by barring Wycliffe from preaching. in 1382, he was condemned by the archbishop of Canterbury.
   As attacks by church authorities mounted, Wycliffe remained among his supporters at Oxford. During this time, he completed a translation of the Bible into English, though it was not published, and summarized his ideas in a book, Trialogues.
   After Wycliffe died in 1384, church authorities suppressed his writings as much as possible. However, a generation later his ideas were still alive and being spread by the Lollards. in 1415, after condemning to death another popular reformer, John Hus, the Council of Constance ordered Wycliffe's body exhumed and burned together with his books. The order was carried out in 1428.
   once Protestant hegemony was established in England in the 16th century, Wycliffe came to be seen as an important precursor of the Reformation. His New Testament was finally published, in a limited edition, in the 18th century, and his entire Bible was published in the middle of the 19th century.
   Further reading:
   ■ David Fountain, John Wycliffe. The Dawn of the Reformation (southampton, u.K.: Mayflower Christian Books, 1984)
   ■ A. Kenny, Wyclif (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985)
   ■ ----, ed., Wyclif in His Times (oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)
   ■ Douglas C. Wood, The Evangelical Doctor (Welwyn, U.K.: Evangelical Press, 1984)
   ■ John Wyclif, Select English Works of John Wyclif, 3 vols. ed. by T. Arnold (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1869-71).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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