Saturday, June 18, 2011

John Wyclif and the Lollards (In Our Time)

In Our Time on Radio 4, Melvin Bragg conducts a roundtable discussion on the topic of John Wyclif (also spelled Wycliffe) and his followers the Lollards. Discussants include Sir Anthony Kenny, Anne Hudson, and Rob Hutton.

Wyclif, philosopher, scholar and friend of John of Gaunt, was the first translator of the bible into English. In fourteenth century England there are movements of dissent. Before Wyclif, formal dissent against the church was found mostly in Europe. Wyclif argued that, in comparison to the New Testament and the early church, the church at the end of the 14th Century was materially wealthy and powerful and taxes to the papacy in Avignon could be viewed as support for England's enemy, France. Then Wyclif attacks the wealthy English clergy.

His views on the Eucharist were controversial and he next challenged the doctrine of transubstantiation. Wyclif said that the Eucharist was both bread and the body of Christ as opposed to the notion that bread was transformed into the body of Christ. Once these notions were articulated in English, everyone had access to them.

Wyclif's translation of the Bible in 1390 was the precursor to other translations including that of Luther. It is a mystery as to who is responsible for the translation: Fox argued for Wyclif alone. Thomas Moore maintained that these Bibles were made by non-heretical Christians of the time. There were no tendentious translations such as that of Tyndale. Today, the translation is known to have gone through several stages including one well after Wyclif's death.


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