Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Wyclif's Bible is the name now given to a group of Bible translations into Middle English, that were made under the direction of, or at the instigation of, John Wyclif. They appeared over a period from approximately 1380 to 1390. These Bible translations were the chief inspiration and chief cause of the Lollard movement, a pre-Reformation movement that rejected many of the distinctive teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Long thought to be the work of Wyclif himself, it is now generally believed that the Wycliffite translations were the work of several hands. Nicholas of Hereford is known to have translated a part of the text; John Purvey and perhaps John Trevisa are names that have been mentioned as possible authors. The translators worked from the Vulgate, the Latin Bible that was the standard Biblical text of Western Christianity.
The work was immensely popular, even though being found in possession of a Bible in English was an offence that could possibly lead to death by being burnt alive. Wycliffite Bible texts are the most common manuscript literature in Middle English. Over 250 manuscripts of the Wycliffite Bible survive; its nearest competitor is the essay on the Ayenbite of Inwit (the "Prick of Conscience") that survives in 117 copies.
Surviving copies of the Wycliffite Bible fall into two broad textual families, an "early" version and a later version. Both versions are flawed from a slavish regard to the word order and syntax of the Latin originals; the later versions give some indication of being revised in the direction of idiomatic English. A wide variety of Middle English dialects are represented. The second, revised group of texts is much larger than the first. Some manuscripts contain parts of the Bible in the earlier version, and other parts in the later version; this suggests that the early version may have been meant as a rough draft that was meant to be recast into the somewhat better English of the second version. The second version, though somewhat improved, still retained a number of infelicities of style, as in its version of Genesis 1:3
- Vulgate: ---- Dixitque Deus: Fiat lux, et facta est lux
- Early Wyclif: And God said: Be made light, and made is light
- Later Wyclif: And God said: Light be made; and light was made
- King James:- And God said: Let there be light; and there was light
The familiar verse of John 3:16 is rendered in the later Wyclif version as:
- For God louede so the world that he 3af his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that beliueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf.
The Wycliffite Bible, and its popularity, caused the kingdom of England and the established Roman Catholic Church to undertake a drastic campaign to suppress it. In response to its circulation, Archbishop Thomas Arundel's 1409 Constitutions of Oxford , and the statute De haeretico comburendo , placed England under some of the severest religious censorship regimes in Europe at that time.
- John Wyclif; contains a text of the Wycliffite Bible
For further reading
- David Daniell , The Bible in English (Yale, 2003); ISBN 0-300-09930-4
- Josiah Forshall and Frederic Madden, eds., The Holy Bible: Wycliffite Versions, 4 vols. (Oxford 1850)
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