John Wyclif and challenges to the Church


By the late Middle Ages, the Church had amassed enormous wealth. This all too often had the effect of turning it into a worldly organization. The Church frequently tolerated abuses which raised money, including displaying false relics and the selling of indulgences.

John Wyclif

John Wyclif and his followers argued for a number of far-reaching reforms in the Church. Wycliffites called for the Church's wealth to be reallocated to the Crown. They also opposed many practices of the Medieval Church, such as:

Wyclif and his followers maintained that Christ and his followers had been poor and the Church should follow that example.

An English Bible

John Wyclif and his followers also produced the first close translation into English of the whole of the Latin Bible (known as the Vulgate). Previously, there had been vernacular paraphrases that told many of the most important biblical narratives, but not in close, exact translation. As well as these paraphrases, there were:

  • Legendary and apocryphal material
  • Doctrine and interpretation, which lacked support from the Bible itself.

Wyclif's translation meant that ordinary people could read and understand the Bible for themselves, rather than rely on what they were told by the priest. This had the effect of destabilizing traditional beliefs, many of the contemporary Church's practices and doctrines had no clear support in the Bible. See Aspects of Literature > Impact of the Bible > Bible translations

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