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Wycliffe, John

(Wiclif; Wyclif; 1320–84). “Doctor evangelicus.” 1. B. of noble parentage near Richmond, Yorkshire, Eng.; connected with Oxford U. as student or teacher most of his life; parish priest, last at Lutterworth, a small market town in Leicestershire near Birmingham.

2. Wycliffe's repeated opposition to the pope's meddling in Eng. affairs of state and ch. and his other anti-Roman activities caused his citation before ecclesiastical tribunals, which, however, failed to silence him. Besides preaching himself, he trained and sent out itinerant preachers; also issued numerous Lat. treatises and many Eng. tracts against Roman errors. With aid of Nicholas* of Hereford, one of his pupils, he translated Bible from Lat. Vulgate and issued complete Eng. Bible. See also Bible Versions, L 1; Purvey, John.

3. His attack on transubstantiation* aroused bitter controversy with mendicant* friars. At times he seems to teach the Luth. doctrine of the Lord's Supper, and then again speaks of the bread and wine as being “Christ's body and blood figuratively and spiritually.” Considered the 2 sacraments real means of grace, but seemed to believe that an unbelieving priest could not administer them effectively. Confirmation and extreme unction were to him mere human institutions. Termed enforced auricular confession “a sacrament of the devil” and denounced purgatory as a blasphemous swindle. Although he taught that Christ is the only Mediator bet. God and man, and delighted to dwell on the love of Christ, he ascribed a certain degree of meritoriousness to the good works of a Christian. Upheld separation of ch. and state and taught that the ch. is the cong. of the elect. Considered enforced celibacy immoral and apparently also thought it unscriptural “that ecclesiastical men should have temporal possessions.” Maintained that Christ is only Head of ch. and that pope is Antichrist, yet never left RC Ch. Excommunicated 1415 by the Council of Constance*; bones burned and ashes thrown into the Swift 1428.

J. Stacy, John Wyclif and Reform (Philadelphia, 1964).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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