seems amazing to us today, but in the Middle Ages the Catholic
Church forbade people to read the Bible in their own
Council of Toulouse in 1229, forbade the laity to read
the Bible at all, even in Latin. All that people were allowed was a 'book of
hours' (a book of prayers and devotions) - and even these had to
be in Latin.
Wycliffe, a priest from Yorkshire, believed
differently. He said:
Heretics who pretend that the laity do not need to know Godís law,
and that the things which priests have told them is enough, do
not deserve to be listened to. For the Bible is
the faith of the Church, and the more widely it
becomes known the better it will be. Therefore since the laity
should know the faith, it should be taught in whatever
language is most easily understood.
1382, he translated the Bible into English.
is hard for us today to understand how exciting this was to
the people of the time. Although every copy had to
be hand-written, thousands of bibles were made - 170 of them
still survive today. One man gave a wagon-load of
hay for a few pages. People who could not afford
the whole Bible paid to read it for an
hour. Wycliffe trained preachers (called Lollards)
to go round the country - people gathered in small groups to hear
them reading out the words of the Bible in a
language they could understand.
made the Church angry. Wycliffe was put on trial, but powerful friends stopped him being
punished. He died quietly in his bed in
1384. Other Lollards were not so
lucky. In 1408, Wycliffe's Bible was
outlawed. Many Lollards were burned, with their
Bibles hung round their necks. In 1428, on
order of the Pope, Wycliffe's body was dug up and burned, and
his ashes thrown into the river.
nothing could stop the English people reading the Bible in
their own language.
Bible belongs to the people, and no one should be allowed to
take it from them. Christ converted the
world by making God's truth known to men in a form familiar to
them, and I pray with all my heart that through doing the
things in this book we may all together come to