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John Wyclif was a Yorkshire man who was gone to Oxford where he had become a Master of Balliol College. He was a high scholar and looked at matters from the historical angle. He was very critical of the corruption of the Church in the pursuit of wealth and power. He even opposed payment to the Pope by referring to the Bible. His opinion on church life proved extremely popular though disturbing to a good many churchmen. Naturally, he was in conflict with the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church looked upon him as an enemy and even wanted to declare him a heretic. But he was given protection by his patron John of Gaunt.

Wyclif was a scholar and reformer. He tried to spread his ideas by practical means. He founded an order of preachers called the poor priests to teach his ideas among the people. He also actively participated in the translation of the Bible from Latin into English. Of course, Wyclif's action and reformative zeal did not get the necessary support from the authority for long. But, as a teacher and reformer, he proved immensely popular and found a good many followers. The persons, enjoying power and positions, were afraid of him. Even the Oxford, so long proud of him, found itself forced to abandon him. He had to leave Oxford. He was often declared heretical. Yet, his enemies dare not assault or kill him. He died peacefully in his parish. 

Wyclif, not wrongly designated as the first Protestant, is also a renowned name in the religious prose literature of the Middle English period. His English writing consists of religious tracts, addresses and leaflets to the people on his struggle against the authoritarianism of the Catholic Church. But, perhaps, his most significant contribution is his English translation of the New Testament. Of course, his translation is not always happy, yet it has the twofold significance of laying the foundation of the Biblical translation and inspiring the famous Authorized version of 1611.


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