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The Life and Legacy of John Wycliffe

Clearview Today / Abidan Shah
The Truth Network Radio
May 4, 2023 9:00 am

The Life and Legacy of John Wycliffe

Clearview Today / Abidan Shah

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May 4, 2023 9:00 am

In this show, Dr. Shah tells us the history and character of a great Christian scholar who helped translate the Bible into the language of the people in his day.

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Hello, everyone. Today is Thursday, May the 4th. I'm Ryan Hill.

I'm John Galantis. You're listening to Clearview Today with Dr. Abbadon Shah, the daily show that engages mind and heart for the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can visit us online at If you have any questions for Dr. Shah or suggestions for new topics, send us a text at 252-582-5028, or you can email us at contact at That's right. If you guys want to help keep this conversation going, you can support the show by sharing it online, leaving us a good five-star review on iTunes or Spotify, where you get your podcasting content from.

We're going to leave a link in the description of this podcast so you can do just that. Before we do anything else, talk about anything else, we've got to visit the Word of God. You know it. Today's verse of the day is Psalm 146, verses one and two. That's a lot of psalms. It is. Golly. It's toward the end. I think there's 150.

I think so, yeah. The verse says, Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live, I will praise the Lord. I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Yeah, there's a lot of dimensions of praise that's given in this psalm.

It's like my soul, all my life, as long as I live. The psalmist and, by extension, the Holy Spirit who's inspiring him, he's trying to tell us that praise is all-encompassing. It's not just the one thing that we think it is, which is just, God, I praise you, Lord. I praise you with all my heart, and I'm going to sing songs to you.

It is, but it's also with all your life, your entire soul, the core of who you are. If your life is to be a holy praise to the Lord, that means as long as you've got breath, it's not about whether you're in church or not, whether you're in the mood or not. Your whole life is praising God. Yeah, I love the way that you put that, that our life is supposed to be a praise unto God. It's not just a time in service. It's not just a style of music. It's a lifestyle.

It's a mindset shift. So everything that I do, every interaction, every text message that I send, every time I am on social media, every conversation I have, should be filled with praise and should be an act of worship to God. Speaking of praising the things that we're grateful for, I want to give a shout-out to my close personal friend, Mr. George Lucas, because today is May. Old buddy, old pal. Old buddy boy, today is May the fourth. Today is May the fourth, which means it is National Star Wars Day, Ryan. Happy Star Wars Day. Happy Star Wars Day, my friend. May the force be with me. And also with you. All the time, the force is good.

I'm not going to go there because that's kind of sacrilegious. We're celebrating Star Wars today, at least for these couple of minutes that we're on the air, and just saying this is probably the greatest film franchise to ever grace cinema screen. I certainly can't think of one as widespread as Star Wars. I mean, you think of things like epic sagas like Lord of the Rings, which is certainly very popular and has spawned several spin-off endeavors. But I don't think anything is quite to the level that Star Wars is or maybe will ever be.

Love it, hate it, indifferent to it. It has shaped culture. This is how ancient mythologies are started. You think about the ancient Greek mythology and how we're still talking about it today. I believe that Star Wars has more or less ascended to that realm of mythology. I think thousands and thousands of years from now, if the Lord doesn't come, that people will look back on the ancient Americans and be like, did they really believe in this Darth Vader guy? And some people will be like, they really had lightsabers. They really did that. And they either prayed to Darth Vader or they believed in him or he would visit their houses at night.

Some fossilized magazines from there. Those characters have ascended to such a realm of mythology that I feel like they're here to stay for the course of human history. And that's crazy. I was never hyper into Star Wars. I'm still not. I love Star Wars. I think it's great. It's fun to watch, but I wouldn't characterize myself as a fanboy. But one of the things that got me sort of reignited a love of Star Wars was the Knights of the Old Republic games. Those were great. They were fantastic games.

Just the story in them. You see so much more of the Star Wars universe. I was like, man, these are really great games. That was BioWare, wasn't it?

Yeah. Same people that brought us Mass Effect. Great games. I loved The Force Unleashed. I loved the first one. The second one was pretty good, too. The one that just came out recently, this last year, Jedi Fallen Order was really good. And then they just released the trailer for the new one.

I can't even think of the name of it right now. But it's the sequel to Fallen Order. And then they just released the Ahsoka trailer, which is looking good. And so Lars Mikkelsen, who I believe is the brother of Mads Mikkelsen, is Grand Admiral Thrawn.

I thought I was going to talk to you about that. I know Thrawn is your favorite. I love Grand Admiral Thrawn. If you've only ever seen the movies, then you have no clue who Thrawn is. But in the extended universe, in the novels, they used to be legends. Now it's the extended universe, I believe. That's how it goes.

The Del Rey timeline. Thrawn is just the man. He is the man.

And if you want to see him in action, I recommend you listen to, or I'm sorry, you watch the Ahsoka show. By the way, this episode is sponsored by Disney+. Oh, we just got an email from Disney+. Oh, it's a cease and desist. Ah, you hate to hear it.

No, but yeah, that's just it. I'm hyped for Star Wars. I've talked a little junk about it in the past, but... It's great. It's fun. It's great, yeah. It's fun.

It's fun. And it's not something you have to devote a thousand hours to. If you just want to casually watch Star Wars, that's fine. Or you could devote a thousand hours to it. Or you could do that, too. Go back in time, let it be your entire childhood, and every waking moment, consume their media, buy their toys and their trading cards. Here's what you do. Go to Florida, build you a lightsaber, drop $800 on it, and then just dress unironically like a Jedi when you go to the grocery store. I'm not going to lie. When I take the kids to Orlando or wherever, I'm 100% building a lightsaber. That's going to happen.

I'm going to have a saber staff, and it's going to be purple, and I'm going to drop at least $1,600 on it. To this day, in the back of my mind, any time I walk through automatic doors, I... You do the jig. Yeah.

I'm not going to lift my hands up, but to this day, in my mind, my inner child is like, the Force is stronger. I'll do it. I won't make a show, but I'll be at the door and I'll be like, shh. Yeah. Absolutely. Oh, man.

So funny. We're going to get Dr. Sean in just a second. We're continuing this discussion about Malachai. If you guys have any questions or suggestions for new topics, send us a text at 252-582-5028. Text in and let us know your favorite Star Wars memory.

What Star Wars has meant to you as well. We're going to get Dr. Sean, and we'll be back after this. Well, good morning, afternoon, evening, Clearview Today listeners. My name is Jon.

And I'm David. And we just want to take a quick second and let you know about another way that you can keep in touch with Dr. Sean's work. And that is his weekly podcast series, Sermons by Avidan Shah, PhD. As a lot of you may know, or maybe some of you don't know... If you don't know, you do now. And if you don't know, then maybe just pop off the podcast. David, pop off the podcast.

And just play and keep listening. Dr. Sean is actually the lead pastor of Clearview Church in North Carolina. Every single weekend, he preaches expository messages that challenge and inspire us to live God-honoring lives. One of the four core values of Clearview Church is that we're a Bible-believing church. So every sermon is coming directly from scripture, which is great because that guarantees that there are timeless truths that are constantly applicable to our lives. This is a great resource because whether you're driving, whether you're cleaning the house, whether you're working out, you can always benefit from hearing the Word of God spoken into your life. And God's Word is always going to do something new for you every time you hear it.

Sometimes it's conviction and sometimes it's encouragement. But know that every time you listen to God's Word, you're inviting the Holy Spirit to move and work in your life. You guys can check out the Sermons by Avidan Shah PhD podcast. First and foremost, check it out on our church app. That's the Clearview app. You can get that in the Google Play Store. You can get that on iTunes. But you can also find the podcast on the Apple podcast app or on our website at And listen, if you've got a little extra time on your hands, you just want to do some further reading, you can also read the transcripts of those sermons.

Those are available on Dr. Shah's website, And we're going to leave you guys a little link in the description so you can follow it. But for right now, David, let's hop back in. Welcome back to Clear View Today with Dr. Avidan Shah, the daily show that engages mind and heart for the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can visit us online at If you have any questions or suggestions for new topics, send us a text at 252-582-5028.

That's right. And if today is your first time ever listening to the show, we want to welcome you, make you feel welcome, let you know who's talking to you. Dr. Avidan Shah is a PhD in New Testament textual criticism, professor at Carolina University, author, full-time pastor, and the host of today's show.

You can find all of his work on his website at And Dr. Shah, happy Star Wars Day. Happy Star Wars.

We'll be with you. I remember seeing the magazine, this Indian magazine that came out and I went into my dad's study and saw this magazine and it was like several years old at the time. And so I'm assuming this was probably 1978, when did Star Wars come out? Around that time. Yeah. It was the late seventies, the first one.

Yeah. So 1978 or 79. I remember seeing this magazine. I was so fascinated with these pictures in the magazine of this show called Star Wars. And I'm like, wow, where is this from? And at that age, didn't know date and time.

But now looking back, it was probably that magazine was probably a couple of years old, just sitting there. And I happened to stumble upon it and just mesmerized by these characters. Oh yeah. Who's your favorite character in Star Wars? I don't have one.

Do you have one, Jon? Who's your favorite? I mean, probably Vader.

Yeah. But if I got to choose a good guy, I mean, I would be Luke. I'm old school.

I don't get into none of those. I'd say Thrawn, actually. I'm really showing my nerdiness because he's not in any of the movies or the shows. He's just in the novels.

But Grand Admiral Thrawn is my favorite, but you'd never go wrong with Darth Vader. But if you're talking about intergalactic kind of stuff, I'm more of his Star Trek person. Oh, okay. Oh, he's Jean-Luc Picard. That's right. I think he's speaking my language.

I watch those shows so religiously. All right. All right.

I love Next Generation. Well today is also, in addition to being Star Wars Day, today is another significant day, not in a galaxy far, far away, but in our own galaxy, in Christian history. On today, on May 4th, back in 1415, John Wycliffe was deemed a heretic by the church for translating the Bible. That's right. That's right. That might seem odd. That seems like, why is he a heretic? That seems like a good thing that he did. But as we're going to learn today, that was not looked upon very favorably. We take for granted the fact that we can hold English translation.

Oh, we were talking about this right before we turned the podcast on, Dr. Shylock. I think in this room we have three or four Bible translations. I think there's an ESV over there. There's a New King James over here. I know you use the New King James.

That's right. And it's like you said, Ryan, we take for granted that we can get whatever translation we want to fit our style, or our leisure, or our comfort, or our preference. Now we can even swap between them with the press of a button. In my Bible app, if I don't like the version I'm reading, I just, boop, click a button, and now I have a different English translation. But why was it so frowned? Why was that such a no-no to translate the Bible? Right up until the 14th century, there was no full translation of the English Bible.

And there were several reasons for that. One is the dominance of the Latin Vulgate. So this is the sacred language. You know, why would you want to, you know, bring in English? I mean, English, of all languages, you want the word of God to be read in English? I mean, that's kind of funny to think about now is like, oh, English. And then of course, lack of training among the priests.

So, you know, they couldn't do much with that. And then the threat against any kind of translators. So, you know, these were some of the basic reasons why English translation was so late to come on the scene. And furthermore, even though there's evidence of bishops coming to the councils of Arles in 8314, I mean, these are coming from, you know, old Britannia. Britain was last on the scene with regards to the spirit of Christianity. So the translation was also late.

Was John Wycliffe British? Yeah, of course. English. Yeah, I would definitely say that.

Yeah. So English language, all the development that had to happen. I mean, you know, if you know anything about it, it belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. You know, so Hebrew Aramaic would be Semitic. Greek would be Indo-European. English is connected to that stream. And if you go by the history of English language, there are three basic periods of English history.

One is the Old English, which is, you know, the fourth century to about 1100 AD. You know, so that's where you find Beowulf. I'm sure you've heard of Beowulf. Dream of the Rude.

Dream of the Rude was this dream, if I'm not wrong, like the cross has about, you know, who is going to die on him. It's an old, old poem. You know, so that is the Old English. Then comes the Middle English, which kind of begins in that 12th century period going all the way to the 1500s. That's where you have the Canterbury Tales. That's where you have, you know, Spencer, Edmund Spenser's sonnets and all that. And then, of course, the Modern English period.

You know, we talk about Modern English. That's actually from the 1500s to the present. Wow.

Wow. So they get, they get more and more like our today English as they go up. Yeah. Around Shakespeare on to our time period. So 1500 to today is Modern English. That is true because when you think about like Old English, like Beowulf, like I remember we had to read Beowulf in high school and it legitimately feels like you're reading a different language. Oh yeah. It's English.

And I know what the words are, but it doesn't make sense in any way. Exactly. Yeah. So, you know, when you talk about early English Bibles, so anything prior to Wycliffe, yes, there were things like, they were not complete, but partial.

Okay. So Caidman, Caidman's hymns, you know, this cow herder translated certain Bible passages into poems for people to memorize. So that's, that's Caidman. Then came Aldum. This is about 709. So Caidman is 678. Aldum is about 709, all AD by the way. He was a Bishop who translated the Psalter from the Latin into English, but that's all he did. Nothing else. Then Venerable Bede. You've probably heard that name before.

You know, this is about 674 to about 735. He was a monk who translated portions of the Gospel of John into English. Then there were some others who, you know, here and there came and did some things, but people felt that it was time for an English translation all the way from Genesis to Revelation. So why, I guess my question would be if, if the people wanted this, why was Wycliffe branded a heretic for, for translating the Bible?

Well, because people wanted it and it, the power was going towards the people. So he wasn't, he wasn't, it wasn't like court of public opinion. Like he was branded like by the church, right?

Like the officials in the church. Right. Okay. Right. Okay.

I got you. So it was not, it was not like the people came together and said, we'll, we'll kill Wycliffe. The people were asking for it. One reason was because of a plague. The bubonic plague? Was it really, it was, okay.

I got people thinking about life. Yeah. Yeah.

That's true. Like they'd be like, man, I don't know, comes knocking on your door and be like, I'm thinking a lot about my own mortality. I might want to, I might want to get in the good book for this one. Now I don't feel too good about 1347 to 1351. You know, the death, the black death and bubonic plague. People began to question and they were no longer satisfied in standing in these cathedrals, which I love by the way.

I love the old cathedrals. There's a beauty, beauty of, you know, significance of them. But standing in these cold damp cathedrals and having some guy up there muttering away in Latin, I don't know.

When you're staring death in the face, I need some answers. That's true. That's true. Being able to read God's word for yourself is something that is so profoundly special. And yet, like, like we said, we kind of take it for granted because that's the world that we grew up in.

Right. And also there was a sort of a time of peace, you know, the crusades had ended. The Norman conquest had already happened. You know, this is, this is where English went through so many changes with French, you know, of course the Germanic part was always there. But then, you know, when, when the French came into England, that also shaped the English language. So now it's a different language. And then of course, people want to learn, you know, it's peace, it's quiet. I want to learn.

I want to expand my intellect. We ain't got, we ain't got war ravaging our nation anymore. We can sort of expand ourselves and grow as a people. And I don't even know, they were quite nations. Like we look at nations today, but we're not at war. We're not fighting anybody. We're not having people ransacking. Like the Vikings are long gone. You know, they don't attack us anymore. The Normans are sort of gone, but some are here to stay.

We are a new country or new whatever people. It's time for a Bible. You can think beyond survival. Yeah. Yeah.

That's why peace, peace helps. So Wycliffe hears the cries of the people and he's like, I'm going to, I'm going to make a full Bible translation, Genesis to Revelation in English. Yeah. And don't forget that he was not just an ordinary man. He was Oxford educated.

That says a lot about him. He was, he was a brilliant scholar. He was a lecturer. He was also concerned about the corruption in the church. He was opposed to, you know, the priest being that mediator, the go between.

He said, you know, that's not necessary. So, you know, people loved him. The common people really loved him. That's when you asked, you know, who was trying to kill him?

Not the common people. They loved him. And so he embarked on this translation.

But before you think, man, this is it. He was translating the Latin Bible into English. I was going to ask that. Was he, was he going from the Latin or was he going all the way back to like Hebrew and Greek? No, he was Latin. Wow. Right. Hebrew and Greek was Tyndale. Okay.

Okay. So Latin translation in 1380, just the New Testament. And then a couple of years later, the Old Testament. So is the, tell me if I've, if I've got the chronology right here, it's, it's written originally, the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Then the New Testament is written in Greek. Then the Septuagint, where the, where the Old Testament is back into Greek or is into Greek. Septuagint came, I would say in that silent period. Okay.

Between Malachi and the coming of Jesus. Okay. That's where Septuagint came. Okay. So we're talking about 200 BC to about 180 or somewhere. So Septuagint is written before the New Testament.

Paul quoted from the Septuagint. Yeah. Okay.

Okay. So it's all in Greek. Then it goes into Latin. Then Wycliffe turns it into English.

Right. You're talking about the Old Testament? Well, I guess now the whole Bible. Well, Septuagint was only the Old Testament, right? So for Wycliffe, yes, it was the Old Testament goes into Septuagint, goes into Latin. But see, then again, we got to talk about how did Jerome translated the Bible into the Vulgate? Which is the Latin translation. Which is Latin. You see, he was using the Hebrew. Okay.

Not the Septuagint. No. Okay.

No. As far as I'm, my knowledge goes, maybe we can research that real quickly. And I have an episode coming out on Jerome too, but that that's kind of escaping my mind, but I think he was more focused on the Masoretic text. Jerome was more on the Masoretic text.

He originally translated it all from Greek, but as he went on, he corrected the Old Testament again against the Hebrew original. There you go. I knew there was a little something happening there. So we need to remember that. Okay. Then the Old Testament followed in 1382, and then it was revised in 1388. Keep in mind, printing press hasn't happened yet.

So all of Wycliffe's translations are hand copied. Wow. The old way.

It's the old way. Wow. And so he was, you know, an amazing person.

Yeah. I mean, think about doing all that work and doing it for the people. And then your reward for that is you get branded a heretic.

I mean, your immediate reward, obviously history remembers him kindly, but man. Imagine him just sitting there by like candlelight some nights looking and following along with his finger and just riding over here. And just that picture is, man, that dedication and the heart behind it to finish it.

What did that look like? Yeah. We've talked about, I think we've said it on the show, like the true amount of success is that you can start a task and finish it, but what a task. And he finished it. Yeah. That's insane. Yeah.

This is one of my heroes. I mean, I look up, look up to him. Albeit it was from Latin. I get it, but still he is rightly called the morning star of the reformation. Wow.

Yeah. Cause he was, you know, before all these other guys, the Anabaptists and the Baptists. Well, Anabaptists will say there was still some others prior to, you know, the 15th, 16th century, but anyways, Wycliffe was a pioneer. You've done a lot of study into what goes into translating the Bible. A lot of people, I think we have this idea that, all right, let me get my, let me get my dictionary here and I'll just look at these Greek words and then I'll translate it into English. And then that there you go. That's the Bible.

But yeah, there's actually a lot more that goes into it than that. Let me just say it this way. There, there is no literal translation of the Bible. There is no such thing. When people say that, what they're saying is like a word for word. Oh my, the King James is like a word for word.

That's not true. No, it can't be. You couldn't read it if it was a word for word, because it doesn't work. Every translation involves some kind of interpretation, you know? It's like the old Latin, I forgot the Latin actual statement, but it's like translator, traitor. That's what it's, that's a statement. Translator, traitor.

But that's, that's just to say that, you know, you'll never be happy because the translator has to make some assumptions or, you know, fill in the blanks or put it in a way that you can actually understand it when you read it. But going back to Wycliffe, you know, because he did that, his followers, you know, known as Lawlers, they were known as Lawlers. They were thrown into prison.

They were burned at the stakes with the Bible hanging in there around their neck. Oh man. That's bizarre. That is bizarre to think about. How many years ago?

Let's see. So we're talking about Wycliffe lived 1329 to 1384. So 1484, is it 1384? That'd be 639 years ago. They were burning people with the Bible. That's crazy. That's crazy. That's 200 years before America.

Terrible. What year did he die? 1384.

1384. So he was burned as a heretic after his death? Yes. Yes.

Wow. After his death, the church even went back and said, this guy, just in case there was any doubt, we're going to consider him a heretic. Do you think that still stands today? I mean, or has history kind of, I mean, I guess popular opinion has kind of taken over and the people look upon Wycliffe favorably. Well, people always looked upon him favorably.

That's true. It's the established Roman Catholic Church and all that. They were not too happy with him and people could lose their land, the cattle, and even life if they were caught reading that Bible, Wycliffe's Bible.

And it also had sort of an opposite effect. People wanted to learn how to read in order to read the Bible. So literacy actually began to grow in Western culture because of Wycliffe's Bible. So not only the Bible in people's hands, but literacy itself.

The world is improving now. Yeah. I think it illustrates for me just this fundamental love of the text. And I know we kind of touch on that a lot on this show, but at the same time, that's the core of who you are as a person, as a man, as a Christian is this, there's a love for the text. And I think Wycliffe demonstrated that, that he was even willing to die for it and to be branded a heretic by the authoritarian church. That's right.

This just, I want to love the text like that. Right. You know what I mean? That's what I was going to say is it makes me think of, just like you said, John, counting the cost. Like John Wycliffe knew this was not going to be popular among the church officials. And yet he was like, I feel like I need to do this. I feel like I need to put the Bible in people's hands. And even his followers, people who were reading the Bible, they knew that it wasn't a shock to them that they were going to get in trouble, but they still were like, we need to do this. And I think about, you shared before the story of your dad, just counting the cost of what it would mean to follow Jesus and still following through on that. And then even in your life, counting the cost of coming to America and pursuing an education and pursuing a call to ministry, and then just planting yourself at one church, just that idea of forsaking all others, I'm going to pursue Christ and obedience to him.

We spoke about this right before the podcast started. You said, you know, there comes a moment in every leader's life where you start to realize, okay, maybe God is putting the right person in the right position and maybe that's me. And if I do that, if I accept that, then it's an honor.

It's a Wycliffe kind of, maybe he felt that way. Like, listen, the God of the universe is putting me in this position. It's an honor to die for him. And I feel like, you know, we've kind of taken that stance that maybe God has put us here, not because we're the best or the most talented, but because he knows that this will give the most impact when we do this radio show and we spread this knowledge. Absolutely. I'm grateful for the opportunities that God is giving us, but it comes with a sense of accountability. To whom much is given, much is expected. Hence we do what we do. Just like this show today on Wycliffe, you know, we could just find something fun to talk about, but I think bringing up Wycliffe and what happened to him those six, seven hundred years ago may inspire somebody who's listening to pick up that Bible, right?

Whatever translation you have, pick it up and start reading it, knowing that Christians who supported this, the translation, right, were actually burned because of their love and their conviction for the word of God. And you just have it sitting on your dashboard or on your coffee table or by your bedside. It's just sitting there. Yeah. And you have it.

That's right. Be thankful for the word of God. Amen.

Amen. That's awesome. If you guys enjoyed today's episode, if you have any questions about John Wycliffe or even Bible translation, write in, let us know at 252-582-5028. And you can visit us online at You can partner with us financially on that same website. Just click that donate button there.

Make sure you mark that it is a gift for Clearview today. And we're grateful to all of our giving partners for you standing side by side with us as we seek to impact nations with the gospel. Amen. I want to end on a quote from a John Wycliffe. I just saw this earlier and I thought this was really beautiful. The laity ought to understand the faith.

And since the doctrines of our faith are in the scriptures, believers should have the scriptures in a language familiar to the people. Wow. That's his heart. That's so powerful of it. I love it. I love you guys. We'll see you next time on Clear View Today.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-04 10:06:55 / 2023-05-04 10:20:00 / 13

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