The newest addition to Bible Gateway’s library is actually a very old one: Wycliffe’s Old Testament, which together with the New Testament makes the complete Wycliffe Bible available online at Bible Gateway.The development of the Wycliffe Bible in the 14th century was a watershed event in the history of Bible translation and publication. Before John Wycliffe directed the series of translations that would become known as the Wycliffe Bible, common men and women had access to the Scriptures only through the Latin Vulgate as it was read in church services and functions. Wycliffe’s vision was to put God’s Word into the hands of everyone to read and interpret without reliance upon the clergy and educated elite.
The result was the first Bible translated into the English language. The Wycliffe Bible’s appearance had a profound impact on the history of Christianity, the philosophy of Bible translation, and even the political situation in Europe at the time.
As a glance at a typical passage reveals, the Wycliffe Bible presents a reading challenge to modern readers. Its Middle English language, while poetic and elegant at points, is marked by “old-fashioned” words and phrases and reflects a very literal translation philosophy that may catch readers off guard. But it’s well worth exploring—beyond its virtues as a Bible translation, it changed the way that Christians approached God’s Word. (I recommend reading it side-by-side with a modern translation for a vivid illustration of the way that language evolves over time.) As you read, imagine that you’re a 14th-century Christian encountering Scripture directly and personally for the first time in your life.
The introduction to the Wycliffe Bible is an excellent place to learn the full history and significance of this groundbreaking translation. You can also learn more about the Wycliffe Bible at its information page on Bible Gateway or at Wikipedia. You can start reading it online right now, beginning with the Old Testament or the New Testament.
Special thanks to Terence Noble for making the Wycliffe Bible available on Bible Gateway.