- Wyclif, John
- (ca. 1330-1384)English theologian, professor of theology at Oxford. His teachings were condemned as heretical, but Wyclif himself had such powerful support from the royal family that he could not be punished, though he was forced to retire from Ox-ford. Wyclif himself, his political role in representing the English monarchy in a conflict with the papacy, and the doctrines regarding ecclesiastical authority and the sacraments for which the archbishop of Canterbury declared him heretical in 1382 are very much a part of medieval rather than Renaissance history, but his followers, the Lollards, were numerous until driven underground by royal persecu-tion in the early 15th century. The movement survived as an under-ground heresy of simple laymen into the early years of the English Reformation, though the degree to which it influenced the course of the Reformation in England is debatable. Wyclif's theology also had some influence on the Czech theologian John Huss and the Hussite religious movement that became the majority religion of the kingdom of Bohemia during the 15th century. Since Wyclif's Lollard follow-ers stubbornly clung to his teaching that all Christians should have free access to the Bible in their own language, one effect of his career is that in pre-Reformation England, unlike most continental coun-tries, possession of the Scriptures in English translation was regarded as prima facie evidence of heretical belief. Thus the opinion of Erasmus and other Christian humanists of the early 16th century that the Bible ought to be accessible to the people seemed far more dangerous in England than in many continental countries, where ver-nacular copies of parts of the Bible were relatively common and were eagerly sought by simple folk.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.