John Wycliffe, mid-1320s-1384
John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian, was well known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, which he believed were contrary to the Bible. He was the founder of the Lollard movement, a precursor of the Protestant Reformation, earlier opponents of papal authority. Thus, Wycliffe is sometimes called the “Morningstar of the Reformation.” Wycliffe was an early advocate of the translation of the Bible from Latin into the language of the common man and began his English Bible translation work in the early 1380s. With the help of his followers and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of handwritten English language copies of the Bible, the first New Testament appearing about 1382. Since Wycliffe’s translation work preceded the invention of the printing press, it took 10 months to hand-scribe a copy of each of the Bibles. Wycliffe’s translation work pioneered the surge of English Bible translations which would expand rapidly in the 16th century after the invention of the practical printing press by Gutenberg in 1455. Wycliffe surely believed that “no simple [common] man of wit should be afraid to study in the text of the Scripture.”
Desiderius Erasmus, died 1536
The major contribution of Erasmus to the advancement of the Reformation was his publication in 1516 of a Greek-Latin parallel New Testament which became foundational to much of the translation work of the reformers. His translation and correction of the Latin Vulgate from the Greek was much more accurate and reliable than the version used by the Roman Church. This work of Erasmus focused attention on just how inaccurate the Latin Vulgate Bible had become and how important it was to go back to the original Greek so that the translations of the Scriptures in the languages of the common man could be accurately and faithfully completed. The subsequent versions of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament became known as the Textus Receptus.