For God louede so the world, that he ȝaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf – John 3.16 in the Wyclif Bible.
John Wycliffe (1328–1384) believed that ‘it helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence’. He was adamant that the Scriptures should be read in the mother-tongue of all people, as it had been for the original hearers:
‘You say it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English. You call me a heretic because I have translated the Bible into the common tongue of the people. Do you know whom you blaspheme? Did not the Holy Ghost give the Word of God at first in the mother-tongue of the nations to whom it was addressed?’
So, he and his team translated the whole Bible into the common English of the time. Every word was written by hand.
Wycliffe suffered fierce opposition. Even after his death, great hatred towards his work continued, leading the Church to declare Scripture translation a heresy in 1412. To suffer the punishment due to heretics, Wycliffe’s remains were recovered and burnt in 1428 (44 years after his death)!
Over 600 years after Wycliffe’s death, 160 million people, speaking 1,700–1,800 languages, still do not have a word of Scripture in their language and may need some form of Bible translation to begin. At least 1.5 billion people don’t have a complete Bible in the language they understand best.