A manuscript containing the Later Version of the Middle English translation of the Bible produced by followers of the reformer John Wycliffe (d. 1384).
While the Earlier Version was a literal word-for-word rendering of the Latin Vulgate, this later revision is intended to convey the sense of the text more clearly in English. As the prologue explains, ‘the best translating out of Latin into English is to translate after the sentence, and not only after the words.’
The Wycliffite Bible, produced in the latter decades of the 14th century, was the first translation of the whole Bible into English. Throughout medieval times the Church in England was governed from Rome by the Pope. All over the Christian world, church services were conducted in Latin. Wycliffe believed that the Bible should be the sole basis of Christian doctrine and he rejected ecclesiastical structures that cannot be traced in Scripture, including the office of pope. Many of his views were condemned as heretical by Church authorities. In 1409 it was declared illegal to own a copy of the Wycliffite Bible without a bishop’s permission. Despite the ban, the hundreds of copies that survive suggest that the translation was tolerated and popular.