J. Loserth (essay date April 1896)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Loserth, J. “The Beginnings of Wyclif's Activity in Ecclesiastical Politics.” English Historical Review 11, no. 42 (April 1896): 319-28.

[In the following essay, Loserth attempts to establish the appropriate timeline for Wyclif's publication of his infamous critique of papal and ecclesiastical corruption during the volatile period of 1374–84.]

Since the time of Shirley and Lechler it has been usual to place the beginnings of Wyclif's engagement in ecclesiastical politics in the year 1366; in other words, he first came forward in questions of ecclesiastical politics in connexion with the demand made by Urban V upon Edward III for the payment of the tribute...

(The entire section is 4616 words.)

F. J. C. Hearnshaw (essay date 1923)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hearnshaw, F. J. C. “John Wycliffe and Divine Dominion.” In The Social and Political Ideas of Some Great Medieval Thinkers, edited by F. J. C. Hearnshaw, pp. 192-223. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1923.

[In the following excerpt, Hearnshaw sketches Wyclif's life, surveys his writings, and encapsulates his thought on ecclesiastical and political subjects, concluding that Wyclif was not in any significant sense a religious thinker but rather a rationalist.]

Wycliffe was born in the north of England about the year 1320. As he grew up to manhood, the evils which had marked the opening of the fourteenth century became manifestly worse. In particular, the Papacy,...

(The entire section is 8905 words.)

John Thomas McNeill (essay date July 1927)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: McNeill, John Thomas. “Some Emphases in Wyclif's Teaching.” Journal of Religion 7, no. 4 (July 1927): 447-66.

[In the following essay, McNeill, prompted by what he determines to be inadequacies in Herbert B. Workman's critical biography John Wyclif: A Study of the English Medieval Church (1926), explores the fundamental elements of Wyclif's thought on religious, political, and philosophical subjects.]

Dr. Workman's John Wyclif1 is at once among the most admirable and among the most unsatisfying of biographies. No one can read the book without deep appreciation of the author's fulness of research, conscientious accuracy of detail,...

(The entire section is 6806 words.)

G. C. Heseltine (essay date June 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Heseltine, G. C. “The Myth of Wycliffe.” Thought 7, no. 1 (June 1932): 108-32.

[In the following essay, Heseltine questions Wyclif's status as “a profound philosopher or theologian who paved the way to a purer Christianity on a basis of reason, logic, and sound theological principle.”]

It has become an accepted belief amongst Protestants, and an historical reproach against the Catholic Church, that John Wycliffe, the learned and holy reformer, labored all his life unceasingly for the promulgation of a purer Christianity, was the first to translate the Bible into the vernacular, and suffered shameful persecution for his beliefs. He has been hailed as the...

(The entire section is 4762 words.)

L. J. Daly (essay date 1962)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Daly, L. J. “Wyclif and Civil Society.” In The Political Theory of John Wyclif, pp. 59-96. Chicago. Ill.: Loyola University Press, 1962.

[In the following essay, Daly studies Wyclif's understanding of the concepts dominium and ecclesia in the context of civil society, asserting that Wyclif's approach to political philosophy was wholly theological.]

In order to better adapt our mental outlook to that of a medieval political writer, it might be well to consider how important Wyclif regarded the study of theology for the right government of the kingdom. That he should think thus merely shows that Wyclif was considering things from the viewpoint...

(The entire section is 9422 words.)

Peggy Ann Knapp (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Knapp, Peggy Ann. “The Medieval Mind: Scholasticism and Folklore.” In The Style of John Wyclif's English Sermons, pp. 79-92. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton, 1977.

[In the following excerpt, Knapp examines Wyclif's combination of Scholastic and popular modes of argumentation in his English sermons.]

[Wyclif's sermons reveal] an author with a radical idea, an idea which not only coordinated [his] thought on most subjects, but also influenced his habits of expression and perhaps his habits of conception as well. A great deal of Wyclif is revealed by following his theory of the availability of God's grace through the Bible backward to its source in...

(The entire section is 6911 words.)

Anthony Kenny (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kenny, Anthony. “The Philosopher of Truth.” In Wyclif, pp. 1-17. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1985.

[In the following essay, Kenny probes Wyclif's position as an epistemological Realist by contrasting his views on the subject of universals with those of the nominalist William of Ockham.]

Wyclif lived from the late twenties to the early eighties of the fourteenth century. He was a dozen years older than Geoffrey Chaucer, and they had friends in common. His career fell under the last two kings of the main Plantagenet line, Edward III and his grandson Richard II. Because Edward had a long dotage, and Richard succeeded while still a child, the...

(The entire section is 5063 words.)

Maurice Keen (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Keen, Maurice. “Wyclif, the Bible, and Transubstantiation.” In Wyclif in His Times, edited by Anthony Kenny, pp. 1-16. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1986.

[In the following essay, Keen outlines the development of Wyclif's thought regarding the Eucharist, which culminated in his heretical objection to transubstantiation in 1379.]

In this paper I shall attempt to trace the stages in the development of Wyclif's thought that turned him from a radical critic of his contemporary church, into what he is remembered as, a heresiarch. The formal turning-point in that development is quite clear; it is the moment at which he began to maintain in the schools...

(The entire section is 7092 words.)

Anthony Kenny (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Kenny, Anthony. “The Realism of the De Universalibus.” In Wyclif in His Times, edited by Anthony Kenny, pp. 17-29. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1986.

[In the following essay, Kenny explicates Wyclif's theory of universals as well as the notion of predication that underlies it.]

Wyclif has long been famous as a realist, but the precise content of his philosophical realism has never been exactly determined. The publication by Ivan Mueller of an edition of the De Universalibus (Oxford, 1985) gives the general reader, for the first time, an opportunity to take the measure of Wyclif's theory. The present article aims to single out some...

(The entire section is 5685 words.)

Anne Hudson (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hudson, Anne. “Wyclif and the English Language.” In Wyclif in His Times, edited by Anthony Kenny, pp. 85-103. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1986.

[In the following essay, Hudson stresses Wyclif's promotion of the use of written English in the fourteenth century, regardless of whether or not he personally translated the Latin Bible into the English vernacular.]

In the introduction to the first paper in the series of Balliol lectures, the Master spoke of two things concerning Wyclif which were familiar to him as a schoolboy: that Wyclif caused the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and that Wyclif translated the Bible, both ‘facts’ that many would now...

(The entire section is 8258 words.)

Gordon Leff (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Leff, Gordon. “The Place of Metaphysics in Wyclif's Theology.” In From Ockham to Wyclif, edited by Anne Hudson and Michael Wilks, pp. 217-32. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1987.

[In the following essay, Leff emphasizes the continuity of Wyclif's metaphysical and theological thought throughout his major works, with the exception of some of his writings on civil society.]

Wyclif's theological doctrines are reasonably familiar1 and I do not intend to dwell upon them unduly here. They had their focus in his concepts of the Church, the Bible and the eucharist; and they were the outcome of a singular combination of a metaphysics of realism—the...

(The entire section is 6643 words.)

G. R. Evans (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Evans, G. R. “Wyclif on Literal and Metaphorical.” In From Ockham to Wyclif, edited by Anne Hudson and Michael Wilks, pp. 259-66. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1987.

[In the following essay, Evans illuminates Wyclif's views on the significance and usefulness of figurative interpretation of the Bible in his De vertitate sacrae scripturae.]

Origen encouraged readers of the Bible to try to penetrate beneath the literal meaning to deeper truths which lay hidden in the figurative and metaphorical senses.1 Augustine and Gregory the Great made it a commonplace in the mediaeval West that the literal sense is only one of several possible...

(The entire section is 3463 words.)

Michael Wilks (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilks, Michael. “Wyclif and the Wheel of Time.” In Wyclif: Political Ideas and Practice: Papers by Michael Wilks, edited by Anne Hudson, pp. 205-21. Oxford, England: Oxbow Books, 2000.

[In the following essay, Wilks details Wyclif's belief in the circularity of history as understood in Christian terms.]

During the 1370s Wyclif wrote to defend a monarchy which made extensive use of bishops and other clergy in the royal administration and yet was faced with aristocratic factions encouraged by bishops like Wykeham and Courtenay who espoused papal supremacy, if not out of conviction, at least as a very convenient weapon to support their independence against...

(The entire section is 7501 words.)