It sounds strange to us today, but some of these people were mercilessly persecuted and even martyred, primarily by the Roman Catholic Church, of which some were former members, for daring to allow the Bible as we know it to reach the general populace, so that we could all read for ourselves the wonderful truth.
Here are some of the heroes of faith who gave their time and lives to bringing the Word of Life to us. They were not perfect, but they did serve God to the best of their ability.
May it never be said that a man of God who preaches the Word ever could be guilty of merely hiding behind the Bible when these men paid such a price to bring it to us!
The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on 4 May 1415) a heretic and under the ban of the Church. It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth. This is the most final of all posthumous attacks on John Wycliffe, but previous attempts had been made before the Council of Constance. The Anti-Wycliffite Statute of 1401 extended persecution to Wycliffe’s remaining followers. The “Constitutions of Oxford” of 1408 aimed to reclaim authority in all ecclesiastical matters, specifically naming John Wycliffe in a ban on certain writings, and noting that translation of Scripture into English by unlicensed laity is a crime punishable by charges of heresy.
Jan Hus, often referred to in English as John Hus or John Huss, was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles Universityin Prague. After John Wycliffe, the theorist of ecclesiastical Reformation, Hus is considered the first Church reformer (living prior to Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli).
He is famed for having been burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, including those on ecclesiology, the Eucharist, and other theological topics. Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the sixteenth century, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Europe, most immediately in the approval for the existence of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself.
Between 1420 and 1431, the Hussite forces defeated five consecutive papal crusades against followers of Hus. Their defence and rebellion against Roman Catholics became known as the Hussite Wars. A century later, as many as 90% of inhabitants of the Czech lands were non-Catholic and followed the teachings of Hus and his successors.
Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German monk, priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in hisexcommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift of God’s gracethrough faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority of the Pope of theRoman Catholic Church by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood.Those who identify with Luther’s teachings are called Lutherans.
His translation of the Bible into the vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant priests to marry.
William Tyndale (sometimes spelled Tynsdale, Tindall, Tindill, Tyndall; c. 1492 – 1536) was an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He is remembered for his translation of the Bible into English. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther.
While a number of partial and complete translations had been made from the seventh century onward, the popularity of Wycliffe’s Bible in the 14th century resulted in a ban on the publication of the Bible in English; almost all vernacular Bibles were confiscated and burned. Tyndale’s illegal translation was the first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation, and the first to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to take advantage of the new medium of the print, which allowed for wide distribution. This was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and the English church and state. Tyndale also wrote, in 1530, The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII’s divorce on the grounds that it contravened scriptural law.
In 1535, Tyndale was arrested and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year. He was tried for heresy, choked, impaled and burnt on a stake in 1536. The Tyndale Bible, as it was known, continued to play a key role in spreading Reformation ideas across the English-speaking world. The fifty-four independent scholars who created the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 drew significantly on Tyndale’s translations. One estimation suggests the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale’s, and the Old Testament 76%.