The Wycliffe New Testament

In the Tyndale Society Journal no. 15, we announced that work had already begun on a major new project for the Society, namely a modem-spelling edition of the Wycliffe Bible. This will be the very first time that the Wycliffe Bible has been printed in modern spelling in any century (the Victorians produced an old-spelling edition under Forshall and Madden in 1850), and it promises to open a whole new field of research and study. For the interested Bible reader too, it will mean that the Wycliffe Bible can be easily obtained and read - instead of just read about. It is hoped to issue the New Testament first, which is well on the way to completion, and as a foretaste of the finished item, we offer here the following snippets and the entire 9th chapter of John's gospel.

From Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, the following gems have emerged:

and so on. There are many, many others.

The astounding thing is that the Wycliffe translation was able to come so close to the spirit and meaning of the Greek as later translated by our own Tyndale, whilst expressing that spirit and meaning in its own unique idiom, and whilst working from a sometimes hopelessly corrupt Latin Vulgate. The corruption does indeed show through in one or two places, sometimes in the form of interpolated glosses, but these are very few, and I am continually surprised at the sheer magnificence of the translator's achievement - for whose identity see the forthcoming 5th volume of Reformation where I name him (no, it wasn't John Purvey). There is a whole world of study waiting here unsuspected by scholars and laymen alike, but hopefully this coming edition will go some way towards revealing what has lain hidden all these years. And now for John's gospel, the 9th chapter:


And Jesus, passing, saw a man blind fro the birth. And His disciples asked Him, 'Master, what sinned, this man or his elders that he should be born blind?' Jesus answered, 'Neither this man sinned, neither his elders, but that the works of God be shewed in him, It behoveth Me to work the works of Him that sent me as long as the day is. The night shall come when no man may work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'

When He had said these things, He spit into the earth and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the clay on his eyes, and said to him, 'Go, and be thou washed in the water of Siloam' - that is to say, Sent. Then he went and washed, and came seeing. And so neighbours and they that had seen him before, for he was a beggar, said, 'Whether this is not he that sat and begged?' Other men said that, 'This it is.' Other men said, 'Nay, but he is like him.' But he said, 'That I am.' Therefore they said to him, 'How be thine eyes opened?' He answered, 'The ilk Man that is said Jesus, made clay and anointed mine eyes, and said to me, Go thou to the water of Siloam and wash. And I went and washed - and saw!' And they said to him, 'Where is He?' He said, 'I wot not.'

They led him that was blind to the Pharisees. And it was Sabbath when Jesus made clay and opened his eyes. Eft the Pharisees asked him how he had seen. And he said to them, 'He laid to me clay on the eyes, and I washed, and I see!' Therefore some of the Pharisees said, 'This Man is not of God that keepeth not the Sabbath.' Other men said, 'How may a sinful man do these signs?' And strife was among them. Therefore they say eftsoons to the blind man, 'What sayest thou of Him that opened thine eyes?' And he said that, 'He is a prophet.'

Therefore Jews believed not of him that he was blind and had seen, till they had cleped his father and mother that had seen. And they asked them and said, 'Is this your son which ye say was born blind? How then seeth he now?' His father and mother answered to them and said, 'We wit that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he seeth now we wit never, or who opened his eyes we wit never. Ask ye him. He hath age. Speak he of himself.' His father and mother said these things for they dreaded the Jews. For then the Jews had conspired that if any man knowledge Him Christ, he should be done out of the synagogue. Therefore his father and mother said that, 'He hath age. Ask ye him.'

Therefore eftsoon they cleped the man that was blind, and said to him, 'Give thou glory to God. We wit that this Man is a sinner.' Then he said, 'If He is a sinner, I wot never. One thing I wot, that when I was blind, now I see!' Therefore they said to him, 'What did He to thee? How opened He thine eyes?' He answered to them, 'I said to you now and ye heard. What, will ye eftsoon hear? Whether ye will be made His disciples?' Therefore they cursed and said, 'Be thou His disciple! We be disciples of Moses. We wit that God spake to Moses. But we know not this, of whence He is!' The ilk man answered and said to them, 'For in this is a wonderful thing that ye wit not of whence He is, and He hath opened mine eyes. And we wit that God heareth not sinful men, but if any man is worshipper of God, and doeth His will, He heareth him. Fro the world it is not heard that any man opened the eyes of a blind-born man. But this were of God, He might not do anything!' They answered and said to him, 'Thou art all born in sin, and teachest thou us?' And they put him out.

Jesus heard that they had put him out, and when He had found him, He said to him, 'Believest thou in the Son of God?' He answered and said, 'Lord, who is He that I believe in Him?' And Jesus said to him, 'And thou hast seen Him, and He it is that speaketh with thee.' And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he fell down and worshipped Him. Therefore Jesus said to him, 'I came into this world into doom, that they that see not, see, and they that see, be made blind.' And some of the Pharisees heard that were with Him, and they said to Him, 'Whether we be blind?' Jesus said to them, 'If ye were blind, ye should not have sin. But now ye say that we see, your sin dwelleth still.'

© Dr Wm R Cooper, June 2000

Eft/eftsoons again
Fro from
Ilk same
Wit/wot know/knew

Author's Note

The New Testament is nearing completion, and may be issued ahead of the
entire Wycliffe Bible. That entire work, it is hoped, will consist of the Old and
New Testaments, the Apocrypha, and the all-important Prologues. However, to
complete that, I need to obtain a copy of the 4 volume Forshall and Madden
edition of 1850. If anyone has a copy of this, and would like to lend it to the
project for photocopying after which it will be returned, then could they please
contact me? Many thanks.

Dr Wm R Cooper
Tel: +44 1784 244 441