The Roots of our Freedom (1)
Freedom for our United States of America was not forged on our soil alone. It was not forged in that wonderful document we endear to our hearts: The Constitution of the United States of America. As I wrote earlier in this blog our freedom in America was first begun by brave souls in England. They presented a document called the Magna Carta. It temporarily voided the King from living above the law. The year was 1215. Unfortunately, Pope Leo X recinded the document and tyranny continued.
John Wycliff (sometimes also spelled Wycliffe) worked tirelessly on the first hand-written English manuscripts of the Bible. They were first noticed in the 1380’s. Wycliff was a “thorn in the flesh” to the Roman Catholic Church. The only copies of the Bible up to his manuscripts were either Latin or Greek. The Catholic mass was recited in Latin. Wycliff argued with the Roman Church about false teachings. If he could get the Bible into the hands of the general population, he felt, error would be found out and truth would flourish. So, Wycliff is a hero in my eyes.
Then a miraculous invention appeared in 1450. The printing press. The first book printed was the Bible; however, it was a Latin version. With the surge of the Reformation came the first English Bible printed. It was printed at great risk. England was still under the hand of the Romans. In essence, they were puppets to the Pope. Luther started a rage in Europe when he posted his 95 Theses of Contention That was in 1517. His courage emboldened my next hero: William Tyndale.
Tyndale fled England in order to work alone and in safety. He translated the New Testament from Greek to English. That was in 1525. The common population was ecstatic; the royalty was enraged. Copies of the New Testament in English were being smuggled into England. Tyndale had a bounty placed on his head and after he was found, he was imprisoned for 500 days, then strangled, then tied to a stake and set on fire in 1536. His last words, according to Bible historians, were: “Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.”
I’ll continue this brief English Bible History next time. We have a great debt of admiration to pay to Wycliff and Tyndale on the celebration of our nation’s independence. The persecution and fear that drove people from England just so they could read the Bible, also led them to America and the shores of Plymouth Rock. They held to faith in the Words of God so tightly that a nation free of tyranny from the King and subsequently from the Papal authority was born. We now live an independent, flourishing, God blest America. Our roots sank into a soil of devotion to God far more than a soil free from taxation without representation.
John Wycliff and William Tyndale knew how to live in the Shepherd’s presence.