Tuesday, March 27, 2012

John Wycliffe's Testimony to the Gospel

John Wycliffe (1324-1384) has often been called the "Morning Star of the Reformation". He was a leading scholar at Oxford University and the first to translate the Latin Bible into the common English language. He was also an early proponent of the gospel of grace, saying:

"Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is all-sufficient for salvation, and that without that faith, it is impossible for any man to please God; that the merit of Christ is able by itself to redeem all mankind from hell; that this sufficiency is to be understood without any other cause concurring; and that therefore men ought, for their salvation, to trust wholly to Christ, not to seek to be justified by any other way than by his death and passion, nor to be righteous by any other method than by a participation of his all-perfect righteousness....It is not good for us to trust in our merits, in our virtues or our righteousness; but only in God's free pardon, as given us through faith in Jesus Christ." 1

Notice Wycliffe's testimony to the truth of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 and how he highlights the four facts of faith:

"Paul delivered to the Corinthians the faith which he received from the Lord, the faith should be the source of meritorious works that follow. The four articles of the faith of Christ preached to the Corinthians which presupposes the incarnation of Christ and the birth. For he taught them first that Christ died for our sins not for His own (as is clear from Isaiah [53]:5); was buried to prove the truth of his death more miraculous (as is clear in Matthew 27); thirdly He rose again the third day according to the first day and ultimately a synecdoche of the fourth [day], beginning the natural day from the middle of the night; fourthly He appeared to Peter and others (the end of Matthew). 1 Cor. 15:3, 4, 5." 2


1 John Wycliffe, quoted by Thomas Murray, The Life of John Wycliffe (Edinburgh, A. Balfour and Co., 1829), pp. 62-64, ellipsis added.

2 Wycliffe, "Sermon XLV [1 Cor. 15:1-11]," Johann Loserth, Editor, Johannis Wyclif Sermones, Vol. 3 (London: Published for the Wyclif Society by Trubner and Co., 1889), p. 386, italics his. The reference to 1 Cor. 15: 3, 4, 5 is cited in the footnotes in the book. Translated from the Latin with Google Translate.
     Wycliffe's reference to "the fourth [day]" seems to be an allusion to Psalm 16:10-11. In Jewish thought, corruption of a dead body would not begin until the fourth day after death - the body was supposed to be really dead by that time (Jn. 11:17, 39). Jewish Christian scholar Alfred Edersheim affirms: "It was the common Jewish idea that corruption commenced on the fourth day". (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912], 2 Vols., Vol. 2, p. 324.) This Jewish mindset could explain why Jesus waited until the fourth day to raise Lazarus from the dead - by that time there could be no question that Lazarus was indeed really dead, and hence, no question that he was actually raised to life by Jesus. In distinction to Lazarus, Christ "was raised on the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4), thus fulfilling the words of David in Psalm 16:10: "Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay" (see Peter's explanation in Acts 2:27-32; cf. Acts 10:39-41).
     Wycliffe seems to be saying that by synecdoche (a figure of speech in which the part is exchanged for the whole, or one idea is exchanged for another associated idea) Christ's resurrection on the third day still has meaning and significance in regards to the fourth day in Jewish thought. Although Christ in the tomb did not undergo decay, He was nonetheless truly dead and has truly risen!

No comments: