John Wycliffe and John Purvey wrote all of these famous words more than 600 years ago. More than two centuries later, the most beloved and revered Bible translation of all time, the “King James” or “Authorized” Version, was published. It contains many similar, and numerous identical, phrases. But no where are the brilliant contributions of Wycliffe and Purvey credited. Bible historians followed the lead of the KJV translators and denigrated and dismissed their masterful work.
These particular phrases are far from obscure. In fact, they constitute the very essence of the New Testament. After modernizing the spelling, only four replacement words – appropriate, understandable modern words substituting for obsolete, “dead” Middle English words – were needed to make all of these 14th century passages fully comprehensible. (The replacement words are printed in boldface: “with”, “know”, and “one” are found in both their obsolete and modern forms throughout the “Later Version”; “omega” is only found in its obsolete form.) All of the other words, in precisely the order that you see them here, are found in the “Later Version” of the “Wycliffe Bible”. Clearly, the replacement words do not create the consistency between the “Later Version” and the KJV. Even if no replacement words were utilized, the dependence of the latter upon the former would be undeniable. That is intrinsic to both.
As previously stated, translation is an inexact science. Phrases, even individual words, can be rendered numerous ways (witness the multiplicity and diversity of translations of the New Testament currently available). So when we find so many similar sentences in the King James Version of the New Testament, it is no accident and it is more than mere coincidence.
Simply put, based on these passages alone, one can unequivocally state that the KJV could not have been written without careful study of the “Later Version” of the “Wycliffe Bible”. The foregoing 600+ pages demonstrate this point ad infinitum. They also provide ample evidence that the “Early Version” of the “Wycliffe Bible” was also utilized innumerable times. The word choice, word order, verb forms, phrase order, even the punctuation of the KJV New Testament, could not have been written as is, without repeated reference to both versions of the “Wycliffe Bible”. That is the great discovery found within Wycliffe’s New Testament. And that is the historical wrong that has now been righted.
But let us go one step further. Put aside all considerations of influence upon the KJV, and simply judge the Wycliffe New Testament on its own merits. In this regard alone, it stands as a work of genius, deserving our respect, indeed our awe. The Wycliffe New Testament is an honourable, memorable, worthy, first English vernacular translation of the New Testament. And its authors, John Wycliffe and John Purvey, have earned their standing in the pantheon of English Literature, alongside such luminaries as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Tyndale, and the translators of the King James Version of the Bible.