Monday, May 30, 2011

John Wycliffe on the End of the World, Almost

With the recent close call with the end of the world, I've been thumbing through some of my prophecy books. I don't make it very far. Way back when, I could read a book and not get bogged down by footnotes and tedium. 

Some of my fresh readings just turn out now to be nitpicking. For example.  I do appreciate Gary DeMar's Last Days Madness, but his footnotes have stalled any sort of progress in re-reading his book. On page 17 Gary states,

My immediate question was, "Where did Wycliffe say this?" Gary's note #4 refers to "Wycliffe's England: A Time of Turmoil," Christian History, Issue 3 (1983), 8. Note #5 refers to the same source and page. The way DeMar has the paragraph set up,  it appears Wycliffe himself is being cited via Christian History magazine. Note the quote within the quote of "covetousness, sensuality, and fraud."  Here is what Christian History Issue 3, 1983 states:

Although some people turned to superstition for security, most felt it was God's anger against wickedness of the people of that day. Wycliffe seemed to have yielded to a popular apprehension that the final judgment was approaching. He describes the "covetousness, sensuality, and fraud" of the clergy as infecting all of humanity, thus causing the chastisement under which Europe mourned.

Although the nation was shaken by the loss of life and by the fear of the unknown evil, penitence was lacking. Shortage of labor hastened economic changes and social unrest. Substitution of wages for services accelerated. Distinction between the classes became less rigid. The arts reflected the melancholy and morbid. Exaggerated forms of religious mysticism developed. Lack of educated clergy reduced the church's intellectual vigor.

I did find it curious that Christian History cautiously stated, "Wycliffe seemed to have yielded to a popular apprehension that the final judgment was approaching," while DeMar more forcefully concludes Wycliffe thought it was indeed the last days.

In the above section from Christan History, only four words are attributed to Wycliffe: "covetousness, sensuality, and fraud." Christian History does not document these four words.  Doing a quick Google search, I'm very tempted to say these aren't Wycliffe's words at all, but are rather a summary statement from Robert Vaughan book, The Life and Opinions of John de Wycliffe Vol I. After describing Wycliffe's belief that the close of the 14 century would be the end of the world (after four periods of tribulation), Vaughan states:

The modern reader will probably smile at these speculations, and it is no less probable that some future race will look with equal self-complacency on many of our gravest conclusions, with regard to the future, whether relating to science, religion, or the world. It is worthy of observation, that while the writers who record the sufferings of the period under review, attribute them principally, to the vanity of the people, especially as evinced in the costly caprice of their apparel, and the general disposition to luxurious indulgence; Wycliffe traces the malady to a higher source, describing the clergy as so addicted to covetousness, sensuality, and fraud, as to have infected every portion of the community, with the same vices, and thus to have been the main cause of that chastisement, under which Europe had been called to mourn." [source]

My guess is Christian History probably lifted their Wycliffe information from Vaughn.

Unfortunately, the documentation here is likewise vague. Vaughn goes on to cite "On Prelates, C. i. iv." That source is probably this. He also cites "M.S. on the Seven Deadly Sins" which can probably be found here. But previous to the quote Vaughn also mentions Wycliffe's "The Last Age of the Church." Which source? I have no idea. I am though very tempted to say, Wycliffe was not cited at all by either DeMar, Christian History, or Robert Vaughan.

1 comment:

Ken said...

We need some comments on this one - not related to eschatology or Gary DeMar, but to John Wycliffe and the Roman Catholic persecution of him:

"Declared a heretic; body exhumed and destroyed

Burning Wycliffe's bones, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563)

The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe (on 4 May 1415) a stiff-necked 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 is a crime punishable by charges of heresy."

From Wikipedia