Blessed Are They Who Read

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Wyclif giving the “Poor Priests” his translation of the Bible

Daily Reformation, Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

About the Reformer

Wyclif’s followers were called Lollards, I believe from their habit of lulling or chanting to themselves. After his death they went much farther than he had done, and some of them grew very wild in their opinions, so that they would not only have made strange changes in religious doctrine, but would have upset the government of kingdoms. Against them a law was made by which persons who differed from the doctrines of the Roman Church were sentenced to be burnt under the name of heretics, and many Lollards suffered in consequence.

—J.C. Robertson, Sketches of Church History

Pulling It Together

It is almost certainly the case that the name Lollard came from the sound that people heard as these priests chanted. It must have sounded like, luh-luh-luh-luh-luh, as they passed through the villages of England on their missionary journeys. But was the mumbling sound mere chanting? Knowing the cause of these followers of Wyclif was the dissemination of the Word of God in the common tongue, it is very possible what they were doing was reading the scriptures out loud as they traveled. Perhaps several were reading at the same time, adding to the confusing nature of the sounds.

Augustine is the first to record the experience of seeing someone (Ambrose) reading silently. Yet it was deep into the Middle Ages before authors began to assume that their readers would experience their work in any way but aurally. Add to that, that the Word of God was expected to be read aloud in Church (a point that even John may be mentioning in Rev 1:3) and you see that the Lollards may have been reading the scriptures as they traveled and that it was this muffled reading that seemed odd to those who heard them.

What seems to have set these Lollards apart in the eyes (and ears) of the people was the sound they made. What sets them apart in history is what drove them to make the sound. Their lifestyles were set apart by their stand on the Word of God. Indeed, those who reign with Christ in glory are those who travel with the Word on their tongues, despite the jokes and ridicule of the masses. (Rev 20:4)

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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