In 1384 John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English.
The Archbishop of Canterbury persuaded Henry IV it was heresy.
Not merely a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Not merely a crime punishable by hanging.
But a crime punishable by being publicly, slowly, burned alive at the stake.
What was the Church so terrified of?
Well, up until that point the Bible had been in Latin.
And ordinary people couldn’t read Latin.
So they had to go to the Church to hear the priest read it to the congregation.
Then the priest would tell them all what it meant.
Without the priest they had no access to the Bible.
Which was the word of God.
So without the priest they had no access to God.
So as long as the Bible was in Latin the priests were essential and the Church was safe.
To underline the point in 1415, thirty years after John Wycliffe died, his body was dug up and it was tried for heresy.
He was found guilty and his rotting body was burned at the stake.
But it didn’t stop people wanting to read the Bible for themselves.
In 1526 William Tyndale translated it into English.
The printing press had recently been invented in Germany.
So Tyndale went there to get lots of copies printed.
But the Church found him.
In 1536 William Tyndale was publicly burned at the stake.
The Church was desperate to keep the Bible in a language no one else could understand.
It worked, until Henry VIII broke with Rome and became head of a new English religion.
Then Henry VIII decided he needed an English Bible for an English Church.
Eventually, in 1611 the King James’ version we know today appeared.
Taken almost entirely from William Tyndale’s Bible.
The Bible Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating.
Today there are over a billion copies of it in circulation worldwide.
So ultimately the Church failed to stop the translation.
But they were right to be afraid, it was the beginning of the end of the Church’s domination of ordinary people.
They failed in the need to maintain a secret language.
The Church behaved like bad marketing people.
They tried to keep things in a private impenetrable code because this gave them power over ordinary people.
It made them members of the cognoscenti.
Anytime anyone can’t or won’t explain things in plain, simple language it’s because they don’t want anyone to know what they do.
They’re scared it would mean anyone could do it.
So they need to make it appear complicated, in a language only they can understand.
A language they can hide behind.
The truth is what Einstein said:
“If you can’t explain it to an eleven year old, you haven’t really understood it yourself”.