The question of biblical translation has long been contentious. Who should be allowed to translate the Bible, how should they translate it and who should be allowed to read their translation? In late medieval England, the issue of biblical vernacularization was particularly fraught, thanks to tensions between an ecclesiastical conservatism that held to the belief that Jerome’s Vulgate was itself the authoritative Word of God and more egalitarian schools of thought which proposed that the people of God deserved access to his Word in their own languages. The late fourteenth-century production of the first complete English Bible, associated with the Oxford scholar and, later, heretic John Wyclif was one of many factors that contributed to draconian legislation enforced by Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1409. Among several intentionally repressive measures, Arundel’s Constitutions inhibited the unlicensed circulation of English translations of the Bible or any part of the Bible produced since the time of Wyclif:

Statuimus igitur et ordinamus, ut nemo deinceps aliquem textum sacrae scripturae auctoritate sua in linguam Anglicanam, vel aliam transferat, per viam libri, libelli, aut tractatus, nec legatur aliquis hujusmodi liber, libellus aut tractatus jam noviter tempore dicti Joannis Wycliff, sive citra, compositus, aut inposterum componendus, in parte vel in toto, publice, vel occulte, sub majoris excommunicationis poena, quousque per loci dioecesanum, seu, si res exegerit, per concilium provinciale ipsa translatio fuerit approbata.