John Purvey (1354–1428) was one of the leading followers of the English theologian and reformer John Wycliffe during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. He was probably born around 1354 in Lathbury, then in Buckinghamshire, England. He was ordained a priest in 1377 and was a great scholar in his own right. However from around 1382 he lived with Wycliffe at Lutterworth, Leicestershire, and became, along with Nicholas of Hereford and John Aston, one of Wycliffe's most devoted disciples. It was at Lutterworth that Purvey undertook, probably with Wycliffe's concurrence if not at his suggestion, to revise the 1382 English translation of the Bible done by Wycliffe and Nicholas of Hereford. The primary purpose of the revision was to make the translation more readable as the 1382 translation was a verbatim rendering of the Vulgate, with little consideration for the language differences between Latin and English.
He was probably in the midst of this undertaking when Wycliffe died in 1384. From Lutterworth Purvey then moved to Bristol, a city that was well known at the time for its sympathies with Wycliffe and his followers. There, in 1388, he finished his revised version of the Bible, whilst also preaching across the country as one of the poor preachers which Wycliffe had organised before his death. Due to his preaching he came under increasing scrutiny by the religious authorities and by 1390 he was imprisoned. Nonetheless he continued to write various works, including commentaries, sermons and treatises condemning the corruption of the Catholic Church. By 1401 he was brought before convocation and, unable to face death by burning, like that of William Sawtrey, he submitted to the authorities and returned to orthodoxy, confessing and revoking his heresies.
Afterwards Purvey was left alone and by the end of 1401 he was inducted to the vicarage of West Hythe in Kent. But, like other followers of Wycliffe who had recanted, he was ill at ease at his betrayal. In 1403 he resigned his living and during the next eighteen years he preached whereever he could. His resumption of preaching eventually led him, in 1421, to being imprisoned once more by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry Chicheley. No date of his death has been found but there is reason to believe he was living until at least 1427. Apparently some handwriting of his appears on a manuscript containing a memorial to Cardinal Beaufort, who was not raised to the cardinalate until 1427.
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