- Aug 16, 2015
Because I was the guy responsible for buying a Bible leaf (page) for my Sunday School Teacher who has been leading our class for Ten Years...I bought him a Geneva Bible page showing the 110th Psalm (quoted in Hebrews)
So...I had to start understanding what this particular Bible was all about and how it came to existence and our page printed some 422 years ago.
so...I had to do some research.
And if anyone wants to throw in their two cents because I got something really wrong...please feel free to do so.
so Lets set the stage by explaining that the Reformation was well underway. in the 1400's and 1500's.
Medicine was still not even up to the stages of using leeches yet. The Flu would kill many people. So would dysentery. People didn't drink water from any well in Europe. They didn't understand that the latrine sitting next to that well would contaminate the water. They had no knowledge of bacteria or viruses. Everyone drank beer, ale, or wine. (yes, even the pilgrims drank beer) The Bible was not available for the common man. And even if it was it wouldn't do him any good as the common man couldn't read or write. That sort of talent was left up to the Church (even in this day and time) as to who they would educate and who they would not. Nobility could afford to "give" to the church sufficiently that they would educate the offspring of the nobility.
Lets start with the NOTORIOUS King of England...Henry the 8th.
Believe it or not...he was actually a pretty good Catholic guy...he even defended the Supremacy of the Pope. Until the day came that the Pope let him down. Charles the Fifth (Holy Roman Emperor, Ruler of the Spanish Empire, AND lands of Duchy of Burgndy at the same time) controlled the Papacy at that time and the ineffectiveness of Pope Clement VII made it impossible for him to answer Henry's request to have his first marriage annulled. (Catherine was his brother's wife) Charles later abdicated all of his titles...what a mess.
Now Henry was actually a pretty likeable guy. Really charismatic and enjoyable to be around. (He loved tennis) And from all accounts rather handsome to look at.
He loved to spend money...till the Kingdom was broke. He did rebuild their Navy. But he maintained a huge entourage and entertained thousands of people...for months until he decided it was time to put up the tennis racket and actually play king.
All of this led Henry to fully separate himself from the Catholic Church and create the Church of England...and himself as Monarch as the Pope of the Church of England. The English treasuries of the Catholic Church were raided and confiscated and all "taxes" and contributions (kinda forced) that were to be sent on to the Catholic Church were now Henry's to do with as he seen fit. (it still wasn't enough to keep up with his spending habits...no amount of money ever would.)
All of the changes brought chaos to England. The Reformers published The Great Bible in 1539. The Reformers still faced persecution from Conservatives though and many fled...including Tyndale (Whom Henry still had Killed) over the annulment of Henry's marriage.
Henry was having issues...mostly physical as well as political and internal.
He got injured during one of his tennis matches...and gained a lot of weight. Many claim that he became Diabetic. As a result of his uncontrolled rising and falling blood sugar (exacerbated by consuming alcoholic beverages on a regular basis and unrestricted diet) his mood went south. He was known for uncontrollable rages and extreme moodiness in his later years. Henry was also known for killing anyone that disagreed with him politically.
But basically Henry gutted and confiscated all of the Catholic holdings in England, Wales, and Ireland (as he made himself king over all three) The poor who used to use the humanitarian efforts of Catholic Church to survive now had to flee...it caused a bit of a civil war that Henry had to put down...pesky commoners...but due to his marriage to Catherine he had a daughter Mary I...
During Henry's reign a subversive and little known Bible was published in 1537.
The Matthew's Bible.
John Rogers actually was the guy who did this Bible in 1537. But it included the work on the complete New Testament of Tyndale (while on the run before his execution), Myles Coverdale (Old Testament...what Tyndale didn't complete) and the Prayer of Manasses translated by John Rogers himself.
Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536...
19 years later Myles Coverdale was burned at the stake in 1555 by Mary I.
John Rogers didn't escape either...one of those pesky councils arrested him and in February of 1555 he got burned at the stake as well in Smithfield London...(just before Mary could get him)
Some people claim that "Matthews" was a pseudonym for Tyndale...Nobody lived long enough for everyone to know for sure.
The Great Bible of 1539
The Great Bible was authorized by Henry VIII to be read aloud in the Church of England he created. And it was supposed to be available for the common man to access and read it if he so desired. (which the true common man couldn't do) Myles Coverdale, under the authority of Thomas, Lord Cromwell prepared it all. Consisting mostly of work accomplished by Tyndale. (and yet he had him killed) But many of the "objectionable passages" were revised. (such as Matthew 19) Coverdale did publish his own Bible in 1535 and made legal in 1537 as the first full bible in English.
Much of the Translation that Tyndale didn't yet complete (such as Apocrypha and Old Testament) Coverdale did from Latin Vulgate and German texts rather than any of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts available. Its also known as the Cromwell Bible, Whitchurch's Bible (the printer), and the Chained Bible...since it had to be chained in the church to prevent theft. The Bible was rather huge at the time...it's large size was also responsible for it's name.
Mary I...AKA Bloody Mary
Now Mary I was Henry 8th's daughter.(1553-1558)
The relationship between a father and his daughter had better be solid...or else.
Mary decided that she would reverse all that her father King Henry 8th had done with the English Reformation. She embraced her Catholic roots and heritage and sought to persecute all Protestants and Reformers. (Notice her 5 year rule)
Mary got her knickname because of the 280 Protestants and reformers she burned at the stake during what is called the "Marian persecutions". The Puritans named her "Bloody Mary".
When actually she was exactly following in her father's footsteps...killing anyone who opposed her desires.
Mary actually married Phillip of Spain. (Very Loyal to the Catholic Church...after all they tended to control it)
Mary died after only ruling for five years...and her half sister Elizabeth (daughter of Anne Bolyne) succeeded her...instituting the Elizabethan period.
Because of Mary's persecution of Puritans, Reformers, and anyone anti-catholic...many people fled to Geneva Switzerland.
It was finished in 1560 (two years after Mary's death...but not printed in England until 1575 (New Testament) and Complete Bible in 1576.
There were over 150 editions published. The last one in 1644. (84 years after being completed) This was the first Bible printed in Scotland 1579...and it was readily accepted because of this.
Now what made this bible unique was that Chapter and Verse numbers were included. And a host of notes on "difficult passages" were included. All of these notes and explanations were highly Calvinistic in nature.
Geneva Switzerland was a republic. John Calvin and later Theodore Beza were theologically in charge of. But the town was full of scholars including William Whittingham and Anthony Gilby . These were the two guys who did the translating and assembling relying upon the work of previous translators including Coverdale (who used Tyndale) Unlike these guys who were independant before they used as many of the original manuscripts they could get their hands on. Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts were consulted as well as the Latin Vulgate when they had nothing to fill in the blanks. (and a complete group of other scholars to assist with the translating work.
Now this was a fairly accurate translation into English of the time and place. The most accurate to date despite the highly Calvinistic and Puritan leanings of the notes of "difficult" passages.
This bible became inexpensive and the common man could actually afford to own one. (only approximately a weeks wages) In 1579 in Scotland it became a law that everyone with sufficient means needed to own one. The numbered Chapter and Verses made it easy for the common man to learn and memorize scriptures...as well as actually consult their very own copy of a Bible. The Family Bible became a "thing" at this time.
Now where this was the first "study bible" popular, available and affordable by the masses it wasn't exactly a popular Bible by the Ruling Monarchy and head of Church of England. So much so that James I commissioned a new translation to be created...without such notes to "confuse and form ideas in people's minds".
And by 1611 the first new translation of King James was created.