|Born in Stormy Times|
When Mary Tudor, a staunch Roman Catholic, ascended to the British throne in 1553, it marked
the beginning of a major persecution of Protestants. Earlier champions of the English Bible, like
John Rogers and Thomas Cranmer, were arrested and executed. Miles Coverdale, who had made his own
English translation of the Bible, had to seek refuge in Europe. In an attempt to bring England back under Roman Catholicism, Queen Mary had all English Bibles publicly burned. (The Catholic Church was never in
favor of translations of the Bible in the common language. To them the only Bible was the
Latin Vulgate.) There was no safe place in England for those
without a Roman Catholic persuasion. It has been said that during Mary's 5-year reign, England lost
"5 bishops, 5 deans, and 50 eminent clergymen" — plus several hundred lesser-known reformers.
Those Protestants that fled England's persecution were attracted to various centers of religious tolerance. One of these places was Geneva, Switzerland, which had always been closely connected with Bible translations. It had become the home of several great Protestant thinkers, among them John Calvin and John Knox. This made it an excellent place to write and publish the next major translation of the English Bible -- The Geneva Translation.
|A Scholarly Endeavor|
William Whittingham, a noted scholar of the day, and
several others, undertook the Geneva Translation as a revision of the entire Bible. Some parts of the
Bible needed revised more than others. The main changes occurred in Old Testament books that had not
previously been translated by Tyndale, and also in books that had not been translated from their original
languages. Many long hours were also spent writing and compiling the marginal notes, which could be found on
virtually every page of the Bible.|
The Apocrypha — books not generally accepted by Protestants as Scripture — were gathered into a separate section and appended to the end of the Old Testament. These books came with a note that they could be used for the advancement of knowledge and instruction in Godly manners, but that they should not be treated as Scripture.
The first edition of the Geneva Translation was released in April 1560, and for almost 75 years thereafter, the Geneva Translation was what most English-speaking people called 'The Bible'.
|A Bible Like No Other|
A number of new and innovative features were included in the
Geneva Translation. These helped to make it the most popular English Bible of the Century.|
|Mixed Reception, but then Acceptance|
Even with all these innovations and features, it wasn't easy bringing out a new version of the Bible, even in
the 16th Century. And at first the Geneva Translation was opposed by both Protestants and Catholics, by
both the Government and the Church, by just about everybody. "We don't need a new Bible. If the Great Bible was good enough for
Grandpa; it's good enough for me."|
Nonetheless, over time opinions changed. No one could deny the Geneva Translation's accurate scholarship and fidelity to the original Scripture text. Its small size and Roman typeface made it easy to read. Its attempt to avoid long, theological words was appreciated by new readers. And so, within a decade of its first printing, the Geneva Translation had become the Bible of English-speaking common folk.
It enjoyed great popularity in Scotland, becoming the Bible officially read by churches in that country. So it shouldn't be surprising that the first Bible ever to be published in Scotland was the Geneva Translation. In fact, the Scottish Parliament required every householder of moderate means to have "a Bible and a Psalm Book in the common language — under penalty of £10."
The Geneva Translation even has the distinction of being the first Bible to be distributed to the Armed Forces. In 1643, the Soldier's Pocket Bible was compiled to meet the needs of Oliver Cromwell's army. Of its 125 verses — 124 were from the Geneva Translation.
The Geneva Translation finally gave way to the King James Version as the most popular English Bible. But that didn't happen for many years. In 1630 the last Geneva Translation was printed. By then, over 200 editions had been released. The Geneva Translation had indeed become a best-seller in the English-speaking world.
|Use the Menu on the left to view actual pages from the Geneva Translation.|