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The Geneva Bible

A Brief History
From the Publisher

  The Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries, which was printed from 1560 to 1644 in over 200 different printings. As a product of superior translation by the best Protestant scholars of its day, it became the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers, thinkers and historical figures of its day. Shakespeare's writing clearly echoed the phrasing, of the Geneva Bible. Puritans John Bunyan and John Milton used the Geneva Bible, which is reflected in their writing. During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell issued a pamphlet containing excerpts from the Geneva Bible to his troops. The Geneva Bible was even brought with the Pilgrims when they set sail on the Mayflower and was the generally accepted text among the Puritans. William Bradford cited it in his book Of Plymouth Plantation.

   The key feature of the Geneva Bible that distinguished it from all other Bibles of its time and made it so popular were the extensive marginal notes that were included to explain and interpret the scriptures for the common people. For example, "the sun, the moon and the stars falling from the heavens" was interpreted as meaning that the religious leaders of the latter days would be discredited. These notes, run to approximately 300,000 words, or one third the length of the text of the Bible itself! Written by Reformation leaders John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, William Keithe, Thomas Sampson, Thomas Wood and several others. For nearly half a century these notes helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland understand the scriptures. The marginal notes were especially useful to the common people when Queen Elizabeth prohibited priests from addressing the congregations.

     The Geneva Bible had several other novel features. On the advice of John Calvin it became the first Bible to divide scriptures into numbered verses. It was published in Roman type rather than black letter, and all interpolated words were italicized.

     The Geneva Bible owes its origins to the Reformation Leaders who defied the persecutions of "Bloody Mary" (as Mary Queen of England would come to be called). Upon her ascension to the throne, Queen Mary banned the printing of English scriptures. This led William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, and a small band of Englishmen to flee to Geneva where they began translating an English version of the Bible. These scholars were concerned about the influence the Catholic Church would have in shaping the available English translation of the Bible (all translated from the Latin Vulgate). They turned to the original Greek and Hebrew texts to create the Geneva Bible, which became the first Bible ever translated into English from the original Biblical texts.

     It took the leaders of the Reformation over two years of diligent work day and night to finish the translation and commentaries of the Geneva Bible. During this time they used many works and commentaries, including those of Theodore Beza, one of the most prominent Biblical scholars of the era.

     In addition to being the reason for its popularity, the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible were also the reason for its demise. These strongly Protestant notes so infuriated King James that he considered it "seditious" and made its ownership a felony. James I was particularly worried about marginal notes such as the one in Exod 1: 19, which allowed disobedience to Kings. Consequently, King James eventually introduced the King JamesVersion, which drew largely from the Geneva Bible (minus the marginal notes that had enraged him). During the reign of James I and into the reign of Charles I the use of the Geneva Bible steadily declined as the Authorized King James version became more widely used. In 1644 the Geneva Bible was printed for the last time.

     This facsimile reproduction of the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible (also known as the "Breeches" Bible) has been painstakingly reproduced and L.L. Brown Publishing is proud to offer it to the public. Printed on acid free paper, deluxe leatherette hard cover volume and a latigo leather volume. A magnifying glass is sometimes helpful where the notes are most extensive. This edition has a woodcut general title page and in text woodcut maps with Tomson's revised New Testament and Junius' annotated "Revelation."

     It comes with a table of interpretations of proper names, which are chiefly found in the Old Testament, and a table of principle things contained in the Bible. The Books of the Psalms are collected into English meters by Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins and others and sung in the early churches. Also included are the prayers used by the English congregations every morning and evening.

     This 1599 edition does not contain the Apocrypha but the books of the Apocrypha are still listed in the Table of Contents. The Reformation Leaders noted that, " these books were not received by common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church neither yet served to prove any point of Christian Religion." The notes in the Apocypha are mostly found in the introduction of each Book and are very brief.

     Learn about the religion of your ancestors. Compare the thousands of marginal notes with the commentaries of today and you will readily see the difference. The Reformers had completed all their commentaries and marginal notes by 1599, making this edition of the Geneva Bible the most complete and a very valuable study aid to the seekers of Knowledge.

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