1599 Geneva Bible Notes
At the time of the signing of the Constitution the predominant language
spoken in America was Scottish. When the Pilgrims came to what would become America, the
only Bible used at that time was the Geneva Bible.
The Geneva Bible is a critical, yet almost completely forgotten part of the Protestant Reformation. Driven out of England by the persecutions of Bloody Mary, several future leaders of the Reformation came to Geneva to create a pure and accurate translation of the Holy Writ. Concerned about the influence that the Catholic Church had on the existing translations of the Bible from the Latin, these men turned to the original Hebrew and Greek texts to produce the Geneva Bible. This made the Geneva Bible the first complete Bible to be translated into English from the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
The creation of the Geneva Bible was a substantial undertaking. Its authors spent over two years, working diligently day and night by candlelight, to finish the translation and the commentaries. The entire project was funded by the exiled English congregation in Geneva, making the translation a work supported by the people and not by an authoritarian church or monarch.
All the marginal commentaries were finished by 1599, making the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible the most complete study aide for Biblical scholars and students. This edition does not contain the Apocrypha. The Apocryphas notes are minimal or absent in other editions. Additional highlights of this edition include maps of the Exodus route and Joshuas distribution of land, a name and subject index, and Psalms sung by the English congregation in Geneva.
The greatest distinction of the Geneva Bible, however, is the extensive collection of marginal notes that it contains. Prominent Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Theodore Beza, and Anthony Gilby wrote the majority of these notes in order to explain and interpret the scriptures. The notes comprise nearly 300,000 words, or nearly one-third the length of the Bible itself, and they are justifiably considered the most complete source of Protestant religious thought available.
Owing to the marginal notes and the superior quality of the translation, the Geneva Bible became the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was continually printed from 1560 to 1644 in over 200 different editions. It was the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers, thinkers, and historical figures of the Reformation era. William Shakespeares plays and the writings of John Milton and John Bunyan were clearly influenced by the Geneva Bible. Oliver Cromwell issued a pamphlet containing excerpts from the Geneva Bible to his troops during the English Civil War. When the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower they took with them exclusively the Geneva Bible.
The marginal notes of the Geneva Bible enraged the Catholic Church, since the notes deemed the act of confession to men the Catholic Bishops as unjustified by Holy Script. Man should confess to God only; mans private life was mans private life. The notes also infuriated King James, since they allowed disobedience to tyrannical kings. King James went so far as to make ownership of the Geneva Bible a felony. He then proceeded to make his own version of the Bible, but without the marginal notes that had so disturbed him. Consequently, during King Jamess reign, and into the reign of Charles I, the Geneva Bible was gradually replaced by the King James Bible.
Because of the print size, this facsimile reproduction is more difficult for some readers. A magnifying glass is often necessary for the marginal notes. On some of the printing the marginal notes are not entirely clear. Also, some adjustment is required to get accustomed to the interchanged I and J, u and v, and f and s in the old print style. L. L. Brown Publishing is proud to offer the Geneva Bible to Christians serious about understanding the Bible. A wealth of information that has been left to us by the Leaders of the Protestant Reformation is now available after four centuries of being out of print.
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