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The Geneva Bible

THE GENEVA BIBLE: THE FORGOTTEN TRANSLATION
by Gary DeMar

 

face2.jpg (12583 bytes)     When Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) became queen of England in 1553, she was determined to roll back the Reformation and reinstate Roman Catholicism. Mary had strong ties to Catholic Spain. She married Philip II of Spain and induced the English Parliament to recognize the authority of papal Rome. Mary met with a great deal of resistance from Protestant reformers in her own country. Mary showed no signs of compromise. The persecution of Protestants followed.

     The era known as the Marian Exile drove hundreds of English scholars to the Continent with little hope of ever seeing their home and friends again. God used this exodus experience to advance the Reformation. A number of English Protestant divines settled in Calvin's Geneva: Miles Coverdale, John Foxe, Thomas Sampson, and William Whittingham. With the protection of the Genevan civil authorities and the support of John Calvin and the Scottish Reformer John Knox, the Church of Geneva determined to produce an English Bible without the need for the imprimatur of either England or Rome - the Geneva Bible.

TRANSLATION WORK BEGINS IN 1557

     The Geneva translators produced a revised New Testament in English in 1557 that was essentially a revision of Tyndale's revised and corrected 1534 edition. Much of the work was done by William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of John Calvin. The Geneva New Testament was barely off the press when work began on a revision of the entire Bible, a process that took more than two years. The new translation was checked with Theodore Beza's earlier work and the Greek text. In 1560 a complete revised Bible was published, Atranslated according to the Hebrew and Greek, and conferred with the best translations in divers languages@ and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I. After the death of Mary, Elizabeth was crowned queen in 1558, once again moving England toward Protestantism. The Geneva Bible was finally printed in England in 1575 only after the death of Archbishop Matthew Parker, editor of the Bishop's Bible.

ENGLAND'S MOST POPULAR BIBLE

     While other English translations failed to capture the hearts of the reading public, the Geneva Bible was instantly popular. Between 1560 and 1644 at least 144 editions appeared. For forty years after the publication of the King James Bible, the Geneva Bible continued to be the Bible of the home. Oliver Cromwell used extracts from the Geneva Bible for his Soldier's Pocket Bible which he issued to the army.

     The miracle was that God did it at the time He said He would, for the purpose of ridding the world of the degrading influence of the Sodomites. PM dismisses the notion of divine intervention, offering no explanation as to how only Lot and his family knew to escape the impending destruction.

A THREAT TO KING JAMES

     In 1620 the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth with their Bibles and a conviction derived from those Bibles of establishing a new nation. The Bible was not the King James Version. When James I became king of England in 1603, there were two translations of the Bible in use; the Geneva Bible was the most popular, and the Bishops' Bible was used for reading in churches.

     King James disapproved of the Geneva Bible because of its Calvinistic leanings. He also frowned on what he considered to be seditious marginal notes on key political texts. A marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders, and a note for 2 Chronicles 15:16 said that King Asa should have had his mother executed and not merely deposed for the crime of worshipping an idol. The King James Version of the Bible grew out of the king's distaste for these brief but potent doctrinal commentaries. He considered the marginal notes to be a political threat to his kingdom.

     At a conference at Hampton Court in 1604 with bishops and theologians, the king listened to a suggestion by the Puritan scholar John Reynolds that a new translation of the Bible was needed. Because of his distaste for the Geneva Bible, James was eager for a new translation. "I profess," he said, "I could never yet see a Bible well translated in English; but I think that, of all, that of Geneva is the worst."

A THREAT TO ROME

     In addition to being a threat to the king of England, the Geneva Bible was outspokenly anti-Roman Catholic, as one might expect. Rome was still persecuting Protestants in the sixteenth century. Keep in mind that the English translators were exiles from a nation that was returning to the Catholic faith under a queen who was burning Protestants at the stake. The anti-Roman Catholic sentiment is most evident in the Book of Revelation: "The beast that cometh out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 11:7) is the Pope, which hath his power out of hell and cometh thence." In the end, the Geneva Bible was replaced by the King James Version, but not before it helped to settle America.

From American Vision's Biblical Worldview February 1997 (Used by permission)
 

 
 
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