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History of the English Holy Bible

Article Date: March 17, 2011

How did we get our English Holy Bible? Not from one Bible translation, not from one Bible verse, or one word, or one vowel, or one consonant, or one punctuation mark, but from many; written and examined many thousands of times. Then it was done again, and again, and again, and again... Scribes from every country and clergy from every denomination; monks from every culture and language, and printers from every continent: all with one purpose-translate God's Word from what the Apostles and Prophets said and wrote, into the modern languages people speak and read. Their goal was to give the Living Saving Word of God to every plow-hand, college student, Medieval blacksmith, and Country Music Star. This is a short description of the process and some of the people who played important roles.

First, know you're about to read an incomplete history. We could name hundreds of others who influenced the Bible along its journey. We chose specific people for particular reasons, you will see why as you read along. The details and dates are accurate, as best we know from the sources we have. Keep in mind in some cases limited information was available, so just like Bible translators, we filled in the gaps as best we could. Read another Bible History and you will quickly find deliberation on dates and details; that's because none of us were there, and not one original Bible document still exists. We have copies, of copies, of copies. So we used good information, added our own research, cross-checked it a few dozen ways, and this is the result. Although some details will differ depending upon the debaters, every possible vigilance has been undertaken to once again get it right.

We STRONGLY encourage you to read it all. It may seem long, but you will quickly find yourself caught up in the journey. The fascinating story of the English Bible began thousands of years ago, and for a better visual use this Time-line of Bible Translation History. If you find yourself hungry for more you will find links throughout to exhaustive works by many great historians. We could begin several centuries earlier, but for now, our Bible history starting point for the advent of the Scripture in the English language begins with "The Morning, Star of the Reformation." - John Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe

The first English language Bible manuscripts were hand-written by John Wycliffe, Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian in the 1380's AD. Wycliffe (also commonly spelled, Wyclif, Wycliff, Wiclef, or Wickliffe), was well-known throughout Europe. He was considered a dissident for his opposition to the teachings of the organized Roman Catholic Church, which he believed were contrary to the Bible. He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority influencing public secular life. Wycliffe was considered to be the founder of the Lollard Movement. With the help of his assistant Purvey, his Lollard followers, and many faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the Scriptures.

Wycliffe completed his translation directly from the Latin Vulgate, which was the only text available at the time, into vernacular English in the year 1382. The Bible they produced is now known as Wycliffe's Bible. It is probable that he personally translated the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and it is possible he translated the entire New Testament, while his associates translated the Old Testament. Wycliffe's Bible appears to have been completed by 1384, with additional updated versions being done by Wycliffe's assistant John Purvey and others in 1388 and 1395[5]. Wycliffe's primary diversion from Roman Church theology was his proclamation of justification by faith, not by allegiance to the Catholic Church.

In Christ Stilling the Storm Wycliffe wrote:
"If a man believe in Christ, and make a point of his belief, then the promise that God hath made to come into the land of light shall be given by virtue of Christ, to all men that make this the chief matter."
He believed that the final authority on Christian life was the Bible, not papal proclamations or Roman Church legalities. Wycliffe put the emphasis on Scripture alone, further infuriating Rome with statements such as, "Even though there were a hundred popes and though every mendicant monk were a cardinal, they would be entitled to confidence only insofar as they are accorded with the Bible." After Wycliffe's death the Council of Constance declared him a "…stiff-necked heretic and under the ban of the church…"

Rome's contempt did not die with Wycliffe's death, far from it! In fact Pope Martin V was so infuriated by his teachings and English Bible translations, that 44 years after Wycliffe's death, the pope ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river! We owe much to John Wycliffe's translations. He was perhaps the first true ground-breaker in Bible history to face down the opposition and give birth to the English Bible as we know it.

John Hus

Among Wycliffe's followers was a man named John Hus. Hus passionately promoted Wycliffe's ideas. Hus shared Wycliffe's belief that common people should be equipped and permitted to read the Bible in their own language. He believed in opposing the tyranny of the Roman church, which threatened to execute anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible. Hus himself was actually burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe's Bible manuscripts used to kindle the fire! The last words of John Hus were, "In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed."

In the year 1517, almost exactly 100 years later, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses of Contention (a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church) onto the church door at Wittenberg. The prophecy of Hus had come true! Martin Luther went on to be a major force in the development of the Christian faith as well as the first person to translate and publish the Bible in what was at the time the most commonly-spoken dialect of the German people, thereby creating a translation more appealing than previous German Bibles. Persecution and murder were still the item of the day for the Catholic Church; power, control, and money motivated their decisions under the guise of religion. When the church attempts to become the law, there is no law to prevent them. As it is said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

When John Hus was martyred for his beliefs, it is said that upon arriving at the place where he would be burned at the stake, Hus knelt down and prayed,

"God is my witness that the evidence against me is false. I've never thought nor preached except with the intention of winning men, if possible, from their sins. In the truth of the Gospel I have written, taught and preached. Today I will gladly die!"

Foxe's Book of Martyrs, the recognized authority on the subject, records that in that same year, seven people were burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the "crime" of teaching their children to say the Lord's Prayer in English rather than Latin.

After his death devout followers of John Hus began to call themselves "Husites", and later "The Unity of the Brotherhood". The Husites joined together to form an independent church, which later cooperated with the Waldensians, Calvinists, and Lutherans. The Husites became known as the Moravians. Their eventual leader, Count Zinzendorf started what was called a "Prayer Chain". It grew into a phenomenon of prayer and revival which is reported in Christian and secular history to have lasted 150 years! During this time of revival the Moravians sent out more than 2,000 missionaries. It was during this revival that a man named John Wesley was converted.

Johannes Gutenberg

Born as "Johann Gensfleisch" (John Gooseflesh), he preferred to be known as "Johann Gutenberg", which means John Beautiful Mountain. The Johannes Gutenberg the world remembers was a German goldsmith, who invented the first movable-type printing press in about the year 1457. He also contributed other inventions, including oil-based ink, and the process of producing movable type, but it was the printing press for which he is best remembered. The very first book to ever be printed on that amazing invention, and the most important introduction to the entire world, was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg’s presses replaced Bibles which were still being copied by hand. Gutenberg's Bibles were colorfully hand-illuminated, meaning each leaf was hand highlighted in brightly colored ink, some gold tipped.

Sadly, Gutenberg, who was the creator of what was arguably the most important invention in modern history, fell victim to unscrupulous business associates. They eventually took control of his business leaving him in poverty. Thanks to God the invention of the movable-type printing press far outlived its inventor. In 1462 there was some sort of major dispute between 2 Archbishops. The town of Mainz was ransacked by Archbishop Adolph Von Nassau, and along with many others, Gutenberg was exiled.

At some point Johannes moved back to Mainz, where he died in 1468, and was buried in a Franciscan church. There was no note of his monumental accomplishments. The church and churchyard were later destroyed, and his grave lost. But, thanks to his dedication and personal sacrifice, Bibles and books became available to everyone. This was essential to the success of what was to follow: The Reformation, and John Wesley.

Thomas Linacre

In the 1490's Thomas Linacre was personal physician to both King Henry the 7th and the 8th. He was also an Oxford scholar; Linacre College at Oxford bears his name. According to Wikipedia, Linacre was one of the first Englishman to study Greek in Italy. They note:
"...His teachers were some of the greatest scholars of the day. [but of even more note] Among his pupils was one—Erasmus—whose name alone would suffice to preserve the memory of his instructor in Greek, and others of note in letters and politics, such as Sir Thomas More, Prince Arthur and Queen Mary I of England. John Colet, William Grocyn, William Lilye and other eminent scholars were his intimate friends, and he was esteemed by a still wider circle of literary correspondents in all parts of Europe."

Linacre's studies ultimately led him to begin reading the Gospels in Greek, then comparing what he read to the Latin Vulgate. He felt, as did many others, that the Latin had become corrupted, and could not be relied upon. There are entries in his recovered diary which read, "Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians." Linacre believed the Latin had become so unreliable it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel, yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone who read the scripture in any other language. This was done even though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures!

Erasmus gave high praise for Linacre's Latin skills, and confessed Thomas' demand for perfection was likely the reason he did not leave any literary documents of note, but his inclusion in the lineage of the English Bible is undisputed. His influence upon Queen Mary, and later John Colet would carry on the skills if not the perfection of Linacre.

John Colet

Friend to Thomas Linacre, Queens, Kings and humanists; John Colet was one of the first to strongly assert that one could be a highly loyal priest and yet still be critical of the church. Erasmus said of Colet: "When I listen to Colet it seems to me that I am listening to Plato himself." Erasmus likely portrayed Colet as thus because of his own critical thinking towards the church.

In 1496, John Colet, another Oxford professor and the son of the Mayor of London, began translating the New Testament from Greek into English for his students at Oxford, and later for the public at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. The people were so hungry to hear the Word of God in a language they could understand, that within six months there were 20,000 people packed in the church and at least that many outside trying to get in! Colet was well known for the memorable sermons he preached, but many included some chiding of Rome, and some were in direct opposition to the church's thirst for blood and expansion.

Sadly, while the enormous and beautiful Saint Paul's Cathedral remains the main church in London today, typical Sunday morning worship attendance is now around 200 people, and most of them are tourists. Fortunately for Colet, he was a powerful man with friends in high places, so he amazingly managed to avoid execution.

Erasmus

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamu, was possibly best known as a Dutch Humanist, but he was also a noted theologian, and practicing Catholic priest. Erasmus was a student and compatriot of Linacre and Colet, and as such he had been taught that the Word of God was too important to squander. He felt moved--called really--to correct the corrupt Latin Vulgate. So, in 1516, with the help of printer John Froben, he published a Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament. The Latin portion of the finished work was not what Erasmus considered to be the corrupt Vulgate. Erasmus included his own fresh rendering of the Latin text from previously un-referenced or unknown Greek texts which Erasmus held to be more accurate and reliable Greek.

He managed to collate these translation parallels from a half-dozen partial old Greek New Testament manuscripts he had acquired. This milestone was the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the Scripture to be produced in a millennium, and the first ever to come off of a printing press.

The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus further focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original New Testament Greek, and original Old Testament Hebrew languages to maintain accuracy. His mission was to faithfully and accurately translate the Bible into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other tongue. No sympathy for this "illegal activity" was to be found from Rome however. Even as Pope Leo X declared that, "the fable of Christ has been quite profitable to me.", the church continued to act with impunity, proclaiming itself the sole possessor of all truth and acting as the sword of the Deity.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale (also sometimes called Tyndall, or Tyndall) was called the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and truly was their spiritual leader. William Tyndale was the first person to translate significant portions of the Bible for public or lay readership. He holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the "Architect of the English Language", (even more so than William Shakespeare). Many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our English language today.

We owe many now common Bible phrases to William Tyndale: among them are,
  • "my brother’s keeper"
  • "seek and you shall find"
  • "let there be light"
  • "twinkling of an eye"
  • "the signs of the times"
  • "filthy lucre"
  • "gave up the ghost"

Those and many others continued to offend the Catholic Church. Foxe describes an argument with a "...learned but blasphemous..." clergyman. He asserted to Tyndale that, "We had better be without God's laws than the Pope's." Swelling with emotion, Tyndale responded: "I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!" [10][11]

William was eventually martyred like many before him. He was first tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and condemned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession on his behalf. According to Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Tyndale "...was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned." His last words were said to be, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!"

Martin Luther

Martin Luther had a small head-start on Tyndale, as Luther declared his intolerance for the Roman Church's corruption on Halloween in 1517, by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg Church door. Luther, who would be exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in 1521 that was designed to martyr him, would translate the New Testament into German for the first time from the 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publish it in September of 1522. Luther also published a German Pentateuch in 1523, and another edition of the German New Testament in 1529. In the 1530's he would go on to publish the entire Bible in German.

William Tyndale wanted to use the same 1516 Erasmus text as a source to translate and print the New Testament in English for the first time in history. In a Divine twist of reality, Tyndale showed up on Luther's doorstep in Germany in 1525! By the end of the year together they had translated the entire New Testament into English. Tyndale had been forced to flee England, because of the wide-spread rumor about his English New Testament project. Inquisitors and bounty hunters were constantly on Tyndale's trail trying either to arrest him, or kill him, but mostly to prevent his Bible from being released to the public. God foiled those plans, and in 1525-1526 the Tyndale New Testament became the first printed edition of the Scripture in the Old English language. Subsequent printings of the Tyndale New Testament in the 1530's were often elaborately illustrated, much like the hand-illustrated Gutenberg Bibles.

Unfortunately most of them were burned as soon as the Bishop could confiscate them, but a few copies trickled through and actually ended up in the bedroom of King Henry VIII. The more the King and Bishop resisted its distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became. The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy, while in fact they burned them because they could find no errors at all. Anyone caught in mere possession of Tyndale's forbidden books, risked death by burning.

Having God's Word available to the public in the language of common English, would have meant disaster to the church. No longer would they control access to the Scriptures. If people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue, the church's income and power would crumble. They could not possibly continue to get away with selling indulgences (the forgiveness of sins) or selling the release of loved ones from a church-manufactured Purgatory.

If the church were to be exposed as the frauds and thieves they were, the people would begin to challenge the church's authority. Soon the contradictions between what God's Word said, and what the priests taught, would become obvious. If the public's eyes were opened, the truth would set them free from the grip of fear that the institutional church held. Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would be understood. The need for priests would vanish through the priesthood of all believers.

In the end, Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended. Tyndale was incarcerated for 500 days before he was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. Tyndale's last words were, "Oh Lord, open the King of England's eyes". This prayer would be answered just three years later in 1539, when King Henry VIII finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of an English Bible known as the "Great Bible". But before that could happen...

Myles Coverdale

Myles Coverdale (also spelled Miles) and John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers had remained loyal disciples the last six years of Tyndale's life, and they carried the English Bible project forward, at an even more accelerated and fervor-ed pace. Coverdale finished translating the Old Testament, and in 1535 he printed the first complete Bible in the English language. Coverdale made use of Luther's German text and his Latin resources. The first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible.

In 1537 the translations Coverdale had completed from Tyndale's Bible were included in the Matthews Bible (see John Rogers). 1538 Coverdale went to Paris and there oversaw the printing of the Great Bible. He also published a diglot (dual text) with a side-by-side translation in Latin and English. It was at this time Henry VIII did in fact answer Tyndale's prayer, and ordered a Coverdale Bible be put into every English Church, chained to a book stand, so that every citizen would have access to a Bible!(12)

John Rogers

John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible in 1537. It was, however, the first English Bible translated from the original Biblical languages of Hebrew & Greek. He printed it under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew", (an assumed name that had actually been used by Tyndale at one time) as a considerable part of this Bible was the translation of Tyndale, whose writings had been condemned by the English authorities.

The Matthew's Bible is a composite made up of Tyndale's Pentateuch and New Testament (1534-1535 editions), Coverdale's Bible, and some of Roger's own translation of the text. It remains known most commonly as the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. It went through a nearly identical second-edition printing in 1549.

Thomas Cranmer

In 1539, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, hired Myles Coverdale at the bequest of King Henry VIII to publish the "Great Bible". It became the first English Bible authorized for public use, as it was distributed to every church, chained to the pulpit, and a reader was even provided so that the illiterate could hear the Word of God in plain English.

It would seem that William Tyndale's last wish had been granted...just three years after his martyrdom. Cranmer's Bible, published by Coverdale, was known as the Great Bible due to its great size: a large Pulpit Folio measuring over 14 inches tall. Seven editions of this version were printed between April of 1539 and December of 1541.

King Henry VIII

It was not that King Henry VIII had a change of conscience regarding publishing the Bible in English. His motives were in some ways far more sinister, but the Lord sometimes uses the evil intentions of men to bring about His glory. King Henry VIII had in fact, requested that the Pope permit him to divorce his wife and marry his mistress. The Pope refused. King Henry responded by marrying his mistress anyway, (later having two of his many wives executed), and thumbing his nose at the Pope by renouncing Roman Catholicism, taking England out from under Rome's religious control, and declaring himself as the reigning head of State to also be the new head of the Church.

This new branch of the Christian Church, neither Roman Catholic nor truly Protestant, became known as the Anglican Church or the Church of England. King Henry acted essentially as its "Pope". His first act was to further defy the wishes of Rome by funding the printing of the scriptures in English, the first legal English Bible... printed just for spite.

Queen Mary

The ebb and flow of Bible printing, and the accompanying freedoms which brought the Bible to the public unfortunately were greatly changed over time. This period of opportunity continued through the 1540's...and into the 1550's. After King Henry VIII, King Edward VI took the throne, and after his death, the reign of Queen "Bloody" Mary became the next obstacle to the printing of the Bible in English.

Queen Mary was entirely consumed by her quest to return England to the Roman Church. She returned power and militant rights to the Roman Catholic Church. There was a complete reversal of all the freedoms King Henry VIII had provided. As a result, in 1555 both John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers, and Thomas Cranmer were both burned at the stake! Queen Bloody Mary became completely obsessed with her allegiance to the church. She empowered the church to such an extreme that she approved and oversaw the deaths of hundreds of Protestants, for the "crime" of... being Protestant. These reformers were burned at the stake by the hundreds! This era was known as the Marian Exile, and the refugees fled from England with little hope of ever seeing their home or friends again. It was a dark period for the Bible, and even darker for those who loved it.

John Foxe

In the 1550's, the Church at Geneva, Switzerland, was very sympathetic to the reformer refugees and was one of only a few safe havens for a desperate people. Many of them met in Geneva, led by men like Myles Coverdale and John Foxe (publisher of the famous Foxe's Book of Martyrs, which is to this day the only exhaustive reference work on the persecution and martyrdom of Early Christians and Protestants from the first century up to the mid-16th century), as well as Thomas Sampson and William Whittingham. Others were led by John Calvin (author of the most famous theological book ever published, Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion) and other Bible scholars like John Knox, the great Reformer of the Scottish Church.

The Church of Geneva determined to produce a Bible that would educate their families while they continued in exile. And thus the Geneva Bible was born.

John Calvin

The New Testament was completed in 1557, and the complete Bible was first published in 1560. It became known as the Geneva Bible. Due to the inclusion of a rather odd translation of the word used in a particular passage of Genesis where it describes the clothing that God fashioned for Adam and Eve upon expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The Geneva Bible used the term "Breeches" (an antiquated form of "Britches"), because of this, some people referred to the Geneva Bible as the Breeches Bible.

William Tyndale

The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to add numbered verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages would be easier. Every chapter was also accompanied by extensive marginal notes and references so thorough and complete that the Geneva Bible is also considered the first English "Study Bible". William Shakespeare quotes hundreds of times in his plays from the Geneva translation of the Bible. The Geneva Bible became the Bible of choice for over 100 years of English speaking Christians. Between 1560 and 1644 at least 144 editions of this Bible were published.

An examination of the 1611 King James Bible shows clearly that its translators were influenced much more by the Geneva Bible, than by any other source. The Geneva Bible itself retains over 90% of William Tyndale's original English translation. The Geneva in fact, remained more popular than the King James Version until decades after its original release in 1611! The Geneva holds the honor of being the first Bible taken to America, and the Bible of the Puritans and Pilgrims. It is truly the "Bible of the Protestant Reformation." Strangely, the famous Geneva Bible has been out-of-print since 1644, so the only way to obtain one is to either purchase an original printing of the Geneva Bible, or a less costly facsimile reproduction of the original 1560 Geneva Bible.

With the end of Queen Mary's bloody reign, the reformers could safely return to England. The Anglican Church, now under Queen Elizabeth I, reluctantly tolerated the printing and distribution of Geneva version Bibles in England. The marginal notes, which were vehemently against the institutional Church of the day, did not rest well with the rulers of the day. Another version, one with a less inflammatory tone was desired, and the copies of the Great Bible were getting to be decades old. In 1568, a revision of the Great Bible known as the Bishop's Bible was introduced. Despite 19 editions being printed between 1568 and 1606, this Bible, referred to as the "rough draft of the King James Version", never gained much of a foothold of popularity among the people. The Geneva may have simply been too much to compete with.

By the 1580's, the Roman Catholic Church saw that it had lost the battle to suppress the will of God: that His Holy Word be available in the English language. In 1582, the Church of Rome surrendered their fight for "Latin only" and decided that if the Bible was to be available in English, they would at least have an official Roman Catholic English translation. And so, using the corrupt and inaccurate Latin Vulgate as the only source text, they went on to publish an English Bible with all the distortions and corruptions that Erasmus had revealed and warned of 75 years earlier. Because it was translated at the Roman Catholic College in the city of Rheims, it was known as the Rheims New Testament (also spelled Rhemes).
The Douay Old Testament was translated by the Church of Rome in 1609 at the College in the city of Douay (also spelled Doway & Douai). The combined product is commonly referred to as the Doway/Rheims Version. In 1589, Dr. William Fulke of Cambridge published the "Fulke's Refutation", in which he printed in parallel columns the Bishops Version alongside the Rheims Version, attempting to show the error and distortion of the Roman Church's corrupt compromise of an English version of the Bible.

King James I

With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Prince James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. Members of the Protestant churches approached the new king around the year 1604 with a simple request--that he would sanction the undertaking of a new Bible translation--a translation with a unique designation, that it was "authorized" by the King himself. The clergy wanted the new translation to replace the Bishop's Bible, which had replaced the Geneva Bible, the Bible which had been first printed in 1568 while the church was in exile from Bloody Mary. The Geneva Version was the most popular with the people because of its accuracy, excellent scholarship, and particularly its exhaustive commentary. The clergy, however, desired to dispose of the controversial marginal notes which, among other things proclaiming the Pope an Anti-Christ etc. Essentially, the church leaders wanted a Bible which would be accepted by the people, maintain its Scriptural loyalty to accuracy, but with margin references only for word clarification or cross-referencing.

This "translation to end all translations" (for a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of at least fifty scholars. They truly devoted themselves to their translation ancestors: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The Bishop's Bible project was underway. The scholars worked from 1605 to 1606 engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609 they assembled their individual work. In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known today as the "1611 King James Bible" came off the printing press.

One oddity to note: A typographical discrepancy in Ruth 3:15 rendered a pronoun "He" instead of "She" in that verse in some printings. This caused some of the 1611 First Editions to be known by collectors as "He" Bibles, and others as "She" Bibles.
The huge 1611 pulpit-size King James Bibles were once again, by order of the King, chained to every church pulpit in England, making them available to anyone who wanted to read them. Shortly thereafter printing began on the earliest normal-size printings of the King James Bible, the first truly "personal size" Bibles so anyone could carry their own personal copy of the Bible.

One little-known fact is that for the past 200 years, all King James Bibles published in America are actually the 1769 Baskerville spelling and wording revision of the 1611. The original "1611" preface is deceivingly included by the publishers, and no mention of the fact that it is really the 1769 version is to be found, possibly because that might hurt sales. The only way to obtain a true, unaltered, 1611 version is to either purchase an original pre-1769 printing of the King James Bible, or a less costly facsimile reproduction of the original 1611 King James Bible.

John Bunyan

The Anglican Church's King James Bible took decades to overcome the more popular Protestant Church's Geneva Bible. A great irony of history is that many Protestant Christian churches today embrace the King James Bible exclusively as the "only" legitimate English language translation, yet it is not even a Protestant translation! It was truly printed to compete with the Protestant Geneva Bible, by authorities who throughout most of history were hostile to Protestants, and killed them. While many Protestants are quick to assign the full blame of persecution to the Roman Catholic Church, it should be noted that even after England broke from Roman Catholicism in the 1500's, the Church of England (The Anglican Church) continued to persecute Protestants throughout the 1600's. One famous example of this is John Bunyan, who while in prison for the crime of preaching the Gospel, wrote one of Christian history's greatest books, Pilgrim's Progress. Pilgrim's Progress is still most printed Christian books. It enjoyed incredible popularity; more than 100,000 copies were printed during Bunyan's lifetime.

Although Bunyan is best known for that work, he also published a number of others, the second most popular, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. In addition to those two he also wrote nearly 40 others. Most are lesser known, many are not in print, some which are still in print. A few of them are listed below:
  • Holy War
  • Visions of Heaven and Hell
  • Acceptable Sacrifice
  • Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ
  • Intercession of Christ: The Christ, a Complete Saviour

Christians owe much to John Bunyan, he is the one of the first who made Christ interesting to the entire world of his time, "...both saints and sinners...", as Bunyan would have said.



John Eliot,
and Robert Aitken

The first Bible actually printed in America was in the native Algonquin Indian Language, a work completed by John Eliot in 1663. Sometime later in 1782, a man named Robert Aitken printed the first English language Bible, a King James Version. Robert Aitkens 1782 Bible was also the only Bible ever official recognized and recommended by the United States Congress. He was commended by President George Washington for providing Americans with Bibles during the embargo of imported English goods due to the Revolutionary War. In 1808, Robert's daughter, Jane Aitken, would become the first woman to ever print a Bible.

Robert Aitken printed Bibles in the period when trade was cut off with Great Britain because of the Revolutionary War. As a result he approached Congress with the idea of an officially "Authorized Version" of this American Bible. Congress agreed to his request to endorse his Bible as accurate to help out the American printing industry, but denied his other requests that his Bible, "..be published under the Authority of Congress...". Despite the 7 year interruption in the availability of Bibles, and over a year without any competition from imports.

On September 1, 1782, a committee that had been appointed to consider Aitken's petition asked the chaplains of the Congress of the Confederation, the Rev. Dr. William White (Bishop of Pennsylvania) William White of Christ Church and the Rev. George Duffield of the Third Presbyterian Church, to examine his Bible for accuracy. On September 12, based upon the report of the committee, the Congress of the Confederation approved "...the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of the arts in this country..." and recommended his Bible to the American people.

For during the 1780's In 1783, after Aitken's Bible had begun to be distributed, Dr. John Rodgers of the First Presbyterian Church of New York suggested to General George Washington that every discharged soldier be given a copy of Aitken's Bible. Since the war was coming to a close and Congress had already ordered the discharge of two-thirds of the army, the suggestion came too late. Robert Aitken's Bible was a commercial failure and he ended up losing over £3,000 on the 10,000 Bibles he printed. His later attempts to have Congress buy his Bibles and give them to soldiers being discharged was rejected. He died in Philadelphia in 1802.[14]

President George Washington said, "It would have pleased me well, if Congress had been pleased to make such an important present to the brave fellows who have done so much for the security of their country's rights and establishment."

Noah Webster

Just a few years after producing his famous Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Noah Webster produced his own modern translation of the English Bible. His version never gained much traction however because the public remained too loyal to the King James Version for Webster's version to have much impact. It was not really until the 1880's that England's own planned replacement for their King James Bible, the English Revised Version (E.R.V.) would become the first English language Bible to gain popular acceptance as a post-King James Version modern-English Bible. The widespread popularity of this modern-English translation brought with it another curious characteristic: the absence of the 14 Apocryphal books.

Up until the 1880's every Protestant Bible (not only the Catholic Bibles) had 80 books, not the 66 most people are familiar with. The inter-testamental books written hundreds of years before Christ called "The Apocrypha" were part of virtually every printing of the Tyndale-Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops Bible, the Protestant Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible until their removal in the 1880’s. The original 1611 King James contained the Apocrypha, and King James actually threatened heavy fines and a year in jail to anyone who dared print the Bible without it. Only for the last 120 years has the Protestant Church rejected these books, and removed them from their Bibles. This has left most modern-day Christians believing the Catholic Bible is the only Bible still using the Apocrypha. This is, however, a myth, and no widely-accepted reason for the removal of the Apocrypha in the 1880’s has ever been officially issued by a mainline Protestant denomination.

MUCH MORE about our English Bible could be said and written. There are volumes of records of the many martyrs and individuals who contributed to it, this is only a small representation. There are too many to name. The story of how our Holy Bible came to be is truly the most compelling demonstration of God's power, grace, love! Thousands were willing to give their families, fortunes and their very lives to bring to pass God's Word. There is no other way to say it,

{14}"For grace of this thing I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, {15} of whom each fatherhood in heavens and in earth is named, that he give to you, after the riches of his glory, virtue to be strengthened by his Spirit in the inner man, {17} that Christ dwell by faith in your hearts; that ye rooted and grounded in charity,{18} be able to comprehend with all saints, which is the breadth, and the length, and the highness, and the deepness; {19} also to know the charity of Christ more excellent than science [also to know the charity of Christ above-seeming to science], that ye be filled in all the plenty of God. {18} be able to comprehend with all saints, which is the breadth, and the length, and the highness, and the deepness; {19} also to know the charity of Christ more excellent than science, that ye be filled in all the plenty of God."

Ephesians 3:14-19 - Wycliffe New Testament

Acknowledgments:
Special thanks is also given to Dr. Craig H. Lampe for his valuable contributions to the text.
This English Bible History Article & Time line is by author & editor: John L. Jeffcoat III. ©2002
It was freely reproduced and quoted in whole and in part, under the one condition: prominent credit must be given to,

"WWW.GREATSITE.COM" as the source. Used by permission.
"We are also called to preserve the ancient, original English translations of the Bible…" and that is what we do here at WWW.GREATSITE.COM [5] Wikipedia; John Wycliffe, 2009 [10,11]ibid; William Tyndale, 2010 [12]Rex, Richard, "the Crisis of Obedience: God's Word and Henry's Reformation," The Historical Journal, V.39, no.4, 12/96, p. 893-4. [13]Wikipedia:Signpost/2008-06-26/Dispatches – Signpost article [14]Wikipedia:Robert Aitken; 2008

Joe Kerr DeeperShopping Christian Store 2011, All Rights Reserved ©



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