With the death of King Henry VIII came a period of religious turmoil in England. Edward VI promoted the Great Bible and the Reforming movement. His years as king saw two new translations of the Bible: the Cheke version and Bishop Becke’s Bible. Edward VI reigned from 1538 until 1553, when Mary Tudor came to power. Mary was anti-Reformation, and executed many of the men associated with the translation of the Bible, such as John Rogers and Thomas Cranmer. Foxe’s Martyrologies show that during her reign, many Bibles were burned, but it is unclear whether that was done under her command. Mary died in 1558, and Queen Elizabeth came to power. Elizabeth once again reversed what the previous ruler had done, and promoted the Reformation. Under her reign the 1560 Bible known as the Geneva Bible came to be.
The Geneva Bible closely resembles Tyndale’s New Testament and a revision of the Great Bible’s Old Testament. It did include the Apocrypha, although the translators made sure to mention that certain things in the Apocrypha should not be imitated. One of the most unique facets of the Geneva Bible are the notes left by the translators. These notes are Calvinistic in doctrine, anti-Roman, and anti-Pope. The Geneva Bible gained quick popularity, however, it was too radical for Elizabeth’s taste. In 1561, Archbishop Matthew Parker and other bishops began to revise the Great Bible. Seven years later, the “Bishop’s Bible” was put into circulation. Although it superseded the Great Bible, it was never formally recognized by the queen, perhaps because she preferred the Geneva Bible.
We are blessed to have a copy of the Bishop’s Bible, as well as several copies of the Geneva Bible.
This is an original 1608 Geneva Bible. Other copies at BYUI-SPC include an original 1576 copy, a pirated edition from 1629, and a 1614 as well as a 1615 edition. As this was the most popular version of the Bible for many years, it is not surprising that we have so many copies. Come visit us at Special Collections (room 220 in the McKay Library) to see why this Bible is one of our favorites!
- The English Bible, A History of Translations. Frederick F. Bruce. 1961. Oxford University Press, New York.