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God’s Word in English. From Tyndale to King James 1526 - 1611. God’s Word in English. When Christianity came to England c. 4 th century, God’s word was not printed in English, but Latin

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God s word in english

God’s Word in English

From Tyndale to King James

1526 - 1611

God s word in english1

God’s Word in English

  • When Christianity came to England c. 4th century, God’s word was not printed in English, but Latin

  • Near the 7th century, Caedmon translated some Bible stories into Anglo-Saxon or “Old English”; Aldehelm translated the book of Psalms; Egbert translated the gospels; Bede translated the gospel of John

God s word in english2

God’s Word in English

  • Alfred the Great translated portions of the OT; Aldred wrote an English interlinear of the gospels; in the 10th century, Abbot Aelfric translated portions of the OT

  • Near the 14th century, Ormin translated the gospels and Acts; William of Shoreham and Richard Rolle translated the Psalms into “Middle English”

God s word in english3

God’s Word in English

  • John Wycliffe, Oxford professor, was the first to make a complete translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English c. 1382; John Purvey made a revision of Wycliffe’s Bible c. 1395 (the English of this time was called “Middle English”)

  • Wycliffe died in 1384 and body was exhumed and burned in 1428

  • A reproduction of Wycliffe’s Bible can be found in The English Hexapla:1841

God s word in english4

God’s Word in English

  • William Tyndale, after studying at Cambridge, was the first to make a translation from the original Greek into “Modern English” (1526) using the Greek text of Erasmus (1516)

  • Tyndale had to run from London, to Cologne, to Worms to print his Bible

  • Copies were bought and burned by the Catholic Church; Tyndale was imprisoned and burned at the stake

God s word in english5

God’s Word in English

  • Tyndale published the Pentateuch in 1530 and revised his NT in 1534-35

  • Tyndale was imprisoned for heresy in 1535-36, strangled and burned at the stake

Hendrickson publishers reprint

Hendrickson Publishers Reprint

God s word in english6

God’s Word in English

  • Miles Coverdale, an associate of Tyndale, published the first complete translation of all the Bible in 1535; it was based upon the work of Tyndale and Latin / German versions

  • Coverdale’s Bible was the first English translation to circulate without official hindrance; favored by Anne Boleyn; introduced chapter summaries; separated the Apocrypha from the OT books

God s word in english7

God’s Word in English

  • Thomas Matthews, the pen name of John Rogers and friend of Tyndale, published his translation in 1537 using the work of both Tyndale (NT) and Coverdale (OT); called the “Matthew’s Bible”

  • He added notes and references; also borrowed heavily from French versions

  • Like Tyndale, Rogers was burned at the stake for printing his Bible

Hendrickson publishers reprint1

Hendrickson Publishers Reprint

God s word in english8

God’s Word in English

  • Richard Taverner, a Greek student from Oxford, published his Bible in 1539; it was a revision of the Matthew’s Bible with an emphasis on revising the NT from Greek

God s word in english9

God’s Word in English

  • The Great Bible (1539), or Thomas “Cranmer’s Bible,” led by Coverdale, was another revision of the Matthew’s Bible; it was the first English Bible to be read in English Protestant churches

  • Known for its great size (16.5 x 11 inches); people came to read the Bible rather than hear the sermons; removed the Apocrypha

  • A reproduction of the Great Bible can be found in The English Hexapla:1841

God s word in english10

God’s Word in English

  • The Geneva Bible (1560), printed in Geneva, was the first Bible to be printed with numbered verses and italicized words not found in the original; it came with illustrations and (Calvinist) comments in the margin; the Apocrypha was in the appendix

  • The Geneva Bible was quoted by Shakespeare and carried by the Pilgrims to America; remained popular until c. 1644; formed during the reign of Queen Mary (“Bloody Mary”)

Hendrickson publishers reprint2

Hendrickson Publishers Reprint

God s word in english11

God’s Word in English

  • The Bishop’s Bible (1568), was a revision of the Geneva Bible by a group of mostly bishops; the Calvinist comments in the margin were removed; it was revised in 1602 and used as the bases for the KJV

  • Instead of “love” (Geneva Bible), the bishops followed the Latin caritas and used “charity”; this found its way into the KJV

God s word in english12

God’s Word in English

  • The Catholic Church also produced a translation in English from the Latin Vulgate called the “Douay-Rheims” (Rheims France, NT, 1582; Douay Belgium, OT, 1609-10)

  • It was a translation from Latin by a few men (Martin, Allen, Bristow) and not a committee

  • A reproduction of Rheims Bible can be found in The English Hexapla:1841

God s word in english13

God’s Word in English

  • The King James Version was produced 1607-1611

  • Work began in 1607 to revise the 1602 Bishop’s Bible (and other versions from Tyndale forward), not make a new translation

  • 47 Greek and Hebrew scholars worked at West., Oxford, Cambridge

  • There were to be no biased marginal notes like the Geneva Bible

God s word in english14

God’s Word in English

  • Revisions of the KJV were made in 1613, 1629, 1638, 1769, etc.

  • The KJV rivaled the Geneva Bible in popularity and then surpassed it

    • Greek and Hebrew scholarship

    • Classic English style of the day

    • Profited from the excellencies and shortcomings of previous versions ( 90% of Tyndale’s work is found in the KJV )

    • A work of a committee, not one man

God s word in english15

God’s Word in English

  • The KJV was never officially called the “Authorized Version;” both the Great Bible (1539) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568) were “authorized” to be read in the churches

  • The title page reads: “Appointed to be read in the churches.”

  • The KJV NT was not in printed in America until 1777 and the complete Bible in 1782

God s word in english16

God’s Word in English

  • The original preface to the 1611 KJV contained three pages of false flattery toward King James I

  • The original preface to the 1611 KJV contained 12 pages “to the reader” of the importance of and need for Bible translation

  • The original 1611 KJV contained a Bible reading calendar

Hendrickson publishers reprint3

Hendrickson Publishers Reprint

God s word in english from tyndale to king james

God’s Word in Englishfrom Tyndale to King James

William Tyndale (1526)

Miles Coverdale (1535)

Matthew’s Bible (1537)

Richard Taverner Bible (1539)

The Great Bible (1539)

The Geneva Bible (1560)

The Bishop’s Bible (1568)

Douay-Rheims (1582 / 1609)

King James (1611)

Lessons learned

Lessons Learned

  • Great sacrifices were made at this time to transmit God’s word into the language of the people (Jer. 36:23)

  • People in general at this time hungered for God’s word in their own language (Neh. 8:1; Acts 13:42)

Lessons learned1

Lessons Learned

  • The practice of translation at this time was one of literal, word-for-word transmission (Rom. 4:3)

  • The practice of placing comments in the margin at this time was highly scrutinized after the appearance of the Geneva Bible (Mt. 15:3-6)



Earle, Ralph. How We Got Our Bible. Revised. Beacon Hill Press, 1992.

Gleiser, Norman L and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised. Moody Press, 1986.

Kerr, John Stevens. Ancient Texts Alive Today: The Story of the English Bible. American Bible Society, 1999.

Lewis, Jack P. The English Bible From KJV to NIV: A History and Evaluation. Baker Book House, 1984.

Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the Bible. Second Ed. Baker Book House, 1988.


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