A Brief History of the English Bible

by Pastor Wesley Darby, for Southwestern College English Literature Class, October, 1981



Men & Events in the background of our English Bible
- also of Miller's General Bible Introduction

Caedmom- 670 AD; 1st known Poet Anglo-Saxon, 9 lines Creation Hymn, Daniel Exodus, & Genesis

Aldhelm- 640-709; 1st great English writer who wrote in Latin, translated Psalms - 705

Egbert - 705 - Translated Gospels as requested by Aldhelm - copy in British Museum

The Venerable Bede- 673-735; Father of English History, Anglo-Saxon, Translated John's Gospel, finished the last verse as he died.

Alfred the Great- 848-901; The 10 Commandments & selections of Exodus in his Book on Laws.

Aldred- 950; made an Interlinear-Anglo Saxon/old Latin "Lendesfarne Gospels".

Aelfric - 955: the Grammarian, Treatise on OT and NT; Preface to Genesis; "The Heptateuch".

William of Shoreham- Translated the Psalms into English prose.

Richard Rolle of Hampole- 1300-1349; Spiritual Mystic, Commentary on Psaltar & Script. Paraphrase, Set rules for translation that were followed by Wycliffe and his workers.

John Wycliffe - 1324-1384; Father of Reformation, Oxford Scholar, Lollards, & Poor Priests.  Started 1st English Bible from Vulgate (of St. Jerome, 384-405) NT-1382, OT-1384  Revision 1389; more Latin than English, "The Morning Star of Reformation."  Excommunicated; after death his bones dug up, burned, and cast into the river.

Nicholas de Hereford- helped Wycliffe, did most of O.T.  John Purvey revised the Wycliffe Bible 4 years after Wycliffe's death.  John Huss- 1414 Martyr- converted by Wycliffe's written sermons.

William Caxton- in 1476 set up first English Printing Press (Gutenberg - 1435).

Erasmus- 1466-1533; Humanist Dutch- taught Greek, formed 1st printed Greek NT-1516

William Tyndale- 1490-1536; 1st translation from Greek NT- 1526; Pent.- '31; John- '35.  Rythmic, crisp prose, helped fix style & tone of all later versions, annotated; printed in Antwerp, smuggled to England; Tyndale captured, condemned, burned - Oct. 6, 1536.

Martin Luther- 1483-1546; Broke with Rome- 1522, Translated Bible into German at Wartburg 1521-22

Miles Coverdale- 1488-1568; Bishop, Adapted from Latin, German,  Swiss- Coverdale Bible - 1535; Dedicated to Henry VIII; used Tyndale's work on OT, Coverdale supt. of Great Bible.

John Rogers- 1500-1555; London Pastor, used pseudonym- Thomas  Matthew's Bible- 1537; edited Coverdale Bible with marginal notes. Rogers was 1st Marian Martyr- 1555.

Richard Taverner- 1505-1575; a Layman revised Matthew's Bible, called Taverner's Bible- 1539; Terse, toned down Rogers' more violent notes and got King's O.K.

The Great Bible- 1539; Called Cromwell's Bible, picture and dedication to Cromwell; this is Coverdale's own revision, Psalms still used in Book of Common Prayer, made compulsory for all churches, compiled from Tyndale, Roger's and Coverdale's first editions.  9 x 15 inches.

Thomas Cranmer- 1489-1556; Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote preface to Coverdale's 2nd edition of Great Bible- 1540, so it was called Cranmer's Bible; it led to Protestant break.

Mary Queen of Scots- ruled 1553-1558, called Bloody Mary - Cranmer and others perished.

The Geneva Bible- NT-1557, OT-1560; prepared in exile during Mary's reign- 1st in Roman Type with chapters and verses, used italics for explanatory words, called "Breeches Bible"- Gen.3:7.  Translators included John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Calvin's brother-in-law.  Over 200 editions, used by Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, and our Pilgrim and Puritan fathers.

The Bishop's Bible- 1568; Revision of the Great Bible, became the main basis for the Authorized Bible, promoted by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, to counter the Calvanistic Geneva Bible- for the Church of England; called Matthew Parker's Bible, helped by 8 Bishops.

The Catholic English Translation- Rheims-NT-1582; Douai-OT-1609- called Jesuit Bible.

The King James Bible; The Authorized Bible; 1611 "The only classic created by a committee."  James, like Henry VIII, Cromwell, and others, wanted England to have a unified Bible. Appointed a body of 47 scholars at the time of the Golden Age of Literature in England.  Three companies - Cambridge, Oxford, Westminster; each split in two; each man had his work checked by his team, then the teams exchanged material, with the chief persons of all teams meeting to resolve any disagreements.  Worked for 7 years.



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