The History of the English Bible
1560 - The Geneva Bible
Many Protestants were exiled under Mary Tudor in 1553. Several notable Bible scholars took refuge in Geneva from all over Europe. John Knox was among them and he thought he had found “the most perfect school of Christ” since apostolic times. John Calvin was also there at this time. The group of English exiles was lead by William Whittingham who had already revised the New Testament text of the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. Myles Coverdale was also one of this group of English Bible scholars.
New editions of the Latin Vulgate, of Greek and Hebrew texts, of Italian, Spanish and French Bibles and a Jewish version of the Bible were produced in Geneva at this time. This scholarly climate encouraged a thorough revision of both Old and New Testament texts and the production of a Bible in 1560 that enjoyed widespread popularity in England and Scotland for about 100 years. In the Old Testament the Geneva Bible was a thorough revision of the Great Bible, especially for those books that Tyndale had not translated. The Prophets, poetical literature and the books of wisdom were carefully brought into line with the Hebrew text. The New Testament was based on Tyndale’s text. It was the marginal notes that irritated James I so much and lead to the publication of the King James Version in 1611. Even so, Matthew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was working on the Bishops Bible at the time, said that it was good to have a diversity of translations and readings.
More than 140 editions of the Geneva Bible were printed, most of them in England. The first Bible printed in Scotland was a Geneva Bible in 1579. The soldier’s pocket Bible issued by Oliver Cromwell in 1643 was extracts from the Geneva Bible. The last edition was printed in 1644.
This Bible is commonly referred to as the “Breeches Bible” after the phrase in Genesis “Adam and Eve took fig leaves and made themselves breeches”. Two hundred years earlier, John Wycliffe had translated this passage in the same way.
Source: F. F. Bruce, The English Bible, A History of Translations. Oxford University Press 1961, 234 p