Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



Taverner`s Bible.

Richard Taverner was the only layman to issue a complete Bible. In 1539 he published a revision of Matthews Bible, He was an unusually good Greek scholar and as a result brought some improvement to the New Testament. He revised the Old Testament with close attention to the Vulgate. He improved the translation in some words by making then more English e.g. "worthy of death" for "child of death", "spokesman" for "advocate" in 1 John 2:1 and "morcystock" for "propitiation" in 1 John 2:2. He rendered Matt,22:12 very colloquially "had never a word to say".

v. Geneva and Bishops Bibles.

During the reign of Mary the clock was put back and no Bible translating was possible; no Bibles were printed in England, the English Bible was no longer read in the church services and many of the Bibles set up in the churches were burnt. The church leaders who had been instrumental in the translating and publishing of the Bible in English were martyred.

Coverdale alone escaping to the continent. But while nothing was done in England, much was done on the continent. There were many refugees from England and among them was William Whittingham, born at Chester and a Fellow of all Souls`, Oxford, who was also married to Calvin's sister.

He went to Geneva and with the blessing of Calvin and assisted by Coverdale,Theodore Boza and others, produced a version of the New Testament called the Geneva New Testament. This was in 1557 and three years later it was followed by the whole Bible "translated according to the Ebrou and Greoke" and with an introduction by Calvin himself.

The Genevan translators had the advantage of texts which were not available to the translators of the previous English Bibles. Those included the Codex Bozao, a MS. which had ben discovered by one of the translators,Theodore Beza, and other Latin, Greek and French texts.

In a sense it made a now departure. While the translation up till this had all been largely revisions of Tyndale and Matthew' this broke with the old tradition and introduced a number of new renderings many of which were followed by the futhorized Version. A comparison of the twenty third Psalm in the Great Bible and the Genevan Bible reveals this clearly. They are here placed side by side.

Example number 1. (Old English)

"The Lorde is my shopherde therefore can I lacke nothing.  He shal fade mo in a grene  pasture and leade me forth  besyde ye watirs of coforte,He shal convert my soule and  bring no forth in ye pathes   of righteousnes for his names   sake. Yea though I walke thorowe ye valleye of ye  shadowe of death I wyl fearno eveil for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staffe  comfort ne, Thou shalt prepare a table   before me agaynst then that   trouble me; thou has anoynted my head with oyle and my cup shal be ful. But louingkyndnes and mercy shal folowe me all the dayes of  my lyfe and I wyll dwel in ye  house of ye Lorde for euer."                            

Example number 2. (Old English) 

1. The Lord is my shepheard I shall not want.
2.  Hee maketh mee to rest in greene pasture and leadeth mee by the still waters.
3.  Hee restoreth my soule and leadeth me in the paths of righteousnesse for His Names sake
4.   Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadowe of death I will feare no euill for thou art with me: thy rodde and thy staffo they comfort me.
5.   Thou doest prepare a table before me in the sight of mine adversaries; thou dost anoynt mine head with oyle and ray cup runnoth over.
6.  Doubtlosse kindnesse and mercy shall follow mee all the
dayes of lyfe and I shall remaine a long season in the house of the Lord. 

There were other innovations in this Bible. The type used was not the old black thick type that had been used for the Bible up till then, but Roman type. Also italics were introduced for the first time to indicate words added to make the meaning clear but which were not actually in the original.

Another innovation was the division of the text into verses. Chapters had been used before but not verses. Marks of pronunciation were also placed over the syllables of proper names.
The Genevan Bible was of a handy size, in clear readable type, and with its other aides was popular from the start, It became before long the most popular English version of the Bible that had ever been produced and took its place as the "family Bible" of the courntry, holding its own until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, and oven contesting the ground with the Authorisod Version for some years.

Unfortunately,however,the Geneva Bible included several comments which were controversial and provocative. One such was a comment on Rev,9:3 ("Out of the smoke came forth locusts on the earth") which read as follows-"Locusts are false teachers, heretics and worldly, subtil prelates, with monks, friars, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, doctors, bachelors and masters, which forsake Christ to maintain false doctrine."

Because of comments such as this plus the fact that the Bible was in a sense a party one, being the production of the Reformed Church, the extreme Protestant section of the Reformation, it was never popular with the Bishops and clergy of the Episcopalian Church.

Archbishop Parker, therofore, about 1566, revived an earlier idea of an authorized revision by the English Bishops. The first edition was published in 1568 and a second in 1572. It was unfortunately not so good as its name implied. It was backward looking rather than forward looking and many of the improvements of the Geneva Bible were not included. Because of its authority rather than because of its merits it lasted for about 43 years.

It was never popular like the Geneva Bible neither did it command the respect of scholars. It is important in the chain of revision because the 1572 edition was used as the official basis of the authorized Version. The authorized very often, however,preferred the rendering of the Geneva. Bible to the Bishops'. Some good phrases in the Authorized come from the Bishops' e.g. "Rend your heart and not your garments" (Joel 2:13); "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (1vvtt.3:3); "Less than the least of all saints" (Eph.3:8).

vi. The Rheims and Douay Bible.

One more version must be mentioned. While the church in England had now its Bible in the mother tongue and its Book of Common Prayor,the Roman Catholic services remained exactly as they had always been. While those who still retained allegiance to the old order of things was a minority,it was all the same a minority to be reckoned with.

William Allen,who later became a cardinal, received authority from the Pope to issue an English version of the Bible which should have the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. He put the work into the hands of the Roman Catholic College which was then at Rheims and which later moved to Douai.

It was a College founded to train Englishmen for the Roman Catholic priesthood. The chief translator was one, Gregory Martin, the Professor of Hebrew and Greek at the college. The task was started in 1578, the New Testament was issued in 1582 and the whole Bible in 1610. The translation had been finished long before but the lack of funds apparently made it impossible to publish more than the New Testament any sooner.

The version was a very Latin one. It was felt that it was making many words, particularly ecclesiastical ones, too common to put them into English. Examples of this are "neophyte" for "novice", ''exinanated" for "made Himself of no reputation", "depositum" for "that which is committed", "sancta sanctorun" for "holy of holies", "proposition of loaves" for ''shew bread".

Other examples of Latinization are "ebrieties and commiessations" (Gal,5:21). "odible to God" (Rom, 1:30), "concorporat and comparticipant"(Eph„3:6). Some of it is almost unintelligible without a knowledge of Latin. On the other hand there are some very fine renderings some of which have been taken front the previous English versions, and also some very English words and phrases are used, such as "fellow servants", "kingdom against kingdom", "foreknew', "throttled", "stagger".

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