6th June 2011

Happy Anniversary, KJV!

The sixth of a series

“And many people shall goe & say; Come yee and let vs go vp to the mountaine of the Lord, to the house of the God of Iacob, and he will teach vs of his ways, and we will walke in his pathes: for out of Zion shall goe forth the laws, and the word of the Lord from Ierusalem.”
Isaiah 2:3 (original KJV of 1611)

Myles Coverdale continued in his work of Bible translating and preaching the gospel for over thirty years, sometimes tolerated by the authorities, sometimes fleeing to the continent to escape them. In addition to Henry’s Bible (discussed last time), he went on to produce the Coverdale Bible (1535), he had input into Matthew’s Bible (1537) and input into The Great Bible (1539).

Not so much a translator of distinction, he was more an editor or compiler. Coverdale included the best from the previous translations. It isn’t sure when, but he appears to have returned to England enjoying the favour and protection of Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s first minister of state, who asked him to undertake the final editing and proof reading of this new Bible.

The Great Bible was in print by 1538 in Paris, until the authorities intervened, and Coverdale and his colleagues in the work there fled yet again, this time back to London, leaving all the sheets printed so far for the flames of the Inquisition. Printing began all over again in London. It was available from April 1539.

Henry VIII issued a proclamation in 1541 that a copy of this Bible was to be placed in every Parish Church to the intent that all his subjects might read it. One account has a Bishop protesting that the reading aloud of scripture was hindering his carrying out of his offices. In Old St Paul’s six copies were chained to six pillars, and readers were provided for those who could not read. It seems that great numbers came to hear or to read the word of God; many seeing this as a fulfilment of the scripture quoted above.

What a change from the days when the Bible was available only in Latin and only to clergy. Now the word of God was available for all—but not for long.

Most merciful Father, we marvel at how circumstances and the motives of men can influence how your work continues, and how it achieves the success you desire. Help us to appreciate that the same holds true in today’s more secular world: you are in charge, your Word will stand, your will
will be done.  In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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