<p>The <a href="https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/biblical_heritage_exhibits/"><em>Biblical Heritage Gallery</em></a>, a service of University Archives and Special Collections, is located on the upper level of the Centennial Library at <a href="https://www.cedarville.edu">Cedarville University</a>. It is open during regular <a href="https://cedarville.libcal.com/hours/"> library hours</a>.

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With the coming of the Protestant Reformation, the 15th and 16th centuries were religiously tumultuous in England and Europe with some of the struggle focusing on whether it was appropriate or not for the Scriptures to be made available in the common language for all to read. This conflict was most evident in England where in significant periods of the 16th century under the Roman Catholic Church, it was illegal to translate the Scriptures into the English language from Latin. There were times when it was illegal to read those illegal translations in public–or to own one. There were times when people were martyred for doing both. This exhibit of early printed English Bibles is intended to tell that story and recognize those who gave up comfort, safety, living in their own country, and in some cases their lives, to make sure that everyone would have the privilege of reading the Bible in their own language.

Persecution
Persecution

<h3>Persecution</h3>
There was a time when there was no printed Bible in English. There was a time in England when under the Roman Catholic Church, it was illegal to translate the Scriptures into the common language from Latin. There was a time when it was illegal to read those illegal translations in public–or to own one. There were times when people were martyred for doing both. In England, William Tyndale, who became known as the Father of the English printed Bible, was forced to leave England in 1525 because of the wide-spread rumors about his project to prepare an English New Testament. He ended up in Germany near Martin Luther and in 1525, the first English Language New Testament was printed and copies smuggled back into England. Tyndale was finally captured in Belgium and his last words before he was burned at the stake in 1536 for printing common language Bibles were: “Oh Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” This prayer would be answered just three years later when King Henry VIII finally allowed, and even funded, the printing of an English Bible. But before that, Myles Coverdale and John Rogers (who used the name Thomas Matthew) continued the work of Tyndale and moved the English Bible project forward. Coverdale finished the translation of the Old Testament and in 1535 he printed the first complete English language Bible. John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible in 1537. What is unique about the work of Rogers is that this is the first Bible completely translated from the original Greek and Hebrew sources. Since it was printed using the alias name Thomas Matthew, it is commonly called the Matthew’s Bible. The significance of this Bible is that it set up the basic content, sources, and format of our present English Bible. Rogers was eventually burned at the stake for his translation work.

Challenges
Challenges

Challenges

During the reign of King Henry VIII in England, the religious landscape changed. Since the Catholic Church would not grant him a divorce from his wife, he renounced the church and set up his own, which became known as the Anglican Church or the Church of England. He set himself up as its Pope, and chose to defy the wishes of Rome by funding the printing of the Bible in English. What would become known as the Great Bible, first published in 1539, became the first English Bible authorized for public use. The clergy were encouraged to read this Bible to their people. The new translation was known as the Great Bible because of its size - a large pulpit folio. Unfortunately, Queen Mary, or “Bloody Mary,” came to the throne in the 1550s. She wanted to return England to the Roman Catholic Church, and thus it again became illegal to print English Bibles. Hundreds of Protestants lost their lives and many fled to Europe, a number ending up in Geneva, Switzerland. Those in the Church at Geneva determined to produce an English Bible to educate their families while they continued in exile. The completed translation, first published in 1560, became known as the Geneva Bible. Although never officially adopted in England, the Geneva Bible was the most popular of all English versions, 140 editions being published between 1560 and 1640. Because it was the Bible of the English Protestant Reformation, it was brought to America with the early settlers, including the Pilgrims and the Puritans. There are two important characteristics of this new Bible, one being the use of interpretative notes in the margins, representing the views of John Calvin and the protestant reformers, and the other being the numbering of verses for the first time in each of the chapters, contributing to ease of use of the Scriptures.

Competition
Competition

Competition

With the end of Bloody Mary and the throne now under Elizabeth I, the printing and distribution of the Geneva Bible was now tolerated. The popularity of the Geneva Bible prompted the Church of England to produce a revision of the Great Bible that would replace the Geneva. It was called the Bishops’ Bible because the translation was prepared by a committee of Bishops–it was of very uneven quality because of inadequate supervision. The first edition was printed in 1568. This translation never gained a foothold among the people, and the Geneva Bible was a much better translation. By the 1580s, the Roman Catholic Church had lost the battle to suppress English language translations of the Bible. Thus, the Church of Rome determined that they would at least have their own official Roman Catholic English translation. Using the Latin Vulgate as a source text, the Rheims New Testament was published in 1582. Because it was translated at the Roman Catholic College in the city of Rheims, France, it was known by that name. Since the Church of England was dominant at this time in England, just as protestants were exiled to Europe from England during the reign of Queen “Bloody” Mary, so were Roman Catholics–thus the work was done in France. The Roman Catholic English Old Testament, called the Duoai because it was translated at the Roman Catholic College in the city of Douai, France, was completed in 1609. The combined project is now commonly referred to as the Rheims-Douai Version.

King James Bible: The Project
King James Bible: The Project

King James Bible: The Project

The King James Version of the Bible was not the first English language version of the Bible, but the culmination of extensive translation activity (some illegal!) in the 1500s. This began with the work of William Tyndale and the printing of the first English New Testament in 1526. Following a tumultuous 75 years, King James I came to power in 1603, unifying a divided England. Three main English Bibles were in use: the Bishops’ Bible (Church of England), the Geneva Bible (Protestants), and the Rheims New Testament (Roman Catholic Church), causing much confusion and dissension. To settle disagreements over reforms in the Church of England and respond to pressure from the Puritans, King James in 1604 approved a new translation of the Bible, primarily because he knew that it would reinforce his image as a political and spiritual leader. He appointed six committees, totaling 54 scholars, to prepare the new translation, using previous English Bible translation work, and using the best Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts and manuscripts. The completed King James Version was first published in 1611. These first editions were large pulpit Bibles (folios) to be read in churches, but were followed within a year by the printing of smaller versions (quartos) for personal use. Though slow to be adopted in the English-speaking world and to replace the more popular Geneva Bible, from the mid-1600s to the late 20th century, the King James Version was THE Bible of the English-speaking church. Though many recent modern translations have gained in popularity at the expense of the KJV, it remains the standard of measure for all new translations, and it still stands as the outstanding masterpiece of the English language.