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.
This exhibit is currently on display in the Centennial Library's Biblical Heritage Gallery. Follow this link to view the virtual exhibit.
Tyndale Bible Leaf
1535 or 1536
Matthews Bible Leaf
Coverdale Bible Leaf