The Puritan's Geneva Bible

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C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I came across this quippet today:

The 1560-1599 GENEVA BIBLE is the Bible with marginal notes heavily influenced by John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, and many other leaders of the Reformation. The Geneva Bible was the predominant English translation during the period in which the English and Scottish Reformations gained great impetus. Iain Murray, in his classic work on revival and the interpretation of prophecy, The Puritan Hope, notes on page 7, "... the two groups in England and Scotland developed along parallel lines, like two streams originating at one fountain. The foun­tain was not so much Geneva, as the Bible which the exiles newly translated and issued with many marginal notes... it was read in every Presbyterian and Puritan home in both realms."

[I love that - it was the Bible of the Puritans, and the notes themsevles are a wealth of knoweldge.]

This time also saw the rise of the forces for covenanted Reformation against the corruptions and abuses of prelacy and the royal factions. Darkness was dispelled as people read this Bible and saw for themselves that there is no authority above the Holy Scriptures. Discerning this truth, it became apparent that the civil tyran­ny and the heretical superstitions imposed by Pope, King or Bishops were to be resisted, unto death if necessary (i.e. because these innovations in church and state were opposed to the Kingship of Christ and the law of His kingdom, as set forth in Holy Scripture).

Furthermore, this is the Bible that led to the King James edition. James did not want the Calvinistic marginal notes of the Geneva Bible getting in to the hands of the people, because he considered them "seditious", hence, he authorized the King James Version as a substitute.

Although most people today have never heard of the Geneva Bible, it was so popular from 1560 to 1644 (up until the time of the Westminster Assembly's meetings) that it went through 140+ printings in that period alone.

[Can you imagine that many hand-created editions on a ancient printing press?]

The reason for its popularity, among the faithful, was obvious: the marginal notes promoted a full-orbed, nation changing Calvinism! Taking a modern work, such as the Scofield Reference Bible, and comparing the notes to those of the Geneva Bible, it will readily be seen that the religion of the Protestant Reformation bears no resem­blance to much of the nonsense being promoted today!

[Personally, my favorite deovtional reading is from the Geneva Bible.]
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I was looking for the leather. I emailed them a few months back and they didn't have plains at that time to produce more genuine leather editions.
 

jogri17

Puritan Board Junior
I was one of the few to buy one when it came out at the beginning and preordered leather ones. I was 18 when I did. One of the smartest investments of my life. I didn't use it at the time, but I appreciate it now.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting. So while King James may have had bias against the Geneva for its notes which were (as noted in the link) actually no different in the areas he found offensive to his prerogatives than the Bishops Bible, the AV was essentially the idea of the Puritan John Rainolds, and for the express desire of a more accurate translation of the Greek and Hebrew into the English language.
In this broad sense it was the Bible of the Puritans' opponents also. See, for example, Christopher Anderson's Annals of the English Bible, vol. 2, p. 338, available here:
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Of course the Long Parliament that commissioned the Westminster Assembly also commissioned the creation of an updated set of Puritan notes to essentially replace those of the Geneva Bible. They were intended to accompany the then relatively new AV, and eventually took form in what we now call the Westminster Annotations. Due to the extensiveness of the notes, however, they were never actually bound with any Bible (that I know of). Instead they were released in two large, separate volumes. About half of the authors were members of the Assembly (Featley, Gough, Gataker, Ley, Taylor, et al), though they borrowed extensively from the Dutch Annotations, which had been commissioned by the Synod of Dort.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Interesting. So while King James may have had bias against the Geneva for its notes which were (as noted in the link) actually no different in the areas he found offensive to his prerogatives than the Bishops Bible, the AV was essentially the idea of the Puritan John Rainolds, and for the express desire of a more accurate translation of the Greek and Hebrew into the English language.

Yes. It's also interesting to note that sermons being preached before King James after 1611 are regularly making use of the Geneva version. The idea of a "version debate" doesn't fit in with the historical details.
 
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