Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 's , and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany.
Ironically, though he had created what many believe to be the most important invention in history, Gutenberg was a victim of unscrupulous business associates who took control of his business and left him in poverty. Nevertheless, the invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time.
This was essential to the success of the Reformation. The people were so hungry to hear the Word of God in a language they could understand, that within six months there were 20, people packed in the church and at least that many outside trying to get in! Fortunately for Colet, he was a powerful man with friends in high places, so he amazingly managed to avoid execution. In considering the experiences of Linacre and Colet, the great scholar Erasmus was so moved to correct the corrupt Latin Vulgate, that in , with the help of printer John Froben, he published a Greek-Latin Parallel New Testament.
The Latin part was not the corrupt Vulgate, but his own fresh rendering of the text from the more accurate and reliable Greek, which he had managed to collate from a half-dozen partial old Greek New Testament manuscripts he had acquired. This milestone was the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the scripture to be produced in a millennium… and the first ever to come off a printing press.
The Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus further focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original Greek New Testament and original Hebrew Old Testament languages to maintain accuracy… and to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other tongue. William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language.
Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. Luther, who would be exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in that was designed to martyr him, would translate the New Testament into German for the first time from the Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, and publish it in September of Luther also published a German Pentateuch in , and another edition of the German New Testament in William Tyndale wanted to use the same Erasmus text as a source to translate and print the New Testament in English for the first time in history.
Tyndale showed up on Luther's doorstep in Germany in , and by year's end had translated the New Testament into English. Tyndale had been forced to flee England, because of the wide-spread rumor that his English New Testament project was underway, causing inquisitors and bounty hunters to be constantly on Tyndale's trail to arrest him and prevent his project. God foiled their plans, and in the Tyndale New Testament became the first printed edition of the scripture in the English language. Subsequent printings of the Tyndale New Testament in the 's were often elaborately illustrated.
They were burned as soon as the Bishop could confiscate them, but copies trickled through and actually ended up in the bedroom of King Henry VIII. The more the King and Bishop resisted its distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became. The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy, while in fact, they burned them because they could find no errors at all. One risked death by burning if caught in mere possession of Tyndale's forbidden books. Having God's Word available to the public in the language of the common man, English, would have meant disaster to the church.
No longer would they control access to the scriptures. If people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue, the church's income and power would crumble. They could not possibly continue to get away with selling indulgences the forgiveness of sins or selling the release of loved ones from a church-manufactured "Purgatory". People would begin to challenge the church's authority if the church were exposed as frauds and thieves. The contradictions between what God's Word said, and what the priests taught, would open the public's eyes and the truth would set them free from the grip of fear that the institutional church held.
Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would be understood. The need for priests would vanish through the priesthood of all believers.
The veneration of church-canonized Saints and Mary would be called into question. The availability of the scriptures in English was the biggest threat imaginable to the wicked church. Neither side would give up without a fight.
Has the Bible Been Translated Reliably?
Any copies printed prior to are extremely valuable. Tyndale's flight was an inspiration to freedom-loving Englishmen who drew courage from the 11 years that he was hunted. Books and Bibles flowed into England in bales of cotton and sacks of flour. In the end, Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended. Tyndale was incarcerated for days before he was strangled and burned at the stake in But before that could happen….
THE BIBLE: Which Version?
Coverdale finished translating the Old Testament, and in he printed the first complete Bible in the English language , making use of Luther's German text and the Latin as sources. Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, , and is known as the Coverdale Bible. John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible in He printed it under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew" , an assumed name that had actually been used by Tyndale at one time as a considerable part of this Bible was the translation of Tyndale, whose writings had been condemned by the English authorities.
It is a composite made up of Tyndale's Pentateuch and New Testament edition and Coverdale's Bible and some of Roger's own translation of the text. It remains known most commonly as the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. It went through a nearly identical second-edition printing in It became the first English Bible authorized for public use, as it was distributed to every church, chained to the pulpit, and a reader was even provided so that the illiterate could hear the Word of God in plain English.
It would seem that William Tyndale's last wish had been granted Cranmer's Bible, published by Coverdale, was known as the Great Bible due to its great size: a large pulpit folio measuring over 14 inches tall. Seven editions of this version were printed between April of and December of His motives were more sinister… but the Lord sometimes uses the evil intentions of men to bring about His glory. The Pope refused.
His first act was to further defy the wishes of Rome by funding the printing of the scriptures in English… the first legal English Bible… just for spite. The ebb and flow of freedom continued through the 's She was possessed in her quest to return England to the Roman Church. Mary went on to burn reformers at the stake by the hundreds for the "crime" of being a Protestant. This era was known as the Marian Exile, and the refugees fled from England with little hope of ever seeing their home or friends again. In the 's, the Church at Geneva, Switzerland, was very sympathetic to the reformer refugees and was one of only a few safe havens for a desperate people.
Many of them met in Geneva, led by Myles Coverdale and John Foxe publisher of the famous Foxe's Book of Martyrs , which is to this day the only exhaustive reference work on the persecution and martyrdom of Early Christians and Protestants from the first century up to the midth century , as well as Thomas Sampson and William Whittingham. The New Testament was completed in , and the complete Bible was first published in It became known as the Geneva Bible. Due to a passage in Genesis describing the clothing that God fashioned for Adam and Eve upon expulsion from the Garden of Eden as "Breeches" an antiquated form of "Britches" , some people referred to the Geneva Bible as the Breeches Bible.
The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to add numbered verses to the chapters, so that referencing specific passages would be easier. Every chapter was also accompanied by extensive marginal notes and references so thorough and complete that the Geneva Bible is also considered the first English "Study Bible". William Shakespeare quotes hundreds of times in his plays from the Geneva translation of the Bible. Between and at least editions of this Bible were published.
Examination of the King James Bible shows clearly that its translators were influenced much more by the Geneva Bible, than by any other source.
Why the King James Version of the Bible Remains the Best
The Geneva in fact, remained more popular than the King James Version until decades after its original release in ! With the end of Queen Mary's bloody reign, the reformers could safely return to England. The marginal notes, which were vehemently against the institutional Church of the day, did not rest well with the rulers of the day. Another version, one with a less inflammatory tone was desired, and the copies of the Great Bible were getting to be decades old.
In , a revision of the Great Bible known as the Bishop's Bible was introduced. The Geneva may have simply been too much to compete with.
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By the 's , the Roman Catholic Church saw that it had lost the battle to suppress the will of God: that His Holy Word be available in the English language. In , the Church of Rome surrendered their fight for "Latin only" and decided that if the Bible was to be available in English, they would at least have an official Roman Catholic English translation. Because of the dry climate of Egypt, these texts tend to be the oldest.
The Byzantine texts centered in the Byzantine Empire. Since the West church switched to Latin, and Alexandria fell to the Arabs, the Byzantine texts tend to be the most numerous. Neither side of this debate question the inspiration of the apostles and prophets who wrote the Bible.
Some even go as far as to claim that the translators of the KJV were inspired. As such, the real question in this whole debate is: Does the TR hold some special status above all other Greek texts of the NT? The origin of the TR can be traced to a Dutch scholar, Erasmus who in published the first Greek New Testament using the newly invented printing press.
As such, he had to combine the few manuscripts he had in order to make one complete text. Erasmus had only one copy of the book of Revelation, from which the last page was missing. To get around this problem, he translated the missing six verses from the Latin.