GENEVA BIBLE - AD 1557


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The Geneva Bible, 1557-1560.

Geneva was very favourable for the task of perfecting the English Bible. It was the home, not only of Calvin, but of Beza, the most prominent Biblical scholar then living. Thought was free, and no considerations of state policy or expediency need affect the translators. Since the last revision of the English translation much had been done, both by Beza and by others, to improve and elucidate the Bible text. A company of Frenchmen was already at work in Geneva on the production of a revised translation of the French Bible, which eventually became the standard version for the Protestants of that country. Amid such surroundings a body of English scholars took in hand the task of revising the Great Bible. The first fruits of this activity was the New Testament of W. Whittingham, brother-in-law of Calvin's wife and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, which was printed in 1557 in a convenient small octavo form; but this was soon superseded by a more comprehensive and complete revision of the whole Bible by Whittingham himself and a group of other scholars. Taking for their basis the Great Bible in the Old Testament, and Tyndale's last revision in the New, they revised the whole with much care and scholarship. In the Old Testament the changes introduced are chiefly in the Prophetical Books and the Hagiographa (which had not been translated by Tyndale, but had mainly been taken from the Latin), and consist for the most part of closer approximations to the original Hebrew. In the New Testament they took Beza's Latin translation and commentary as their guide, and by far the greater number of the changes in this part of the Bible are traceable to his influence. The whole Bible was accompanied by explanatory comments in the margin, of a somewhat Calvinistic character, but without any excessive violence or partisanship. The division of chapters into verses, which had been introduced by Whittingham from Stephanus' Grseco-Latin New Testament of 1551, was here for the first time adopted for the whole English Bible. In all previous translations the division had been into paragraphs, as in our present Revised Version. For the Old Testament, the verse division was that made by Rabbi Nathan in 1448, which was first printed in a Venice edition of 1524, and was adopted by Pagninus in a Latin Bible in 1528, with a different division in the New Testament. Stephanus' Latin Bible of 1555 is the first to show the present division in both Testaments, and it was this that was followed in the Geneva Bible.

The copy illustrated dates from around the time of the first printing of the Authorised (King James) version.

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