Wycliffe's Bible

The Centuries Between

Pre-King James Bibles Are Made


The Waldenses, in the Italian Alps of northern Italy, maintained a pure faith for centuries. According to the following statement, those believers in the Piedmont valleys held to the pure Apostolic faith to as far back as the 4th century A.D. and earlier. 

"The method which Allix has pursued, in his History of the Churches of Piedmont [the Waldensian churches], is to show that in the ecclesiastical history of every century, from the fourth century, which he considers a period early enough for the inquirer after apostolical purity of doctrine, there are clear proofs that doctrines, unlike those which the Romish Church holds, and conformable to the belief of the Waldensian and Reformed churches, were maintained by believers of the north of Italy down to the period, when the Waldenses first came into notice.

"Consequently, the opinions of the Waldenses were not new to Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries, and there is nothing improbable in the tradition that the Subalpine Church persevered in its integrity in an uninterrupted course from the first preaching of the Gospel in the valleys."Gilly, Waldensian Researches, p. 113.

It was because the Waldenses had the Word of God in their own language, that they were able to maintain their faith through all those centuries. They first had the Italia manuscripts which, as we earlier learned, were faithful to the Majority Text. Later they prepared the Waldensian Bible.

The Waldensians, also known as the Vaudois [pronounced "VAW-doh"], were a distinct group of earnest Christians with their own Bibles, as early as the early part of the 4th century, in the time of Constantine.

"There are modern writers who attempt to fix the beginning of the Waldenses from Peter Waldo, who began his work about 1175. This is a mistake. The historical name of this people as properly derived from the valleys where they lived, is Vaudois. Their enemies, however, ever sought to date their origin from Waldo . .

"There remains to us in the ancient Waldensian language, The Noble Lesson (La Nobla Leycon), written about the year A.D. 1100, which assigns the first opposition of the Waldenses to the Church of Rome to the days of Constantine the Great, when Sylvester was pope . . Thus, when Christianity, emerging from the long persecutions of pagan Rome, was raised to imperial favor by the Emperor Constantine, the Italic church in northern Italy, later [called] the Waldenses, is seen standing in opposition to papal Rome.

"Their Bible was of the family of the renowned Italia. It was that translation into Latin which represents the Received Text. Its very name, Italia, is derived from the Italic district, the regions of the Vaudois.

"Of the purity and reliability of this version, 

Augustine, speaking of different Latin Bibles (about A.D. 400) said:

" Now among translations themselves the Italian (Italia) is to be preferred to the others, for it keeps closer to the words without prejudice to clearness of expression.

"The old Waldensian liturgy which they used in their services down through the centuries contained texts of Scripture of the ancient version called the Italick. "Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 34-35.

The Waldensians existed from the earliest times in the territory now known as northern Italy. But we are told that, when intense persecution came to them, some apostatized, others moved farther into the Italian Alps, while still others carried the faith to foreign lands.

"But of those who resisted the encroachments of the papal power, the Waldenses stood foremost. In the very land where popery had fixed its seat, there its falsehood and corruption were most steadfastly resisted. For centuries the churches of Piedmont maintained their independence; but the time came at last when Rome insisted upon their submission. After ineffectual struggles against her tyranny, the leaders of these churches reluctantly acknowledged the supremacy of the power to which the whole world seemed to pay homage.

"There were some, however, who refused to yield to the authority of pope or prelate. They were determined to maintain their allegiance to God and to preserve the purity and simplicity of their faith. A separation took place. Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew; some, forsaking their native Alps, raised the banner of truth in foreign lands; others retreated to the secluded glens and rocky fastnesses of the mountains, and there preserved their freedom to worship God." Great Controversy, 64.

It was the Waldensians which were the true church, not the proud church down in Rome.

"But those humble peasants, in their obscure retreats, shut away from the world, and bound to daily toil among their flocks and their vineyards, had not by themselves arrived at the truth in opposition to the dogmas and heresies of the apostate church. Theirs was not a faith newly received. Their religious belief was their inheritance from their fathers. They contended for the faith of the apostolic church, the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 3. The church in the wilderness, and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the worlds great capital, was the true church of Christ, the guardian of the treasures of truth which God has committed to His people to be given to the world."Great Controversy, 64.

It was because they had the pure text of the Bible in their own language, that they were especially hated by Rome, for only the clear teachings of Scripture could unveil the hideous deceptions of the papacy.

"The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions.

"While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth. Through ages of darkness and apostasy there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of opposition they maintained their faith. Though gashed by the Savoyard spear, and scorched by the Romish fagot, they stood unflinchingly for Gods Word and His honor."Great Controversy, p. 65.

Notice that they had the Bible "hundreds of years" before the Reformation." Peter Waldo did not start the Vaudois, as though they originated with him. He was a wealthy Christian businessman in Lyons, France.

What Bible was this that they had? What was the Waldensian Bible? It was the Italia, the ancient translation their forefathers had made from manuscripts very close in time to the originals. How powerful was that Bible? So powerful that, in spite of continued persecution, they kept the true faith for centuries.

The secret of success was the fact that the Bible was the primary textbook in their schools. Parents maintained home schools and diligently taught the pure Word to their children.

"Pure, simple, and fervent was the piety of these followers of Christ. The principles of truth they valued above houses and lands, friends, kindred, even life itself. These principles they earnestly sought to impress upon the hearts of the young.

"From earliest childhood the youth were instructed in the Scriptures and taught to regard sacredly the claims of the law of God. Copies of the Bible were rare; therefore its precious words were committed to memory. Many were able to repeat large portions of both the Old and the New Testaments. Thoughts of God were associated alike with the sublime scenery of nature and with the humble blessings of daily life. Little children learned to look with gratitude to God as the giver of every favor and every comfort."Great Controversy, p. 67.

Another important strength of this people was that their pastors only preached from the Inspired Writings. They did not refer to the works of uninspired commentaries and philosophers.

"The Vaudois churches, in their purity and simplicity, resembled the church of apostolic times. Rejecting the supremacy of the pope and prelate, they held the Bible as the only supreme, infallible authority. Their pastors, unlike the lordly priests of Rome, followed the example of their Master, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

"They fed the flock of God, leading them to the green pastures and living fountains of His holy Word. Far from the monuments of human pomp and pride the people assembled, not in magnificent churches or grand cathedrals, but beneath the shadow of the mountains, in the Alpine valleys, or, in time of danger, in some rocky stronghold, to listen to the words of truth from the servants of Christ."Great Controversy, p. 68.

In addition to their parents, godly pastors, with the Word of God in their hands, taught the youth.

"From their pastors the youth received instruction. While attention was given to branches of general learning, the Bible was made the chief study. The Gospels of Matthew and John were committed to memory, with many of the Epistles. They were employed also in copying the Scriptures. Some manuscripts contained the whole Bible, others only brief selections, to which some simple explanations of the text were added by those who were able to expound the Scriptures. Thus were brought forth the treasures of truth so long concealed by those who sought to exalt themselves above God."Great Controversy, pp. 68-69.

In addition to their duties in the home, on the farm, and in the orchard, these godly young people also worked at making copies of the precious Bible manuscripts.

"By patient, untiring labor, sometimes in the deep, dark caverns of the earth, by the light of torches, the Sacred Scriptures were written out, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. Thus the work went on, the revealed will of God shining out like pure gold; how much brighter, clearer, and more powerful because of the trials undergone for its sake only those could realize who were engaged in the work. Angels from heaven surrounded these faithful workers."Great Controversy, p. 69.

This preservation of the pure manuscripts in the Italia had gone on for centuries. Because the people were conscientious and dedicated, the angels could guide their hands so they were not likely to make copyist errors.

The agents of Satan were enraged. They wanted to corrupt and destroy the Word of God; yet here was a people who were preserving it in its pure form!

"Satan had urged on the papal priests and prelates to bury the Word of truth beneath the rubbish of error, heresy, and superstition; but in a most wonderful manner it was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness. It bore not the stamp of man, but the impress of God. Men have been unwearied in their efforts to obscure the plain, simple meaning of the Scriptures, and to make them contradict their own testimony; but like the ark upon the billowy deep, the Word of God outrides the storms that threaten it with destruction." Great Controversy, p. 69.

These divinely inspired statements are 

highly significant. Liberals today declare that only the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, and related manuscripts, have the original text. But it is clear that the Waldenses had it!

"The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution."Great Controversy, p. 65.

"Satan had urged on the papal priests and prelates to bury the Word of truth beneath the rubbish of error, heresy, and superstition; but in a most wonderful manner it was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness. It bore not the stamp of man, but the impress of God."Great Controversy, p. 69.

As the youth became older, they were sent out as missionaries, secretly carrying portions of Scripture with them to be shared with others. This was the basis of their evangelistic work. (See Great Controversy, pp. 70-76.)

The evangelistic work of laymen today should also be based on sharing the Inspired Writings: the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy with so many out there who know them not.

As in all ages, those who have the Word of God and who share the Word of God are persecuted.

"The Waldensian missionaries were invading the kingdom of Satan, and the powers of darkness aroused to greater vigilance. Every effort to advance the truth was watched by the prince of evil, and he excited the fears of his agents. The papal leaders saw a portent of danger to their cause from the labors of these humble itinerants. If the light of truth were allowed to shine unobstructed, it would sweep away the heavy clouds of error that enveloped the people. It would direct the minds of men to God alone and would eventually destroy the supremacy of Rome.

"The very existence of this people, holding the faith of the ancient church, was a constant testimony to Rome's apostasy, and therefore excited the most bitter hatred and persecution. Their refusal to surrender the Scriptures was also an offense that Rome could not tolerate. She determined to blot them from the earth. Now began the most terrible crusades against Gods people in their mountain homes. Inquisitors were put upon their track, and the scene of innocent Abel falling before the murderous Cain was often repeated."Great Controversy, p. 76.

Why is it that those who claim to be Gods "remnant" in these last days are not being persecuted? The answer is obvious: They are not earnestly, urgently sharing the Word, and its end-time teachings.

"There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, 2 Timothy 3:12. Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the worlds standard and therefore awakens no opposition.

"The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the Word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world.

"Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled."Great Controversy, p. 48.

Leger, a noble scholar of Waldensian ancestry tried to save their records in the terrible massacres of 1655. His book, General History of the Evangelical Churches of the Vaudois Churches, published in French in 1669, revealed their history.

It was the Waldensian faith and their Bible which laid the foundation for the later Protestant French Bible. Leger said that Olivetans French Bible of 1537 was "entire and pure," because its ancestry was not the papal productions, but the Waldensian Bible.

"I say pure because all the ancient exemplars, which formerly were found among the papists, were full of falsifications, which caused Beza to say in his book on Illustrious Men, in the chapter on the Vaudois [the French word for Waldenses], that one must confess it was by means of the Vaudois of the Valleys that France today has the Bible in her own language.

"This godly man, Olivetan, in the preface of his Bible, recognizes with thanks to God, that since the time of the apostles, or their immediate successors, the torch of the Gospel has been lit among the Vaudois, and has never since been extinguished."Leger, General History of the Vaudois Churches, p. 165.


John Wycliffe (1330-1384) is generally considered as the first English Reformer. He gave to England its first Bible.

John Wycliffe (also written Wycliff) was born in Yorkshire, about 1330, and completed his education at Oxford. In 1361, he resigned his position as Master of Balliol College and settled at Fillingham, Lincolnshire; so he could write tracts and pamphlets about current religious problems.

From 1366 to 1378, he wrote semi-political and anti-papal papers. From 1378 to 1384, he carried on open war against Rome. It was during this latter period that he translated the Bible.

Wycliffe's translation was made from the Latin Vulgate and, for that reason, contained significant errors.

"Wycliffe's Bible had been translated from the Latin text, which contained many errors."Great Controversy, p. 245.

It should be kept in mind that Wycliffe only had access to the Latin Vulgate; he did not have a copy of the Italia (the Waldensian Bible). It is for this reason that we are told that the Latin text he worked from had "many errors."

Wycliffe did the best he could; he did not have any other translation sources available to him. The Greek texts, which Tyndale and later English translators used, had not yet been collated from the Majority Text manuscripts. Most ancient Bible manuscripts were hidden away in libraries; and Wycliffe was not in contact with the Waldenses.

"The time had come for the Scriptures to be translated and given to the people of different lands in their native tongue. The world had passed its midnight. The hours of darkness were wearing away, and in many lands appeared tokens of the coming dawn.

"In the fourteenth century arose in England the morning star of the Reformation. John Wycliffe was the herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. He was the progenitor of the Puritans; his era was an oasis in the desert . .

"The greatest work of his life was the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. This was the first complete English translation ever made. The art of printing being still unknown, it was only by slow and wearisome labor that copies of the work could be multiplied; yet this was done, and the people of England received the Bible in their own tongue. Thus the light of Gods Word began to shed its bright beams athwart the darkness. A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation."Story of Redemption, pp. 336-337.

"Before the Reformation there were at times but very few copies of the Bible in existence, but God had not suffered His Word to be wholly destroyed. Its truths were not to be forever hidden. He could as easily unchain the words of life as He could open prison doors and unbolt iron gates to set His servants free.

"In the different countries of Europe men were moved by the Spirit of God to search for the truth as for hid treasures. Providentially guided to the Holy Scriptures, they studied the sacred pages with intense interest. They were willing to accept the light at any cost to themselves. Though they did not see all things clearly, they were enabled to perceive many long-buried truths. As Heaven-sent messengers they went forth, rending asunder the chains of error and superstition, and calling upon those who had been so long enslaved, to arise and assert their liberty.

"Except among the Waldenses, the Word of God had for ages been locked up in languages known only to the learned; but the time had come for the Scriptures to be translated and given to the people of different lands in their native tongue. The world had passed its midnight. The hours of darkness were wearing away, and in many lands appeared tokens of the coming dawn.

"In the fourteenth century arose in England the morning star of the Reformation. John Wycliffe was the herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. The great protest against Rome which it was permitted him to utter was never to be silenced. That protest opened the struggle which was to result in the emancipation of individuals, of churches, and of nations . .

"While Wycliffe was still at college, he entered upon the study of the Scriptures. In those early times, when the Bible existed only in the ancient languages, scholars were enabled to find their way to the fountain of truth, which was closed to the uneducated classes. Thus already the way had been prepared for Wycliffe's future work as a Reformer. Men of learning had studied the Word of God and had found the great truth of His free grace there revealed. In their teachings they had spread a knowledge of this truth, and had led others to turn to the living oracles.

"When Wycliffe's attention was directed to the Scriptures, he entered upon their investigation with the same thoroughness which had enabled him to master the learning of the schools. Heretofore he had felt a great want, which neither his scholastic studies nor the teaching of the church could satisfy. In the Word of God he found that which he had before sought in vain. Here he saw the plan of salvation revealed and Christ set forth as the only advocate for man. He gave himself to the service of Christ and determined to proclaim the truths he had discovered." Great Controversy, pp. 79-81.

When he was old and broken in health, Wycliffe finally entered upon the translation of the Bible into English.

"The greatest work of his life was to be the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. In a work, On the Truth and Meaning of Scripture, he expressed his intention to translate the Bible, so that every man in England might read, in the language in which he was born, the wonderful works of God.

"But suddenly his labors were stopped. Though not yet sixty years of age, unceasing toil, study, and the assaults of his enemies had told upon his strength and made him prematurely old. He was attacked by a dangerous illness. The tidings brought great joy to the friars. Now they thought he would bitterly repent the evil he had done the church, and they hurried to his chamber to listen to his confession. Representatives from the four religious orders, with four civil officers, gathered about the supposed dying man. You have death on your lips, they said; be touched by your faults, and retract in our presence all that you have said to our injury. The Reformer listened in silence; then he bade his attendant raise him in his bed, and, gazing steadily upon them as they stood waiting for his recantation, he said, in the firm, strong voice which had so often caused them to tremble: I shall not die, but live; and again declare the evil deeds of the friars." J.H. Merle DAubigne, b. 17, ch. 7.

Astonished and abashed, the monks hurried from the room.

"Wycliffe's words were fulfilled. He lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome, to give them the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. There were many and great obstacles to surmount in the accomplishment of this work. Wycliffe was weighed down with infirmities; he knew that only a few years for labor remained for him; he saw the opposition which he must meet; but, encouraged by the promises of Gods Word, he went forward nothing daunted. In the full vigor of his intellectual powers, rich in experience, he had been preserved and prepared by Gods special providence for this, the greatest of his labors. While all Christendom was filled with tumult, the Reformer in his rectory at Lutterworth, unheeding the storm that raged without, applied himself to his chosen task." Great Controversy, p. 88.

In the year 1384, John Wycliffe completed his translation of the Bible.

"At last the work was completed, the first English translation of the Bible ever made. The Word of God was opened to England. The Reformer feared not now the prison or the stake. He had placed in the hands of the English people a light which should never be extinguished. In giving the Bible to his countrymen, he had done more to break the fetters of ignorance and vice, more to liberate and elevate his country, than was ever achieved by the most brilliant victories on fields of battle." Great Controversy, p. 88.

But it was with great difficulty that copies were made of Wycliffe's Bible.

"The art of printing being still unknown, it was only by slow and wearisome labor that copies of the Bible could be multiplied. So great was the interest to obtain the book, that many willingly engaged in the work of transcribing it, but it was with difficulty that the copyists could supply the demand. Some of the more wealthy purchasers desired the whole Bible. Others bought only a portion. In many cases, several families united to purchase a copy. Thus Wycliffe's Bible soon found its way to the homes of the people.

"The appeal to men's reason aroused them from their passive submission to papal dogmas. Wycliffe now taught the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism, salvation through faith in Christ, and the sole infallibility of the Scriptures. The preachers whom he had sent out circulated the Bible, together with the Reformers writings, and with such success that the new faith was accepted by nearly one half of the people of England." Great Controversy, pp. 88-89.

This was the one weapon, against Rome, which the authorities feared most.

"The appearance of the Scriptures brought dismay to the authorities of the church. They had now to meet an agency more powerful than Wycliffe, an agency against which their weapons would avail little. There was at this time no law in England prohibiting the Bible, for it had never before been published in the language of the people. Such laws were afterward enacted and rigorously enforced. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the efforts of the priests, there was for a season opportunity for the circulation of the Word of God." Great Controversy, p. 89.

The common folk labored diligently to make and spread copies of portions of Wycliffe's Bible. Are we as diligent today to share the Inspired Writings?

"So scanty was the supply of Bibles at this time, that but few of those who craved its teaching could hope to possess the sacred volume. But this lack was partly made up by the earnestness of those whose interest was awakened in the Bible. If only a single copy was owned in a neighborhood, these hard-working laborers and artisans would be found together, after a weary day of toil, reading in turn, and listening to the Words of life; and so sweet was the refreshment to their spirits, that sometimes the morning light surprised them with its call to a new day of labor, before they thought of sleep." John Foxe, Foxes Martyrs of the World, p. 346.

Here is John 17:13 in Wycliffe's Bible:

"These thingis Jesus spak; and whanne he hadde cast up hise eyen into thi hevene, he seide: Fadir, the our cometh; clarifie thi sone, that thi sone clarifie thee; as thou hast yovun to hym power on ech fleische, that al thing that thou hast yovun to hym, he yyve to hem everlastynge lilf. And this is everlastynge lilf, that thei knowe thee very God aloone and whom thou hast sent, Jesu Christ." Quoted in Dowley, Handbook to Christianity, p. 339.

Understandably, the Catholic reaction was sheer panic! One priest lamented, "The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity." Henry de Knyghton nearly wept over the great tragedy:

"This Master John Wiclif hath translated the Gospel out of Latin into English, which Christ had intrusted with the clergy and doctors of the Church, that they might minister it to the laity and weaker sort, according to the state of the times and wants of men. So that, by this means, the Gospel is made vulgar and made more open to the laity . . than it used to be to the most learned of the clergy and those of the best understanding! And what was before the chief gift of the clergy and doctors of the Church, is made for ever common to the laity." Quoted in McClure, Translators Revived, pp. 15-16.

They were elated when "wicked Wycliffe" died! Walsingham, a leading British prelate, exclaimed:

"On the feast of the passion of St. Thomas of Canterbury, John Wicklif, that organ of the devil, that enemy of the Church, that author of confusion to the common people, that idol of heretics, that image of hypocrites, that restorer of schism, that storehouse of lies, that sink of flattery, being struck by the horrible judgment of God, was struck with palsy, and continued to live in that condition until St. Sylvester's Day, on which he breathed out his malicious spirit into the abodes of darkness."Watkinson, John Wicklif, pp. 195-196.

Edicts were immediately issued, banning the Wycliffe Bibles. The godly laymen, which Wycliffe had trained to go out and preach (called "Lollards"), were hunted to the death. Local prosecutors records tell of groups meeting here and thereto read "in a great book of heresy all in one night certain chapters of the evangelists in English" (J.R. Green, English People, p. 357).

"The Lollards were tracked to the lonely, unfrequented places where they met, often under shadow of night, to worship God. Neighbor was made to spy upon neighbor; husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, were beguiled or forced to bear witness against each other. The Lollards prison again echoed with the clanking of chains; the rack and the stake once more claimed their victims."Foxe, Christian Martyrs, p. 345.


But, a little over a century after Wycliffe's Bible was completed, the champions of Rome really had something to wring their hands over. A Greek Text, based on manuscripts comprising the Majority Text, had been produced. The situation was getting serious!

"They have found a language called Greek, at which we must be careful to be on our guard. It is the mother of all heresies. In the hands of many persons I see a book, which they call the New Testament. It is a book full of thorns and poison. As for Hebrew, my brethren, it is certain that those who learn it will sooner or later turn Jews!" Early 16th-century Catholic writer, quoted in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 6, p. 722.

Until the Greek texts were prepared, the only way to translated the Bible into the language of the people was to translate it from the Italia (the Waldensian Bible) or from Jerome's Latin Vulgate.

Translations were not made from the Greek texts, since they were hidden away in libraries. But, at the beginning of the Reformation, Greek texts began to be prepared. Each one was a collation of a number of Greek manuscripts. 

Since the Majority Text was 90%-95% of the manuscripts, it was not difficult to develop an excellent Greek text.

Because no single Greek manuscript contained all of the New Testament, it was necessary to gather together a sizeable quantity of them; and, from them, prepare what became known as a "Greek Text."

The first scholar to prepare a Greek Text was Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536). It is a tragedy that he timidly refused to unite with the Reformers, since it was His Greek Text which laid the foundations of the Reformation throughout Europe. This is because all Reformation translations (with the exception of the French translation, based on the Waldensian Bible) were translated from Erasmus Greek Text.

Erasmus Greek text was published in 1516, just one year before Martin Luther pounded nails into the thesis on the church door at Wittenberg and began the Reformation.

This was also the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. As we will learn below, the third of his five editions became the standard for the follow-up Greek texts of Stephenus, Beza, and Elzevir.

The Greek text of Robert Stephenus (also called "Stephen," 1550) came next. After that, Beza (1598) and Elzevir (1624) produced theirs. All three were dedicated Protestant scholars. All their Greek texts were based on the Majority Text, and were decidedly anti-Sinaiticus and Vaticanus.

The third edition of Erasmus Greek text became the basis of the Stephenus text. It is considered the standard and was called the "Textus Receptus." Because it made use of the greatest number of Majority Text Greek manuscripts, it was considered the most accurate of the Greek Texts.

This was the Greek text used to translate the King James Bible (1611).

The King James Bible was the last truly Protestant Bible produced in England. After that came the English Revised Version of 1881, which was based on the Westcott-Hort critical Greek Text.

Although they rejected his Greek Text, modern scholars recognize that it was a very good one.

"The Unitarian scholar who sat on the English New Testament Revision Committee [in 1890] acknowledged that the Greek New Testament of Erasmus (1516) is as good as any (G.V. Smith, Nineteenth Century, July 1881)."Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, p. 73.

A.T. Robertson is considered the leading Greek scholar of the first half of the 20th century. He wrote this:

"It should be stated at once that the Textus Receptus is not a bad text. It is not an heretical text. It is substantially correct." A.T. Robertson, Introduction, The Greek Text of the New Testament, p. 21.

"Erasmus seemed to feel that he had published the original Greek New Testament as it was written . . The third edition of Erasmus (1522) became the foundation of the Textus Receptus for Britain since it was followed by Stephenus. There were 3,300 copies of the first two editions of the Greek New Testament of Erasmus circulated. His work became the standard for three hundred years." Op. cit., pp. 18-19.

The Erasmus Greek Text which formed the basis of every English Bible translation from Tyndale to the King James was greatly superior to the Westcott-Hort Text, which was based on just two Greek manuscripts.

Because it was essentially identical to "the bulk of the cursive manuscripts" (i.e., the Majority Text), and because those manuscripts reached all the way back to earliest times, Erasmus text was an excellent one.

Two of the members of the committee which produced the English Revised Version (1881, 1885), wrote a booklet in which they mentioned that Erasmus text was outstanding:

"The manuscripts which Erasmus used, differ, for the most part, only in small and insignificant details from the bulk of the cursive manuscripts, that is to say, the manuscripts which are written in running hand and not in capital or (as they are technically called) uncial letters. The general character of their text is the same.

"By this observation, the pedigree of the Received Text is carried up beyond the individual manuscripts used by Erasmus to a great body of manuscripts of which the earliest are assigned to the ninth century."Two Members of the New Testament Company on the Revisers and the Greek Text, pp. 11-12.

Then, after quoting Hort about the good quality of the Erasmus text, they made this comment:

"This remarkable statement completes the pedigree of the Received Text. That pedigree [ancestry] stretches back to a remote antiquity. The first ancestor of the Received Text was, as Dr. Hort is careful to remind us, at least contemporary with the oldest of our extant manuscripts, if not older than any one of them."Ibid.

The Majority Text in Greek, having through Erasmus reassumed its ascendancy in the west of Europe as it had maintained it in the east in earlier centuries, bequeathed its indispensable heritage to all but one of the Reformation Bible translations, including those in English.


According to Wilkinson, the Waldenses, through their Bible, helped get the Reformation started!

"Four Bibles produced under Waldensian influence touched the history of Calvin: namely, a Greek [Text], a Waldensian vernacular, a French, and an Italian.

"Calvin himself was led to his great work by Olivetan, a Waldensian. Thus was the Reformation brought to Calvin, that brilliant student of the Paris University.

"Farel, also a Waldensian, besought him to come to Geneva and open up a work there . . According to Leger, Calvin recognized a relationship to the Calvins of the valley of St. Martin, one of the Waldensian Valleys.

"Finally, persecution at Paris and the solicitation of Farel caused Calvin to settle at Geneva, where, with Beza, he brought out an edition of the Textus Receptus [Received Text] . . Of Beza, Dr. Edgar says that he astonished and confounded the world with the Greek manuscripts he unearthed. This later edition of the Received Text is in reality a Greek New Testament brought out under Waldensian influence.

"Unquestionably, the leaders of the Reformation, German, French, and English, were convinced that the Received Text was the genuine New Testament, not only by its own irresistible history and internal evidence, but also because it matched the Received Text which in Waldensian form came down from the days of the apostles.

"The other three Bibles of Waldensian connection were due to three men who were at Geneva with Calvin, or, when he died, with Beza, his successor, namely, Olivetan, Leger, and Diodati. How readily the two streams of descent of the Received Textthrough the Greek East and the Waldensian Westran together, is illustrated by the meeting of the Olivetan Bible [based on the Waldensian Italia] and the Received Text [based on the Greek manuscripts]."Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 37-38.

Both the Waldensian Bible (from the Italia) and the great majority of Greek manuscripts were from the same source. We call it the Majority Text.

Before turning our attention to the English translations, we will briefly overview four European translations of the Bible:

The Bohemian Bible was an early translation.

"The Gospel had been planted in Bohemia as early as the ninth century. The Bible was translated, and public worship was conducted, in the language of the people. But as the power of the pope increased, so the Word of God was obscured. Gregory VII, who had taken it upon himself to humble the pride of kings, was no less intent upon enslaving the people, and accordingly a bull was issued forbidding public worship to be conducted in the Bohemian tongue. The pope declared that it was pleasing to the Omnipotent that His worship should be celebrated in an unknown language, and that many evils and heresies had arisen from not observing this rule (Wylie, b. 3, ch. 1).

"Thus Rome decreed that the light of Gods Word should be extinguished and the people should be shut up in darkness. But Heaven had provided other agencies for the preservation of the church. Many of the Waldenses and Albigenses, driven by persecution from their homes in France and Italy, came to Bohemia. Though they dared not teach openly, they labored zealously in secret. Thus the true faith was preserved from century to century." Great Controversy, p. 97.

Persecution immediately began, as soon as the Bible was translated into French.

"The bishop of Meaux labored zealously in his own diocese to instruct both the clergy and the people. Ignorant and immoral priests were removed, and, so far as possible, replaced by men of learning and piety. The bishop greatly desired that his people might have access to the Word of God for themselves, and this was soon accomplished. Lefevre undertook the translation of the New Testament; and at the very time when Luther's German Bible was issuing from the press in Wittenberg, the French New Testament was published at Meaux. The bishop spared no labor or expense to circulate it in his parishes, and soon the peasants of Meaux were in possession of the Holy Scriptures.

"As travelers perishing from thirst welcome with joy a living water spring, so did these souls receive the message of heaven. The laborers in the field, the artisans in the workshop, cheered their daily toil by talking of the precious truths of the Bible. At evening, instead of resorting to the wine-shops, they assembled in one another's homes to read Gods Word and join in prayer and praise. A great change was soon manifest in these communities. Though belonging to the humblest class, an unlearned and hard-working peasantry, the reforming, uplifting power of divine grace was seen in their lives. Humble, loving, and holy, they stood as witnesses to what the Gospel will accomplish for those who receive it in sincerity.

"The light kindled at Meaux shed its beams afar. Every day the number of converts was increasing. The rage of the hierarchy was for a time held in check by the king, who despised the narrow bigotry of the monks; but the papal leaders finally prevailed. Now the stake was set up." Great Controversy, pp. 214-215.

The French Bible was made available to colporteurs at low cost, so they could scatter it everywhere.

"Long before the persecution excited by the placards, the bold and ardent Farel had been forced to flee from the land of his birth. He repaired to Switzerland, and by his labors, seconding the work of Zwingli, he helped to turn the scale in favor of the Reformation. His later years were to be spent here, yet he continued to exert a decided influence upon the reform in France.

"During the first years of his exile [in Switzerland], his efforts were especially directed to spreading the Gospel in his native country. He spent considerable time in preaching among his countrymen near the frontier, where with tireless vigilance he watched the conflict and aided by his words of encouragement and counsel.

"With the assistance of other exiles, the writings of the German Reformers were translated into the French language and, together with the French Bible, were printed in large quantities. By colporteurs these works were sold extensively in France. They were furnished to the colporteurs at a low price, and thus the profits of the work enabled them to continue it." Great Controversy, p. 231.

Luther's German Bible profoundly influenced his nation. It was the basis for the German Reformation.

"True Christianity receives the Word of God as the great treasure house of inspired truth and the test of all Inspiration. Upon his return from the Wartburg, Luther completed his translation of the New Testament, and the Gospel was soon after given to the people of Germany in their own language. This translation was received with great joy by all who loved the truth; but it was scornfully rejected by those who chose human traditions and the commandments of men.

"The priests were alarmed at the thought that the common people would now be able to discuss with them the precepts of Gods Word, and that their own ignorance would thus be exposed. The weapons of their carnal reasoning were powerless against the sword of the Spirit. Rome summoned all her authority to prevent the circulation of the Scriptures; but decrees, anathemas, and tortures were alike in vain. The more she condemned and prohibited the Bible, the greater was the anxiety of the people to know what it really taught.

"All who could read were eager to study the Word of God for themselves. They carried it about with them, and read and reread, and could not be satisfied until they had committed large portions to memory. Seeing the favor with which the New Testament was received, Luther immediately began the translation of the Old, and published it in parts as fast as completed."Great Controversy, pp. 193-194.

The Bible was translated into Danish; and it affected the whole nation.

"Tausen began to preach. The churches were opened to him, and the people thronged to listen. Others also were preaching the Word of God. The New Testament, translated into the Danish tongue, was widely circulated. The efforts made by the papists to overthrow the work resulted in extending it, and erelong Denmark declared its acceptance of the reformed faith." Great Controversy, 242.

Olaf Petri translated the Bible into Swedish. The king declared it to be the book which the entire nation should read.

"As the result of this disputation the king of Sweden accepted the Protestant faith, and not long afterward the national assembly declared in its favor. The New Testament had been translated by Olaf Petri into the Swedish language, and at the desire of the king the two brothers undertook the translation of the whole Bible. Thus for the first time the people of Sweden received the Word of God in their native tongue. It was ordered by the Diet that throughout the kingdom, ministers should explain the Scriptures and that the children in the schools should be taught to read the Bible

"Steadily and surely the darkness of ignorance and superstition was dispelled by the blessed light of the Gospel. Freed from Romish oppression, the nation attained to a strength and greatness it had never before reached. Sweden became one of the bulwarks of Protestantism."Great Controversy, p. 244.

Waldensian traveling teachers helped bring the Bible truth to Holland.

"Those early teachers who, traversing different lands and known by various names, bore the character of the Vaudois missionaries, and spread everywhere the knowledge of the Gospel, penetrated to the Netherlands. Their doctrines spread rapidly. The Waldensian Bible they translated in verse into the Dutch language. They declared that there was great advantage in it; no jests, no fables, no trifles, no deceits, but the words of truth; that indeed there was here and there a hard crust, but that the marrow and sweetness of what was good and holy might be easily discovered in it (Gerard Brandt, History of the Reformation in and about the Low Countries, Book 1, p. 14). Thus wrote the friends of the ancient faith, in the twelfth century."Great Controversy, p. 238.




There were just too many Bibles to destroy! What should be done? Rome decided to produce Bible translations which could include some of their errors.

"The Reformers . . welcomed the rising spirit of intelligence which shone forth in the new learning.

"But the priests loudly denounced it. [Erasmus noted that] they said the study of Greek was of the devil and [they] prepared to destroy all who promoted it."Wilkinson, p. 51.

Once again we return to the Latin Vulgate, the monastic Jerome's Latin translation (A.D. 382-384) which the Vatican so valued. In 1452 to 1456, Johann Gutenberg produced the first printed Bible in the world. It was a Vulgate.

Rome would have preferred to keep the Bible hidden, even its Vulgate editions; but, first the Waldenses and, then, the Protestant Reformers were bringing the Bible to the people. So Rome decided that their own translations, based on the Vulgate, must be used in the battle against Protestantism.

Down through the centuries, all Roman Catholic translations have been based on the Vulgate, until the Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966. (But it included lots of notes to keep it doctrinally correct.)

The primary Catholic English translation from the Vulgate is the Rheims-Douai (which we will later discuss in more detail).

The preface to the Rheims New Testament mentions an earlier Catholic translation in French, also based on the Vulgate, which was produced in the hope that it would eliminate the Waldenses.

"More than two hundred years ago, in the days of Charles V the French king, was it [the Vulgate] put forth faithfully in French, the sooner to shake out of the deceived peoples hands, the false heretical translations of a sect called Waldenses."Preface, Rheims New Testament, 1582. [This preface was written by Jesuits.]

"The Vulgate was the chief weapon relied upon to combat and destroy the Bible of the Waldenses."Benjamin G. Wilkinson, Our Authorized Version Vindicated, p. 51.

Seventy-three years after Luther's theses were nailed to the church door at Wittenberg, and only a few years after the Council of Trent completed its work, in 1590, Pope Sixtus V commissioned the Vatican Press to publish an edition of the Vulgate. Pope Clement VIII issued another one in 1592, and it became the standard Vulgate used for Catholic Bible translations down to the present day.

Protestants recognized that, because of its many errors, the Vulgate was a dangerous translation. Cartwright, the well-known Puritan scholar, wrote this:

"All the soap and nitre they could collect would be insufficient to cleanse the Vulgate from the filth in which it was originally conceived and had since collected in passing so long through the hands of unlearned monks, from which the Greek copies had altogether escaped."Brooks Memoir of Life of Cartwright, p. 276.


In the history of the English Bible, William Tyndale's (1494-1536) is the most important of the Bible translators.

In a sense, Tyndale's Bible towers over all the others. There are two reasons for this:

It was the first English translation to be translated from the Greek Text. Tyndale used Erasmus' text.

It was such a good translation that all the later ones, up to and including the King James, were almost identical to it. It appears that those later translators relied heavily on what Tyndale had accomplished. They were not lazy, but found they could hardly improve on it.

After studying at Oxford, William Tyndale went to Cambridge to study Greek under Erasmus, who was teaching there from 1510 to 1514. After Erasmus returned to the continent, Tyndale continued studying.

John Tyndale was an absolute genius in his ability with foreign languages. Herman Buschius, a scholarly friend of Erasmus, said this:

"Tyndale was so skilled in seven languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, French, that, whichever he spoke, you would suppose it his native tongue." Buschius, quoted in Demaus, Life of Tyndale, p. 130.

It was this powerful aptitude in language studies which enabled Tyndale to so accurately render the Majority Text into English. Those who followed him recognized his genius and tended to remain in his tracks. That is why the King James Bible is basically Tyndale's.

As Luther took Erasmus Greek Text and produced the magnificent German Bible, so Tyndale took the same text and produced the English Bible, almost the same Bible which we have today (except with modern spelling).

"While Luther was opening a closed Bible to the people of Germany, Tyndale was impelled by the Spirit of God to do the same for England. Wycliffe's Bible had been translated from the Latin text, which contained many errors. It had never been printed, and the cost of manuscript copies was so great that few but wealthy men or nobles could procure it; and, furthermore, being strictly proscribed by the church, it had had a comparatively narrow circulation.

"In 1516, a year before the appearance of Luther's theses, Erasmus had published his Greek and Latin version of the New Testament. Now for the first time the Word of God was printed in the original tongue. In this work many errors of former versions were corrected, and the sense was more clearly rendered. It led many among the educated classes to a better knowledge of the truth, and gave a new impetus to the work of reform. But the common people were still, to a great extent, debarred from Gods Word. Tyndale was to complete the work of Wycliffe in giving the Bible to his countrymen."Great Controversy, p. 245.

It was while reading in Erasmus Greek Text that Tyndale found Christ and was converted.

"A diligent student and an earnest seeker for truth, he had received the Gospel from the Greek Testament of Erasmus."Great Controversy, p. 245.

When he left Cambridge, Tyndale accepted a position as a tutor in the home of a private landowner. This gave him opportunity for study, preaching, and writing. It was while he was there that he began writing tracts against the papacy.

Here is a sample of his earnest preaching. He could not be frightened into silence.

"He fearlessly preached his convictions, urging that all doctrines be tested by the Scriptures. To the papist claim that the church had given the Bible, and the church alone could explain it, Tyndale responded: Do you know who taught the eagles to find their prey? Well, that same God teaches His hungry children to find their Father in His Word. Far from having given us the Scriptures, it is you who have hidden them from us; it is you who burn those who teach them, and if you could, you would burn the Scriptures themselves (DAubigne, History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, bk. 18, ch. 4)." Great Controversy, pp. 245-246.

But Tyndale found he was only one man. Somehow he must multiply his message. Then he realized God wanted him to multiply Gods Word!

"Tyndale's preaching excited great interest; many accepted the truth. But the priests were on the alert, and no sooner had he left the field then they by their threats and misrepresentations endeavored to destroy his work. Too often they succeeded. What is to be done? he exclaimed. While I am sowing in one place, the enemy ravages the field I have just left. I cannot be everywhere. Oh! if Christians possessed the Holy Scriptures in their own tongue, they could of themselves withstand these sophists. Without the Bible it is impossible to establish the laity in the truth. "Ibid.

His mission in life was now clear to him. He must dedicate his life to producing an outstanding English translation of the Holy Bible.

"A new purpose now took possession of his mind. It was in the language of Israel, said he, that the psalms were sung in the temple of Jehovah; and shall not the Gospel speak the language of England among us? . . Ought the church to have less light at noonday than at the dawn? . . Christians must read the New Testament in their mother tongue. The doctors and teachers of the church disagreed among themselves. Only by the Bible could men arrive at the truth. One holdeth this doctor, another that . . Now each of these authors contradicts the other. How then can we distinguish him who says right from him who says wrong? . . How? . . Verily by Gods Word."Ibid.

Notice the above words about using our native language to read and share Gods Word. We, who speak English, should speak about Gods Word in our language, not in a foreign language. The tongues error, of the Charismatics, and the "sacred name" error, of many Protestants, teach that we must use another language in order to be accepted by God.

One day, while disputing with a learned man who said the popes laws were above Gods laws, Tyndale uttered his famous vow: "I defy the pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do!"

"It was not long after that a learned Catholic doctor, engaging in controversy with him, exclaimed: We were better to be without Gods laws than the popes. Tyndale replied: I defy the pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, page 19)."Great Controversy, p. 246.

In order to carry on his translation work, Tyndale went to London and, later, to Germany.

"A London alderman gave him bed and board for six months, while the youth labored on the task. In 1524 Tyndale went to Wittenberg, and continued the work under Luther's guidance. At Cologne he began to print his version of the New Testament from the Greek text as edited by Erasmus. An English agent roused the authorities against him; Tyndale fled from Catholic Cologne to Protestant Worms, and there printed 6,000 copies."Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 6, p. 533.

"The purpose which he had begun to cherish, of giving to the people the New Testament Scriptures in their own language, was now confirmed, and he immediately applied himself to the work. Driven from his home by persecution, he went to London, and there for a time pursued his labors undisturbed. But again the violence of the papists forced him to flee. All England seemed closed against him, and he resolved to seek shelter in Germany. Here he began the printing of the English New Testament. Twice the work was stopped; but when forbidden to print in one city, he went to another. At last he made his way to Worms, where, a few years before, Luther had defended the Gospel before the Diet. In that ancient city were many friends of the Reformation, and Tyndale there prosecuted his work without further hindrance. Three thousand copies of the New Testament were soon finished, and another edition followed in the same year."Great Controversy, pp. 246-247.

But then Tyndale was captured by papal agents.

"[English Cardinal] Wolsey sent orders to arrest Tyndale, but Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, protected the author, and he proceeded, at Marburg, with his translation of the Pentateuch (1530). Slowly, by his own labor or under his supervision, most of the Old Testament was rendered into English. But in a careless moment he fell into the hands of Imperial officials."Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 6, p. 533.

The book, Great Controversy, does not provide us with details about Tyndale's betrayal and imprisonment. Here are two quotations which provide more information about this tragic event; truly, a day of infamy in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Early in 1535, a trusting Tyndale was betrayed by an undercover Catholic agent, Henry Phillips, who had gained the Reformers confidence. Following Phillips last-minute borrowing of forty shillings from his generous victim, the pair departed Tyndale's boardinghouse for dinner. The treacherous Phillips pretentiously insisted on his friend going before him. Once outside the door, Phillips, in the spirit of Judas Iscariot, pointed at him from behind his back, as the prearranged sign for waiting officials. The aged saint was promptly committed to the dungeon of the nearby fortress of Vilvorde, eighteen miles north of Antwerp." W.P. Grady, Final Authority, p. 136.

"Throughout his eighteen-month imprisonment, Tyndale suffered accordingly. One of the saddest extant documents in all of church history (taken from the archives of the Council of Brabant) is a letter written in Latin and in the Reformers own hand to the governor of Vilvorde, perhaps the Marquis of Bergon:

" I believe, dear sir, that you are not unaware of what may have been determined concerning me. Wherefore I beg your lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here through the winter, you will request the commissary to have the kindness to send me, from the goods of mine which he has, a warmer cap, for I suffer greatly from cold in the head, and am afflicted by a perpetual catarrh, which is much increased in this cell; a warmer coat also, for this which I have is very thin; a piece of cloth, too, to patch my leggings. My overcoat is worn out; my shirts also are worn out. He has a woollen shirt, if he will be good enough to send it. I have also with him leggings of thicker cloth to put on above; he has also warmer night-caps.

" And I ask to be allowed to have a lamp in the evening; it is indeed wearisome sitting alone in the dark. But most of all I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary, that he will kindly permit me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study. In return may you obtain what you most desire, so only that it be for the salvation of your soul. But if any other decision has been taken concerning me, to be carried out before winter, I will be patient, abiding the will of God, to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ; whose Spirit (I pray) may ever direct your heart. Amen. "Op. cit., pp. 136-137.

As he died at the stake, Tyndale cried out, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" Consider the amazing way that prayer was answered:

"What is strangest of all, and is unexplained to this day, at the very time when Tyndale by the procurement of English ecclesiastics, and by the sufferance of the English king, was burned at Vilvorde, a folio-edition of his translation was printed at London, with his name on the title-page, and by Thomas Berthelet, the kings own patent printer. This was the first copy of the Scriptures ever printed on English ground."McClure, Translators Revived, p. 32.

Even more amazing, Henry VIII, king of England, officially sanctioned the printing of two English Bibles within a year after Tyndale had been martyred in October 1536!

Here is a brief summary of these six Bibles, from Tyndale's to the King James:

After the Tyndale Bible (1526), came five other English Bibles: the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishops Bible (1568), and the Authorized (King James) Bible (1611).

Consider the first part of the Lords Prayer, as it is given in each of those Bibles, and you can see how closely they all stayed with Tyndale's outstanding translation:

Tyndale (1526) "O oure father which arte in heven halowed be thy name. Let thy kyngdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled as well in erth as it ys in heven."

Coverdale (1535) "O oure father which art in heaven, halowed be thy name. Let thy kyndome come. Thy wyll be fulfilled upon earth as it is in heaven."

Great Bible (1539) "Oure father which art in heaven, haiowed be thy name. Let thy kingdome come. Thy will be fulfilled, as well in erth, as it is in heaven."

Geneva Bible (1560) "Our father which art in heaven, halowed be thy Name. Thy kingdome come. Thy will be done even in earth, as it is in heaven."

Bishops Bible (1568) "O our father, which art in heaven, halowed be thy name. Let thy kyngdome come. Thy wyll be done, as well in earth, as it is in heaven."

Authorized (King James) Bible (1611) "Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name" [using our modern spelling].

It is because of the powerful influence of his translation on the five subsequent Bibles, that William Tyndale has been justly designated the "Father of the English Bible."

"Tyndale was a master of a simple and forceful literary style. This, combined with exactness and breadth of scholarship, led him so to translate the Greek New Testament into English as largely to determine the character, form, and style of the Authorized [King James] Version.

"There have been some painstaking calculations to determine just how large a part Tyndale may have had in the production of the version of 1611. A comparison of Tyndale's version of 1 John and that of the Authorized Version shows that nine-tenths of the latter is retained from the martyred translators work. Pauls Epistle to the Ephesians retains five-sixths of Tyndale's translation. These proportions are maintained throughout the entire New Testament. Such an influence as that upon the English Bible cannot be attributed to any other man in all the past."Ira Maurice Price, Ancestry of Our English Bible, p. 251.

It should be noted that William Tyndale did not complete all of his Old Testament translation of the Bible prior to his arrest. The portion which he did not translate was the historical books (Joshua to 2 Chronicles), poetical books, and prophetical books. 

Tyndale was burned at the stake in October 1536. 


Tyndale's Bible (1526) was a special threat to the Catholics, since it was the first English Bible to be printed from the Greek text. This meant that it could be distributed in large quantities.

"Clergymen had discouraged the reading of the Bible in any form, arguing that special knowledge was necessary to a right interpretation, and that Scriptural excerpts were being used to foment sedition. The church had raised no official objection to pre-Wycliffe translations, but this tacit permission had been of no moment, since all English versions before 1526 were manuscript.

"Hence the epochal importance of the English New Testament printed by Tyndale in 1525-1526." Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 6, p. 533.

A primary weapon of Rome, and of all despots, was to keep the people in ignorance. But the invention of printing by Johann Gutenberg was a deathblow to that effort. It is well-known, by historians, that it was Gutenberg's invention which not only gave the Reformation its power, but also started all modern research and scientific endeavor.


The present writer has in his library a lengthy book on the history of King Henry VIII of England, which presents a surprising new understanding of the background of what actually took place.

We had always been taught that Henry just wanted to get rid of wives and marry new ones, and it was the popes opposition to the scheme which led to Henry's break with Rome.

That is true, but the new light is that it was the Catholics which got the break started! Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, although a Spanish princess, was being influenced by associates in the royal palace toward Protestantism. Fearing that this could lead to problems, Henry anxiously prodded toward a divorce with her. That started a chain of divorces which ultimately resulted in Henry's total break with Vatican authority.

Henry VIII separated from Rome on November 11, 1534, at which time the Act of Supremacy was approved by Parliament. Although he did not renounce Catholic doctrine, the break with Rome was definite.

The result, over the next century, was a deluge of new English Bibles.


Miles (Myles) Coverdale (1488-1568) had been Tyndale's faithful proofreader at Antwerp. Although not an accomplished Greek and Hebrew scholar, he continued the work laid down by Tyndale when, after 18 months in prison, Tyndale was martyred.

To accomplish this task, Coverdale based his Bible on Tyndale's translation. In the sections Tyndale had left undone, Coverdale used Zwingli's Zurich Bible (1529) while referring to Luther's German Bible (1522-1534).

Although Coverdale was forced to publish his first edition in Cologne (1535), he very prudently dedicated it to the King of England. He was also careful to omit the controversial side notes which were in Tyndale's Bible.

Henry VIII was happy with the book, and issued a license, permitting publication of Coverdale's second edition (1537). The cover page showed Henry seated and crowned, with a drawn sword and a dedicatory page, crediting him as "defender of the faith."

"It is apparent that Coverdale was essentially an editor, who gathered together the best materials within reach, and so selected and modified them as to construct a Bible that would meet both the demands of the public and those of the ecclesiastical authorities. His great good sense, as shown in the use of language to secure beauty, harmony, and melody, made him a wise editor.

"His essentially peaceful nature led him to restore many beloved ecclesiastical terms that Tyndale had thrown out for new and more exact translations of the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Indeed, so helpful are some of the translations of Coverdale that they were perpetuated in the King James Bible." I.M. Price, Ancestry of Our English Bible, p. 253.

In 1537, only one year after Tyndale's death, two revised Coverdale editions were printed, each carrying this statement: "set forth with the kings most gracious license."

Coverdale's Bibles were the first printed complete Bibles in the English language. Thus, less than one year after Tyndale's death, the entire Bible had been translated, printed, and distributed in England, with the full permission of its monarch. 


Although known as the Matthew Bible, this translation was actually made by John Rogers (c. 1500-1555), an Oxford graduate, who used the pseudonym, Thomas Matthew, because of Rogers well-known association with Tyndale.

Rogers went to Antwerp and worked closely with Tyndale (and, of course, knew Coverdale, his editor). When Tyndale was imprisoned in Vilvorde Castle, he turned over to John Rogers his unpublished work, which he had prepared in prison, his translation of Joshua to 2 Chronicles.

Rogers then published a new Bible which, for the first time, had Tyndale's final translation material. The rest of the Old Testament was from the Tyndale and Coverdale Bibles. The Bible was initially published in Antwerp. It was dedicated to

"The moost noble and gracyous Prynce Kyng Henry the Eyght and Queen Jane,"

and signed "Thomas Matthew." This delighted the king and he gave the Bible his approval.

Common folk sometimes gave special names to the Bibles. The Matthew Bible was spoken of as the "Wife-Beaters Bible," because of an added note at 1 Peter 3, which read:

"If she be not obedient and healpfull unto hym [he] endeavoureth to beate the feare of God into her heade, that therby she maye be compelled to learne her dutie, and to do it." Quoted in Beale, Pictoral History of the Bible, p. 25.

Another one of these Bibles was called "the Wicked Bible," because a typesetter left the "not" out of the seventh commandment of a single edition. However, in preparing this book, I could not locate that data again. 


Because it was such a large book, common folk called this the "Great Bible." Because Archbishop Cranmer wrote an introduction at the front, it was also sometimes called the "Cranmer Bible."

Being a compilation of Tyndale and Coverdale, the Matthew Bible was the best English Bible in print. But Thomas Cromwell (a leading official in Henrys court, not the Oliver Cromwell of later English history) wanted a complete translation, not a tossed-together edition, as the Coverdale and Matthew Bibles were.

So, with the permission of the king, he secured the services of Coverdale to prepare a revised Bible. Because he was not an accomplished Greek and Hebrew scholar, Coverdale used scholars who were.

When the task was done (there was no printing facility large enough in London to produce these large Bibles), Coverdale went to Paris in the spring of 1538. With Regnault, the French printer, and under royal license, the printing began. But the Inquisition uttered its voice, and ordered the work to be confiscated. Rome did not want more Bibles! With trickery equal to that of the Jesuits, Coverdale managed to transfer printed sheets, printers, presses, type, and other equipment and supplies to London! Coverdale was a very capable man, and the Lord used him.

In April 1539, the new Bible was fully printed. Because of its large size, it was called "The Great Bible." It was in large folio; that is, each page was 16 x 11 inches in size!

Everyone was anxious to please the king, so an artistic frontispiece portrayed Henry in royal dress, handing the Bible down to Cranmer and Cromwell, who in turn distribute it to the people amid their shouts of "Vivat Rex!" ("Long live the king!")

This Bible was basically a revised edition of John Rogers "Matthew" Bible, which was the most complete presentation of the work of Tyndale, whose martyrdom had occurred only three years earlier (October 1536).

The announcement went out to the people from the king, "In Gods name, let it go abroad among our people!" In 1526, Tyndale's New Testament was publicly burned at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. In 1538, the same book, under another cover and name, was ordered by sanction of royal authority, if not decree, to be placed in public places, where all could read it.

A paper dating from 1539 declared:

"Englishmen have now in hand, in every church and place, the Holy Bible in their mother tongue, instead of the old fabulous and fantastical books of the Table Round. "Quoted by the church historian Collier, in H. W. Hoare, Evolution of the English Bible, p. 194.

Bishop Tunstall, good politician that he was, 

had earlier bought up Tyndale's books so he could burn them (called "the bishop of Durham" in Great Controversy, p. 247). But, now that the situation had changed, he had his name placed on the title page of two of the 1840 editions of the Great Bible as officially endorsing its publication. Due to immense public popularity and demand for the book, within two years seven editions of the Great Bible were printed. It became the basis of the English Prayer Book. 


This Bible was prepared by Richard Taverner, by direction of the Kings printer, Thomas Barthlet. Taverner was a good Greek scholar but not well-acquainted with Hebrew.

The Old Testament was like the Matthew revision, with only slight changes (made by comparing it with the Vulgate). The New Testament was solely from the Greek and added a few items which later went into the King James text. This was the first Bible to be completely printed in England, but it tended to be superceded by the Great Bible. 


OF 1543-1547

Thomas Cromwell had led out in getting Bibles printed and widely circulated. Although he was very highly placed in the English government, he fell into disfavor because of his efforts to destroy Catholic shrines and images, as well as taking over abbeys and monasteries. He even destroyed a few Catholic churches. He had made the same mistake as the French Protestants who wanted to produce strong public protests against Catholics, and only brought death to themselves amid a Catholic uprising (Great Controversy, 217:2; 224:3-227:1). We have been warned elsewhere in the Spirit of Prophecy that we, today, should not make direct attacks on the Catholics (9 Testimonies, 240-241, 243; Evangelism, 573-574, 576; Counsels to Writers and Editors, 45-46, 64-65). We should instead give the final message about obedience to the Law of God and, in the context of the change of the Sabbath, tell necessary historical facts.

This crisis led to an uprising of Catholics in the nation (of which there were very many; some say a majority), and Henry VIII feared for his throne. So, in reaction, Cromwell was executed and Bibles were publicly burned by the hundreds. Only the Great Bible was spared; and it was only to be read by the upper classes. The decree read in part:

"No laboring men or women should read to themselves or to others, publicly or privately, any part of the Bible, under pain of imprisonment."

As might be expected, Bishop Tunstall immediately retracted his name from the front of the Great Bible. He was once again the Catholic he had always been.

At the climax of this reaction, Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547. Surely, it was thought that there would never again be a Bible in England. 

EDWARD VI (1547-1553)

This young king was always frail and sickly; yet he was devoted to the Bible, requiring that it be carried before him during his coronation. During his brief six-and-one-half years reign, the English Bible was reprinted many times and in many editions, totaling 35 editions of the New Testament and 13 of the Old!

Edward began his reign by immediately decreeing that Bibles be made available in every church for people to read. Reformers who had fled to England returned. Very likely, Bishop Tunstall expressed a renewed devotion to the Bible. 

BLOODY MARY (1553-1559)

"And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus."Revelation 17:6.

On the death of Edward, Mary Tudor came to the throne. The daughter of Henrys wife, Catherine, Mary was a fanatical papist. She immediately inaugurated a reign of terror by lighting the fires of Smithfield. Archbishop Cranmer and John Rogers, along with hundreds of others, were burned at the stake, for the crime of loving the Bible. Miles Coverdale, now Bishop of Exeter, barely managed to escape to the continent. Scores of other Reformers also fled.

"On the fourth of February, in the year 1555, in the morning, the prisoner [John Rogers, who produced the Matthew Bible] was warned suddenly by the keepers wife, to prepare himself for the fire. Being sound asleep, he could scarcely be awakened. At length being roused, and told to make haste, he said, Is then this the day? If it be so, I need not be careful of my dressing.

"Now when the time had come, the prisoner was brought from Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution. Here Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, asked him if he would change his religion to save his life; but Rogers answered, That which I have preached I will seal with my blood.

"It is related that Rogers wife and eleven children, ten of whom were able to walk and one was at the breast, met him by the way as he went toward Smithfield, repeating the 51st Psalm. This sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood did not move him; but he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience in the defence of Christ's Gospel." Foxe, Book of Martyrs, pp. 422-423.

Green adds:

"He died bathing his hands in the flames as if it had been in cold water." J. R. Green, A Short History of the English People, p. 372.

These people laid down their lives for the Bible. Do we value it as much today?

Over 300 Christians were burned at the stake in Smithfield, near London. But a powerful reaction set in. So horrible was the reign of "Bloody Mary," that everyone, even Catholics, hated her. After five years of a living horror, Mary died a miserable death on the morning of November 17, 1558.

The murders of so many Christians, including Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer, had left her nearly insane. But her efforts to rid the land of Christians and the Holy Bible backfired, as we shall soon learn. 


A number of the Christian scholars who had fled from Mary's wrath, gathered in Geneva, Switzerland. There they formed a committee to prepare a new translation of the Bible.

Theodore Beza, the most noted Biblical scholar, lived there. Working with him, such men as John Knox, William Whittingham, and Miles Coverdale labored six years to produce the Geneva Bible.

There were no political or religious restrictions in Geneva and these men had time to produce an outstanding Bible.

Whittingham (a brother-in-law of John Calvin) supervised the work of publication. For the first time, the English Bible was divided into verses (using the ones first marked in the margins of Stephenus Greek Text of 1551). In addition, Whittingham added words in italics, to complete the sense when words were not in the Greek. Both practices were later carried over in the King James Bible.

Another outstanding achievement was the fact that this was the first English Bible to have Ezra through Malachi translated from the Hebrew. This was the most accurate English Bible yet to appear. The New Testament was basically identical to Tyndale's.

Another advantage was the abandonment of the black letter for the plain, simple roman type (such as you find in the book you are now reading.) The book of Revelation carried strong anti-Catholic notes. Those in Romans were somewhat Calvinistic.

Queen Elizabeth I was crowned two years before this Bible was finished; so, when it was completed, it was dedicated to her. The cost of printing was subsidized by the people of Geneva. Queen Elizabeth never promoted the Geneva Bible, but did nothing to oppose it; and it was widely sold for decades. But the Great Bible continued to be the Bible read from the pulpit in the churches and cathedrals.

The Geneva Bible was also known as "The Breeches Bible" because of its rendering of Genesis 3:7, "They sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches." The Geneva translation enjoyed a circulation from Shakespeare's desk to the Mayflowers deck.

The first complete English Bible to use verse divisions was the Geneva Bible of 1560. Rabbi Nathan is credited with devising the present verse numbers for the Old Testament in 1448. The verse divisions for the New Testament were made by the scholar-printer, Robert Stephenus, for his Greek-Latin New Testament of 1551. They constitute a useful reference tool and are essential for a concordance. 


Henry VIII only had three children who outlived infancy: Edward VI, who was sickly and died at fifteen, Mary who was barren in marriage, and Elizabeth who never married. In her reign, the proverb was fulfilled:

"Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness."Proverbs 25:5.

In November 1558, the 25-year-old Elizabeth came to the throne, and immediately Protestantism was once again in favor. Elizabeth was careful not to disturb any religious group, but she clearly promoted the Protestant cause.

"This persecution [by Bloody Mary] aroused a mighty reaction that made England forever Protestant. It has well been said that the excesses of this bloody reaction accomplished more for the Protestantization of England than all the efforts put forth under Edwards reign."Albert Henry Newman, A Manual of Church History, Vol. 2, pp. 266-267.

Elizabeth ruled for 41 years; and Bibles were published in profusion during that time. 


For some reason, the ever-increasing popularity of the Geneva Bible disturbed the religious authorities of England. They wanted to use their own approved Bible. By this time, 140 editions of the Geneva Bible had been printed and it was in demand everywhere.

In 1563, Archbishop Parker called for a committee to be formed, to produce a new Bible. Because nine of the revisers were bishops, the resultant Bible came to be called the Bishops Bible.

The only improvements in this Bible were lots of pictures, thicker, and more expensive paper, and little else. But it did include the verse divisions of the Geneva Bible. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth was on the title page.

Although highly promoted, this Bible, which was produced during Elizabeth's reign, never gained the favor of the people. They were thoroughly content with the Geneva Bible. An added advantage of the Geneva Bible was that it was relatively small. This made it easier to carry and store. The Coverdale, Matthew, and Great Bibles were all twice the page size of the Geneva Bible.

The last edition of the Bishop Bible was in 1606. Another Bible was soon to gain the ascendency in England, and be retained for hundreds of years.