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Portrait of Catherine Aragon

Portrait of Catherine Aragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 16th century a Roman Catholic woman was making life very difficult for bible readers. The daughter of King Henry VIII and the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, born February 18, 1516, Greenwich, near London, got to be a pawn in England’s bitter rivalry with more powerful nations, being fruitlessly proposed in marriage to this or that potentate desired as an ally.

A studious and bright girl, named princess of Wales in 1525, Mary Tudor was educated by her mother and a governess of ducal rank. When her father did not get approval from Rome to divorce Catherine of Aragon, he left her in July 1531 to never see her again. In 1533 his marriage to Anne Boleyn took place and Cranmer declared Catherine’s marriage invalid. Catherine took refuge increasingly in her religion and her Spanish ladies-in-waiting.

Mary Tudor daughter of Kind Henry VIII. of Eng...

Mary Tudor daughter of Kind Henry VIII. of England and Katherine of Aragon, 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary was allowed to see her mother only rarely, but all her sympathies were with her mother. When the Act of Uniformity of 1549 forbade the use of the mass, Mary continued to hear it and was warned. She replied that, in her conscience, ‘it is not worthy to have the name of law’.  She staged a brilliantly effective coup d’état based in East Anglia. She moved swiftly to restore not only traditional worship but also obedience to the pope (a much less popular cause), although legal problems delayed England’s reconciliation with Rome until November 1554. She also insisted on keeping the title of “kingdom” for the island of Ireland, which her father had unilaterally adopted in place of the former papal grant to English monarchs of “lordship” of Ireland.

Sample of Taverner’s Bible, Mark 1:1-5

In 1537 John Rodgers, working under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew” for safety, produced a Bible translation on Tyndale’s previously published editions with the addition of his unpublished Old Testament material. The remainder used Coverdale’s translation. This Matthew’s Bible received the approval of Henry VIII. It got some minor revisions in 1539 published under the name Taverner’s Bible or The Most Sacred Bible, edited by Richard Taverner as a private venture of the two printers Grafton and Whitchurch, which was threatened by a rival edition published in 1539 in folio (Herbert #45) by “John Byddell for Thomas Barthlet” .

Geneva Bible 1560 edition

Old heresy laws were restored (1555) and now the Catholics persecuted the protestants fiercely. In those times education among women became fashionable, partly because of Catherine’s influence, and her donations of large sums of money to several colleges. This also made women to read the bible, which the then Mary I had forbidden. Therefore those who wanted to have the Word of God printed had to go to the continent to reproduce the Bible. Coverdale and John Knox (the Scottish Reformer) led a colony of Protestant exiles. Under the influence of John Calvin, they published the New Testament in 1557.

The 1st woman tempting Adam made that the 16th century men brought them to put on garments, printing that they “made themselves breeches”, which caused this bible translation also to be called the “Breeches Bible“. William Whittingham supervised the translation, now known as the Geneva Bible, which was written in collaboration with Miles/Myles Coverdale. Men did the smuggling over sea and the women took care that the holy book was well hidden in the house.

The study aids, and explanatory ‘tables’, i.e. indexes of names and topics, in addition to the extensive marginal notes made that lay people who could read were able to do bible studies at home. Good point of this translation was also that the translator showed the words they added to make the text readable. In Roman typeface verse divisions were used to facilitate quotation, whilst words not present in the original, yet required to complete the sense in English were printed in italics.

After the Geneva Bible could be imported without hindrance it still took until 1576 for an english printed edition.

That Geneva bible also founds its way to the New World were the women at home also could find an authoritative translation genuinely based on the Hebrew and Greek originals.

After that the authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England the Great Bible was reinstated in the churches. It was called the Great Bible because of its large size, but is known also by several other names: the Cromwell Bible, since Thomas Cromwell directed its publication; Whitchurch’s Bible after its first English printer; the Chained Bible, since it was chained to prevent removal from the church. It has also been termed less accurately Cranmer’s Bible, since Thomas Cranmer was not responsible for the translation, but his preface first appeared in the second edition. This first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury (1533–56), adviser to the English kings Henry VIII and Edward VI, was denounced by the Catholic queen Mary I for promoting Protestantism and convicted of heresy to be burned at the stake.

Title page of the Great Bible (1539).

His action to put the English Bible in parish churches, drew up the Book of Common Prayer, which borrowed greatly from Martin Luther‘s Litany and Myles Coverdale‘s New Testament and composed a litany that remains and was taken up again. To avoid people stealing the bible it was chained to the church reading stand, hence it’s nickname Chained Bible.

In 1547 Cranmer was responsible for the publication of a Book of Homilies designed to meet the notorious grievance that the unreformed clergy did not preach enough and in which the reformed doctrines of the Church of England in greater depth and detail were presented than in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. In it the exhortations direct people to read scripture daily and to lead a life of prayer and faith in Jesus Christ. Next to those exhortations can be found lengthy scholarly treatises intended to inform church leaders in theology, church history, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church. Previously in sermons not so many references to holy scripture were given and in the Eucharist or Eucharistic Christian Liturgy of the Catholic church was not much place for bible readings. In the two books of homilies eye is also given to the texts of the Church Fathers and other primary sources. Women were not yet in the picture.

In a certain way women often arranged the household, the cooking but also the upbringing of the children, including bringing them some thoughts about God and God’s Law. In those families the Geneva Bible gained instantaneous and lasting popularity over against its rival, the Great Bible. Its technical innovations contributed not a little to its becoming for a long time the family Bible of England, which, next to Tyndale, exercised the greatest influence upon the King James Version.

Matthew Parker, undated engraving. (Photos.com/Jupiterimages)

Males having dominance, several bishops found that  the objectionable partisan flavour of the Geneva’s marginal annotations demanded a new revision. By about 1563–64 Archbishop Matthew Parker of Canterbury [ex chaplain to Anne Boleyn, master of Corpus Christi (1544), vice-chancellor (1545 and 1549), dean of Lincoln (1552)] had determined upon its execution and the work was apportioned among many scholars, most of them bishops, from which the popular name ‘Bishops’ Bible‘ (1568) was derived. Parker sustained a distinctly Anglican position between extreme Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and sought to find the proper doctrinal and historical basis for the Church of England, and to this end he accumulated a library with many Anglo-Saxon and medieval manuscripts (which can be seen in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).

Though not formally dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, the Bishops’ Bible includes a portrait of the queen on its title page. The 1569 quarto edition shows Elizabeth accompanied by female personifications of Justice, Mercy, Fortitude, and Prudence.

The high-church party of the Church of England associated Calvinism with Presbyterianism, which sought to replace government of the church by bishops (Episcopalian) with government by lay elders. Wanting to go back more to the original Hebrew texts several bishops translated a book but no overseer took time to do some editing, making that the translation practice varies greatly from book to book and that in certain books the tetragrammaton יהוה YHWH is represented by “the LORD”, and the Hebrew “Elohim” is represented by “God”. But in the Psalms the practice is the opposite way around. The books that Parker himself worked on are fairly sparingly edited from the text of the Great Bible, while those undertaken by Edmund Grindal of London, whose Puritan sympathies brought him into serious conflict with Queen Elizabeth I, emerged much closer to the Geneva text. From him it was hoped that he might drive a wedge between the moderate Puritans and the new party of radical reform. Probably through the influence of Nicholas Ridley, who had been master of Pembroke Hall, Grindal was selected as one of the Protestant disputants during the visitation of 1549. He had a talent for this work and was often given similar tasks. {Wikipedia} He fell foul of Elizabeth in regard to “prophesyings,” or meetings of clergy for mutual edification and study, since he wished to regulate and continue them, whereas she wished to prevent their meeting.

Priest hole on second floor of Boscobel House, Shropshire

At the time of Queen Elizabeth I families wanting to bring up their children in the Catholic faith made it possible for priests to visit them in secret by hiring them in as so called childwatchers or au-pairs or as housekeeper, and by building a priest hole, little crevices or interstices, by false panelling, false fireplace or incorporated into water closets, in their house, so that the presence of a priest could be concealed when searches were made of the building. Jesuit lay brother Nicholas Owen spent much of his life building priest holes to protect the lives of persecuted priests. Women played a very important role in avoiding the “pursuivants” (priest-hunters) finding the hidden priests as well in hiding any book that could give an impression Catholic teaching was given in the house. Outdoors Catholic symbols where placed so that other Catholics could find meeting places. Women took on the role of hostess. They also could check the families of which their children came befriended with, to make sure the family could not become in danger of being exposed. for such things market and public places where good to hear all sorts of women-talk and gossip.

In 1572 the Bishops’ Bible was extensively revised and a more “ecclesiastical” language was chosen. The text was brought more into line with that found in the Geneva Bible; and in the Old Testament, the Psalms from the Great Bible were printed alongside those in the new translation, which had proved impossible to sing. From 1577 the new psalm translation was dropped altogether; while further incremental changes were made to the text of the New Testament in subsequent editions. The last edition of the complete Bible was issued in 1602, but the New Testament was reissued until at least 1617.
William Fulke published several parallel editions up to 1633 with the New Testament of the Bishops’ Bible alongside the Rheims New Testament, specifically to controvert the latter’s polemical annotations.

Also this Bible translation failed to displace the Geneva Bible as a domestic Bible to be read at home, but that was not its intended purpose. The intention was for it to be used in church as what would today be termed a “pulpit Bible”.

Douai bible – Old Testament (1609)

English Roman Catholic scholars connected with the University of Douai in what was then in the Spanish Netherlands but now part of France, worked from the Latin Vulgate to present the New Testament, printed in Rheims in 1582. A group of former Oxford men, among them the initiator William Cardinal Allen, and principal translator Gregory Martin, and Thomas Worthington, who provided the Old Testament in two volumes, in 1609 and 1610, just before the King James version. Gregory Martin his version, in Bishop Richard Challoner’s third revised edition (1752), was the standard Bible for English Roman Catholics until the 20th century, and his phraseology influenced the Anglican translators of the Authorized, or King James, Version (1611). Although retaining the title Douay–Rheims Bible, the revision undertaken by bishop Richard Challoner; the New Testament in three editions 1749, 1750, and 1752; the Old Testament (minus the Vulgate deuterocanonical), in 1750 Challoner revision was a new version, which was also looked at by the makers of the King James version, which saw the light in 1611.

Mary I got her nickname Bloody Mary for all the killings of protestants and Bible readers. The burnings discredited the church she loved, sowed a harvest of hatred, and dogged the catholic cause for centuries to come. Mary, against her wish and intentions, did more than anyone else to make England a protestant nation.

Having put an end to the printing of Bibles in England for several years 53 years after her death it was a bible translation which would be used by several denominations from the Protestant as well as the Catholic group.

That 1611 bible translation has had a profound impact not only on most English translations that have followed it, but also on English literature as a whole. The 47 translators used the widest range of source texts to create what was to become the “Authorized Version” in England and being the most widely used of the Early Modern English Bible translations. Its use has continued in some traditions up to the present.

Too many people who say the King James Bible is the only right bible translation all people should follow, do forget that there have been many reprints with lots of differences, not only of printing faults or mistakes but also with several changes of words and phrases.

Already in the first year there was a print mistake, creating a he and she bible. This came from the final clause of chapter 3, verse 15 of Ruth:

“and he went into the city.”

Both printings contained errors. Some errors in subsequent editions have become famous: The so-called Wicked Bible (1631) derives from the omission of “not” in chapter 20 verse 14 of Exodus,

“Thou shalt commit adultery,”

for which the printers were fined £300; the “Vinegar Bible” (1717) stems from a misprinting of “vineyard” in the heading of Luke, chapter 20.

Because of the translators lack of Hebrew language knowledge,  certain words where wrongly translated or wrongly presented as figures or persons instead of characteristics, which still up to today, has several people having the wrong idea or concepts of certain discussed points in the Bible (e.g. sheolhell, Satanadversary). Also for the New Testament or Greek Writings the great early Greek codices were not yet known or available, and Hellenistic papyri, which were to shed light on the common Greek dialect, had not yet been discovered.

Portions of Old Testament books of undisputed authority found among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri: Amos 2 – Oxy 846 – University of Pennsylvania; E 3074

The Greek Magical Papyri (Latin Papyri Graecae Magicae, abbreviated PGM), dated from the 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE were only discovered in the 18th century and later. (The collected texts were published for the first time in two volumes in 1928 and 1931.) It also was only in the late 19th and early 20th century that archaeologists like Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt found the Oxyrhynchus manuscripts in Egypt, so that thousands of Greek and Latin documents, letters and literary works could seriously be researched.

Late Second Temple Period and after Late Antiquity texts including Aramaic, as in Bodleian Heb.d83, Greek, as a subset of the Greek Magical Papyri catalogued by Karl Preisendanz and others were discovered primarily during the heyday of Near Eastern archaeology in the late 19th Century, and subsequent interpretation and cataloguing, primarily took place during the early 20th Century.

In 1769 the authorised King James Version was again revised, but still not with enough knowledge of the original Scriptures, and adapted to the standards of the mid-18th Century by Hebraist and fellow and vice-principal of Hertford College Benjamin Blayney for the Oxford University Press. Most of those prints were destroyed by fire in the Bible warehouse, Paternoster Row, London. This version became the base for the newer versions. In 1885 a Revised Version was made which became the predecessor of a rival for the old King James Version, the Revised Standard Version of 1952 (New Testament in 1948)

In the 18th and 19th century more scholars and bible students started looking at what archaeologists had found and listened also to language scholars who knew much more about Hebrew and Old Greek than those of the 16th and 17th century England.

With the discovery of more ancient sources, Modern English Bible translations have proliferated in the Modern English age to a degree never seen before.

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Preceding articles:

Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #1 Pre King James Bible

Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #2 King James Bible versions

Next: Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #4 Steps to the Women’s Bibles

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Additional reading

  1. Codex Sinaiticus available for perusal on the Web
  2. Rare original King James Bible discovered
  3. King James Bible Coming into being
  4. Looking at notes of Samuel Ward and previous Bible translation efforts in English
  5. Celebrating the Bible in English
  6. TheBible4Life KJV Jubileum
  7. What English Bible do you use?
  8. The Most Reliable English Bible
  9. 2001 Translation an American English Bible
  10. NWT and what other scholars have to say to its critics
  11. New American Bible Revised Edition
  12. The NIV and the Name of God
  13. Archeological Findings the name of God YHWHUse of /Gebruik van Jehovah or/of Yahweh in Bible Translations/Bijbel vertalingen
  14. Dedication and Preaching Effort 400 years after the first King James Version
  15. Hebrew, Aramaic and Bibletranslation
  16. Some Restored Name Versions
  17. Anchor Yale Bible
  18. iPod & Android Bibles

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Further reading

  1. The Tudor State
  2. A Princess is Born
  3. Anne Boleyn – Part I
  4. Anne Boleyn – Part II
  5. A Palace Fit For A Prince
  6. “Elizabeth I” by Margaret George
  7. September 1, 1532 – Anne Boleyn Created Marquess of Pembroke
  8. Henry & Anne – Devoted Lovers
  9. Anne Boleyn & The King’s Proposal
  10. Anne Boleyn, Hunter or Hunted?
  11. Anne Boleyn Speaks
  12. Wife, Spinster or Nun…?
  13. The Most Happy 👑 Anne & I – Part 2
  14. Lady Anne Will Be My Queen
  15. The Execution Of Anne Boleyn 1536
  16. Back to the Boleyns 
  17. A Thought For The Wives
  18. The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula
  19. Short Documentary: The Top 15 Most Evil Women in History
  20. Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd
  21. A new perspective: ‘She-Wolves’ Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I
  22. Edward VI and Mary I
  23. The ‘Silent’ Tudor
  24. The Tragic Life of ‘Bloody’ Mary Tudor
  25. ‘Bloody Mary’ or just Mary I? | W.U Hstry
  26. The Myth of Bloody Mary
  27. Happy 500th Birthday Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary, Bloodied Mary, Muddy Mary.
  28. The Queen’s Fool by Phillipa Gregory 
  29. I sentence you to death by acquittal?
  30. 14th November 1501: Prince Arthur Tudor marries Katherine of Aragon.
  31. On this day in 1518 – Princess Mary and the Dauphin of France were betrothed
  32. November 26, 1533 – Henry FitzRoy Marries Mary Howard
  33. On this day in 1553 – Queen Mary I was coronated
  34. May 25, 1553 – A Triple Wedding
  35. February 1, 1554 – Mary I Speech at Guildhall Opposing Wyatt’s Rebellion
  36. On this day in 1555 – Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer stood trial
  37. February 28, 1556 – Burial of Stephen Gardiner at Winchester Cathedral
  38. November 17, 1558 – Death of Mary I
  39. They died on the same day …
  40. 29th April 1559. Elizabethan Settlement.
  41. On this day in 1571 – Bishop John Jewel died
  42. Three Lives of Hampton Court
  43. On Pictures in Books
  44. Of well-connected Archbishops
  45. The Nine Days of the Nine Day Queen
  46. Discussion Questions – ‘The Queen’s Fool’ by Philippa Gregory
  47. July 6, 1553: Edward VI Dies, Northumberland Tries to Implement His ‘Device for the Succession’
  48. The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
  49. A Colchester mystery
  50. How did people hide and share their religion in the Tudor times?
  51. Introduction to “Show me your glory” and a one year Bible reading plan
  52. There was a Word
  53. What is YHWH? What is the tetragrammaton?
  54. The Seal of Solomon’s Tetragrammaton
  55. The Seal of Solomon and the Four-Lettered Name of God
  56. Tetragrammaton Meditation
  57. The Name of Yehovah
  58. Trinity or Tetragrammaton?
  59. The Lord, the Lord …translating the tetragrammaton
  60. God’s name and Hovah-logic 2 (by Nehemia Gordon)
  61. 13th November 1539. Power Yoked with Religion.
  62. The Breeches Bible
  63. The Psalms by Loutherbourg
  64. Tyndale Executed for Heresy on This Date
  65. Scholar finds earliest known draft of King James Bible wrapped in a stained piece of waste vellum
  66. Oldest King James Bible Draft Discovered
  67. Earliest Known Draft of 1611 King James Bible Is Found
  68. First edition of King James Bible from 1611 found in church cupboard
  69. Sneak Preview: Blessed Are the Phrasemakers…
  70. Ye King Iames Bible
  71. AV1611: England’s Greatest Achievement
  72. 1617 King James Bible
  73. The King James Bible 1
  74. The King James Bible 2
  75. The King James Bible and the Restoration
  76. The Wicked Bible
  77. Why King James Bible?
  78. The King James Bible is the Truth!
  79. King James Only?
  80. Drafting the King James Bible
  81. The King James Removed Verses?
  82. Handwritten King James Bible Proves the Bible Not Inspired
  83. Handwritten Draft Of King James Bible Discovered: Reveals No ‘Divine Powers’
  84. Did Shakespeare Write Psalm 46 in the King James Bible?
  85. The King James Bible vs. Shakespeare
  86. The Indestructible Book: King James Bible 1611
  87. #Scripture #Only #KJV #Protestant #Meme
  88. Thees, Thous, and Wot Nots
  89. Everyday Phrases We Use That Came From The King James Bible
  90. Which is the best English Bible?
  91. I am King James Bible Only
  92. Does The King James Bible Reveal The Identity Of The Antichrist?
  93. Christopher Hill’s Bible (Part 4): The Radical English Bible
  94. About Bible Translations
  95. Many Modern Translations of the Bible are challenging the Deity of Christ!
  96. The King James Bible with Alexander Scourby
  97. The King James AV 1611 Bible vs the New International Version
  98. Wherefore pleaseth archaic English?
  99. Greek Bibles Are Not The Standard
  100. Who Still gets the Print Newspaper… and Reads it?
  101. Putting Words in My Mouth: Review of The Cultural Legacy of the King James Bible at Durham Book Festival
  102. Our Whole Heart: Language and the Book of Common Prayer
  103. Evening Prayer 27.7.16, William Reed Huntington, Liturgist & Ecumenist, 1909
  104. The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
  105. The Invitation to Table Fellowship
  106. A collect for our times
  107. The School for Prayer
  108. From the Pulpit (or centre aisle!) 03-01-16
  109. New Age Deism: Part Two
  110. The Bible: Kept Pure in All Ages
  111. How Hollywood Copies the Bible
  112. 10 Misinterpreted Phrases We Use Incorrectly On A Daily Basis
  113. Five Eternal Truths
  114. #Ecumenism is #Hypocresy and a #Demonic teaching.
  115. #Ecumenism:>  #Spiritual #Whoredom (Documentary) – YouTube
  116. An Insurance Policy with God
  117. Do Not Fear
  118. Isaiah 41:10
  119. Homosexuality: A Biblical Refutation (Queen James Bible Debunked)
  120. #Vatican #Catholic #Hypocrisy #Arrogance and #False #Teaching : #Threatened with #Hell if I don’t become a Catholic. · The #Catholic so called church · Disqus
  121. Bible Bashing
  122. A General Introduction
  123. The New Testament in the Book of Mormon: A Primer
  124. The Passion for Learning In the Church of Christ
  125. Textual Criticism Pt. 1
  126. Textual Criticism 3
  127. What is the difference between Hell and the Lake of Fire?
  128. A Biblical Examination of Hell
  129. Don’t go to hell!!
  130. The Attack on the Bible
  131. Christian Traveling Men
  132. Do Not trust in man!!
  133. My Love/Hate Relationship
  134. On my Bookshelf
  135. The Effectual Bible Student #12
  136. Issues in Christianity Today #9
  137. Imagine Being this Astonished Professor
  138. A Burning Heart
  139. God bless you and keep you
  140. Be Doers of the Word

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Sample of Taverner's Bible, Mark 1:1-5

Sample of Taverner’s Bible, Mark 1:1-5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Comments on: "Old and newer King James Versions and other translations #3 Women and versions" (10)

  1. Thanks for linking ‘Anne Boleyn Speaks’ Great article!🙂

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