The King James Authorized version of the Bible is familiar to many, but few know about the Geneva Bible, preceding the King James authorized translation by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of the 16th century Protestants and used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Dunne, and John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim's Progress). It was one of the Bibles taken to America aboard the Mayflower. Oliver Cromwell had pocket editions printed for his soldiers at the time of the English Civil War.
The Geneva Bible is significant because it was the first mechanically printed and mass-produced Bible intended for the general public that included scriptural study guides (apparatus), citations, and cross-reference notations. There are introductions to each book of the Bible and included maps, tables, woodcut illustrations and indexes. It was the first study bible available to the general public.
When the King James Authorized Version Bible was printed by command of King James, the Geneva Bible became forbidden.
The concept of the Geneva Bible began during the reign of Queen Mary I of England (1553-1558), when Protestant scholars fled persecution where thousands of Protestants were put to death and imprisoned by order of Queen Mary, who was a devout Roman Catholic. It is a story of religious oppression. The Protestant Reformation scholars that fled went to Geneva, Switzerland, ruled as a republic, who included William Whittingham (supervisor), Myles Coversdale, Christopher Goodman, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson, and William Cole, who completed and published the Geneva Bible in 1557, with a revised full edition published in 1560. It was not printed in England until 1575/1576. There were 150 editions published, the last in 1644.
The annotations, which made it unique, were of Calvinist and Puritan ideology, which the Anglicans of the Church of England disliked, as well as King James I who ordered his authorized version to replace it. A few editions of the King James version included notes from the Geneva version up to 1715. The Geneva Bible was translated to English from scholarly editions of the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament and was the first English Bible to use verse numbers and an elaborate system of commentary. It was printed in Roman type, but some editions used the old black-letter Gothic style of print.
Today, the 1599 Geneva Bible has been restored and reproduced (2006) with modern spellings, but the original study notes by the Protestant Reformation leaders remain. The Old English glossary was included in the republished version. The following are samples to compare the versions from Revelation 6:12-17 …
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake, and the sun was as black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon was like blood. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her green figs, when it is shaken of a mighty wind. And heaven departed away, as a scroll, when it is rolled, and every mountain and isle were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in dens, and among the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the presence of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of his wrath is come, and who can stand?
KING JAMES BIBLE
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island was moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
The Geneva Bible is available in three editions:
Patriot Edition: Same as original except it includes a prayer by George Washington and the leather-bound cover has a picture of the painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware. It also includes historical documents – Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution of the United States, Amendments to the US Constitution (Bill of Rights) and Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior by George Washington. It is leather bound and comes with a CD. Available for $39.95.
1599 Geneva Bible: Hardback edition includes original text of 1599 Bible with original study notes. It has a depiction of the Protestant scholar painting on the cover and also comes with a CD. It sells for $39.95.
1599 Geneva Bible – Black-Bonded Leather Edition: This edition has the original cover art and lettering and includes all that the previous editions have as well as the CD. It sells for $49.95.
|Rembrandt Leather Bound w/pewter buckle/strap|
For a truly classic edition for your library, you can order from England the Rembrandt edition in luxurious brown leather complete with pewter buckle/strap for $300.
For those who collect (and can afford it) - there are original editions for sale. Plan on at least spending $1,600 upwards to $4,000; if you can find any not sold.