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The Geneva Bible

Articles on the Geneva Bible of the Puritans

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

The Bible every Puritan had in their home.


Tolle Lege Press
now sells Geneva Bible in English that the modern reader can easily read. Great Bibles.

The Puritan’s Bible:

The Bible every Puritan family had in their home was not the KJV of 1609 or 1611. The Bible which they carried was the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries, which was printed from 1560 to 1644 in over 200 different printings. As a product of superior translation by the best Protestant scholars of its day, it became the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers, thinkers and historical figures of its day. Puritans John Bunyan and John Milton used the Geneva Bible, which is reflected in their writings. During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell issued a pamphlet containing excerpts from the Geneva Bible to his troops. The Geneva Bible was even brought with the Pilgrims when they set sail on the Mayflower and was the generally accepted text among the Puritans. William Bradford cited it in his book Of Plymouth Plantation.

The key feature of the Geneva Bible that distinguished it from all other Bibles of its time and made it so popular were the extensive marginal notes that were included to explain and interpret the scriptures for the common people. For example, “the sun, the moon and the stars falling from the heavens” was interpreted as meaning that the religious leaders of the latter days would be discredited. These notes, run to approximately 300,000 words, or one third the length of the text of the Bible itself! Written by Reformation leaders John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, William Keithe, Thomas Sampson, Thomas Wood and several others. For nearly half a century these notes helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland understand the scriptures. The marginal notes were especially useful to the common people when Queen Elizabeth prohibited priests from addressing the congregations.

The Geneva Bible had several other novel features. On the advice of John Calvin it became the first Bible to divide scriptures into numbered verses. It was published in Roman type rather than black letter, and all interpolated words were italicized.

The Geneva Bible owes its origins to the Reformation Leaders who defied the persecutions of “Bloody Mary” (as Mary Queen of England would come to be called). Upon her ascension to the throne, Queen Mary banned the printing of English scriptures. This led William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, and a small band of Englishmen to flee to Geneva where they began translating an English version of the Bible. These scholars were concerned about the influence the Catholic Church would have in shaping the available English translation of the Bible (all translated from the Latin Vulgate). They turned to the original Greek and Hebrew texts to create the Geneva Bible, which became the first Bible ever translated into English from the original Biblical texts.

It took the leaders of the Reformation over two years of diligent work day and night to finish the translation and commentaries of the Geneva Bible. During this time they used many works and commentaries, including those of Theodore Beza, one of the most prominent Biblical scholars of the era.

In addition to being the reason for its popularity, the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible were also the reason for its demise. These strongly Protestant notes so infuriated King James that he considered it “seditious” and made its ownership a felony. James I was particularly worried about marginal notes such as the one in Exod 1: 19, which allowed disobedience to Kings. Consequently, King James eventually introduced the King James Version, which drew largely from the Geneva Bible (minus the marginal notes that had enraged him). During the reign of James I and into the reign of Charles I the use of the Geneva Bible steadily declined as the Authorized King James version became more widely used. In 1644 the Geneva Bible was printed for the last time.

Learn about the religion of your ancestors. Compare the thousands of marginal notes with the commentaries of today and you will readily see the difference. The Reformers had completed all their commentaries and marginal notes by 1599, making this edition of the Geneva Bible the most complete and a very valuable study aid to the seekers of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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