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English Bibles: Matthew's Bible 1537, Matthew’s/Taverner’s Bible, and the Great Bible 1539

Thomas Matthew is a pseudonym for John Rogers (1500-1555), a friend of Tyndale. This Bible contains for the first time a translation of the Prayer of Manasseh. In 1555 Rogers was burned alive at Smithfield, during the reign of Queen Mary, the first of the Protestant martyrs. "The French ambassador wrote that Rogers died with such composure that it might have been a wedding."  Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation, 62.

At the bottom of the title page appeared these words: "Set forth with the kinges most gracyous lycence." This license was obtained by Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) at Thomas Cranmer’s (1489-1556) request in spite of Tyndale’s close connection with the book. This translation used Tyndale's Pentateuch and Tyndale's version of the historical books as far as 2 Chronicles, which Tyndale himself had not been able to print. The New Testament was Tyndale's version of 1535 while the other Old Testament books and the Apocrypha came from Coverdale.

Gruber 25

Gruber 25.

Gruber 25. The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture...translated into English by Thomas Matthew...MDXXXVII. Printed for R. Grafton and E. Whitchurch of London (actually printed in Antwerp). LSTC also owns one page from another copy of Thomas Matthew’s Bible, containing Luke 2-3. BS150.4 1549. This is a reprint of Matthew’s Bible in 1549. This page is a gift of Mrs. D. Irvin.


Matthew’s/Taverner’s Bible

Bible, 1551

Bible 1551

The Byble, That is to say, Al the Holy Scripture Conteined in the Olde & New Testament, Faythfully set furth according to ye coppy of Thomas Mathewes Translacion, Whereunto are added Certain Learned Prologes.  London: John Day, 1551. Front cover broken off and title page missing. The title page for the NT gives the year as 1551, but does not indicate the translator. The volume ends in 1 Peter 3.  Though stated in the title to be Mathewes translation, it is with the exception of a few chapters in reality a revised edition of Richard Taverner’s translation of 1539, itself a revision of Matthew’s Bible. The NT is Day and Seres’ Tyndale Testaments of 1548 and 1551. Psalm 91:5 reads: So that thou shalt not nede to be afraid for any bugs by night. The NRSV reads: You will not fear the terror of the night.  Back of Book Binding has words Tyndale’s Bible.


 


Great Bible 1539

Great Bible, 1539

Great Bible 1539

Because of the outspoken Protestantism of the notes in the Matthew's Bible, a revision of the Matthew's Bible was undertaken to make it more generally acceptable.  This became known as the Great Bible and was first published in April 1539. A woodcut on the title page shows Henry VIII delivering the Word of God with his right hand to Cranmer and with his left to Thomas Cromwell. Cranmer in turn delivers it to the clergy and Cromwell to the laity. The order of the last books in the New Testament was not Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, as in Tyndale, Coverdale, and Matthew, following Luther, but the standard order given by Erasmus in his Greek New Testament and followed in all English versions today.

This Bible was Coverdale's revision of Matthew's Bible. A revised second edition appeared in 1540, with these words at the bottom of the title page:  This is the Byble apoynted to the use of the churches. This second edition of this Bible in 1540 became known as Cranmer’s Bible because of his Preface.

In the 4th and 6th editions of 1540-1541, reference is made to Cuthbert, Bishop of Durham. This was Cuthbert Tonstall who had bought up many copies of Tyndale's New Testament in the 1520s so that he could burn them! Now his name on the title page gives authority to a Bible translation which in largest part is Tyndale's.

In 1546 Henry VIII ordered that no one should receive or keep Tyndale's or Coverdale's New Testaments, which was absurd since the New Testament of the Great Bible was very close to Tyndale.  When Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, the Great Bible was still the version "appointed to the use of the churches" throughout England. The LSTC Rare Book Collection does not contain a copy of the Great Bible.

Gruber 118. Francis Fry, A Description of the Great Bible, and the Six Editions of Cranmer’s Bible…also of the editions, in large folio…of the Authorized Version. London, 1865.



The Gruber Collection was assembled by L. Franklin Gruber, President of Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, Maywood, Illinois.

Annotation prepared by Ralph W Klein