PICTURED HERE IS ONE OF THEM – a copy of the Geneva Bible, first published in 1560 by refugee reformers, exiled by the anti-Reformation persecutions under Mary Tudor, Queen of England. It was produced under John Calvin’s closest supervision, and remained for half a century the most popular of all English versions. It was best known as The Breeches Bible, because of its rendering of Genesis 3:7: ‘…. And they sewed figge-tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.’
This 1599 Breeches Bible is one of the most interesting editions of
the Geneva Bible, for 1599 - boldly stamped in gold on its cover – was
not the date of its publication! The statement on the title page
carefully elaborates further that it was Imprinted at London, by the deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queenes most excellent Majestie – 1599. But in fact the Bible was printed in Holland during the 1630s.
Laud then gave orders, forbidding the
printing and importing of the censored Bible. This explains the device
that was then used - of importing the Bibles, but attributing them to
the earlier time of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and to Barker’s printing
house in London.
This edition – revised by Tomson, an
Elizabethan civil servant – built upon the original Geneva version. The
bulk of it consists of Tyndale’s latest text, revised according to
Beza’s famous Greek-Latin New Testament, which came out too late for the
The Bible also features a commentary
on the Book of Revelation that runs alongside the text. It was
contributed by the famous French scholar Francois Junius of Heidelberg
and Leyden University, noted for his escapes while preaching near
Antwerp around 1556.
The Bible outlasted both Archbishop
Laud – beheaded for treason at Tower Hill in 1645 – and King Charles
1st, himself beheaded in 1649.
And the effect of this famous
edition? The historian G.M. Trevellyan wrote of the seventeenth century
that the effect of the study of the Bible upon the national
character, imagination and intelligence for nearly three centuries to
come was greater than that of any literary movement in our annals or any
religious movement since the coming of St. Augustine.
Whether it has been the Roman Caesars, Archbishop Laud, Mary Tudor,
Voltaire, Marxism or atheists of this and every century, the final
burying of the Bible has been prophesied so often as to be no longer