When Mary I, known as “Bloody Mary,” came to the throne in 1553, she was determined to reinstate the Roman Catholic Church and eliminate the Reformation. She showed no signs of mercy or compromise, and persecution soon followed. During this era, known as the “Marian Exile,” the English reformers and scholars were driven to the mainland, where they used this opportunity to advance the Reformation. During this time of persecution, a new Bible was born – the Geneva Bible.
Because of the need for a pure and accurate translation of the Holy Scriptures, the Geneva Bible became the first English version translated entirely from the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. This Bible was the work of English exiled reformers, assisted by Theodore Beza, John Calvin, and many others. Much of the translation was done by William Wittingham, John Calvin’s brother-in-law. The authors worked over candlelight for two years, both day and night, to complete the translation.
The Geneva Bible became known as a modern Bible, because it was the first to have both verse and chapter divisions, and also included extensive marginal notes, which totaled one-third the length of the Bible itself! These notes were written by Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, and several others. Because of its popularity with the English people who, for the first time in history could understand what they were reading and could own their own copy, the Geneva Bible surpassed other translations for many years, and became the most widely read and influential English Bible of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The Pilgrim’s Bible:
In 1620, during their voyage on the Mayflower to the New World, the Pilgrims carried with them copies of the Geneva Bible, understanding the Biblical principle of Psalm33:12,”Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” That the Pilgrim’s treasured this Book was no surprise; even before they left Holland, they purposed in their hearts to carry God’s Word into America. Because of their sacrifice, the Geneva Bible, also called the “Pilgrim’s Bible,” became the spiritual foundation for the future of the United States of America.
From England to Holland, and finally to the New World, the Pilgrims brought with them a rich heritage that would be handed down from generation to generation, and a deep desire to further the Gospel and advance Christian doctrine in the remote parts of the world. The Geneva Bible may not have been the first Bible on American soil, but it certainly helped to shape our Christian culture. God preserved His Word as it was written, translated, and carried to the various parts of the world.