The Matthew’s Bible was the work of John Rogers, a close friend and associate of William Tyndale. It was the first complete English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek. William Tyndale translated Genesis through Second Chronicles, as well as the New Testament, working directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts. The remainder of the Old Testament was translated by Miles Coverdale, who worked from the German and Latin sources. Rogers notably merged together Tyndale's translation and Coverdale's translation. The Matthews Bible contained all of Tyndale’s work, with the addition of Coverdale’s second translation. Although John Rogers did not claim skills as a translator, he did slightly revise their work as well as adding title pages, introductory and marginal notes, a calendar, and an almanac.
John Rogers worked as an assistant to William Tyndale and was quite familiar with his friend's teachings and theology and was also well versed in the English text from which Tyndale taught. His passion to see Tyndale's promise fulfilled led him to continue the task and complete the text even after Tyndale's martyrdom. Tyndale was burned at the stake just one year before the printing of the Matthew’s Bible.
John Rogers submitted the Matthew’s Bible, under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, a name used by William Tyndale on occasion. He knew that if his name or Tyndale’s name appeared on the title, it would hinder the sale of that Bible, because at that time Tyndale’s writings were condemned by King Henry VIII. The printer, Grafton, passed a copy of the Matthew’s Bible to Thomas Cramer, who passed it to Thomas Cromwell, who then gave it to King Henry VIII.
To the amazement of all, one of the King's loyal advisors, Thomas Cromwell, supported Rogers, and despite personal risk, publicly endorsed his work, even to the King. Cromwell's presentation of the most accurate translation to date, was so convincing that Henry VIII gave a license to it in England to be "sold and read of every person. . . until such time that the Bishops shall set forth a better translation, which, I thin, will not be 'til a day after doomsday."
The King authorized the sale and the reading of this Bible in his realm within ten days. Thus, eleven years after William Tyndale’s New Testament was banned by royal decree, the Matthew’s Bible was published with the King’s consent. Thankfully the King was not a careful observer: otherwise, he may have noticed the embossed W.T. in the preface to the New Testament, as well as over thirty pages of marginal notes that were critical of the papacy and the church of England. This Bible was later used by those who translated the Great Bible and the Bishop’s Bible.
An interesting note appears on the title page, indicating the license was carried out by the Bishop of Duham. This was none other than Cuthbert Tunstall, the very man who organized the gathering and burning of Tyndale's first edition New Testaments.
Not long after the ascension of Queen Mary, after the death of King Edward, a number of leading Protestant figures, including John Rogers, were arrested and leading reformist bishops such as John Hooper and Hugh Latimer were imprisoned weeks later. Thomas Cranmer was sent to the Tower for his role in Lady Jane’s attempted coup.
He was burned at the stake on 4 February 1555 at Smithfield. Antoine de Noailles, the French ambassador, speaks of the support given to Rogers by the greatest part of the people: "even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding."