The History of the English Bible Part 9: The Great Bible (1539)

The Great Bible

In 1534 a petition was sent to King Henry VIII for a translation of the bible to be authorized in English. Several years later Thomas Cromwell Vicar-General under Henry VIII asked Coverdale to make a revision of the Matthew’s bible to become the authorized version in the church. King Henry’s decree was that all churches should have a copy of the Great Bible in their church. It was called the Great Bible due to it’s size. It was printed 16 1/2 by 11 inches.

Its interesting to note that literacy and reading had become so common by this time that a Bishop Bonner complained that the bible was disrupting his services. It seems people were reading their bibles aloud during his sermons. In 1539 the political landscape was becoming volatile between Protestants and RCCs. Henry VIII was staring to lean back to Catholicism. So in 1540 Coverdale chose to flee to Europe to avoid persecution. He briefly returned in 1547 after Henry’s death. When Mary Tudor took reign in 1553 he fled to Geneva. where he spent most of his time as elder of the English Church. He returned to England agin upon Mary’s death in 1559.

The Great Bible was the first bible to be authorized for public use in churches. It was a revision of the Tyndale, Coverdale and Matthews bible.

The Lord’s Prayer from The Great Bible Matthew 6:9-13

Oure father which art in heuen, halowed be thy name. Let thy kingdome come. Thy will be fulfilled, as well in erth, as it is in heuen. Geue vs this daye oure dayly bred. And forgeue vs our dettes, as we foegeue oure detters. And leade vs not into temptation:but delyuer vs from euyll. For thyne is the kyngdom and the power, and the glorye for euer. Amen

Great Bible page (click to enlarge)

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