For the past 70 or more years, ever since the “modern” translations of God’s Word, our Holy Bible, began to appear on the scene, there have been dire predictions that “the Apocalypse” was about to come upon us, that the moon would turn to blood, and that the “end of the world” was imminent. We still hear many of these same unfounded fears. What has prompted these warnings from otherwise rational believers with their concerns regarding the affect that newer or more modern Bible translations will have upon the world of Protestant Christendom? What has caused this “doom scenario” on the part of a portion of today’s Christian people? Some of the hysteria centers on what I believe to be “false teaching” found within certain Christian denominations, but that’s a discussion I’m not interested in pursuing.
Obviously some of it has to do with what Bible Christians are reading—or to be more accurate, what some Christians believe is the only one they—and YOU-- ought to read—which is the Authorized 1611 King James Version of God’s Holy Word, a questionable contention advanced for decades by the partisan “King James Version Only Movement”. I acknowledge that some of the “newer, modern” translations are suspect and far too liberal and inaccurate for me (for example, The Revised Standard Version), Admittedly I am not a Biblical scholar and I am not trained in the original languages in which God’s Word was recorded over many centuries, but as a layman I have long questioned some of the proponents of the “KJ Version Only Movement, and have had doubts over some of their conclusions. But this article is not about that controversy, and in Christian love for you, my fellow believers, let us agree to “disagree” about this if we must.
The first Bible I received (but didn’t read) was the one my step-grandmother gave me when I was almost 12, in 1948. It was an “Authorized KJV”, and I don’t recall ever opening it until I was in my early 20’s. For centuries the AKJV was considered to be the only Bible to read, and many Christians still love the beautiful and familiar (if somewhat archaic) words and majestic passages of that historic version of God’s Word.
However, there was a MUCH OLDER AND EQUALY BELOVED version of our Christian Bible that was around LONG BEFORE the AKJV came into being. It was the version used by ALL of the English and Scottish Reformers in their battles with the Church of Rome and the Church of England during the late 1500’s and thereafter, and was the ONLY version used and accepted by our Mayflower Pilgrim Forefathers and Mothers—the ONLY version that inspired them to establish the Plymouth Colony out of which, ultimately, the once Christian oriented nation called The United States of America was born-- the ONLY version that sustained these stalwart Separatists in their vision to bring about a Christian enclave in the wilderness of North America in 1620—the ONLY version that was used by our Pilgrim fore parents during their twelve year sojourn in Holland (1608-1620), where they had fled to avoid their extreme persecution in England by the oppressive government of the very unpopular King James and by the rigid hierarchy of the Church of England—the ONLY version used by their pastor, John Robinson, as he taught those separatist exiles there in the English Pilgrim Church in Leiden, Holland. It was THE GENEVA BIBLE, first published in 1560 A.D., and while it is relatively unfamiliar to most Christians in our time, thankfully it is available and is now being purchased and read more frequently in its 1599 version. (It, like all translations, is available on-line.)
So what happened to the Geneva Bible, and why did our ancestors stop reading it way back in the 17th or 18th centuries? What was the Geneva Bible, and how did it differ from the KJV still widely used today (and which was considered “modernist” and “controversial” by large numbers of Christians when it first appeared in 1611)? I’d like to quote an article from a great web site that I consider reliable: It is Apostasy Watch (apostasywatch.com), administered by the Christian warrior, Steve Lumbley. From a portion of that site titled Got Questions, following is the article titled: WHAT IS THE GENEVA BIBLE?
“ANSWER: The Geneva Bible is an early English translation of the Bible. Its name comes from the fact it was first published in Geneva (Switzerland) in 1560. The work of Protestant exiles from England and Scotland, the GB is well respected and was an important Bible in Scotland and England before and even after the King James Version was published in 1611. For some 40 years after the KJV was published, the GB remained the most popular English translation….
“In 1553 Mary Tudor became Queen of England. As queen she was committed to eliminating Protestant influences in England and restoring Roman Catholicism as the official religion. Under her rule (1553-1558) there was a time of intense persecution of Protestants known as “The Marian Persecutions”, which earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary”. She had over 300 Protestant believers burned at the stake, and many others fled to other countries rather than face certain death for not supporting Roman Catholicism.
“During this time period, several key English Protestant leaders fled to Geneva to avoid the persecution in England. Among them were Miles Coverdale, John Foxe, Thomas Sampson, and William Whittingham. With the support of John Calvin and the Scottish reformer, John Knox, these English Reformers decided to publish an English Bible that was not dependent upon the approval of English royalty. Building upon earlier English translations such as those done by William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale, the Geneva Bible was the first English translation in which all of the Old Testament was translated directly from Hebrew manuscripts (emphasis mine-whl). William Whittingham, the brother-in-law of John Calvin, did much of the translation work.
“In 1557 they published an English New Testament. …(I)n 1560, the first edition of the Geneva Bible was published in Geneva, containing both the New and Old Testaments along with significant translation notes. This new English Bible was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth 1, who had been crowned Queen of England in 1558 after the death of Queen Mary 1. Under Queen Elizabeth, the persecution of Protestants stopped, and she began leading England back toward Protestantism. This led to later editions of the Geneva Bible being published in England beginning in 1576. In all, over 150 editions were published, with the 1644 edition being the last.
“Pre-dating the KJV by 51 years, the Geneva Bible was one of the earliest mass produced English Bibles commonly available to the public. It was the primary English Bible used by 16th century English Protestant Reformers and was the Bible used by such people as William Shakespeare, John Milton, John Knox, and John Bunyan. Often considered one of the earliest examples of a study Bible, the Geneva Bible contained detailed notes, verse citations that allowed cross-referencing of passages, and also study aids such as book introductions, maps, and woodcut illustrations. It was printed in at least three different sizes and was reasonably affordable….
“The annotations or notes in the Geneva Bible were DISTINCTLY CALVINIST AND PURITAN in character, which made the translation unpopular with some of the pro-government Church of England leaders as well as King James (emphasis mine-whl). This led King James to commission the new translation that would become known as the Authorized Version or the AKJV. Surprisingly, though, some of the Geneva Bible notes were found in a few editions of the AKJV up to the 1715 version. The Geneva Bible was also seen as a threat to Roman Catholicism, as some of its notes, written by Protestant Reformers during a time of intense persecution by the Roman Catholic Church, are distinctly anti-Roman Catholic (emphasis mine-whl).
“Eventually, the KJV would replace the Geneva Bible as the most popular English translation. The Geneva Bible is a very important English translation and was the primary Bible used by many early settlers in America. In recent years it has gained popularity again, both because it is an excellent translation and because of its well written study notes.”
The Geneva Bible does include the Books of The Apocrypha, which were also published in the original 1611 version of the AKJV Bible. They were valued by the Christians who read the Geneva Bible for their history and as additional insights into the period between Old Testament and New Testament history, but were NOT considered as a part of the official “canonical” or God-Inspired Books that were eventually included by the early translators of our English Bibles, which may be why they were positioned between the OT and the NT in our early Bibles. The Apocrypha was published as a part of the KJV for 274 years before it was finally removed by Bible publishers in 1885. The word “apocrypha” means ‘hidden’; some Bible scholars have always claimed that the Apocrypha was never meant to be included in God’s Word, while others believe that whatever the reason/s, it should never have been removed. When speaking about these “hidden” books, Martin Luther said: “Apocrypha—that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, and yet are profitable and good to read.” Despite some “curious” verses in some of these books, they need to be read for their historical contexts as a bridge between the OT and NT historical periods.
Exactly why Protestant Christians stopped reading the Geneva Bible is beyond the scope of this article. Undoubtedly multiple reasons were involved, including publishing companies’ preferences based on the increasing acceptance of and demand for, over the 18th and 19th centuries, the KJV, and possibly because the rise of “fundamentalist” Christianity over that time began to favor the use of the KJV, especially among Baptist churches. However, my personal preference is increasingly to go back and read the earlier Geneva Bible, for it marked THE FIRST MAJOR BREAK with the teachings regarding Scripture and doctrine that were promulgated by the Roman Catholic Church for at least 1600 years, and without a doubt the Geneva Bible was one of the most significant influences in firmly establishing Protestant Christianity in the Western world—and NOT the KJV, which was disliked and distrusted by many Christians when it first was published in 1611 because of its association with the unpopular King James and the feared and distrusted hierarchy of the Church of England, which had harassed and persecuted separatist-minded Protestant Christians for many years . I rarely read the KJV now, and while I do quote from it, increasingly I prefer to read the “Separatists’ Bible”—the Geneva Bible (the 1599 edition commonly available)-- and use it for Biblical quotes in my articles for The Times Examiner. BOTH the Geneva Bible and the KJV have translation errors which, just as in the controversial but perhaps more accurate modern translations (note: I said “perhaps”), DO NOT affect Christian doctrines). And while it may be considered “heresy” by some (which it is not), I do enjoy reading The New International Version (the earlier edition) of God’s Word to compare modern English with that of the much earlier Geneva Bible, particularly when dealing with some of the archaic, out-of-date English words and phrases used in both the Geneva Bible and the KJV. However, that’s my personal preference. You stay with yours.
Quoting from a page from the on-line catalogue of Tolledge Press: “The Geneva Bible is unique among all other Bibles. It was the first Bible to use chapters and numbered verses and became the most popular version of its time because of more than 300,000 marginal notes which were included to explain and interpret the Scriptures for the common people. These study notes were considered to be a threat to Big Government, which makes this version of the Bible more relevant today than any other version! Why? King James frowned on what he considered to be seditious marginal notes on key political texts. A marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king’s orders, and a note for 2 Chronicles 15:16 said that King Asa should have had his mother executed and not merely deposed for the crime of worshipping an idol. The King James Version of the Bible grew out of the king’s distaste for these brief but potent doctrinal commentaries. He considered the marginal notes to be a political threat to his kingdom.” Well, King James wasn’t the only “ruler”, not even the first, to fear God’s Word by totally restricting it from their “subjects” or by using assorted “toadies” to “tell” their subjects what God’s Word said, rather than allowing them to read it for themselves!
If you haven’t read the Geneva Bible, I recommend you look it up on line and compare verses from it to identical verses in the KJV. Then, as you are led by the Holy Spirit, keep reading and studying your preferred version, for as our LORD has told us: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version).
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly (thoroughly) furnished unto all good works.” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17 Authorized King James Version).
“For the whole scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be absolute, being made perfect unto all good works.”
(2nd Timothy 3:16-17 1599 Geneva Bible).
“No temptation (test or trial) has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 New International Version).
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV.)
“There hath no temptation taken you, but such as appertaineth to (1) man: and God is faithful, which will not suffer you to be tempted above that you be able, but will even (2) give the issue with the temptation, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 1599 Geneva Bible) (footnotes): (1) Which cometh of weakness. (2) He that would have you tempted for your profit’s sake, will give you an issue (a way) to escape out of the temptation.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17 New International Version).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 KJV).
“For God so loveth the world, that he hath given his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, that he should condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 1599 Geneva Bible).