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Revelation
 

ALL NOTES
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Geneva Bible Notes (1599)

he Geneva Bible is a critical, yet almost completely forgotten part of the Protestant Reformation. Driven out of England by the persecutions of Bloody Mary, several future leaders of the Reformation came to Geneva to create a pure and accurate translation of the Holy Writ. Concerned about the influence that the Catholic Church had on the existing translations of the Bible from the Latin, these men turned to the original Hebrew and Greek texts to produce the Geneva Bible. This made the Geneva Bible the first complete Bible to be translated into English from the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

           The creation of the Geneva Bible was a substantial undertaking. Its authors spent over two years, working diligently day and night by candlelight, to finish the translation and the commentaries. The entire project was funded by the exiled English congregation in Geneva, making the translation a work supported by the people and not by an authoritarian church or monarch.

           All the marginal commentaries were finished by 1599, making the 1599 edition of the Geneva Bible the most complete study aide for Biblical scholars and students. This edition does not contain the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha’s notes are minimal or absent in other editions. Additional highlights of this edition include maps of the Exodus route and Joshua’s distribution of land, a name and subject index, and Psalms sung by the English congregation in Geneva.

           The greatest distinction of the Geneva Bible, however, is the extensive collection of marginal notes that it contains. Prominent Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Theodore Beza, and Anthony Gilby wrote the majority of these notes in order to explain and interpret the scriptures. The notes comprise nearly 300,000 words, or nearly one-third the length of the Bible itself, and they are justifiably considered the most complete source of Protestant religious thought available.

           Owing to the marginal notes and the superior quality of the translation, the Geneva Bible became the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was continually printed from 1560 to 1644 in over 200 different editions. It was the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers, thinkers, and historical figures of the Reformation era. William Shakespeare’s plays and the writings of John Milton and John Bunyan were clearly influenced by the Geneva Bible. Oliver Cromwell issued a pamphlet containing excerpts from the Geneva Bible to his troops during the English Civil War. When the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower they took with them exclusively the Geneva Bible.

           The marginal notes of the Geneva Bible enraged the Catholic Church, since the notes deemed the act of confession to men – the Catholic Bishops – as unjustified by Holy Script. Man should confess to God only; man’s private life was man’s private life. The notes also infuriated King James, since they allowed disobedience to tyrannical kings. King James went so far as to make ownership of the Geneva Bible a felony. He then proceeded to make his own version of the Bible, but without the marginal notes that had so disturbed him. Consequently, during King James’s reign, and into the reign of Charles I, the Geneva Bible was gradually replaced by the King James Bible.

This introductory excerpt from L. L. Brown Publishing

Other information:

The Geneva Bible was the predominant English translation during the period in which the English and Scottish Reformations gained great impetus. Iain Murray, in his classic work on revival and the interpretation of prophecy, The Puritan Hope, notes, "... the two groups in England and Scotland developed along parallel lines, like two streams originating at one fountain. The fountain was not so much Geneva, as the Bible which the exiles newly translated and issued with many marginal notes... it was read in every Presbyterian and Puritan home in both realms"

The Cambridge Geneva Bible of 1591 was the edition carried by the Pilgrims when they fled to America. As such, it directly provided much of the genius and inspiration which carried those courageous and faithful souls through their trials, and provided the spiritual, intellectual and legal basis for establishment and flourishing of the colonies. Thus, it became the foundation for establishment of the American Nation. This heritage makes it a Celestial Article indeed and a treasured possession for any free man.

The 1560 Geneva Bible was the first to have Bible chapters divided into numbered verses. The translation is the work of religious leaders exiled from England after the death of King Edward VI in 1553. Almost every chapter has marginal notes to create greater understanding of scripture. The marginal notes often reflected Calvinistic and Protestant reformation influences, not yet accepted by the Church of England. King James I in the late 16th century pronounced the Geneva Bible marginal notes as being: "partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring of dangerous and traitorous conceits." In every copy of each edition the word "breeches" rather than "aprons" was used in Genesis 3:7, which accounts for why the Geneva Bible is sometime called the "Breeches" Bible. The Church of England never authorized or sanctioned the Geneva Bible. However, it was frequently used, without authority, both to read the scripture lessons, and to preach from. It was pre-eminent as a household Bible, and continued so until the middle of the 17th century. The convenient size, cheap price, chapters divided into numbered verses and extensive marginal notes were the cause of it's popularity.

 

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