The Great Bible

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English Bible Versions

The Great Bible was the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England.

The Great Bible was prepared by Myles Coverdale, working under commission of Sir Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide:

"…one book of the bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."

Although called the Great Bible because of its large size, it is known by several other names as well: the Cromwell Bible, since Thomas Cromwell directed its publication; Whitchurch's Bible after its first English printer; also the Chained Bible, since it was chained in "some convenient place within the said church". It has also been termed less accurately Cranmer's Bible, since Thomas Cranmer's preface appeared only in the second edition.

Contents

Sources and history

The Great Bible was based on Matthew's Bible. It therefore includes, with very slight revision, the New Testament and the Old Testament portions that had been translated by William Tyndale. The remaining books of the Old Testament had been translated by Coverdale, who used mostly the Latin Vulgate and German translations as sources rather than working from the original Greek and Hebrew texts.

The psalms in the Book of Common Prayer are taken from the Great Bible rather than the King James Bible.

In 1568, the Great Bible was superseded as the authorised version of the Anglican Church by the Bishops' Bible. The last of over 30 editions of the Great Bible appeared in 1569.

Printing

The first edition was a run of 2,500 copies that were begun in Paris in 1539. Much of the printing was done at Paris, and after some misadventures where the printed sheets were seized by the French authorities on grounds of heresy (since relations between England and France were somewhat troubled at this time), the publication was completed in London in April 1539. It went through six subsequent revisions between 1540 and 1541. The second edition of 1540, included a preface by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, recommending the reading of the scriptures. (Cranmer’s preface was also included in the front of the Bishops' Bible.)

The most available reprinting of the Great Bible's New Testament (minus its marginal notes) can be found in the second column of the New Testament Octapla edited by Luther Weigle, chairman of the translation committee that produced the Revised Standard Version.

See Also

References

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