The Matthew Bible

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The Matthew Bible, also known as Matthew's Bible, was first published in 1537 under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew". It combined Coverdale's work with the maximum of Tyndale's, and thus began the main sequence of English Bible translations.



Matthew's Bible was the combined work of three individuals, working from numerous sources in at least five different languages.

The Pentateuch, the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles—as well as the entire New Testament first published in 1526 and later revised—were the work of William Tyndale. Tyndale worked directly from the Hebrew and Greek, occasionally consulting the Vulgate and Erasmus’s Latin version, and referencing Luther's Bible for the prefaces and marginal notes. The use of the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew" resulted from the need to conceal from Henry VIII the participation of Tyndale in the translation.

The remaining books of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha were the work of Myles Coverdale. Coverdale translated primarily from German and Latin sources (see Coverdale Bible).

The Prayer of Manasses was the work of John Rogers. Rogers translated from a French Bible printed two years earlier (in 1535). Rogers compiled the completed work and added the preface, some marginal notes, a calendar and almanac.

Of the three translators, two were burned at the stake. Tyndale was burned on 6 October 1536 in Vilvoorde, Belgium at the instigation of agents of Henry VIII and the Anglican Church. John Rogers was "tested by fire" on 4 February 1554/55 at Smithfield, England; the first to meet this fate under Mary I of England. Myles Coverdale was employed by Cromwell to work on the Great Bible of 1539, the first officially authorized English translation of the Bible.

Historians often tend to treat Coverdale and Tyndale like competitors in a race to complete the monumental and arduous task of translating the biblical text. One is often credited to the exclusion of the other. In reality they knew each other and occasionally worked together. Foxe states that they were in Hamburg translating the Pentateuch together as early at 1529.

Time and extensive scholastic scrutiny have judged Tyndale the most gifted of the three translators. Dr Westcott in his History of the English Bible states that "The history of our English Bible begins with the work of Tyndale and not with that of Wycliffe." The quality of his translations has also stood the test of time, coming relatively intact even into modern versions of the Bible.


It is not known who printed the Matthew Bible (Herbert #34); it may have been Jacobus van Meteren in Antwerp. Later editions were printed in London; the last of four appeared in 1551 (Herbert #92).

Van Meteren's son, Emanuel stated in an affidavit dated 28 May 1609 that his father was "a furtherer of reformed religion, and he that caused the first Bible at his costes to be Englisshed by Mr Myles Coverdal in Andwarp, the w’h his father, with Mr Edward Whytchurch, printed both in Paris and London." Coverdale was employed as a translator by Jacobus van Meteren. Rogers began assisting the work around 1535, and married J. van Meteren's niece Adriana in the same year that the Matthew Bible was published (1537).


  • A. S. Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525–1961, London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968. SBN 564-00130-9.

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