Coverdale Finished English Language Bible

Dan Graves, MSL

Coverdale Finished English Language Bible

The Bible translation that William Tyndale had begun when he was arrested in May, 1535 only included the New Testament, the Pentateuch and a few historical books of the Old Testament. England was still without a complete Bible in the English language. Who would finish the work?

Using Tyndale's work as his starting point, Miles Coverdale stepped in and filled in the gaps with his own translations based on the Vulgate (the Latin Bible of the Middle Ages) and Luther's German Bible. He worked quickly to piece together a complete English Bible. It is thought to have been published on this day, October 4, 1535, probably in Zurich, Switzerland.

For several years after that heroic effort, Coverdale was busy with other versions of the English language Bible. He made a fresh translation of the New Testament three years later (1538) based on the Vulgate. In 1539, he helped put out the Great Bible, so called because of its size. This was the Bible King Henry VIII of England ordered placed in every parish church.

Coverdale began his religious life as an Augustinian friar, becoming a reformer thanks to the influence of his prior, Robert Barnes. During Mary's reign he fled for safety to the European continent. After her death, he came home and was made bishop of Exeter. He was looked upon as a leader of the Puritan party of the English church (The Puritans were those who wanted to "purify" the English Church of old Roman Church practices.)

Parts of Miles Coverdale's work found their way into English church services and are used to this day. When you hear the Westminster Choir sing a psalm, it will usually be based on Coverdale's translation. Although his translations never were the most popular in England they advanced the important work of giving English speaking Christians the full Bible in their own tongue.

Bibliography:

  1. "Coverdale, Miles." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  2. Mozley, James Frederic. Coverdale and His Bibles. London, Lutterworth Press, 1953.
  3. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated October 2010.

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