16th Century

Here is the tumultuous 16th Century. The Protestant Reformation came into its own, and affected most people in England and Europe. The deep divisions between Protestants and Catholics crystalized during this Century. For most of the Century, the committment to provide a Bible in the English language fueled continuing antimosity between English Reformers and the Catholic Church in Rome. During this Century, this fight resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. 'Religious Tolerance' was not in the vocabulary of our 16th Century ancesters.


John Calvin is born in Noyon in France.  He became one of the most influential people of the Reformation. His book "Institutes of the Christian Religion", which was an exposition of Reformation doctrine, became the showpiece of early Protestant Theology. It's still studied today.   [Read more ...]


Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses  to the door of the church in Wittenburg.  In them Luther argues that the sale of indulgences is a gross violation of the original intention of confession and penance, and that Christians were being falsely told that they could receive forgiveness of sins through the purchase of indulgences. This is generally considered the first public act of the Protestant Reformation.   [Read It]


Martin Luther is excommunicated by the Catholic Church.  This came as no suprise. The Reformation had started big time.


Release of the first printed English New Testament by William Tyndale.  It was printed in Germany because it was against the law to publish an English Bible in England! This also made it necessary to use some unique methods to get the Bible distributed — it was smuggled into England in barrels of flour and bales of cloth — it was sewn into coats and hidden in hats. Every copy of Tyndale's Bible that got to England was immediately snatched-up by eager readers. Years later, Tyndale would be burned at the stake for publishing this Bible.   [Read more ...]


First printing of the Coverdale Bible.  Miles Coverdale was a quiet and meek man. Although quite knowledgeable, he was not a scholar in ancient Biblical languages. Certainly not the kind of person you'd expect to undertake the publishing of a new Bible — but that's exactly what he did. He combined Tyndale's translations with his own translation for the rest of the Bible. It was immediately very popular. This was the first time a complete Bible, containing both Old and New Testaments, had been printed in the English language.   [Read more ...]


William Tyndale burned at the stake.  He had been kidnapped, then arrested and found guilty of heresy because he had printed an English-language Bible. He languished in prison for more than a year before his execution.

First edition of Calvin's Institutes  is released.  The Institutes was a very popular book when it was first published, and has remained important for Protestant theology for almost five centuries.   [Read more ...]


Publication of the Matthew Bible.  The editor of this Bible is printed as Thomas Matthew, but that was just a 'pen-name' for John Rogers. Rogers was a friend of William Tyndale, who had been burned at the stake a year earlier. For safety he felt the need to keep his name out of his Bible. So he invented Thomas Matthew. To create the Bible, Rogers used Tyndale's revision of the New Testament, and also Tyndale's unpublished Old Testament manuscripts, which were complete through the book of Chronicles. The translation of remaining books came from the Coverdale Bible. The result was a compilation of work by two men — William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale.   [Read more ...]


The Great Bible becomes the first 'Authorized Bible' in Great Britain.  No English Bible up to this time had received the king's blessings, but this one was different. It had been reviewed and authorized by the Convocation of Bishops of the Church of England. The text was edited by Miles Coverdale (of 1535 Bible fame) with input from Thomas Cromwell, chief spokesman for King Henry VIII. With its lush bindings and quality woodcuts and typeface, the Great Bible was perhaps the most beautiful English book ever printed up to that time. Copies of the Great Bible were placed in just about every church in England. So popular was this Bible that in many churches it had to be chained to the wall just to prevent theft.    [Read more ...]


Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, becomes Queen of England.  Henry had split with the Catholic Church during his reign. However Mary was committed to bringing England back under the authority of the Pope. During her brief reign, she persecuted Protestants wherever they were found, and had almost 300 of them executed. Is it any wonder she earned the nickname "Bloody Mary"? Many Protestants who fled Mary's reign were deeply impacted by their exposure to real reformation which was taking place in Europe.   [Read more ...]


Elizabeth, a Protestant, is crowned Queen of England.  Soon many of the Protestants that had fled to Europe to avoid the persecutions under Queen Mary, began returning to England.


The Act of Uniformity requires the use of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer.  This Act, passed by British Parliament, specified harsh penalties for using anything other than the Book of Common Prayer for worship in the Church of England.


The Geneva Translation becomes England's first really popular Bible.  There were several reasons for this: Most editions were published in a smaller size, making it much more convenient as a personal Bible. It was the first Bible to be printed in normal Roman type, making it easier to read than earlier Bibles. It was also the first Bible to use verse notations; up to this point Bible chapters were simply divided into lettered sections called "lecterns" (resulting in references like John 3:b.) It was the Geneva Translation that our Pilgrim Forefathers brought with them to the New World in 1620.   [Read more ...]


The Bishops Bible becomes the official Bible of the Church of England.  The Geneva Translation was the best English translation at the time. However, the translators had included lots of marginal notes, many of which were not favorable to the Church of England. So the plan became to create a new revision the Great Bible, and print it without controversial maginal notes. A number of scholars, many of them bishops, worked independently on different parts of the new Bible. Thus it became known as the Bishops Bible.    [Read more ...]


A Catholic English New Testament, translated by Gregory Martin from the College at Rhemes, is released.  After more than 1,000 years, the Catholic Church endorsed a Bible that was not the Latin Vulgate. However, its 'stiff' translation was much harder to read than Protestant versions, so many Catholics preferred to read the Scriptures in the free style of the Geneva translation. They risked excommunication for doing that.   [Read more ...]