June 19, 2012

A Visual History of the English Bible

I really enjoyed this book. There was so much great information about the beginnings of the English Bible. I knew bits and pieces of how it came to be but this book put it all together. I also found this book fairly easy to read and to follow through the English Bible's history.

It starts off with the Ancient manuscripts, he says here:

"The earliest known manuscripts of the Old Testament date from the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. Written on leather in the form of a scroll, these documents were read at annual feasts and used in private study."

He continues in the next chapters with stories of the Bibles translations into English, the first printings and the men who risked their lives to do so. Men like, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Miles Cloverdale.

John Wycliffe
William Tyndale
Martin Luther
Miles Cloverdale

One thing I found interesting is how many spelling and grammatical errors there were in these first printings. Since all type setting was done by hand this was inevitable. Some of the typo's are actually kind of funny. Here are a few examples and the nicknames these Bible's got from these mistakes.

-The second edition of the Geneva Bible (1562) was nicknamed the "Whig" Bible for this typo:

Matthew 5:9 where "placemakers" was written in place of  "peacemakers" which was later facetiously associated with the political methods of the Whig party in England. (1678)

-Barker's octavo edition of the King James version (1631) was nicknamed the "Wicked" Bible for this typo:

Exodus 20:14 "Thou shalt commit adultery" 
Should read "Thou shalt not commit adultery"

-An Oxford University Press octavo of the King James version (1810) was nicknamed the "Wife-hater's" Bible for this typo:

Luke 14:26 "If any man hate not his father...and his own wife also, he cannot be my disciple"
Should read "If any man hate not his father...and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

Needless to say the Bible has outlived all these typo mistakes. The Word of God has always stood on it's own and always will. Even with fallible men translating and printing it.

"Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens."                             Psalms 119:89

"For, All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 

but the word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you." 
                                                                                                                                         1 Peter1:24-25

The Dead Sea Scrolls (dated from the first century BC to the first century AD), were found in a cave in 1947, and were virtually exact to the Hebrew manuscripts we use today for translating. The author says here:

"...the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed much of the text used in our modern Hebrew Bible. It gives scholars and students complete confidence that the Scriptures we buy in the bookstores are the preserved text God gave to the original writers of the Bible."

The author, Donald L. Brake, is also an avid Bible collector and throughout the book he shares stories of his Bible collecting adventures. I really enjoyed these short stories of how he obtained some of his treasured Bibles from the past. I would love to see that collection some day!!

One particular Bible he found in his search, was a Mathew's Bible (1537) and when he opened it up it had an authentic signature from William Whipple (1754), a signer of the Declaration of Independence! (pictured below) I really felt his excitement as he quickly purchased this new found edition of the Bible.

I also LOVED all the great photos in this book. Photos of Bibles, men who printed them and those who opposed them. Also photos of great scenes of history. Pretty much every page or every other page had a wonderful photo to go along with what you read. This made this book even more enjoyable.

Here's a look inside the book:

I thought I'd share a few historical facts about the English Bible:

-The first edition of the Geneva New Testament (1557) was the first English Bible to insert verse divisions and to use Latin letter.

-The Geneva Bible had Calvinistic notes throughout, which made it difficult for the Anglican clergy of the time to accept it.

-The first edition of the Rhemes New Testament (1582)  and the Douay Old Testament (1610) were the Roman Catholic response to the popular Protestant Geneva Bible with Calvinistic notes was to produce an English translation from the authorized Latin Vulgate with it's own sectarian notes.

- The first edition of the King James Version (1611) is a royal monument of English literature. It helped to stabilize English vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.

-The Eliot Indian Bible in the Algonquin language of 1663 was the first Bible printed in America. Translated by John Eliot, a highly successful missionary and church planter.

I found this to be a very informative book which was easy to read and understand for the average layman, like me.  : )  I highly recommend it!


  1. Hello, I too read this book and enjoyed it very much. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on Impressions In Ink. I have a Christian blog too @ http://awell-wateredgarden.blogspot.com

    1. I'm following both and enjoying your reviews! Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed this book also. :)


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