The Geneva Bible

Which favored Bible translation was brought to the new world by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower? Which Bible translation was used by the 16th century reformers, William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, and John Bunyan? If you think it was the King James Version, think again. Little known today, it was actually the Geneva Bible that was used by these historical figures. Preceding the King James Version by half a century, the Geneva Bible was the fruit of the efforts of a number of protestant scholars including John Calvin, Theodore Beza, William Whittingham, Myles Coverdale, and Anthony Gilby. In the spirit of William Tyndale, the Geneva Bible was the first mass-produced bible, and was translated and had a modern typeface for the general public. It was also the first Bible with numbered verses. The Geneva Bible was truly a Bible for the plow boy! With its cross references, notes, and illustrations, the Geneva Bible was also the first study bible. The fact is that the very existence of the King James Bible is owed to the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was seen as subversive by various authorities such as King James I who commissioned the Authorized version in order to replace it. So how does one get a hold of this great piece of history? Though it’s not something that you can usually pick up at your local bookstore, there are plenty of different copies of the Geneva Bible out there if you look for them.

Most Geneva Bibles on the market are facsimiles that are quite beautiful. One of these is the Bible Museum’s 1560 Geneva Bible: First Edition Facsimile Reproduction. It’s a large copy of the complete first edition from 1560 including the Apocrypha. If you don’t mind spending $300, another quite handsome choice is the Geneva Bible with Rembrandt leather cover.

While there are many wonderful facsimiles of the Geneva Bible to choose from, one drawback is that they can be rather cumbersome and difficult to read. Enter the 1599 Geneva Bible from Tolle Lege Press. I had been eying one of these for some time now and finally ordered myself one at a great price from the American Vision Store. It is absolutely wonderful! The bonded leather edition is very beautiful and sturdy. Of course, its greatest feature is that the publisher has updated the typeface to an easy to read format. It’s such a great translation and the commentary and notations are truly priceless. One of the notable features I like are the reformer’s prayers for morning and evening. I actually consider it my primary Bible now and carry it with a compact ESV for parallel reference. Who knows, with such a usable format, maybe more congregations will adopt the Geneva Bible! The only recommendations I would make to improve it would be to retain all of the illustrations from the original. Here’s an idea: How great would it be to see a Geneva/ESV Parallel Bible? Overall, the 1599 Geneva Bible is a great accomplishment. It is a vital piece of history that has been brought back and should never risk being forgotten again.

Notice: This is merely an honest review. The author does not seek profit from any referenced products.