Fortunately, though things were still terrible, the tide was turning in England. In 1534, two years before Tyndale’s prayer, the notorious King Henry VIII wanted an annulment from his first wife and Rome wouldn’t give him one. He appointed his own Archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, who granted his annulment. The Pope then excommunicated Henry. In turn, the English Parliament broke away from Rome and declared King Henry VIII “the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England.” In 1535, Henry allowed Archbishop Cranmer to commission Myles Coverdale to publish the Coverdale Bible. This was the first complete English Bible.

1538 Coverdale Diglot a

FIRST EDITION
Coverdale's 1538 Latin-English New Testament, printed by James Nicolson, in Southwarke, England, 1538

In 1537 a companion of Coverdale named John Rogers, under the pseudonymn “Thomas Matthew,” is believed to have published the Tyndale-Matthew’s Bible. This was the first English Bible openly offered for sale to the public.

1551 Matthews 127 b

This leaf is from a Tyndale-Matthew's Bible, printed by Wyllyam Bonham, London, 1551

1540 Great a

1540 edition of the "Great Bible," published by Thomas Petyt, London

Finally, in 1539, King Henry directed Archbishop Cranmer to hire Coverdale to publish a revised edition of his Bible. This came to be known as the “Great Bible”—so named because of its size. This was actually the first legal English language Bible printed in England.

Out of his “royal liberality and goodness,” Henry granted the citizens the privilege of reading the Bible in their homes. Unfortunately, in 1543, he reversed his decision, and in 1546 it was enacted that “no labouring men or women should read to themselves publicly or privately any part of the Bible, under pain of imprisonment.” So much for home Bible study--unless, of course, you were of the upper class!

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