The Reformation Concludes
The reign of Mary Tudor—“Bloody Mary”—was the next obstacle to the printing of the Bible in English. Coming to the throne in 1553, she was determined to return England to the Roman Church. By an edict of March 4, 1554, the Catholic worship was completely reinstated, Protestantism and other “heresies” were made illegal, and all Protestant preaching or publication was prohibited. In 1555, she had John Rogers (alias Thomas Matthew) and Archbishop Cranmer burned at the stake. During her brief reign, some three hundred Protestant reformers were burned or hung in a slaughter that ultimately sickened both Protestants and Catholics. A great many Protestants decided this was a good time to leave Merrie Olde England.
In truth, England was still largely Catholic at the beginning of her reign. But by the time she was done, her beloved country had had its fill of Catholicism. She died quietly on November 17, 1558.
For 200 years afterwards, the day of Mary's death was celebrated as a national holiday.
The burning of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer on October 16, 1555, on orders from Queen Mary.
Woodcut from Foxe's Book of Martyrs
In the providence of God, Geneva, Switzerland, was one of only a few safe havens for Protestant refugees to settle during Queen Mary’s bloody reign. There, with the protection of the great reformers John Calvin and John Knox, the Church of Geneva produced a Bible that would educate the refugees during their exile.
The New Testament was completed in 1557, and the complete Bible was first published in 1560. It became known as the Geneva Bible. The Geneva has been called the Bible of the Protestant Reformation. It was so popular that when the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America in the 17th century, they brought the Geneva Bible with them because they didn’t trust the newer KJV!
This Geneva leaf was printed by Robert Barker, London, 1611
In 1558, Elizabeth I gained the throne. Freed now from persecution, the Church of England reluctantly tolerated the printing of Geneva Bibles in England. It didn’t care at all, though, for the marginal notes, which were against the institutional Church of the day. So the Church of England came up with its own, less inflammatory version—the Bishop’s Bible, introduced in 1568. It was a poor translation, though, and never became popular with the people. As one early printer wrote, the Bishop’s Bible “was, and is not loved.”
In 1582, the Catholic Church finally conceded that it had lost the battle to keep God’s Word locked up in Latin. Rome especially hated the Geneva Bible, however, since the notes said nasty things like “The Pope is the Antichrist.” So, they came up with their own English translation—the Douay-Rheims Bible, complete with Catholic notes.
1600 Rheims New Testament
1578 Bishop's Bible