The Geneva Bible

January 1, 1560

The Geneva Bible—the Bible of Shakespeare, Milton and Donne—makes it’s first appearance. This English version has been attributed primarily to William Whittingham. This was the creation “of private enterprise and religious enthusiasm on the part of a small group of English Protestant exiles in the city of Geneva” (McGrath 2001:98). It set new standards in publishing with its beautiful illustrations, marginal comments and, consequently, the standard of the translation itself.

The History of Bible Translation

Original publication

In 1557, the Geneva translators (Theodore Beza, et al) revised the New Testament of the earlier revised and corrected (1534) English translation by Tyndale and Coverdale. The whole Bible was re-revised in 1560 by those reformers having fled the Bloody Mary persecutions of England. The death of Mary allowed printing of the Geneva Bible in England for the first time in 1575, during the Protestant Elizabeth’s reign,  only after the death of Archbishop Matthew Parker, editor of the Bishop’s Bible.

Major revisions

  • 1576
  • 1599 (marginal commentaries complete)

Notable for

  • the first complete Bible to be translated into English from the original Hebrew and Greek
  • lively Protestant language preferred by households over the then authorised Bishop’s Bible and even for a few decades into the existence of the King James Version
  • the most widely read English translation of the 16th and 17th centuries
  • the first to have Bible chapters divided into numbered verses
  • James I authorised a replacement (KJV) for its perceived seditious and heretical annotations
  • marginal notes were written by Calvin, Knox, Coverdale, Foxe, Sampson, Wittinghamet al
  • the Bible brought to America on the Mayflower by the pilgrims, with its distinct anti-Catholic flavour
  • the Bible of choice for many of the Reformation Era — Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Cromwell


  1. Logos Communication Consortium, Inc: The Geneva Bible – An Historical Report. Available at as at January 9, 2016.
  2. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Geneva Bible. Available at as at January 9, 2016.
  3. The Reformed Reader. 1599 Geneva Bible Notes. Available at as at January 9, 2016
  4. The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA). The Geneva Bible: The Forgotten Translation. Available at as at January 9, 2016.

Featured Image: Geneva Bible 1560 Edition [Wikimedia Commons]


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