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English Bibles: Whittingham English New Testament and the Geneva Bible

Gruber 166a

Gruber 166a.

Gruber 166 Whittingham English New Testament. Printed by Conrad Badius MDLVII This X of June. (June 10, 1557) This copy of the New Testament lacks title page and several preliminary leaves. The translator was William Whittingham (1524-1579), who had sought refuge in Geneva after the accession of Queen Mary on July 19, 1553. Mary died in 1558, after burning almost 300 religious dissenters at the stake. Whittingham also played a major role in translating the Geneva Bible. Verse numbers were added in this translation for the first time.  The text is in Roman type, not black letter, and verse numbers are added. The Greek texts used were Estienne's of 1551 and Beza's of 1556. The English text most relied upon was Tyndale, from the edition of Richard Jugge in 1552.

The title page reads as follows: The Newe Testament of our Lord Iesus Christ. Conferred diligently with the Greke, and best approued translations. With the arguments, aswel before the chapters, as for euery Boke & Epistle, also diuersities of readings, and moste proffitable annotations of all harde places: whereunto is added a copious table.

Gruber 24a

Gruber 24a

Gruber 24 The Bible and Holy Scriptures.... At Geneva. Printed by Rouland Hall, MDLX.

Translated by exiles from England at Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary. The New Testament is credited to William Whittingham, who had married Calvin's wife's sister. The Old Testament was translated by a group headed by Anthony Gilby. But many others also worked at the task. Because of its translation of Gen 3:7 (They sewed figge-tree leaves together and made themselves breeches), the Geneva Bible is sometimes called the "Breeches" Bible.

Excerpt from 'Breeches' Geneva Bible

Excerpt from 'Breeches' Geneva Bible

The first edition was published in April or May 1560 (Elizabeth had become queen on November 17, 1558).

A new edition appeared every year between 1560 and 1616 although no copy was printed in England before 1575, when Archbishop Parker died. He had, with others, created the Bishops' Bible. The Geneva Bible was the Bible of William Shakespeare (from 1596 on), John Bunyan, Cromwell's army, the Puritan pilgrims to the New World, and even of King James himself.

Firsts in the Geneva Bible:

The Bible had twenty-six woodcuts in the Pentateuch, Kings, and Ezekiel and five maps.

Bishop Westcott evaluated the marginal notes as follows: "A marginal commentary also was added, pure and vigorous in style, and, if slightly tinged with Calvinistic doctrine, yet on the whole neither unjust nor illiberal." Later changes to the notes by Tomson and Junius reinforced the Calvinistic tone of the Geneva Bible and gave it a hard anti-catholic tone. The marginal notes were very influential on John Milton's Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes.

The Geneva Bible had great influence on the King James Version. Only in the Pentateuch and the New Testament is its contribution overshadowed by Tyndale. 

Geneva 164

Geneva 164.

Gruber 164 A second copy of the complete Geneva Bible from 1560. It is bound together with Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, and others,  The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Collected into English Meetre, London, 1601. This copy lacks front cover and title page. On the dedication page, the date of 1576 is given.

The Vision of Ezekiel from the Geneva Bible of 1560

Vision of Ezekiel from the Geneva Bible.


Another copy of the Geneva Bible, revised by Laurence Tomson, is also in the LSTC Rare Books Collection, dating to  1577. It was printed by Christopher Barkar in London.

Beza Tomson Bible 1609

Beza Tomson Bible 1609.

Beza Tomson Bible 1609. Title Page for OT Missing.   NT Title Page supplies the date.  Translated out of the Greek by Theodore Beza.  Englished by Laurence Tomson. London: Robert Barker, 1609. Also called Judas Bible. John 6:67 Then said Judas (instead of Jesus!) to the twelve, Will ye also goe away?  


The Gruber Collection was assembled by L. Franklin Gruber, President of Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, Maywood, Illinois.

Annotation prepared by Ralph W Klein