Skip to main content

Where Was the English Bible Before …1611? By Jack McElroy (printed by permission).

Where Was the English Bible Before …1611?

August  12,  2018

The easy answer to the question above is that the Bible in English was a work in 

The final expression of God’s inerrant words in the English language is in the 
Authorized Version 1st published in 1611.

Until that time, this final expression did not exist as a finished product.  Rather, it existed 
in component parts (i.e. words). Many of the words were from the previous English Bibles 
that had been harvested since the year 1525 when William  Tyndale published 
the first printed edition of the New Testament in English.

Lest someone object to this observation, consider the fact that even the Scripture itself 
didn’t come in one delivery. It came over a period of about 1,500 years with somewhere 
in the vicinity of 40 authors.

The  King James translators actually started construction with The Bishops Bible as  a 
base and incorporated other  biblical building material.

Previous  English Bibles Used in Its  Construction

Other English Bibles that were delivered to the job site included Tyndale, Matthews, 
Coverdale, The Great, Geneva, and Bishops.

Author Lawrence Vance says:

“In the ‘Rules to be Observed in the Translation of the  ible.’ These general rules, fifteen in 
number, were advanced for the guidance of the translators.

The first and fourteenth, because they directly relate to the subject at hand, are here given in full:

"1. The ordinary Bible read in  the  Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, 
and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit.’ 

14. These translations to be used when they agree better with the Text than the Bishops Bible: 
Tindoll's, Matthews, Coverdale's, Whitchurch's, [a.k.a. Great Bible] Geneva.’

These previous English Bibles are part of the form and substance that provided the
English building material (words) for The Authorized Version.

But they didn’t limit themselves to these. They also used Greek and Hebrew editions as 
well as foreign language versions

Many foreign language Bibles and Testaments were examined. They had  a multitude of 
sources from which to draw from:

"Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, 
Syrian, Greek, or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch." The Greek editions of 
Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza were all accessible, as were the Complutensian and Antwerp 
Polyglots, and the Latin translations of Pagninus, Tremellius, and Beza.”

What this means is that all those previous English Bibles (although good) needed to be 
improved upon. That’s why no one is using them today.

It was a translators intention not only to improve presentation of God’s words in English 
but also to improve the presentation of God’s words that had previously appeared in 
other Reformation era Bibles.

Here’s what they said:

"Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfited at the same time, and the later thoughts are 
thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being 
holpen by their labours, doe endevour to make that better which they left so good;  no  man,  we 
are sure, hath cause to mislike  us; they, we persuade our selves, if they were alive, would  thanke 

Truly (good Christian Reader) wee never thought from the beginning, that we should neede to 
make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of 
Sixtus had bene true in some sort, that our people had bene fed with gall of Dragons in stead of 
wine, with whey in stead of milke:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, 
one principall good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath bene our indeavour, that our

. . . we are so far off from condemning any of their labours that travelledbefore us in this kind, 
EITHER IN THIS LAND OR BEYOND THE SEA, either in King Henry's time, or King 
Edward's, (if there were any translation, or correction of a translation, in his time) or Queen 
Elizabeth's of  ever renowned memory, that WE ACKNOWLEDGE THEM TO HAVE BEEN 
they deserve to be had of us and of posterity in everlasting remembrance.

. . . we do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in 
English set forth by men of our profession. . . containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of 
God: as the King's speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, 
Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator  with 
the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, every where. . . .

. . . nothing is begun and perfected at the same time. . . so, if WE BUILDING UPON THEIR 
do endeavour to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to 
mislike us; they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us. . . .

"we never thought from the beginning that we should need to makea new translation, nor yet to 
make of a bad one a good one; (for then the imputation of Sixtus had been true in some sort, that 
our people had been fed with gall of dragons instead of wine, with whey instead of milk;) but TO 

What About the Printed English Bibles Before 1611?

They don’t all say and mean the same thing although they come from the same basic 
texts.  The King James Bible itself is a revision of the Bishops Bible. Each translator was 
provided with a copy of the 1604 Bishops.

Here’s my view:

The testimony of history shows that the compilation of Scripture in the various
languages of the world is a process and not a one-time event. In other words, the Lord 
didn’t present his final version in any particular language on the first pass.

Using English as an example we see that the first New Testament translated from a 
Greek text was produced in 1525. Coverdale’s complete first edition of the Bible in 
English was published in 1535.

Where would you find “the Scripture” in English 1525?

If you could get a hold of a Tyndale New Testament you would have the New
Testament Scripture as God provided it at that time.

In 1535, you could you would have “the Scripture” as God provided it at that time in the 
form of the Coverdale Bible and Tyndale’s NT.

In 1537 you could add  Matthews Bible to the list. Likewise, the Great Bible in 1539 and 

In 1560, you could get a better presentation of “the Scripture” that God provided in the 
English language from the Geneva Bible.

Some people call this a process of purification and cite Psalm 12:7 and maybe that’s so 
but the fact is that God did not produce a final version or presentation of his word in 
English until 1611.

How do we know?  The witness of  its blessing in history.

It’s like a lot of things concerning the Scriptures. Sometimes you can’t tell what’s going 
on until you look back. And we’re in a position to be able to do so.

My view is that the English Bibles previous to the Authorized Version were a work in
progress and can rightly be referred to as the Scriptures as given by God for that time.

He has moved on and if you’re looking for “the Scripture” now in English it’s found in the 
King James Bible. In effect, the Lord moved the locus of “the Scripture” from 
the previous English Bibles and finally was located on the pages of the King James Bible.

Eventually believers followed suit.

Like the translators said in the preface:

"Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to 
make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one,  ... but to 
make a good one better."


 Which Bible did Jesus use can be purchased on Amazon


Popular posts from this blog

Medical theories on the cause of death in crucifixion Matthew W Maslen and Piers D Mitchell

INTRODUCTION Crucifixion may be defined as a method of execution by which a person is hanged, usually by their arms, from a cross or similar structure until dead. It has been used in many parts of the world and in many time periods; but is perhaps best known today as a cruel method of social control and punishment in the Roman Empire around 2000 years ago 1 (pp 22-3). In modern times, the medical profession has shown considerable interest in crucifixion. The typical aim of articles by this group has been to determine how crucified individuals actually died; and they often focus on the case of Jesus of Nazareth. Since Stroud's book of 1847, 2 at least 10 different theories have been proposed ( Table 1 ), and many more articles have been published suggesting various combinations of these theories. The 10 examples referenced in Table 1 have been chosen merely as representing the wide difference of opinion in the published literature: it is not an exhaustive lis

What is TULIP in Calvinism? by Matt Slick

The TULIP of Calvinism is the acronym which represents the five primary points which represent Calvinism : Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Hence, they are called the five points of Calvinism. The five points "emerged from the Synod of Dort (1618– 19)." 1 "The system of Calvinism adheres to a very high view of scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty, stating that God is able and willing by virtue of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace predestines people into salvation; that Jesus died only for those predestined; that God regenerates the individual where he is then able and wants to c

Light of Eternity: The Life of Leonard Ravenhill

Publisher: Free Grace Press ( Binding: SMYTHESEWN CASEBIND Demensions: 6" x 9" Pages: 660 Book Weight: 2-lbs Language: English Bulk Order?: Please email ( “My father lived daily in light of eternity, always seeking to please the One who enlisted him as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Before he ever stood in the pulpit, he stood before God. He was a man of prayer. Prayer was his life and his preaching reflected the fact that he had been alone with God.” DAVID RAVENHILL It is titled In Light of Eternity: The Life of Leonard Ravenhill Mack Tomlinson says this about the legacy of Ravenhill: In Light of Eternity...Ravenhill’s Biography – A Great Book for those seeking God Few are raving about a wonderful book I just read “In light of Eternity” The Life of Leonard Ravenhill by Mack Tomlinson....truly a masterpiece to be cherished and a goldmine of spiritual gems and inestimable treasures.  I have often ponder