Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we remember Miles Coverdale and the first complete Bible in the English language.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 4th of October, 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Last week we remembered the momentous occasion of the publication of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible in 1946- and we noted that this was on the feast day for St. Jerome- the patron saint of Bible translators and the man behind the Latin Vulgate- the standard translation for centuries.

Today we stay on that theme and look at the roots of our English Bible- it was on this, the 4th of October in 1535, that the first complete Bible in English was printed- compiled by Miles Coverdale. It is known as the Coverdale Bible. Let’s look at its history and context.

The first name in English Bibles is John Wycliffe- the 14th-century theologian who translated the New Testament into English. But Middle English… hear Matthew 1:21: “And she shal bere a sone, and thou shalt clepe his name Jhesus; for he schal make his puple saaf fro her synnes.”

William Tyndale produced the first Modern English New Testament along with portions of the Old Testament- he was constantly on the run throughout Europe, and various editions were destroyed. He was betrayed, arrested, and burned at the stake in 1536. But before he was caught, he met another Englishman, Miles Coverdale

Coverdale was born in Yorkshire in 1488. He attended Oxford, where he received a Bachelor’s of Canon law and met Thomas Cromwell- an important character in the English Reformation in the court of Henry VIII. Coverdale would enter an Augustinian monastery, but by 1528 he had embraced the Reformation and fled to Germany (the English Reformation didn’t begin until the 1530s).

Coverdale met Tyndale in Hamburg and arranged to use Tyndale’s work along with the Vulgate and German translations to produce the first complete English edition. Coverdale was able to come back to England when Henry broke from the Pope. His old friend Cromwell arranged to have the Bible published and petitioned the King to allow for an English Bible. Henry did not authorize the printing of Coverdale’s Bible but did nothing to stop it. It helped that Coverdale dedicated the work to Henry and his new wife, Anne Boleyn (although subsequent printings would replace Anne’s name for his subsequent wives).

Coverdale’s Bible was the first to separate the Apocrypha and began the tradition for every subsequent English Bible. It is also worth noting that Coverdale did not add any notes to the text- it was the notes in Tyndale’s Bible that got him charged with heresy and put to death. Coverdale’s bible is notable for his rendering of the Lord’s prayer with the language: “forgive us our debts” instead of “trespasses” and his evocative “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23.

With his connection to Cromwell, he returned to England to work on the Great Bible- the first authorized English Bible. Coverdale’s Psalms would then be integrated into the Book of Common Prayer and were the standard until 1979.

When Henry turned on Cromwell and killed him, Coverdale went into exile again. During the reign of Edward, he returned only to go back into exile with the ascension of the Catholic queen Mary. He returned for the reign of Queen Elizabeth and became a critic of the English church ceremonies- fortunately, he did not have to go back into exile again as Puritanism was tolerated. Coverdale’s translation would also influence the Geneva Bible in 1557 and the King James in 1611.

Coverdale died in 1569, 34 years after the publication of his Bible- the first complete Bible in English on this day in 1535.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from 1 John 5:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 4th of October 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose Purdue Boilermakers smacked the previously undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend in West Lafayette; he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who isn’t sure what’s better: USC being good or Notre Dame being so bad. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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