1st English Translation of the Bible printed
The 4th of October 1535 AD
Various translations into English of parts or the whole of the Bible had been made earlier, but the version that was printed in Antwerp in October 1535 was the first complete version printed.
The 1535 version was put together by Miles (or Myles) Coverdale, a reformist cleric who spent much of his life in exile on the continent. The Yorkshire born Coverdale studied canon law at Cambridge before being ordained a priest in Norwich in 1514. Returning to the city of Cambridge he entered the Austin priory, but was forced to go into exile in 1526 when his reformist wing of the church began facing accusations of heresy.
During his exile in the lowlands he worked on the translation into English of the full text of the bible under the patronage of Jacobus van Meteren. He used William Tyndale’s version of the New Testament and his Pentateuch and Book of Jonah. The parts Coverdale himself put into English were taken from the German, Latin and even older English versions.
This was not a cosy academic exercise. Those seeking to control power always want to control the media, and in Coverdale’s time the bible was a vital component of the media. William Tyndale , with whom Coverdale probably worked at one time, died for his efforts, strangled (out of mercy) and then burnt at the stake in the courtyard of Vilvoorde Castle near Brussels for the crime or heresy.
Coverdale had a protector from the start of his life in exile in Thomas Cromwell , and Cromwell employed Coverdale to work on the authorized English version of the bible, the Great Bible of 1539, with a version of the 1535 translation already printed in London in 1537.
But when Cromwell fell from grace and was executed without trial in 1540 Coverdale fled to the continent again, not returning until Edward VI ’s reign, when his work was rewarded with the bishopric of Exeter . When Mary ascended the throne Coverdale had to take cover in Europe again. When he once more returned to London in 1559 he was not restored to his post, working instead as a lowly rector. He died in 1568.
While Tyndale left a greater legacy in the words of his New Testament, Coverdale’s translation of the Psalms are those most easily recognized by most English worshippers to this day. And by using Tyndale's words Coverdale passed on to a greater readership and audience his forerunner’s sparkling phrasing, such as “let there be light;” “a law unto themselves”; and “the salt of the earth”.
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