The Geneva Bible is an English translation first published in 1560. It’s name is a reference to where the work of translating, compiling and commenting took place. The Bible was primarily a Protestant translation and the work took place in Geneva because at the time, Queen Mary I, whom was a Catholic, was persecuting the Reformers. There was an exile of these Puritans and Reformers to mainland Europe but most made their way to Geneva. The work of translating the Bible into English was a continuation of the work that had been done by William Tyndale but he was later burned at the stake for his “treason” and “heresy” against the Roman Catholic church. After his death in 1536, his work was taken up by Myles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, William Cole and several others. All with the help of John Calvin and Theodore Beza. The Geneva Bible was used by John Milton, William Shakespear, John Knox, John Donne, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress and Oliver Cromwell. This is the Bible the Pilgrim’s brought with them on the Mayflower and for much of the 16th and 17th, was the most popular English translation of the Bible. It was even more popular than the King James version for many years after it’s initial publication in 1611.
King James was not a fan of the Geneva Bible, as it was the first study Bible with marginal notes which were anti Catholic as well as not supporting the sovereignty of the monarchy. For this reason he sought to replace it. In fact it was the first Bible to use numbered chapter and verse, the first to have the notes in the margins written by the Reformers. It also used a modern Roman Typeface as opposed to the harder to read Black Type or Gothic typeface, which the later King James Version used. Another popular feature was it’s size. It was relatively compact when compared to other Bibles availabe at the time. It measured approximately 8 3/4″ x 5 1/2″, which is smaller than my ESV Deluxe Heirloom Edition by Crossway. Eventually, the King James Version or the Authorized Version took over in popularity and this great translation was almost forgotten, only availabe in recent years as an expensive facsimile edition beautifully bound in leather by L.L. Brown.
Enter Tolle Lege. A small publisher that undertook the restoration of this wonderful translation. It is now available with modern type and with modern spelling of the 16th century English. Whereas the KJV has undergone several updates, leaving behind the original translation of 1611 the Geneva Bible is now availabe in all it’s original greatness. Tolle Lege makes four versions available and they are currently on their third or fourth printing. They have a hardback, leather bound and two special editions, one is a large Family Edition the other is a Calfskin Edition. The paper is thin but quite opaque with very little bleed through. The leather version is 6″ x 9 1/4″ x 1 1/4″. It is smyth sewn so it is a good candidate for rebinding in goatskin, more importanly, because it is sewn it lays flat. It has one ribbon marker and the pages are gilt. My only complaint is that some of the pages have lighter printing than others and there are few typos that will be rather hard to pick out but I am sure that have been taken care of with the more recent printings. This is something to overlook when you consider the historical value of this translation.
The best thing about this Bible is the translation. It is very similer to the King James, or rather the KJV is very similar to this one but it is all together different. Not necessarilly better, just different. In my opinion, it reads more modern than the KJV even though it is 51 years younger. There are certain colloquialisms that are not found in the KJV like the use of “breeches” in Gen 3:7 rather than “aprons” used in the KJV or the use of “buggerers” rather than “sodomites”. It does have a glossary of archaic words making the reading easier. By Gods good grace, this great translation of His word is available again.