Although we have long been aware of the Geneva Bible's existence, it has been out of print (except for expensive facsimile copies) for over three centuries. Vision Forum first made us aware of its recent reprinting by Tolle Lege Press, and when Marshall Foster came to our church and recommended it highly in his sermon, The Impact of the Geneva Bible, we were spurred to discover if we, too, could offer this remarkable Bible.
In 1553, Mary Tudor ascended the throne of England and set about to stamp out the Reformation, ordering the burning of all copies of the Bible in the English tongue and causing more than three hundred reformers to be burned at the stake. Bloody Mary's vicious crusade drove scores of English reformers to Geneva, including some of the finest biblical scholars in history. Together, these men produced a new English Bible based on the original languages (influenced largely by the work of William Tyndale), and not beholden to any king or prelate — the Geneva Bible.
(A sample of the restored edition above the original)
The Geneva Bible offered several "firsts." It was the first Bible to be printed in a portable and affordable edition. It was the first Bible to use chapters and numbered verses, facilitating the location of passages, memorization, and recitation. It was also the first "study Bible," offering extensive marginal notes written by Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, and others.
These notes were included to explain and interpret the scriptures for the common people and, for nearly half a century, they helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland understand the Bible and true liberty. King James despised the Geneva Bible because he considered the notes on key political texts to be seditious and a threat to his authority. Disregarding what the government would consider "politically correct," the reformers simply expounded on what the Bible says. Unlike the slightly later King James version, the Geneva Bible was not authorized by any government.
Printed over 140 times between 1560 and 1644, the Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Men such as William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, and John Milton used the Geneva Bible, and it was reflected in their writings. It was the 1599 Geneva Bible that the Pilgrims read as they arrived in the New World in 1620, deriving principles from its pages that helped lay the foundation-stones of liberty in the western hemisphere.
To learn more, read Marshall Foster's History and Impact of the Geneva Bible, which appears in the introduction of this new edition. Or, take a look at the entire Book of Romans as found in the Geneva Bible. (Both are Adobe PDF files)