A Bible For Everyone - The One Year Christian History

A Bible For Everyone

God used him to bring the English Bible to England.

MILES COVERDALE was but four years old when Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. Born in York, England, he graduated from Cambridge, was ordained into the priesthood in 1514, and soon became an Augustinian friar. He belonged to a group of Cambridge scholars including William Tyndale, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and his prior, Robert Barnes, who met at the White Horse Tavern to discuss religious reform. A friend described what Coverdale was like in those days:

Under the mastership of Robert Barnes he drank in good learning with a burning thirst. He was a young man of friendly and upright nature and very gentle spirit, and when the Church of England revived, he was one of the first to make a pure profession of Christ. Other men gave themselves in part, he gave himself wholly to propagating the truth of Jesus Christ’s gospel and manifesting his glory.

In 1528 after preaching against the mass, confession, and images, Coverdale was forced to leave the Augustinians.

During his time abroad from 1528 to 1535 he worked with Tyndale in Hamburg and Antwerp on translations of the Old Testament. In October 1535 he published the first edition of his own Bible in Marburg, Germany. To prepare this first complete printed English Bible, Coverdale relied on the work of five translations, among them Tyndale’s. The long dedication he wrote to Henry VIII and Queen Anne implies his expectation that the king would receive it favorably. With customary humility, Coverdale wrote,

Considering now, most gracious prince, the inestimable treasure, fruit and prosperity everlasting that God giveth with his word, and trusting in his infinite goodness that he would bring my simple and rude labour herein to good effect, therefore, as the Holy Ghost moved men to do the cost hereof, so was I boldened in God to labour in the same. . . . I do with all humbleness submit mine understanding and my poor translation unto the spirit of truth in your grace, so make I this protestation, having God to record in my conscience, that I have neither wrested nor altered so much as one word for the maintenance of any manner of sect, but have with a clear conscience purely and faithfully translated this out of five sundry interpreters, having only the manifest truth of the scripture before mine eyes.

Today’s Bibles still retain some of his phrases, as well as the idea of chapter headings and of not including the Apocrypha with the other Old Testament books. The Coverdale Bible was so well received that the king’s chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, asked Coverdale to go to Paris to supervise the publication of an official Bible to be placed in every parish church in England. Begun in Paris, this second Bible known as the Great Bible had to be finished in London when the inquisitor general of France forbade any further printing of the English Bible. The Great Bible was presented to Henry VIII by Cromwell in 1539. It proved to be Coverdale’s greatest achievement and had a significant influence on the translation of the King James Version in 1611.

Miles Coverdale died on January 20, 1569, having provided the English with Bibles in their own language.


Because God has revealed himself in the Bible in words, it is of utmost importance to be able to read those words in one’s own language in an accurate translation. But the work of scholars such as Miles Coverdale accomplishes little unless we actually read and study the Bible to know what God is saying to us.

I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until its purpose is achieved.

Matthew 5:18

From the Book:

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The One Year Christian History
By E. Michael Rusten and Sharon O. Rusten

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