English Bible History
John "Thomas Matthew" Rogers
John Rogers went on to print the second complete English Bible in 1537. It was, however, the first English Bible translated from the original Biblical languages of Hebrew & Greek. He printed it under the pseudonym “Thomas Matthew”, (an assumed name that had actually been used by Tyndale at one time) as a considerable part of this Bible was the translation of Tyndale, whose writings had been condemned by the English authorities. It is a composite made up of Tyndale’s Pentateuch and New Testament (1534-1535 edition) and Coverdale’s Bible and some of Roger’s own translation of the text. It remains known most commonly as the Matthew-Tyndale Bible. It went through a nearly identical second-edition printing in 1549.
John Rogers was born in 1500 in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham. He was a minister, Bible translator and commentator. John Rogers was the first English Protestant martyr to be executed by Mary I of England, a.k.a. “Queen Bloody Mary”. He was burned at the stake on February 4, 1555 at Smithfield.
Early Years of John Rogers
John Rogers, was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge University, where he graduated with a B.A. in 1526. Six years later he was rector of Holy Trinity, Queenhithe, London, and in 1534 went to Antwerp as chaplain to the English merchants of the Company of the Merchant Adventurers. Here he met William Tyndale, under whose influence he abandoned the Roman Catholic faith. Rogers took a wife named Adriana, a native of Antwerp, who eventually bore him ten children.
John Rogers / Thomas Matthew and the 1537 Bible
After Tyndale’s death Rogers pushed on with his predecessor’s English version of the Old Testament, which he used as far as Second Chronicles, employing Myles Coverdale’s translation of 1535 for the remainder and for the Apocrypha. The complete Bible was put out under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew in 1537. John Rogers used the assumed name “Thomas Matthew” to avoid persecution and prosecution by the authorities who continued to forbid under penalty of death, the printing of the scriptures in the English language. As the work could obviously not be done safely in England, the Bible was printed in Paris and Antwerp by his wife Adriana’s uncle, Sir Jacobus van Meteren.
John Rogers had little to do with the translation, but he contributed some valuable prefaces and marginal notes — often cited as the first original English language commentary on the Bible. Rogers also contributed the Song of Manasses in the Apocrypha which he found in a French Bible printed in 1535. His work was largely used by those who prepared the Great Bible of1539-40, out of which in turn came the Bishops’ Bible of 1568 and the Authorized Version of King James in 1611.
After taking charge of a Protestant congregation in Wittenberg for some years, John Rogers returned to England in 1548, where he published a translation of Philipp Melanchthon’s Considerations of the Augsburg Interim. In 1551, John Rogers was made a prebendary of St. Paul’s Church, where the Dean and Chapter soon appointed him as the divinity lecturer. He courageously denounced the greed shown by certain courtiers with reference to the property of the suppressed monasteries, and defended himself before the privy council. He also declined to wear the prescribed vestments, donning instead a simple round cap.
John Rogers Preaches Boldly Against Catholicism
As Queen Mary took the throne, John Rogers preached at Paul’s Cross commending the “true doctrine taught in King Edward’s days,” and warning his hearers against the “pestilent Popery, idolatry and superstition.” Of the Roman Catholic Church. Ten days after this bold public display, on August 16, 1553, John Rogers was summoned before the council and bidden to keep within his own house. In January 1554 Bonner, the new bishop of London, sent him to Newgate Prison, where he lay with John Hooper, Laurence Saunders, John Bradford and others for a year, where their petitions were disregarded. In December 1554 parliament re-enacted the penal statutes against Lollards, and on January 22, 1555, two days after they took effect, Rogers with ten others came before the council at Gardiner’s house in Southwark, and held his own in the examination that took place. On January 28 & 29, he came before the commission appointed by Cardinal Pole, and was sentenced to death by Gardiner for heretically denying the Christian character of the Church of Rome and the physical presence of the body of Christ in the sacrament of communion.
The Death of John Rogers
When the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate Prison to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to John Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Rogers answered, “That which I have preached I will seal with my blood.” Then Mr. Woodroofe said, “Thou art an heretic.” Rogers replied “That shall be known at the Day of Judgment.” Mr. Woodroofe added, “I will never pray for thee.” Though Rogers responded “But I will pray for you.”
John Rogers awaited and met death on the 4th of February 1555 at Smithfield cheerfully, though he was denied even a last moment with his wife. Rogers stands as the first blood on the hands of Queen “Bloody” Mary… and the first of hundreds more to come. Noailles, the French ambassador, speaks of the support given to John Rogers by the majority of the people commenting, “even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding rather than an execution.“