English Bible History
Myles Coverdale and John “Thomas Matthew” Rogers had remained loyal disciples the last six years of Tyndale’s life, and they carried the English Bible project forward and even accelerated it. Coverdale finished translating the Old Testament, and in 1535 he printed the first complete Bible in the English language, making use of Luther’s German text and the Latin as additional sources. Thus, the first complete English Bible was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible.
Myles Coverdale produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible in English. He was born probably in the district known as Cover-dale, in that part of the North Riding of Yorkshire called Richmondshire, England, 1488. He died in London and was buried in St. Bartholomew’s Church Feb. 19, 1568.
Early Years of Myles Coverdale
Myles Coverdale became priest at Norwich in 1514, and entered the convent of Austin friars at Cambridge, where Robert Barnes was prior in 1523 and probably influenced him in favor of Protestantism. When Barnes was tried for heresy in 1526 Coverdale assisted in his defense, and shortly afterward left the convent and gave himself entirely to preaching. He studied at Cambridge, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in canon law 1531.
The Coverdale Bible
In 1535, Myles Coverdale secured his place in history forever, by becoming the first person to print an entire Bible in the English language. In 1537 some of his translations were included in the Matthew-Tyndale Bible, the first true, direct English translation of the complete Bible. In 1538 he was in Paris, superintending the printing of King Henry VIII’s “Great Bible,” of 1539, and the same year, published, both in London and Paris, an English New Testament. He also edited “Cranmer’s Bible “, the 1540 edition of the Great Bible.
He returned to England in 1539, but on the execution of Thomas Cromwell (who had been his friend and protector since 1527) in 1540 was compelled, again to go into exile, lived for a time at Tubingen. Between 1543 and 1547, Myles Coverdale was Lutheran pastor and schoolmaster at Bergzabern in the Palatinate, and very poor.
Coverdale’s Long & Productive Career in Bible Printing
In Mar., 1548, he went back to England, was well received at court and made King’s Chaplain. In 1551 he became bishop of Exeter, but was deprived of that position in 1553 after the succession of Queen “Bloody” Mary. He went to Denmark (where his brother-in-law was chaplain to the king), then to Wesel, and finally back to Bergzabern. In 1559 he was again in England, but was not reinstated as Bishop, perhaps because of Puritanical scruples about vestments. Myles Coverdale contributed to the production of the Protestant refugee’s Geneva Bible, first produced in 1577 (New Testament) and 1560 (whole Bible). From 1564 to 1566 he was rector of St. Magnus’s, near London Bridge.
Myles Coverdale was said to be a “pious, conscientious, laborious, generous, and a thoroughly honest and good man”. He knew German and Latin well, some Greek and Hebrew, and a little French. He did little original literary work. As a translator he was faithful and harmonious. He was fairly read in theology, and became more inclined to Puritan ideas as his life wore on. All accounts agree in his remarkable popularity as a preacher. He was a leading figure during the progress of the Reformed opinions. It could also be said of Myles Coverdale, that he had a part in the publication of more different editions of England language Bibles in the 1500’s, than any other person in history.