a shower of hisses, mixed with cries of "Apology! Apology!"
There arose presently the question, or the several questions, about his marriage. It sheds no glory on Henry VIII. that they arose as they did; but his treatment of them must not be mistaken. He was concerned to have his marriage to Anne Boleyn confirmed, and there are some who think he was honest in believing it ought to be confirmed, though we need not believe that. What happened was that for the first time Henry VIII. found that as sovereign of England he must take commands from a foreign power, a power exercising temporal sovereignty exactly as he did, but adding to it a claim to spiritual power, a claim to determine his conduct for him and to absolve his people from loyalty to him if he was not obedient. It arose over the question of his divorce, but it might have arisen over anything else. It was limitation on his sovereignty in England. And he let it be seen that all questions that pertain to England were to be settled in England, and not in another land. He would rather have a matter settled wrong in England than settled right elsewhere. That is how he claimed to be head of the English Church. The people back of him had always held to the belief that they were governed from within, though they were linked to religion from without. He executed their theory. That assertion of English sovereignty came during the eventful years of which we are speaking.
Here, then, are our great facts. First, thoughtful opinion wanted the Bible made available, and at a convention of bishops and university men the King was requested to secure the issuance of a proper translation. Secondly, the people wanted it, the more because it would gratify their English instinct of independent judgment in matters of religion. Thirdly, the King granted it without yielding his personal religious position, in assertion of his human sovereignty within his own realm.
So England awoke one morning in 1537 to discover that it had a translation of the Bible two of them actually, open to its use, the very thing that had been forbidden yesterday! And that, one year after Tindale had been burned in loyal France for issuing an English translation! Two versions were now authorized and made available. What were they? That of Miles Coverdale, which had been issued secretly two years before, and that known as the "Matthew" Bible, though the name has no significance, issued within a year. Details are not to our purpose. Neither was an independent work, but was made largely from the Latin and the German, and much influenced by Tindale. Coverdale was a Yorkshire man like Wiclif, feminine in his mental cast as Tindale was masculine. Coverdale made his translation because he loved books; Tindale because he felt driven to it. But now the way was clear, and other editions appeared. It is natural to name one or two of the more notable ones.
There appeared what is known as the Great Bible in 1539. It was only another version made by Coverdale on the basis of the Matthew version, but corrected by more accurate knowledge. There is an interesting romance of its publication. The presses of England were not adequate for the great work planned; it was to be a marvel of typography. So the consent of King Francis was gained to have it printed in France, and Coverdale was sent as a special ambassador to oversee it. He was in dread of the Inquisition, which was in vogue at the time, and sent off his printed sheets to England as rapidly as possible. Suddenly one day the order of confiscation came from the Inquisitor-General. Only Coverdale's official position as representing the King saved his own life. As for the printed sheets on which so much depended, they seemed doomed. But in the nick of time a dealer appeared at the printing-house and purchased four great vats full of waste paper which he shipped to England--when it was found that the waste paper was those printed sheets. The presses and the printers were all loyal to England, and the edition was finally completed. The Great Bible was issued to meet a decree that each church should make available in some convenient place the largest possible copy of the whole Bible, where all the parishioners could have access to it and read it at their will. The version gets its name solely from the size of the volume. That decree dates 1538, twelve years after Tindale's books were burned, and two years after he was burned! The installation of these great books caused tremendous excitement--crowds gathered everywhere. Bishop Bonner caused six copies of the great volume to be located wisely throughout St. Paul's. He found it difficult to make people leave them during the sermons. He was so often interrupted by voices reading to a group, and by the discussions that ensued, that he threatened to have them taken out during the service if people would not be quiet. The Great Bible appeared in seven editions in two years, and continued in recognized power for thirty years. Much of the present English prayer-book is taken from it.
But this liberty was so sudden that the people naturally abused it. Henry became vexed because the sacred words "were disputed, rimed, sung, and jangled in every ale-house." There had grown up a series of wild ballads and ribald songs in contempt of "the old faith," while it was not really the old faith which was in dispute, but only foreign control of English faith. They had mistaken Henry's meaning. So Henry began to put restrictions on the use of the Bible. There were to be no notes or annotations in any versions, and those that existed were to be blacked out. Only the upper classes were to be allowed to possess a Bible. Finally, the year before his death, all versions were prohibited except the Great Bible, whose cost and size precluded secret use. The decree led to another great burning of Bibles in 1546-- Tindale, Coverdale, Matthew--all but the Great Bible. The leading religious reformers took flight and fled to European Protestant towns like Frankfort and Strassburg. But the Bible remained. Henry VIII. died. The Bible lived on.
Under Edward VI., the boy king, coming to the throne at nine and dying at fifteen, the regency with Crammer at its head earned its bad name. But while its members were shamelessly despoiling churches and enriching themselves they did one great service for the Bible. They cast off all restrictions on its translation and publication. The order for a Great Bible in every church was renewed, and there was to be added to it a copy of Erasmus's paraphrase of the four gospels. Nearly fifty editions of the Bible, in whole or in part, appeared in those six years.
And that was fortunate, for then came Mary --and the deluge. Of course, she again gave in the nominal allegiance of England to the Roman control. But she utterly missed the spirit of the people. They were weary with the excesses of rabid Protestantism; but they were by no means ready to admit the principle of foreign control in religious matters. They might have been willing, many of them, that the use of the Bible should be restricted, if it were done by their own sovereign. They were not willing that another sovereign should restrict them. So the secret use of the Bible increased. Martyr fires were kindled, but by the light of them the people read their Bibles more eagerly. And this very persecution led to one of the best of the early versions of the Bible, indirectly even to the King James version.
The flower of English Protestant scholarship was driven into exile, and found its way to Frankfort and Geneva again. There the spirit of scholarship was untrammeled; there they found material for scholarly study of the Bible, and there they made and published a new version of the Bible in English, by all means the best that had been made. In later years, under Elizabeth, it drove the Great Bible off the field by sheer power of excellence. During her reign sixty editions of it appeared. This was the version called the Genevan Bible. It made several changes that are familiar to us. For one thing, in the Genevan edition of 1560 first appeared our familiar division into verses. The chapter division was made three centuries earlier; but the verses belong to the Genevan version, and are divided to make the Book suitable for responsive use and for readier reference. It was taken in large part from the work of Robert Stephens, who had divided the Greek Testament into verses, ten years earlier, during a journey which he was compelled to make between Paris and Lyons. The Genevan version also abandoned the old black letter, and used the Roman type with which we are familiar. It had full notes on hard passages, which notes, as we shall see, helped to produce the King James version. The work itself was completed after the accession of Elizabeth, when most of the religious leaders had returned to England from their exile under Mary.
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