The 1599 Geneva Bible And Today

Posted by Jeffrey K Radt ("JRed") | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is a MUST READ for any American who will be celebrating Thanksgiving today. It's also valuable knowledge for any non-American who is simply a student of history.

It seems as if there has been a carefully guarded secret in hiding for over 400 years. Or, perhaps my own ignorance of the subject until now is what makes it seem that way.

Either way, Christians will want to continue reading especially if you've never heard of the Geneva Bible before today. What a text! In a very real sense, we as Americans owe much of our rich spiritual heritage to the Geneva Bible -- the Scriptures carried by Plymouth Pilgrims and great reformers.

Nearly forgotten today, this version of the Holy Scriptures -- first translated into English in 1560 -- created the conditions for a Christian reformation of life and culture the likes of which the world had never seen.

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 all of history.

Together, these men produced a new English Bible based on the original languages and not beholden to any king or prelate. They called it the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible inspired those who championed self-government and civic virtue.

In the age of "King James Onlyism", it's important to remind ourselves that there could be -- could be -- some danger in making the King James Version (KJV) the "standard" by which all others are judged. The problem is, the KJV is not the standard, and cannot be the standard.

Before a controversy erupts here and such a statement distracts you from the valuable content found in the rest of this piece, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't read the KJV and/or that it can't be trusted as the Word of God. Not at all. Personally, I like the KJV myself and it's the translation of my own personal Bible. I just think it's intellectually dishonest (to some extent) for Christians to fiercely draw a line in the sand and state that it's the King James Version or nothing. Quite honestly, I just think that's silly.

Again, the problem is that the KJV is not the standard, and cannot be the standard. Think about it for just a moment. Were there not translations before the KJV? Of course there were! I just told you about the Geneva Bible, but there were many others too.

There was the Septuagint, Wycliffe, Tyndale, the Bishops’ Bible, and so on and so forth, and all served the needs of English speaking Christians prior to 1611. So why not choose one of these as the “standard” instead of the King James Version? See what I mean?

Ok, I don't want us to get sidetracked here. My point is that surely there are modern translations that are not acceptable. I think we can all agree with that. At the same time, there are credible, godly translations in addition to the KJV that should be acceptable for Christians to read and study.

Now, back to this Geneva Bible that I briefly mentioned earlier and why it's appropriate for discussion on a day like today.

Have you ever wondered what version of the Bible the Pilgrims brought to America on the Mayflower? Believe it or not, it was not the King James Version of 1611 even though the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and held the first Thanksgiving a year later in 1621. No, it was actually the 1599 Geneva Bible -- a forgotten yet priceless treasure that went out of print by 1644!

The Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In fact, the first Geneva Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was first published in English in 1560 in what is now Geneva, Switzerland.

William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, John Milton, the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, and other luminaries of that era used the Geneva Bible exclusively. Yet, I'd be willing to bet that most people are like me and they've never heard of it before until now.

Why is that? If it was so "historical" and "priceless", then why was it out of print by 1644? The answer won't surprise you. It was due to politics as usual I'm afraid. Sound familiar?

Until he had his own version named after him, King James I of England also had a copy of the Geneva Bible. James I later tried to deny any knowledge of the Geneva Bible, though he quotes the Geneva Bible in his own writing!

As a Professor Eadie reported it...

". . . his virtual disclaimer of all knowledge up to a late period of the Genevan notes and version was simply a bold, unblushing falsehood, a clumsy attempt to sever himself and his earlier Scottish beliefs and usages that he might win favor with his English churchmen." 1

There's really so much more background info that is worth studying here, but in the interest of saving time on what is sure to be a very busy day, I'll merely suggest that you make a note to visit The Reformed Reader's paper on the Geneva Bible for an historical perspective.

Simply put, King James did not encourage a translation of the Bible in order to "enlighten the common people" like we've been told and like we've believed our whole lives. No, his sole intent was to deny them the marginal notes of the Geneva Bible!

"Marginal notes", huh? Yes, marginal notes! The marginal notes of the Geneva version of the Holy Bible were what made it so popular with the common people -- and extremely dangerous for The-Powers-That-Be even back then.

The King James Bible was, and is, for all practical purposes, a government publication. This does not mean that it can't be trusted, or that it doesn't have any spiritual value. Gosh no! Such a statement is only meant to point out how that without marginal notes (many of them written by the numerous leaders of the Reformation including John Knox and John Calvin) it was erroneously believed by The-Powers-That-Be that the Holy Bible was stripped of its power.

This was because those in positions of authority removed any comments from respected Christians about certain passages, but specifically those marginal notes that referred to our relationship and response to government authorities.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising then to see this translation make a powerful comeback nowadays with the Tea Party and Truth movements going strong, huh? In fact, this rare Bible has been restored with new easy-to-read type and 300,000 study notes.

These study notes -- considered "politically incorrect" today -- helped the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland "challenge tyranny, understand true liberty, and found the American Republic" we're told. Great. That leads me to some very important questions in closing.

The whole thing is laughable though, isn't it? I mean, it's almost like the prophesied Apostasy was well underway back then, doesn't it? The people -- both citizens and the ruling class -- seemed to put so much faith in the "marginal notes" of the Geneva Bible. That's absurd!

Should we be concerned with 400-year-old "marginal notes" that tell us how to live our lives, or should we be concerned with the 2,000+-year-old divinely inspired Word of God that tells us how to live our lives? It's a rhetorical question. Dare I say they put more faith in the power of the words of man in the form of those marginal notes than in the Word of God?

We may never know the answer to that last question, but the truth of the matter is that King James I actually did us all a favor if there's truth to the allegations that he thought he was hurting the people by creating a new translation of the Bible that removed those marginal notes.

Just as there are versions of the Holy Bible with the words that Jesus spoke printed in red that can potentially distract Christians and falsely get them to think that those words are somehow more important than the rest of His Word, my educated and humble guess (suspicion) is that those marginal notes in the Geneva Bible could've potentially had the same negative effect on Christians back then.

Yes, I get that the Geneva Bible is the Bible of "firsts" and that gives it a special place in the history of Christianity let alone American history...

> It was the first Bible to qualify as a "Study Bible", providing readers with copious notes, cross-references, and commentary about the original manuscripts.

> It was the first Bible to be printed in a portable and affordable edition.

> It was the first Bible to assign chapter and verse numbers, facilitating the location of passages, memorization, and recitation —- and the nurture of a nation of Bible readers.

Even so, I also get human nature. I see the parallels between the first American Revolution and what seems to be building here in the US today toward a Second American Revolution. That being said, thank you King James I for giving us the King James Version and for removing the "patriotic" marginal notes.

That means I can focus on God's Word and God's Word alone without the kind of "wisdom of the world" from mere man that might -- and I stress the word "might" (because I obviously have never read the Geneva Bible for myself so I can't say with 100% certainly if my concerns are valid or not) -- run counter to His truth and wisdom about the proper Biblical response to injustice, oppression, and tyranny.

Commentaries, Marginal Notes, Sermons, and Quotes in response to various passages can be edifying and mightily helpful to us in our studies and understanding of His Word -- so long as they don't supplant the Word as being more authoritative than it.


Comments Posted (11)

This is a powerful devotional message from David Jeremiah when you think about what's coming to this nation in the near future...

Gratitude Attitude
(Read Daniel 6:10)

Assume you are a Christian who lives in a politically and spiritually repressive country. You learn one day that all who refuse to renounce their faith in God will be killed. What would you do? Would your activities on that day be any different than the day before? Would your activities include prayers of thanks to God? If you were the Old Testament prophet, Daniel, nothing would change. After learning that the King of Babylon had signed a decree stipulating that anyone caught praying to another God would be thrown in the lion's den, Daniel went home and did what he normally did three times each day: He prayed and gave thanks to God--thanks that he was now a wanted man? Not likely. Daniel's gratitude was based on knowing that God is sovereign over all things; that God knew his life would be threatened long before Daniel knew it; that he could entrust his future to God without fear of the outcome. If gratitude and thanks to God are part of your daily pattern of life, then no unforeseen circumstance can create fear.

In Christ,
Jeff ("JRed")

From a christian perspective, I cannot think of a single government in any form save those of Solomon and David that did anything to encourage all men to hold the Lord God Almighty higher than government. Government, by it's very nature is jealous of God and his authority. I thank God that there are still men and women who try to be in our government from a righteous position. They are few but may the Lord bless them. As for the rest of us...I think it's time to put away the worrying and bickering of politics and become more engaged with our true ruler. The ONE who really cares about us...ALL.

First, notes such as, "When tyrants cannot prevail by craft they burst forth into open rage" (Note i, Exodus 1:22) really bothered King James.

It looks like I found the same page you were reading.
"King James I, among his many other faults, preferred young boys to adult women. He was a flaming homosexual. His activities in that regard have been recorded in numerous books and public records; so much so, that there is no room for debate on the subject. The King was queer."

The very people who use the King James Bible today would be the first ones to throw such a deviant out of the congregations

King James translation is just a translation. It is not the bible that Jesus used.
There is so much truth in the comment that infuriated Shamey Jamie, no wonder he sought to have the book banned.

Interesting post, Jeff. Frankly, I also am suspect of "study bibles" as they imprint the interpretations/teachings of one or more "esteemed scholars" who themselves are aligned with various doctrines/teachings that may/may not agree with the entirety of scripture. Many commentaries disagree amongst themselves, so who is right? (We need to read the pure words for ourselves and let the Holy Spirit guide us).

"Will The Theologians Please Sit Down" By David Bercot

That said, the concept of the preservation of God's Word is absolute, and proven throughout the bible.

Psa 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Psa 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

(Be careful here, because there are many who want to discredit the preserved text and those surrounding it's propagation throughout the years by any means necessary including ad hominenm attacks on King James, etc.)

I'd like to leave you and readers here with a few helpful resources if you would like to dig deeper:

The "bible versions" issues is a topic that is absolutely worthy of a believer's time. The best way I've heard it put is that "every bible is a sword. When you're in battle, you need the sharpest sword you can get your hands on."

1Th 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
1Th 5:16 Rejoice evermore.
1Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
1Th 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
1Th 5:20 Despise not prophesyings.
1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Thank God we live in a free country. You can choose to believe in anything you want concerning Bible translations.

I am a BIBLE believer.
I believe God inspired the Bible.
I believe God preserved his words in a book I can hold in my hand and read.

Did God preserve the 'originals'?
No(thank you,Lord) - people would worship them and charge money to look at them.

Jesus said of men "Ye shall known them by their fruits". I believe the same can be said of just about anything especially translations of God's words.

No other book has changed the world as the KJV. God doesn't seem to have a problem with it.

It has produced more fruit than ANY translation EVER 'created'.

It has produced the greatest revivals in church history.

It inspired the lives and sermons of the greatest preachers.

It built our once great country. Since American churches began listening to scholars and rejecting it in the 1950's our country has been vexed.(sex, drugs,rock and roll)

It is the most hated and rejected translation of all translations by educated 'scholars'.(just as the LIVING WORD,Jesus,was)

How much fruit has the Geneva Bible produce? Oh yea, it lasted 34 years.

If you choose to believe there is not a perfect translation of God's HOLY words - be my guest, it's a free country.

When I get to heaven I'm going to fall on my face and THANK GOD HE PRESERVED - for a hell deserving sinner like me - a PERFECTLY PRESERVED COPY of HIS PERFECT WORDS that brought me to conviction and conversion.

If God didn't preserve his PERFECT words in a book everyone can read then how can he condemn anyone? BUT if he did - then no one is without excuse.

Laodicean churches teach there is no perfect translation of the Bible- falling into Satan's snare. They have more faith in educated 'Bible scholars' of today $$$ than in God's faithfulness to preserve his words.

"Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the WORD OF GOD".

Either God preserved it or this verse is false.

Well stated -- thank you. I couldn't agree more with your statement, "That said, the concept of the preservation of God's Word is absolute, and proven throughout the bible." Amen! An even better one was, "The 'bible versions' issues is a topic that is absolutely worthy of a believer's time. The best way I've heard it put is that 'every bible is a sword. When you're in battle, you need the sharpest sword you can get your hands on.'" Double Amen! By the way, your use of the Scriptures to support your position is something I just have to quickly comment on b/c that's exactly what I hope to generate in any discussions that come from the new "Apostasy?" series that will begin very soon.

Holy Joe,
Thanks for commenting also, but I think you misunderstood me b/c I'm not endorsing the Geneva Bible or even saying that it is to be "more revered" than any other translation. No, this post had 3 purposes -- share a bit of little known American history relevant to the holiday we celebrated yesterday, serve as a response to proponents of "King James Onlyism", and motivate Christians to simply bring themselves to maturely and soberly discuss such a topic. I agree with your perspective, "I am a BIBLE believer. I believe God inspired the Bible. I believe God preserved his words in a book I can hold in my hand and read." However, couldn't Christians who lived long before us have said the same thing about whatever version was in existence and used by God for the same purposes back then? See, my point is not to "attack" or "discredit" the KJV. No, not at all! I own and love my KJV! But I think once we recognize that God has preserved His Word through the ages and in various translations then it can only strengthen our faith, can't it? Lastly, your comment about the Laodician church and "Bible scholars" is precisely the reason why I wrote this post AGAINST the Geneva Bible since I see that it's making a comeback (b/c of the "marginal notes" by various Bible scholars alive back then) thanks to the Patriot Movement after being unavailable for more than 400 years. So, we actually share a lot of common ground. Sorry for any confusion. Thanks for commenting, as always.

In Christ,
Jeff ("JRed")

Funny that this came up now.

Another sure sign of the prophesied Apostasy...

51%!?! Unreal. Tragic.

Keep Looking Up,
Jeff ("JRed")

Did you know that there is now a "Green Bible" with all the words pertaining to the environment written in green. I think a lot of the newer translations are now being made for money. Selling Gods word. How sad. Satan is hard at work trying to destroy Gods word. But we know who wins in the end.
Good post jeff.


I can agree with your perspective here.
there are 2 things I can add here
1. along with the addition of the strongs concordence, I don't believe we can get any closer to the true word of GOD than the KJV!!!

2. I'm not saying this is 100% fact, but geneva switzerland is believed to be the home front of the illuminatti and the wizard behind the curtin.

if you look at all the signes and history of the country, it fits to a T.
that is why they are a so called nuetral country and never get involved in wars, not even world wars?

they like to let the other goy countries do their dirty work. they keep their hands clean and non of their citizens ever die in wars.
the headquarters of all the wealthiest banks are there, and never forget the swiss bank accounts that no one can inqiure about. also who are the only gaurds at the unholy roman empire
the vatacin?

like I said, I am very suspicious of a bible written by these people!!! and especialy the margin notes.

IF you follow the trail and connect the dots the truth always comes to LIGHT!!! the light of JESUS CHRIST will shine through the darkness, darkness can never drown out light!!!!!!!amen


I will confess that I skimmed over you're post and I apologize if I missed your intent.
But I've had it up to here with so called 'Bible believers' attacking God's character by saying there is NOT a perfect translation of God's word. I do not mean you personally.

I believe the KJV is God's words preserved in English. All other versions are Catholic based texts. Please check them out yourself with the NASV,NIV etc. and a Catholic Bible compared to the KJV.

All Bible versions are NOT the same. 'Counterfeits' are made to look like the real thing but they are fakes.

The timing of the publication of the KJV is no accident.

England and Germany fighting against Rome.

The beginning of the reformation.

The invention of the printing press.

The settlement of the new world by Christians.

God knew English would be the universal language of the last days. America would be the destination of millions of people from every country and false religion learning English getting saved and taking the word of God back to their home countries.

This was the Philadelphian church age and it was the only church that Jesus said had "kept my word" and said nothing bad about.

My point is that God wrote only one Bible and preserved it in the KJV for English speaking people.It has stood the test of time for 400 years. (makes me think... there was 400yrs. from the close of the O.T. cannon and the first coming of Christ. Might there be 400yrs. from the KJV to the second coming at the rapture - 2011? All the 'signs' are are here - only thinking...mmmm...)

Only this Laodicean, apostate, worldly church age of today, which makes Jesus want to throw up, would dare to think it can 'improve' what God has provided for His blood bought children.

Satan is the great deceiver and God is the great provider. He has given us a perfect Bible in the KJV.

If you haven't viewed it yet you need to see the DVD 'A Lamp in the Dark'. An excellent documentary on the texts used in the KJV what it cost believers to get it to us. It will open your eyes.

Holy Joe,

Thank you for following up and for making those excellent points. You're right, and I will definitely make some time to check out "A Lamp In The Dark" as soon as I can. Thank you my brother!

In Christ,
Jeff ("JRed")