After my mother died and I rummaged through the attic artifacts: papers, photos – framed and unframed, newspaper articles, more memorabilia, plus there was a small insect crawling through these boxes of stuff called a genealogy bug. He found me and bit me hard! The serum in the bite caused me to dig for answers.
A significant newspaper article, found inside a family Bible, was about a Bible which had been passed down through generations of my ancestors and was believed to have belonged to an ancestor who had been a martyr. My research uncovered the martyr — John Rogers,
a Prebend at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He, with his family, had returned to England under the reign of the boy king, Edward VI, who was favorable to Protestantism. Following his death at age 16, the throne was given to his half sister, Mary, who was strictly Catholic. John Rogers had been preaching against the Pope, which caused him to be the first Protestant to be burned at the stake under the reign of Bloody Mary.
John Rogers had met William Tyndale in Holland where Rogers served as a Catholic Chaplain. These two devoutly religious men had many deep talks about theology. Tyndale convinced Rogers to leave the Catholic Church and become a Protestant. Tyndale had a mission to publish the first complete Bible in English. He did complete the first New Testament in English in 1536. But before he could complete the Old Testament, the heresy of translating scripture caused Tyndale to be tied to a stake, strangled, and burned.
Rogers, dedicated himself to completing his friend’s work. He used Tyndale’s translations of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Kings, Nehemiah, Ezra, and Jonah. Other books were translated by Myles Coverdale then edited by Rogers. With the death of Tyndale, Coverdale won the race for publishing the first English Bible. Since Coverdale was not a student of Greek or Hebrew, Coverdale used Tyndale’s New Testament heavily for his Bible, and several of Tyndale’s Old Testament books, as well as the Latin Vulgate and German translations by Martin Luther. But Rogers edited Coverdale’s work for his purposes as well. Rogers translated the remaining books and published the work as The Thomas Matthew Bible in 1537, using a fictitious name to not be burned at the stake for heresy.
I have been privileged to see two exhibits which included a copy of the Thomas Matthew Bible. The first was a display at the Library of Congress about Tyndale’s life and work. The final station of the show presented a Thomas Matthew Bible under glass, of course. The University of Toronto hosted an exhibit in 2011, celebrating the 400th year of the King James Bible in their Fisher Rare Book Room. Again, the Thomas Matthew Bible was on display as a precursor to the King James. Also I noted the Thomas Matthew Bible I saw in the case was sitting in its home – The Fisher Rare Book Room!
Both copies of the Thomas Matthew Bible reside at the Fisher Rare Book Library in the Robarts Library of the University of Toronto on St. George St., Toronto.
Thomas Raynalde and William Hyll
J. Daye and W. Seres
Thomas Raynalde and William Hyll
Psalm 23 – begins on lower left column
Since I no longer live in the Toronto area, it took until this summer before I could arrange to see, touch, and pour over the volume! And then I learned the Fisher Rare Book Room owns TWO different copies of this Bible. Both volumes have an origin date of 1537 and both have a publication date of 1549 – both imprinted in London – one by Thomas Raynalde and William Hyll, and the other by J. Daye and W. Seres. The Daye and Seres edition is in slightly better condition and includes lovely marbled end papers and intricate line drawing throughout the text.
Transcription of the above photo: In Hall’s Chronicle, (sub anno 27 Hen. VIII, vol. CCXXVII), a book which was completed and printed and published by Richard Grafton, one of the publishers of the original edition of this Bible in 1537, it is stated positively that “Tyndale translated the New Testatment, the V. books of Moyses, Josua, Judicum, Ruth, the books of the Kynger and the books of the Panalipomenon, Nehemias or the first of Esdras, the prophet Jonas and no more of the holy scripture.” John Rodgers translated the next, or revised Coverdale’s translation, and the whole work was published by Grafton & Whitchurch under the name of Thomas Matthew. (See Fox’s Acts & Monuments.) This translation, therefore, which is the basis and ground work of the authorized version (this statement refers to the King James Authorized Version, thus was written after its publication in 1611), is the joint work of Tyndale, Coverdale and Rogers; of which Tyndale executed about four sevenths of the whole if we leave out the Apochrypha. J. P. Bradley.
This preface (above photo) was hand written inside the front cover of the Raynalde and Hyll edition of the Thomas Matthew Bible. This copy of the Bible has no title page. The volume seems to be missing a few of the initial pages of the book. Fortunately, J. P. Bradley penned this explanation of the authorship of the Thomas Matthew Bible in this copy of the Bible.
Reverting to my introductory paragraph, the Bible mentioned in the newspaper article never did belong to John Rogers. I tracked down that Bible which was handed down several generations until it found its way to the Seventh Day Baptist Archives in Janesville, WI. Its original owner, a contemporary of John Rogers, also lived in England. I have no information that the two men ever met. However, their descendants met and married. The burning question is – did this couple, uniting two families, know who John Rogers was and that he published one of the first English Bibles?
Click here for further information on the history of the English Bible,