The Matthew Bible is the first complete English Bible, and Ruth M Davis is gently it updating for modern readers
What is the Matthew Bible?
Few Christians these days have heard of the Matthew Bible. It was the first whole Bible printed in English. It came out about 70 years before the King James Version.
The 1537 Matthew Bible was the work of three men: William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale and John Rogers. All three men were genuine believers. They were all converted in the early years of the Reformation era (the early 1500s.) They all knew each other as friends and fellow believers. They faithfully laboured to make the scriptures available in English, risking their lives to do so. William Tyndale and John Rogers were publicly executed for what they did and what they believed.
Here is what each of these three men did to make the whole Bible available in English when it was a capital offence to do such work:
William Tyndale translated the Greek New Testament and some of the Hebrew Old Testament. It is certain he translated Jonah (one of his favourite books) and Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Jonah. He may have translated about half of the books of the OT (up to 2nd Chronicles?) and/or was working on the rest before he was taken captive, imprisoned and then killed. He was garotted (strangled) and his body was burned at the stake.
Myles Coverdale translated the entire Bible into English from other language versions which existed at that time: Luther’s German translation, translations from the Swiss Reformers, and the Latin Vulgate.
John Rogers compiled the Matthew Bible. He brought together:
- Tyndale’s New Testament and Tyndale’s translation of the OT books Genesis to 2 Chronicles.
- Coverdale’s translations of Ezra through to Malachi .
- chapter summaries and notes from Tyndale and other reformers.
John Rogers did all this without disclosing the names and identities of his sources, so as to protect them from persecution by government and religious authorities.
Why was it called the Matthew Bible??
John Rogers titled the publication “The Matthew Bible” because in England at that time it was illegal to translate and publish the Bible in English.
Tyndale did his work of translating the Bible into English while living as a fugitive under the radar in Europe. Tyndale was captured and imprisoned and then executed for ‘heresy’ by the authorities. Myles Coverdale and John Rogers were equally in danger. John Rogers later was burned at the stake in England. These were dangerous times for true believers.
All these men, Tyndale, Coverdale and Rogers, had to work anonymously because their lives were in danger from the corrupt Roman Catholic Church and the governments that were beholden to and under the thumb of Rome.
Many of our readers at ACFJ have to be anonymous, hiding under the radar to try to protect themselves from their abusers and the abusers’ allies in the corrupt church. Our present times are dark, perhaps not quite as dark as the early decades of the sixteenth century in England and Europe but there are certainly similarities between then and now, especially for those who are victims of abuse. (#ChurchToo #MeToo #ChurchDV)
Who is Ruth Magnusson Davis and what does she have to do with the Matthew Bible?
Ruth Magnusson Davis is doing sterling work. She is gently updating the Matthew Bible into modern English.
She is is also examining and writing about the differences between the Matthew Bible and the later versions which came out in that era: the Geneva Bible, the King James Version and other lesser known versions like the Great Bible and the Bishop’s Bible.
Her website is Baruch House Publishing. You can sign up to her blog there.
The New Matthew Bible Project
The goal is to publish the Matthew Bible — the original English Bible, first published in 1537 — with its commentaries and notes, edited for the 21st century.
It was William Tyndale’s most important work to translate the Holy Scriptures faithfully for English-speaking people so that, as he would say, they could read “the word of their soul’s health”. He wished to render it plainly so that even “the boy that drives the plough” could understand. In this spirit, Baruch House undertakes to render the Matthew Bible in more modern English, as plainly as God in mercy shall grant, while maintaining all its flavour, meaning, truth, and beauty. This will be the New Matthew Bible.
For we, upon whom the ends of the ages have come, have need of this pure translation in all its faithfulness, and also the teachings and warnings of this martyrs’ Bible.
The October Testament
This is the William Tyndale’s New Testament gently updated for the modern reader by Ruth Magnusson Davis.
The blurb on the back cover of the book says:
The October Testament is the combined work of three people:
William Tyndale, 1535: This is Tyndale’s last New Testament as it was taken into the Matthew Bible, completed just before he was captured and martyred. Few realise that the KJV relied heavily on Tyndale. Therefore readers will find much that is familiar here.
John Rogers, 1537: A year after Tyndale died (1536), Rogers published this New Testament together with notes and commentaries in the little known but important Matthew Bible (MB). King Henry VIII then licensed it and the MB was authorized for use in the churches.
Ruth Magnusson Davis, 2016: Now, almost 500 years later, Ruth M Davis has updated Tyndle’s scriptures and Rogers’ notes with a gentle hand, guarding the historic language and truth of the faith.
The October Testament has quickly become my preferred translation of the New Testament. It is so much clearer than any other translation I have read.
It is available in paperback, hardback or PDF. The PDF is not an e-book, it is something you can read on a tablet or laptop. All those formats include the notes and commentaries.
I’m reading my paperback copy and I find that these notes and commentaries illuminate the scripture. They are different from the notes in many modern ‘study bibles’ which often just push the editors’ theological bandwagons. They truly help one understand the scripture text itself.
At this point in time, Bible Gateway only has the New Testament, because Ruth is still working on updating the Old Testament of the Matthew Bible.
Note: If you read the New Matthew Bible on BibleGateway, the scripture text is identical to what you will read if you purchase a copy of the October Testament. But Bible Gateway does not show the notes and commentaries. (Bible Gateway doesn’t have the formatting capacity to include the notes and commentaries.)
Therefore, in order to read the notes and commentaries that go with the scripture text, you will need to purchase your personal copy of the October Testament in paperback, hardback or PDF.
This currently shows the three books she has published, viz:
I described this above
I am reading this book and it is eye-opening.
One of the things Ruth says is that before and during the Reformation era, the Roman Catholic Church exempted all their clergy from being charged with crimes under the law of the land. It was literally impossible for any king or emperor to convict and punish a criminal if that criminal was a priest or monk.
And the Roman Church often ordained career criminals in order to render the hardened criminals exempt from being punished for their crimes. It was a quid pro quo for the Church. The criminals became ordained as priests, friars, or monks and thereby became exempt from prosecution. The Roman Church benefited by having the crafty devious criminals within its leadership so the church could wreak more injury on the defenceless and vulnerable.
This is similar to what the Southern Baptist Convention and some other denominations have been doing.
Other posts about Ruth Magnusson Davis at this blog
We have tag for Ruth Magnusson Davis. That tag contains all our posts that relate to Ruth’s work.