Credit: Rischgitz/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images

Historical Insights The Creation of the Great Bible

As the first authorized English bible translation, there were about 9,000 copies of the Great Bible in England by 1541. About 1535, England. Credit: Rischgitz/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images

The Creation of the Great Bible

The Great Bible’s publication in 1539 was the first time everyone in England could read and hear the Bible in English.

English bible translation has a complex history. John Wycliffe translated the first English bible around 1382, but English clergy declared any further translation illegal in 1408. William Tyndale, a priest who wholeheartedly believed the Bible should be available to all people, began another English translation in 1523. The Matthew’s Bible and Coverdale Bible appeared shortly thereafter. In September 1538, Henry VIII decreed that every parish should own an English bible and keep it in a place where all could read it. Thomas Cromwell commissioned English reformer and Bible translator Miles Coverdale to publish a new bible even larger than the Matthew’s Bible. It was published in 1539 and called the Great Bible because of its large size. For the first time, the people heard the Bible read aloud in English instead of Latin during church services and they were even able to read it themselves.