Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The Geneva Bible
A great pleasure! I have just received my copy of the recently reprinted Geneva Bible, the translation that the Pilgrim Fathers mainly used. The Geneva Bible was the popular version in the English-speaking world until the "official" King James Bible gradually supplanted it.
I bought my copy via World Net Daily and it cost me rather a lot, which may seem rather mad since I already have many Bibles, including three recensions of the Greek New Testament (i.e. in the original Greek) and some excellent modern translations. But it is exciting to read the words of the Bible just as they were read by the great English Protestant reformers who changed the world and whose reforms are the basis of our entire modern civilization.
Because it was so popular in its day, the Geneva Bible underwent many printings, not all of which were identical. The version I have is a reproduction of a 1599 printing. The King James Bible, of course, was first printed in 1611.
I tend to judge Bible translations by their translation of the first few verses of the Gospel of John. John 1:1 is much used by afficianados of the originally pagan Trinity doctrine to justify their nonsensical dogma. So I was most pleased to see that the Geneva translators gave in their footnote a much better sense of the original Greek than we usually see. The Geneva Bible was renowned in its day for its many informative footnotes and they are still a useful resource. The explanatory footnote for John 1:1 reads: "The son of God is of one, and the selfsame eternity or everlastingness, and of one and the selfsame essence or nature, with the father". That puts the sense of the original much more clearly than the literal translation of the original text itself. The underlying idea in the Greek original -- that the Logos was of divine essence -- is clearly there in the Geneva footnote.
If I were to express the meaning of the original Greek in a purely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, I would translate it as "And of god-stuff was the word". (See also my many previous exegetical comments on John 1:1 -- e.g. here and here)
So the Geneva Bible did allow the people of the 16th century to get close to the original meaning of the New Testament. And the transformative power of doing that was evident then and continues to this day. Those now ancient words still have enormous power to move the minds of men. The many clergy of the "mainstream" churches who think they have a better or more "modern" message to preach from their pulpits are just self-defeating fools. There is no substitute for the original Gospel.