Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dr. Daniell's "Bible in English:" Coverdale's 5 Bibles & Life

Daniell, David. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Chapter 13-The Great Bible, 198-220, pages 198-220

Prof. Daniell continues his discussion of Coverdale: (1) Coverdale back in London, (2) “Matthew’s Bible” for revision, (3) the “Great Bible,” (4) the Title-Page of the Great Bible,” (5) the text, (6) Coverdale’s further life, (5) Coverdale’s second exile, 1540-1547, (6) Coverdale as the Bishop of Exeter, 1551-1553, (7) and Coverdale’s third exile, 1553-1559.

We place the summary upfront: (1) godly and upright, (2) high demand for the pulpit near-wise everywhere, (3) friend and collaborator in Bible translation activity with Tyndale and others, (4) sufferer through multiple exiles, (5) diligent bishop in Exeter, (6) persistent in Exile, (7) faithful in exile, (8) industrious scholar, (9) well-schooled in the Bible, and (10) an integral player in getting the English Bible into 9000 parishes, obstacles notwithstanding. We’ll repeat this at the end since this is an under-appreciated Churchman in the Catholic (=Reformed) Church of England.

We resume the storyline.


By the end of 1535, Coverdale was back in England. While there, he produces a metrical Psalter; he also imported some German hymns. By 1535, Thomas Gibson produced a Concordance to the New Testament based on Tyndale and Coverdale’s Bible (remember Tyndale is languishing in prison in Vilvoorde prison, outside Brussels).

Cromwell, the vice-regent for ecclesiastical affairs, was preparing the machinery to get Bibles into all parishes. On 4 AUG 1537, Cranmer wrote Cromwell advising that he liked the “Thomas Matthew’s” Bible better than all others. It was a political fig-leaf. Both knew that Tyndale and Coverdale were the authors embedded in the “Thomas Matthew’s Bible,” essentially a re-named Bible as a screening action from the Anglo-Italians; the renamed Bible was the best way to get the English Bible into all 9000 churches. Sympathetic bishops were ordering their clerks to comply. 1500 were printed.


Cromwell and Cranmer proposed a “revision of the Thomas Matthew’s Bible” (200). It was large, prominent, and easy to read whether alone or to a crowd. Two London printers, Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, entered into a cross-channel print-arrangement with a better equipped press in Paris. Most “marginal notes” were to be removed” (200), another effort to mollify Anglo-Italians. FEAR. THEN THE REAL HOWLER! Mile Coverdale himself was appointed as the reviser. The reviser of his own work. Ya’ can’t make it up! Oh the ironies. Tyndale, now dead, would have approved of the arrangement and would have been struck by the advances.

Coverdale “tweaked” the “non-Tyndale half of the Old Testament,” the part he translated, while keeping Tyndale’s New Testament and large portions of the Old Testament.

Cromwell issued his infamous Second Injunctions that “a Bible of the largest volume [hint, hint the new “Thomas Matthew’s Bible” which was big and which he knew would be understood] be set up in every parish by 1538” (200).

Coverdale went to Paris. In MAY 1538, the printing started. However, on 23 JUN 1538, the English ambassador (= Anglo-Italian bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner) began running interference with the French Inquisitors—a man ever hostile to an English vernacular for English parishes. Remember, the Italians kept this policy until the 1970s! Gardiner should have been in Winchester feeding his sheep the Word of God (think Acts 6.4 and Jn. 21) instead of pro-actively, like a Devil, stealing the Word of God from English parishes. Yet, the printing continued.

Cromwell’s Injunctions ordered these Bibles be into every parish by “All Saints’ Day” on 30 NOV 1538. Gardiner the Anglo-Italian, a man who’d make quite a name for himself under Bloody Mary, was working his angles in Paris. Bonner, the senior Anglo-Italian clerk of London, was working with the French court in London to sink the English Bible. GAME ON!

On 13 DEC 1538, the French Inquisitors in France “confiscated 2500 Bibles destined for England” (200). They were burned.

The French were getting pressure from Rome. On 24 DEC 1538, Papal instructions ordered that English Bibles be burned and the presses stopped. Now, you may see why we call English bishops anti-Reformed and Anglo-Italian in orientation…quite warrantable. “What Papa wants, Papa gets, right?”

But, the conflict continued.

By APR 1539, Cromwell directed the print presses at Grey Friars, London to start rolling. 3000 Bibles were produced. However, none sold. Cromwell’s power was slipping.

By MAR/APR 1540, however, the “great Injunctions” were being fulfilled. Gardiner, Tunstall and Bonner and the Duke of Norfolk were moving against Cromwell in Parliament. They led the charge to get the “Six Articles” and a uniformity act to be passed. As 9000 churches were beginning to get English Bibles, Cromwell was arrested on 10 JUN 1540 for “charges of heresy and treason. Cromwell was executed on 28 JUL 1540, without a trial. (And Cranmer was where?)


The “Great Bible,” a minor tweak of the “Thomas Matthew’s Bible of 1537 done by Coverdale, itself renamed but essentially the Tyndale/Coverdale Bible. It may have earned its name from its size. It was 14 inches by 9 inches. Coverdale’s 1535 Bible was 11 inches by 7 inches. The Thomas Matthew’s Bible was 12 inches by 9 inches. The name may have come from Cromwell’s Injunctions to all churches to have “the holy bible [sic] of the largest volume” (204).

BIG PICTURE: political chaos in London, Tyndale’s 1526 NTs being “smuggled into England,” yet the “Great Bible” was going nationwide. And again, this Great Bible was Tyndalian.


The title page is full, crowded and was produced by Hans Holbein the Younger. God was at the top “blessing the moment in history,” blessing Henry VIII (205). While a bit triumphalist, there is profound truth too. Scrolls are rolling forth from the heavens with Biblical texts:

Isaiah 55.11: 

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Acts 13.22: 

“And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.”

Of course, old Harry was the David “after mine own heart,” playing to his Tudor sovereignty and massive ego. But notably, the central panel says: “The Bible in English,” precisely what cut across the 150-plus year hostility to such an idea in English royal, ecclesiastical and Parliament policy…including Rome’s historic policies with their police forces, the secular arm. The Devils were screaming “bloody murder!”

Henry is handing the Bible to Canterbury Cranmer on the right with the vice-regent, Thomas Cranmer, on the left. In accord with medieval feudalism, the “food chain,” the two subordinates, Cranmer and Cromwell, are handing smaller Bibles down the food chain. Henry is seen as the new Moses and new David “destroying enemies of the Lord” (205).

David (Henry) is slaying Goliath (the Pope) with a “single stone—the Word of God.” Yet, hint, hint…in time, what was brewing in that narrative, to wit, even Kings had to read and submit to the Bible. England was becoming a “sanctuary of Zion in freedom from the Pope and necessity of the Verbum Dei to everyone” (205).


The irony of ironies was Coverdale revising his own 1535 Coverdale Bible and the Thomas Matthew’s Bible of 1537. He left Tyndale’s NT, Pentateuch and historical books alone. Though dead, Tyndale was speaking God’s Word in English from the grave. Coverdale tweaked his own work on the poetic and prophetic sections—about half of the Old Testament. He left his Psalter alone. The 2nd edition in 1540 has the famous Preface by Canterbury Cranmer. We reproduce it in full (

"A prologue or preface made by the most reverend father in God, Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan Primate of England

"FOR two sundry sorts of people, it seemeth much necessary that something be said in the entry of this book by the way of a preface or prologue, whereby hereafter it may be both the better accepted of them which hitherto could not well bear it, and also the better used of them which heretofore have misused it. For truly some there are that be too slow and need the spur, some other seem too quick, and need more of the bridle; some lose their game by short shooting, some by overshooting; some walk too much on the left hand, some too much on the right. In the former sort be all they that refuse to read or to hear read the scripture in the vulgar tongue; much worse, they that also let or discourage the other from the reading or hearing thereof. In the latter sort be they which by their inordinate reading, indiscrete speaking, contentious disputing, or otherwise by their licentious living, slander and hinder the word of God most of all other, whereof they would seem to be greatest furtherers. These two sorts, albeit they be most far unlike the one to the other, yet they both deserve in effect like reproach. Neither can I well tell whether of them I may judge the more offender: him that doth obstinately refuse so godly and goodly knowledge, or him that so ungodly and so ungoodly doth abuse the same. And as touching the former, I would marvel much that any man should be so mad, as to refuse in darkness, light; in hunger, food; in cold, fire. For the word of God is light: Lucerna pedibus meis, verbum tuum. (See Psalm 119) Thy word is a lantern unto my feet. It is food: Non in solo pane viuit homo, sed in omni verbo dei. (See Matthew 4) Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word of God. It is fire: Ignem veni mittere in tertam, & quid volo nisi vt ardeat? (See Luke 12) I am come to send fire on the earth, and what is my desire but that it be kindled? I would marvel (I say at this) save that I consider how much custom and usage may do. So that if there were a people as some write, de Cymeriis, which never saw the sun, by reason that they be situated far toward the North pole, and be enclosed and overshadowed with high mountains, it is credible and like enough, that if by the power and will of God, the mountains should sink down and give place, that the light of the sun might have entrance to them, at the first some of them would be offended therewith. And the old proverb affirmeth, that after tillage of corn was first found, many delighted more to feed of mast and acorns wherewith they had been accustomed, than to eat bread made of good corn. Such is the nature of custom, that it causeth us to bear all things well and easily wherewith we have been accustomed, and to be offended with all things thereunto contrary. And therefore I can well think them worthy pardon, which at the coming abroad of scripture doubted and drew back. But such as will persist still in their wilfulness, I must needs judge not only foolish, froward and obstinate, but also peevish, perverse, and indurate.

"And yet, if the matter should be tried by custom, we might also to allege custom for the reading of the scripture in the vulgar tongue, and prescribe the more ancient custom. For it is not much above one hundred years ago, since scripture hath not been accustomed to be read in the vulgar tongue within this realm. And many hundred years before that, it was translated and read in the Saxons' tongue, which at that time was our mother tongue, whereof there remain yet divers copies found lately in old abbeys, of such antique manner of writing and speaking, that few men now be able to read and understand them. And when this language waxed old and out of common usage, because folk should not lack the fruit of reading, it was again translated into the newer language, whereof yet also many copies remain and be daily found.

"But now to let pass custom, and to weigh - as wise men ever should - the thing in his own nature: Let us here discuss what it availeth scripture to be had and read of the lay and vulgar people. And to this question I intend here to say nothing but that was spoken and written by the noble doctor and most moral divine, saint John Chrysostom in his third sermon de Lazaro; albeit, I will be something shorter, and gather the matter into fewer words and less room then he doth there, because I would not be tedious. He exhorteth there his audience, that every man should read by himself at home in the mean days and time, between sermon and sermon, to the intent they might both more profoundly fix in their minds and memories that he had said before upon such texts whereupon he had already preached, and also that they might have their minds the more ready and better prepared to receive and perceive that which he should say from thenceforth in his sermons, upon such texts as he had not yet declared and preached upon. Therefore saith he there, My common usage is to give you warning before what matter I intend after to entreat upon, that you yourselves in the mean days may take the book in hand, read, weigh, and perceive the sum and effect of the matter, and mark what hath been declared and what remaineth yet to be declared, so that thereby your mind may be the more furnished to hear the rest that shall be said. And that I exhort you (saith he) and ever have and will exhort you, that you not only here in the Church give ear to that that is said by the preacher, but that also when ye be at home in your houses, ye apply yourselves from time to time to the reading of holy scriptures, which thing also I never lin [i.e. spare] to beat into the ears of them that be my familiars, and with whom I have private acquaintance and conversation. Let no man make excuse and say (saith he), I am busied about matters of the commonwealth; I bear this office, or that; I am a craftsman, I must apply mine occupation. I have a wife, my children must be fed, my household must I provide for. Briefly, I am a man of the world. It is not for me to read the scriptures. That belongeth to them that have bidden the world farewell, which live in solitariness and contemplation, and have been brought up and continually nuzzled in learning and religion. To this answering, What sayest thou man? (saith he) Is it not for thee to study and to read the scripture, because thou art encumbered and distracted with cares and business? So much the more it is behoveful for thee to have defense of scriptures, how much thou art the more distressed in worldly dangers. They that be free and far from trouble and intermeddling of worldly things live in safeguard and tranquility, and in the calm, or within a sure haven. Thou art in the midst of the sea of worldly wickedness, and therefore thou needest the more of ghostly succor and comfort! They sit far from the strokes of battle, and far out of gunshot, and therefore they be but seldom wounded. Thou that standest in the forefront of the host, and nighest to thine enemies, must needs take now and then many strokes, and be grievously wounded, and therefore thou hast most need to have thy remedies and medicines at hand. Thy wife provoketh thee to anger; thy child giveth thee occasion to take sorrow and pensiveness; thine enemies lie in wait for thee; thy friend (as thou takest him) sometime envieth thee; thy neighbor misreporteth thee or picketh quarrels against thee; thy mate or partner undermineth thee; thy lord, judge, or justice, threateneth thee; poverty is painful unto thee; the loss of thy dear and well beloved causeth thee to mourn; prosperity exalteth thee, adversity bringeth thee low. Briefly, so divers and so manifold occasions of cares, tribulations, and temptations, beset thee and besiege thee round about. Where canst thou have armor or fortress against thine assaults? Where canst thou have salves for thy sores but of holy scripture?

"Thy flesh must needs be prone and subject to fleshly lusts, which daily walkest and art conversant among women, seest their beauties set forth to the eye, hearest their nice and wanton words, smellest their balm, chive, and musk, with many other like provocations and stirrings: except thou hast in a readiness wherewith to suppress and avoid them, which cannot elsewhere be had, but only out of the holy scriptures. Let us read and seek all remedies that we can, and all shall be little enough. How shall we then do, if we suffer and take daily wounds, and when we have done, will sit still and search for no medicines? Dost thou not mark and consider how the smith, mason, or carpenter, or any other handy craftsman, what need soever he be in, what other shift so ever he make, he will not sell nor lay to pledge the tools of his occupation. For then how should he work his feat, or get his living thereby? Of like mind and affection ought we to be towards holy scripture. For as mallets, hammers, saws, chisels, axes, and hatchets, be the tools of their occupation; so be the books of the prophets, and Apostles, and all holy writers inspired by the holy ghost, the instruments of our salvation. Wherefore let us not stick to buy and provide us the Bible, that is to say, the books of holy scripture; and let us think that to be a better jewel in our house than either gold or silver. For like as thieves be loth to assault an house where they know to be good armor and artillery, so wheresoever these holy and ghostly books be occupied, there neither the devil nor none of his angels dare come near. And they that occupy them be in much safeguard, and have a great consolation and be the readier unto all goodness, the slower unto all evil; and if they have done anything amiss, anon even by the sight of the books their consciences be admonished, and they wax sorry and ashamed of the fact.

"Peradventure they will say unto me, How and if we understand not that we read, that is contained in the books? What then? Suppose thou understand not the deep and profound mysteries of scriptures. Yet can it not be but that much fruit and holiness must come and grow unto thee by the reading, for it cannot be that thou shouldest be ignorant in all things alike. For the holy ghost hath so ordered and tempered the scriptures, that in them as well publicans, fishers, and shepherds may find their edification, as great doctors their erudition. For those books were not made to vain glory, like as were the writings of the gentile philosophers and rhetoricians, to the intent the makers should be had in admiration for their high styles and obscure manner and writing, whereof nothing can be understood without a master or an expositor. But the Apostles and prophets wrote their books so that their special intent and purpose might be understood and perceived of every reader, which was nothing but the edification of amendment of the life of them that read or hear it. Who is it that reading or hearing read in the Gospel, Blessed are they that be meek, Blessed are they that be merciful, Blessed are they that be of clean heart, and such other like places, can perceive nothing except he have a master to teach him what it meaneth? Likewise the signs and miracles with all other histories of the doings of Christ or his Apostles. Who is there of so simple wit and capacity, but he may be able to perceive and understand them? These be but excuses and clokes for the rain, and coverings of their own idle slothfulness. But still ye will say I can not understand it. What marvel? How shouldest thou understand, if thou wilt not read, nor look upon it? Take the books into thine hands, read the whole story, and that thou understandest, keep it well in memory; that thou understandest not, read it again, and again. If thou can neither so come by it, counsel with some other that is better learned. Go to thy curate and preacher; show thyself to be desirous to know and learn, and I doubt not but God - seeing thy diligence and readiness (if no man else teach thee) - will himself vouchsafe with his holy spirit to illuminate thee, and to open unto thee that which was locked from thee. Remember the Eunuch of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, which albeit he was a man of a wild and barbarous country, and one occupied with worldly cares and business, yet riding in his chariot, he was reading the scripture. Now consider, if this man passing in his journey was so diligent as to read the scripture, what thinkest thou of like was he wont to do sitting at home? Again, he that letted [i.e. omitted] not to read, albeit he did not understand: what did he then, trowest thou, after that when he had learned and gotten understanding? For that thou mayest well know that he understood not what he read, hearken what Philip there saith unto him: Understandest thou what thou readest? And he nothing ashamed to confess his ignorance, and answered, How should I understand, having nobody to show me the way? Lo, when he lacked one to show him the way, and to expound to him the scriptures, yet did he read; and therefore God the rather provided for him a guide of the way that taught him to understand it. God perceived his willing and toward mind, and therefore he sent him a teacher by and by. Therefore let no man be negligent about his own health and salvation. Though thou have not Philip always when thou wouldest, the holy ghost which then moved and stirred up Philip, will be ready and not fail thee if thou do thy diligence accordingly. All these things be written unto us for our edification and amendment, which be born towards the latter end of the world. The reading of the scriptures is a great and strong bulwark or fortress against sin; the ignorance of the same is a greater ruin and destruction of them that will not know it. That is the thing that bringeth in heresy; that is it that causeth all corrupt and perverse living; that is it that bringeth all things out of good order.

"Hitherto all that I have said, I have taken and gathered out of the foresaid sermon of this holy doctor, saint John Chrysostom. Now if I should in like manner bring forth what the selfsame doctor speaketh in other places, and what other doctors and writers say concerning the same purpose, I might seem to you to write another Bible, rather than to make a preface to the Bible. Wherefore in few words to comprehend the largeness and utility of the scripture, how it containeth fruitful instruction and erudition for every man: if anything be necessary to be learned, of the holy scripture we may learn it. If falsehood shall be reproved, thereof we may gather wherewithal. If anything be to be corrected and amended, if there need any exhortation or consolation, of the scripture we may well learn. In the scriptures be the fat pastures of the soul, therein is no venomous meat, no unwholesome thing; they be the very dainty and pure feeding. He that is ignorant, shall find there what he should learn. He that is a perverse sinner, shall there find his damnation to make him to tremble for fear. He that laboureth to serve God, shall find there his glory, and the promissions [i.e. promises] of eternal life, exhorting him more diligently to labor. Herein may princes learn how to govern their subjects; Subjects obedience, love, and dread to their princes; Husbands how they should behave them unto their wives, how to educate their children and servants; and contrary, the wives, children, and servants may know their duty to their husbands, parents, and masters. Here may all manner of persons, men, women, young, old, learned, unlearned, rich, poor, priests, laymen, lords, ladies, officers, tenants, and mean men, virgins, wives, widows, lawyers, merchants, artificers, husbandmen, and all manner of persons of what estate or condition soever they be, may in this book learn all things what they ought to believe, what they ought to do, and what they should not do, as well concerning almighty God, as also concerning themselves and all other. Briefly, to the reading of the scripture none can be enemy, but that either be so sick that they love not to hear of any medicine, or else that be so ignorant that they know not scripture to be the most healthful medicine. Therefore, as touching this former part, I will here conclude, and take it as a conclusion sufficiently determined and appointed, that it is convenient and good the scriptures to be read of all sorts and kinds of people, and in the vulgar tongue without further allegations or probations for the same, which shall not need, since that this one place of John Chrysostom is enough and sufficient to persuade all them that be not frowardly and perversely set in their own willful opinion, specially now that the king's highness, being supreme head next under Christ of this Church of England, hath approved with his royal assent the setting forth hereof, which only to all true and obedient subjects ought to be a sufficient reason for the allowance of the same, without further delay, reclamation, or resistance, although there were no preface nor other reason herein expressed.

"Therefore now to come to the second and latter part of my purpose. There is nothing so good in this world, but it may be abused, and turned from unhurtful and wholesome, to hurtful and noisome. What is there above better than the sun, the moon, and the stars? Yet was there that took occasion by the great beauty and virtue of them, to dishonor God, and to defile themselves with idolatry, giving the honor of the living God and creator of all things, to such things as he had created. What is there here beneath better than fire, water, meats, drinks, metals of gold, silver, iron, and steel? Yet we see daily great harm and much mischief done by every one of these, as well for lack of wisdom and providence of them that suffer evil, as by the malice of them that work the evil. Thus to them that be evil of themselves, everything setteth forward and increaseth their evil, be it of his own nature a thing never so good. Like as contrarily, to them that study and endeavor themselves to goodness, everything prevaileth them, and profiteth unto good, be it of his own nature a thing never so bad, as S. Paul said, Hiis qui diligunt deum, omnia cooperantur in bonum, All things do bring good success, to such as do love God, even as out of most venomous worms is made treacle [an antidote], the most sovereign medicine for the preservation of man's health in time of danger.

"Wherefore I would advise you all that come to the reading or hearing of this book, which is the word of God, the most precious jewel and most holy relic that remaineth upon earth; that ye bring with you the fear of God, and that ye do it with all due reverence, and use your knowledge thereof, not to vain glory of frivolous disputation, but to the honor of God, increase of virtue, and edification both of yourselves and other. And to the intent that my words may be the more regarded, I will use in this part the authority of saint Gregory Nazianzus, like as in the other I did of saint John Chrysostom. It appeareth that in his time there were some (as I fear me there be also now at these days a great number) which were idle babblers and talkers of the scripture out of season and all good order, and without any increase of virtue, or example of good living. To them he writeth all his first book, de theologia. Wherefore I shall briefly gather the whole effect, and recite it here unto you. There be some (saith he) whose not only ears and tongues, but also their fists be whetted [i.e. sharpened] and ready bent all to contention and unprofitable disputation, whom I would wish, as they be vehement and earnest to reason the matter with tongue, so they were all ready and practive [i.e. active] to do good deeds. But forasmuch as they, subverting the order of all godliness, have respect only to this thing, how they may bind and loose subtle questions, so that now every marketplace, every alehouse and tavern, every feast house, briefly every company of men, every assembly of women, is filled with such talk - since the matter is so (saith he) and that our faith and holy religion of Christ beginneth to wax nothing else but as it were a sophistry or a talking craft, I can no less do but say something thereunto. It is not fit (saith he) for every man to dispute the high questions of divinity. Neither is it to be done at all times, neither in every audience must we discuss every doubt. But we must know when, to whom, and how far we ought to enter into such matters. First, it is not for every man, but it is for such as be of exact and exquisite judgments, and such as have spent their time before in study and contemplation and such as before have cleansed themselves as well in soul as body, or at the least endeavored themselves to be made clean. For it is dangerous (saith he) for the unclean to touch that thing that is most clean, like as the sore eye taketh harm by looking upon the sun.

"Secondarily, not at all times, but when we be reposed, and at rest from all outward dregs [i.e. defiling matters] and trouble, and when that our heads be not encumbered with other worldly and wandering imaginations - as if a man should mingle balm and dirt together. For he that shall judge and determine such matters and doubts of scriptures, must take his time when he may apply his wits thereunto, that he may thereby the better see and discern what is truth. Thirdly, where, and in what audience? There and among those that have been studious to learn, and not among such as have pleasure to trifle with such matters, as with other things of pastime, which repute for their chief delicates [i.e. delights], the disputation of high questions, to show their wits, learning, and eloquence in reasoning of high matters. Fourthly, it is to be considered how far to wade in such matters of difficulty. No further (saith he) but as every man's own capacity will serve him, and again no further than the weakness or intelligence of the other audience may bear. For like as to great noise hurteth the ear, too much meat hurteth the man's body, heavy burdens hurt the hearts of them, too much rain doth more hurt than good to the ground, briefly in all things, too much is noxious; even so, weak wits and weak consciences may soon be oppressed with over hard questions. I say not this to dissuade men from the knowledge of God, and reading or studying of the scripture; for I say that it is as necessary for the life of man's soul, as for the body to breathe. And if it were possible so to live, I would think it good for a man to spend all his life in that and to do none other thing. I commend the law which biddeth to meditate and study the scriptures always both night and day, and sermons and preachings to be made both morning, noon, and eventide, and God to be lauded and blessed in all times, to bed-ward, from bed, in our journeys, and all our other works. I forbid not to read, but I forbid to reason [i.e. argue]. Neither forbid I to reason so far as is good and godly: but I allow not that is done out of season, and out of measure and good order. A man may eat too much of honey, be it never so sweet; and there is time for everything, and that thing that is good is not good if it be ungodly done. Even as a flower in winter is out of season, and as a woman's apparel becometh not a man, neither contrarily, the man's the woman, neither is weeping convenient at a bridal, neither laughing at a burial. Now if we can observe and keep that is comely and timely in all other things, shall not we then the rather do the same in the holy scriptures? Let us not run forth as it were wild horses, that can suffer neither bridle in their mouths nor sitter on their backs. Let us keep us in our bounds, and neither let us go too far on the one side, lest we return into Egypt, neither too far over the other, lest we be carried away to Babylon. Let us not sing the song of our Lord in a strange land, that is to say, let us not dispute the word of God at all adventures, as well where it is not to be reasoned, as where it is, and as well in the ears of them that be not fit therefore, as of them that be. If we can in no wise forbear but that we must needs dispute, let us forbear thus much at the least, to do it out of time and place convenient. And let us entreat of those things which be holy, holily: and upon those things that be mystical, mystically: and not to utter the divine mysteries in the ears unworthy to hear them, but let us know what is comely, as well in our silence and talking, as in our garments wearing, in our feeding, in our gesture, in our goings, in all our other behaving. This contention and debates about scriptures and doubts [i.e. disputed points] thereof (specially when such as do pretend to be the favorers and students thereof cannot agree within themselves) doth most hurt to ourselves, and to the furthering of the cause and quarrels that we would have furthered above all other things. And we in this (saith he) be not unlike to them that, being mad, set their own houses on fire, and that slay their own children, or beat their own parents. I marvel much (saith he) to recount whereof cometh all this desire of vain glory, whereof cometh all this tongue itch, that we have so much delight to talk and clatter? And wherein is our communication? Not in the commendation of virtuous and good deeds, of hospitality, of love between Christian brother and brother, of love between man and wife, of virginity and chastity, and of alms toward the poor; not in psalms and godly songs, not in lamenting for our sins, not in repressing the affections of the body, not in prayers to God. We talk of scripture, but in the meantime we subdue not our flesh by fasting, watching, and weeping, we make not this life a meditation of death, we do not strive to be lords over our appetites and affections, we go not about to pull down our proud and high minds, to abate our fumish and rancorous stomachs, to restrain our lusts and bodily delectations, our indiscrete sorrows, our lascivious mirth, our inordinate looking, our insatiable hearing of vanities, our speaking without measure, our inconvenient thoughts; and briefly, to reform our life and manners. But all our holiness consisteth in talking. And we pardon each other from all good living, so that we may stick fast together in argumentation, as though there were no more ways to heaven but this alone, the way of speculation and knowledge (as they take it); but in very deed it is rather the way of superfluous contention and sophistication. Hitherto have I recited the mind of Gregory Nazianzus in that book which I spake of before. The same author saith also in another place that the learning of a Christian man ought to begin of the fear of God, to end in matters of high speculation; and not contrarily to begin with speculation, and to end in fear. For speculation (saith he), either high cunning or knowledge, if it be not stayed with the bridle of fear to offend God, is dangerous, and enough to tumble a man headlong down the hill. Therefore saith he, the fear of God must be the first beginning, and as it were an A.B.C. or an introduction to all them that shall enter into the very true and most fruitful knowledge of holy scriptures. Where as is the fear of God, there is (saith he) the keeping of the commandments; and where as is the keeping of the commandments, there is the cleansing of the flesh, which flesh is a cloud before the soul's eye, and suffereth it not purely to see the beam of the heavenly light. Where as is the cleansing of the flesh, there is the illumination of the holy ghost, the end of all our desires, and the very light whereby the verity of scriptures is seen and perceived. This is the mind and almost the words of Gregory Nazianzus, doctor of the Greek Church, of whom saint Jerome saith that unto his time the Latin Church had no writer able to be compared and to make an even match with him. Therefore to conclude this latter part: every man that cometh to the reading of this holy book, ought to bring with him first and foremost this fear of almighty God, and then next, a firm and stable purpose to reform his own self according thereunto, and so to continue, proceed, and prosper from time to time, showing himself to be a sober and fruitful hearer and learner; which, if he do, he shall prove at the length well able to teach, though not with his mouth, yet with his living and good example, which is sure the most lively and effectuous form and manner of teaching. He that otherwise intermeddleth with this book, let him be assured that once he shall make account therefore, when he shall have said to him as it is written in the prophet David, Peccatori dicit deus. &c. Unto the ungodly said God: Why dost thou preach my laws, and takest my testament in thy mouth? Whereas thou hatest to be reformed, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou hast let thy mouth speak wickedness, and with thy tongue thou hast set forth deceit. Thou sattest and spakest against thy brother, and hast slandered thine own mother's son. (See Psal. 50) These things hast thou done, and I held my tongue, and thou thoughtest wickedly that I am even such a one as thyself: But I will reprove thee, and set before thee the things that thou hast done. O consider this ye that forget God, lest I pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you. Whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoreth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation right, will I show the salvation of God.
God save the King."

This preface was devastatingly anti-Papal and opposed to the 150-plus year policy of the Anglo-Italians that developed from the Wycliffite period.

Several quick observations can be made. (1) Anglo-Saxon readings, lections and preaching occurred. Cranmer says that ceased over 100 years previously. (2) Every man and woman of any sort or station should exercise themselves in the Scriptures. They are perspicuous and clear. The difficult places—read again and again. Seek the skill of those who are more exercised. (3) While reading, it is not for vain display and disputation, but to godliness and the fear of the Lord.

The 4th edition was printed in NOV 1540. The 6th edition was printed in 1541. “This Bible was to be used in very church by royal command” (209). This was a total smack-down of the Anglo-Italians, a policy that would prevail until the 1970s for Romanists. Even now, the old Anglo-Italian senior clerk, Tunstall of Durham who had burned Tyndale’s Bibles, had to comply with the royal command.

Whatever else might be said of Cranmer, including the compliance with the Six Articles, he wrote a brave, straightforward, wise, insightful and commendable Preface. But the mystery man, Thomas Cranmer, remains that and more questions are created. While Cranmer would continue in Canterbury, Coverdale was again in exile.


Just before his second exile, Coverdale remained in England until/in/on/around the execution of Cromwell. Again, the great translator’s work would go to the presses. While in England, he was in Newbury and reporting to Cromwell about “papists breaching the Injunctions,” “honorers of Becket” (=code for opposition to the King), and, in good Tudor fashion, was preparing bonfires for papal primers and books.

When the Six Articles were passed, “official tolerance of reform” was over. On 28 JUL 1540, the English Reformer Robert Barnes was burned at Smithfield. On 30 JUL 1540, Cromwell’s head fell, the gentler version in view of his status. Coverdale fled.

SECOND EXILE (1540-1547)

Before leaving England, Coverdale married a Scots noble woman. They went to Strasbourg where they met the French Reformer, John Calvin. Coverdale stays in Strasbourg for 3 years. He translates 2 books by Heinrich Bullinger. He wrote a defense of the martyr Robert Barnes. He received a Doctorate of Divinity from Tubingen University. He also visited Denmark which, in time, would serves as a basis of release during Mary’s time, but we get ahead of ourselves. He also made acquaintance with Martin Bucer’s secretary, Conrad Hubert. Coverdale was becoming well-connected with Reformers. In SEPT 1543, we find Coverdale in Bergzabern as an assistant minister, just 40 miles north of Strasbourg. He held this position for 5 years…until his return to England—again. He received a supportive and favorable letter from Heinrich Bullinger.

During his stay in Bergzabern, he began to learn and master Hebrew. Coverdale, in this period, was “shocked at Luther’s violent attack late in 1544 on the sacramental views of fellow-reformers, including Zwingli [dead in 1531] and Oecolampadius” (210). Coverdale continued publishing “German tracts.” In England, they continued to revile his name.

On 8 JUL 1546, all of Coverdale’s books were condemned and burned at St. Paul’s Cross in London.

On 27 JAN 1547, King Henry VIII was dead.

BISHOP OF EXETER (1551-1553)

Edward VI came to the throne JAN/FEB 1547. Changes were in the air.

Coverdale stayed in Germany for 1 year. He wrote John Calvin on 26 MAR 1548, Calvin now being in Geneva rather than Strasbourg, that he was returning by invitation “after eight years in exile” (211). For Calvin’s perusal, he included a Latin-German translation for a “new English order of communion.”

On 24 JUN 1548, Coverdale preached at Merchant Taylors at St. Martin’s Outwich. By OCT 1548, he is at the Royal Chapel at Windsor Castle. He was probably working consultatively on the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Coverdale, probably at Cranmer’s request, invited Paul Fagius, a Continental Reformer in Strasbourg, to England. At the Second Sunday in Lent, Coverdale preached on the use of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

On 10 JUN 1549, Coverdale set out with Royal forces sent to quell a rebellion in Devon and Cornwall over the use of the Prayer Book. A chaplain, if you will, to pacify and persuade the people to adopt its use. He stayed for several months preaching and working.

John Vesey was the senior clerk of Exeter. Vesey was 86 years old, was largely absent to his diocese, and was worthless to the cause of reform. He was a functional time-server and bishop-in-name-only, a BINO. Vesey had basically abandoned his diocese and had driven it into the ground, financially. The diocese was in arrears.

Old Hugh Latimer preached a Lent Sermon that “Vesey bore the title but Coverdale did the work” (212).

By 1 JUN 1550, Peter “Martyr” Vermigli, the Italian Reformer with Reformed theology, was in England to help Cranmer, help the cause of Reform, to teach university students and to further reform and revise the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Peter Martyr wrote a favorable letter to Heinrich Bullinger predicting that Miles Coverdale would become the bishop of Exeter.

Let us never forget the ever-living animosity of the Goat of Canterbury, Billy Laud, and his hostility to the Continental Reformers in the 17th century. This hostility lives on with the Tracto-heads and Ritualists down to our time. But, that was not Cranmer’s or Coverdale’s view of things. The revisionists want these thing buried—permanently.

By EASTER 1551, Coverdale was spending time around the Oxford area. He was also attending Peter Martyr’s (Augustinian-Gottschalkian-Wycliffite-Calvinistic) lectures on Paul’s Romans at Magdalen College, Oxford. Peter Martyr noted that he was an “active and good preacher” (212). Undoubtedly, he was promoting the English Bible, clean against the old Anglo-Italian policy that was dying a long death with much screeching and backdoor operations. Coverdale was in “high demand.”

In keeping with those times and reprehensibly, Coverdale was a member of a commission that judged a German Anabaptist and alleged Arian, George van Parris of Mainz. Coverdale, knowing Germany, was a translator. The man was burned alive and died at the stake in APR 1551.

On 14 AUG 1551, the decrepit Vessey of Exeter was ejected. Coverdale was nominated.

On 30 AUG 1551, Coverdale “in surplice and cope” was consecrated at Croydon.

On 11 SEPT 1551, he was “enthroned,” an unbiblical, unnecessary and stupid term full of feudalistic and power-driven associations that is still retained in the Church of England. Tracto-heads still thrive on these things. But, Coverdale, in time, would switch views, but we get ahead of ourselves. And, he would prove to be a man who never could be bought; like John Foxe, another exile and fellow-sufferer, he was not about to yield to Royalist strong-arming, but, again, we are ahead of the story.

Coverdale regularly attended the House of Lord when in session. We may well surmise his involvements with the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, a significant advance in several respects over the 1549-model.

John Hooker, 20 years after Coverdale’s episcopacy, wrote in his Description of the City of Exeter:

“…he preached continually upon every holy day, and did most read commonly twice in the week in some church or other within this city. He was, after the rate of his livings, a great keeper of hospitality, very sober in diet, godly in life, friendly to the godly, liberal to the poor, and courteous to all men, void of pride, full of humility, abhorring covetousness, and an enemy to all wickedness and wicked men, whose company he shunned, and whom he would in no wise shroud [shelter] or have in his house and company. His wife a most sober, chaste and godly matron: his house and household another church, in which was exercised all godliness and virtue. No one person being in his house which did not from time to time give an account of his faith and religion, and also did live accordingly…Yet the common people, whose old bottles would receive no new wine, could not brook nor digest him, for no other cause but he was a preacher of the gospel, an enemy to papistry, and a married man” (213).

To summarize Hooker with our interpolation: Coverdale was Reformed, learned many good things in his suffering, and lived honorably.

But, things would change.

On 6 JUL 1553, England’s “Josiah,” Edward VI, died. Queen Mary took the throne.

Coverdale was “summoned immediately to appear before the Privy Council” (213).

The Anglo-Italians were making a come-back. According to Peter Vermigli and the King of Denmark, Coverdale was either under house arrest in Exeter or in prison. For us, it is not clear.

On 18 SEP 1553, the now-90-year-old Vesey was reinstated. If the walls could talk, 100% bet that the old man had been back-stabbing Coverdale and others. Old Vesey certainly suited the Anglo-Italians.

COVERDALE’S THIRD EXILE (1553-1559), 214-216

Hooker (supra) noted that “some” bishops were against Coverdale. No kidding. His Bible was all over England despite pockets of recusant-opposition and adherence to Romanist theology. Death was in the wind. Coverdale saw the vulnerabilities. Some thought Coverdale would recant. He wrote that he was “steadfastly determined never to return unto Egypt, never to kiss the calf…never to refuse or recant the word of life [hah, he’d already suffered exile previously and for years]…for the corn that the Lord hath appointed to his own barn shall be safe enough and kept full well by the help of Him that is the owner thereof” (214).

For a flavor of the times we get this from a sermon preached by Dr. Weston against the English Reformers as well as Coverdale. “…You have the Word and we have the sword” (214).

We find a series of exchanges between Queen Mary 1 and the King of Denmark. It suggests that Coverdale is in jail. He affixes his signature along with 12 others in a letter to the Queen.

The King of Denmark wrote a letter on 25 MAY 1554 to Queen Mary 1 requesting that Coverdale be released, saying he committed “no crime.” He offered Coverdale asylum. Mary and her councilors stonewalled for 5 months alleging that Coverdale had unresolved debts. The King wrote that he would pay any outstanding debts.

On 19 FEB 1555 (a year later), the Privy Council issued Coverdale a passport.

Coverdale left, his third exile, with “two servants, bags and baggage” (214). It is unclear where he went. Also, we find his wife and two children with him.

He accepted an invitation from the magistrates of Bergzabern, Germany and arrived there on 20 SEPT 1555 to serve ministerially. He stayed 2 years.

On 11 AUG 1557, he was at Arau where documents describe as born in York, having a wife and 2 children.

On 24 OCT 1558, he went to Geneva and settled there. Unquestionably, he knew the French Reformer, John Calvin, and other Reformed leaders. Can ya’ hear the Laudians and Tracto-Trojan Horses going “Harrumph! Harrumph!” We saw earlier that he had been with Peter Vermigli during Easter 1551. Anyone who thinks he was Lutheran or some soft conformist in years later is misreading history.

Miles Coverdale was a Reformed Churchman.

Blessedly, Mary died on 17 NOV 1558. But, Coverdale did not hurry home. Who could blame him really? There were still fire-breathing Anglo-Italians in England. Who needs them? He stayed in Calvin’s Geneva and helped Whittingham work on the 1560 Geneva Bible.

So, here’s a quick insert: Coverdale had been a collaborator-translator with William Tyndale whom the Anglo-Italians and Imperial Inquisitors killed. Coverdale finished and produced the Coverdale Bible of 1535 while Tyndale was imprisoned. Coverdale assists with the Thomas Matthew’s Bible (renamed to avoid the “heretical names” of Tyndale and Coverdale) which gets gently reworked with the “Great Bible” of 1540—which he, again, did. Then, in Geneva, he’s helping with the Geneva Bible.

Can anyone spell “S-I-G-N-I-F-I-C-A-N-T” for Coverdale and the English Reformation?

On 29 NOV 1558, Coverdale stood as the godfather for John Knox’s son (215).

On 16 DEC 1558, he became an “Elder of the English Church at Geneva” (215). Can ya’ hear old Laud sweating prematurely and other Non-Reformed Anglicans?

By AUG 1559, Coverdale is headed home. He takes residence with the Duchess of Suffolk and becomes the preacher and teacher to her children. This was a clear indication that he, a MAJOR FIGURE, sought a quieter life. He was 72 years old. Coverdale, a Reformed Churchman, wrote William Cob at Geneva and describes the Duchess “as having, like us, the greatest abhorrence of the Ceremonies” and “the increasing use of vestments” (216).

As a friend recently wrote me regarding Canterbury Bancroft (c. 1604ish): to wit, Bancroft was complaining about the “Scotticizing Englishmen and the Genevating Englishmen.” That would become a trend, unfortunately.

That trend was set with the Coverdales of the English Reformation. Bancroft would represent a developing trend against all-things-Genevan that flourished with Billy-goat Laud and others. Thanks, but we’ll listen to the man who hovered in close to the Bible for decades. Laud can’t own that.

LONDON, 1559-1569

Coverdale returned to England. He declined a bishopric. Two reasons: his age and dislike of vestments, the ever-living sacrament of validation that would vex the Church of England for centuries down to our time.

Yet, he, at age 72, assisted in the co-consecration of Matthew Parker to the see of Canterbury on 17 DEC 1559. Two others wore the cope. Coverdale wore a “black gown,” the badge of Genevan reforms and badge of contempt for Romishness still alive in the land. He was not conforming to new lords, yet was not entirely anti-conformist either.

He was heard preaching at St. Paul’s Cross, London, on 12 NOV 1559 and 28 APR 1560.

In 1563, Cambridge awarded him the Doctorate of Divinity “by incorporation” from the University of Tubingen, something awarded him years before.

In JAN 1564, Edmund Grindal, the new senior clerk of London, offered Coverdale the living at St. Magnus Martyr by the London Bridge.

In APR 1564, acting as the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Coverdale conferred the Doctorate of Divinity on Edmund Grindal.

By summer of 1566, he left St. Magnus Martyr by the London Bridge. He was near 80. Canterbury Matthew Parker had summoned the London clergy to Lambeth for the enforcement of Elizabeth’s vestarian-laws—which Parker did not care about, as a few letters show, but which he supported since Elizabeth had ruled. Coverdale resigned his living at St. Magnus. Several letters from London clerics are sent to Zurich and Geneva about the developments. Coverdale discreetly absented himself from Parker’s summons.

Ya’ ain’t gonna bulldoze an old, experienced, informed, Biblically-driven, theologically trained and Reformed Churchman long acquainted with suffering, poverty, tyrannies, and exile.

As might be expected, he had a “keen following in Puritan circles” (217). But, he accepted poverty over preferment, consistency before compromise, the Scriptures above and ruling tradition, and principles above pandering to a Queen. He genuinely believed in Scriptures, the “supreme” [and final] Judge in all things, matters, opinions, councils and independent thoughts.

That’s Reformed theology.

In JAN 1569, he preached his last sermon, about 83 years old, at his former parish, St. Magnus. In other words, he was the former minister in attendance. However, for whatever reason, the presiding minister was not present or available. But Coverdale was in attendance, but not presiding, an indication of his acceptance of the-then-used 1559 Book of Common Prayer (or, at least, in the main, as was the case for Anglo-Puritans). John Hooker (supra) described it:

“…certain men of the parish came unto him, and earnestly entreated that considering the multitude was great, and that it was pity they should be disappointed of their expectation, that it would please him to take the place for that time. But he excused his age and infirmities thereof, and that his memory failed him, his voice scarce could be heard, and he not able to do it, that they would hold him excused. Nevertheless such were their importunate requests that, would he nould [sic] he, he must and did yield unto their requests: and between two men he was carried up into the pulpit, where God did with his spirit so strengthen him, that he made his last and the best and the most godly sermon that ever he did in all his life. And very shortly after he died, being very honourably buried with the presence of the duchess of Suffolk, the earl of Bedford, and many others, honourable and worshipful personages."

Coverdale died on 20 JAN 1569. He was buried in the chancel of St. Bartholomew by the Exchange under the “communion table” [hint, hint Tracto-heads, the “table” not the Laudian altar…gotta a problem there? Cranmer and Coverdale didn’t.

We end where we began.

We repeat what we said earlier: (1) Godly and upright, (2) in high demand for the pulpit near-wise everywhere., (3) a friend and collaborator in Bible translation activity with Tyndale and others, (4) Translator and reviser of several English editions, e.g. Coverdale 1535, Matthew Thomas Bible 1537, the Great Bible of 1540 and the Geneva Bible of 1560, (5) a sufferer through multiple exiles, (6) a diligent bishop in Exeter, (6) a persistent man in several exiles, (7) ever-faithful in exiles, (8) a Doctor of Divinity (University of Tubingen and Cambridge University), (9) well-schooled in the Bible, and (10) and, most notably, an integral player in getting the English Bible into 9000 parishes, obstacles notwithstanding.

As a grand understatement, Coverdale is an under-appreciated Churchman in the Catholic (=Reformed) Church of England.

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