When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, Christians from the East flooded into Europe bringing with them ancient artifacts and a knowledge of the Greek language.
A brilliant scholar from the Netherlands named Erasmus found himself in Italy in the early 1500s surrounded by Greek-speaking refugees. He took the opportunity to learn Greek and later traveled to Basel, Switzerland, where he could study the oldest New Testament manuscripts available at that time.
Initially, Erasmus planned to add notes to the Latin Vulgate to correct or to clarify the Latin translation, but his research led him to compile and publish the New Testament manuscripts as a full Greek New Testament.
Before Erasmus’ work, manuscripts containing portions of the New Testament were scattered among the great libraries of Europe. Collecting these manuscripts into one source began a new era of Bible translation.
As the Protestant Reformation surged across Europe, the desire for Scripture in the language of the people grew. William Tyndale translated Erasmus’ New Testament into English and nearly completed a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew before he was executed by King Henry VIII. William Coverdale completed and revised Tyndale’s work creating the first, full English Bible.
The persecution of Protestants under Queen Mary I drove Coverdale and other refugees to Geneva, Switzerland where a number of scholars created the Geneva Bible based on Tyndale’s work.
The Geneva Bible was mass-produced on the newly-invented printing press and made widely available. It became the most popular Bible among the English people for 50 years.
1. Peter J. Goeman, “The Impact and Influence of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament,” Unio Cum Christo 2, no. 1 (n.d.): 69.
2. “Early English Bibles,” accessed June 28, 2020, http://earlyenglishbibles.com/.