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The Matthew Bible, also known as Matthew's Version, was first published in 1537 under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew". It combined the New Testament of William Tyndale, and as much of the Old Testament as he had been able to translate before being captured and put to death, with the translations of Myles Coverdale as to the balance of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, except the Apocryphal Prayer of Manasses. It is thus a vital link in the main sequence of English Bible translations.

Translation

Matthew's Bible was the combined work of three individuals, working from numerous sources in at least five different languages.

The entire New Testament (first published in 1526 and later revised), the Pentateuch and in David Daniell's view, the Books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, and First and Second Chronicles, were the work of William Tyndale. Tyndale worked directly from the Hebrew and Greek, occasionally consulting the Vulgate and Erasmus’s Latin version, and he used Luther's Bible for the prefaces, marginal notes and the biblical text. The use of the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew" resulted possibly from the need to conceal from Henry VIII the participation of Tyndale in the translation.

The remaining books of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha were the work of Myles Coverdale. Coverdale translated primarily from German and Latin sources. Historians often tend to treat Coverdale and Tyndale like competitors in a race to complete the monumental and arduous task of translating the biblical text. One is often credited to the exclusion of the other. In reality they knew each other and occasionally worked together. Foxe states that they were in Hamburgmarker translating the Pentateuch together as early as 1529.

The Prayer of Manasses was the work of John Rogers. Rogers translated from a French Bible printed two years earlier (in 1535). Rogers compiled the completed work and added the preface, some marginal notes, a calendar and almanac.

Of the three translators, two were burned at the stake. Tyndale was burned on 6 October 1536 in Vilvoordemarker, Belgiummarker. John Rogers was "tested by fire" on 4 February 1555 at Smithfieldmarker, England; the first to meet this fate under Mary I of England. Myles Coverdale was employed by Cromwell to work on the Great Bible of 1539, the first officially authorized English translation of the Bible.

Time and extensive scholastic scrutiny have judged Tyndale the most gifted of the three translators. Dr Westcott (in his History of the English Bible) states that "The history of our English Bible begins with the work of Tyndale and not with that of Wycliffe." The quality of his translations has also stood the test of time, coming relatively intact even into modern versions of the Bible. A. S. Herbert, Bible cataloguer, says of the Matthew Bible, "this version, which welds together the best work of Tyndale and Coverdale, is generally considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible". upon which later editions were based, including the Geneva Bible and King James Version. Professor David Daniell recounts that, "New Testament scholars Jon Nielson and Royal Skousen observed that previous estimates of Tyndale's contribution to the KJV 'have run from a high of up to 90% (Westcott) to a low of 18% (Butterworth)'. By a statistically accurate and appropriate method of sampling, based on eighteen portions of the Bible, they concluded that for the New Testament Tyndale's contribution is about 83% of the text, and in the Old Testament 76%.". Thus the Matthew Bible, though largely unrecognized, significantly shaped and influenced English Bible versions in the centuries that followed its first appearance.

Printing

It is not known who printed the Matthew Bible (Herbert #34); it may have been Jacobus van Meteren in Antwerp. Later editions were printed in London; the last of four appeared in 1551 (Herbert #92).

Van Meteren's son, Emanuel stated in an affidavit dated 28 May 1609 that his father was "a furtherer of reformed religion, and he that caused the first Bible at his costes to be Englisshed by Mr Myles Coverdal in Andwarpmarker, the w’h his father, with Mr Edward Whytchurch, printed both in Parismarker and Londonmarker." Coverdale was employed as a translator by Jacobus van Meteren. Rogers began assisting the work around 1535, and married J. van Meteren's niece Adriana in the same year that the Matthew Bible was published (1537).

Literature

Bible editions


The Matthew's Bible. 1537 edition [Facsimile]. Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-1-59856-349-8

Notes

References (general)

  • Herbert, A. S. (1968) Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible, 1525–1961. London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society ISBN 0-564-00130-9


See also



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