Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Matthew Bible Facsimile.

I dont know whether a Geneva Bible review would have been better recieved. Not many people are even aware that the Matthew Bible ever existed, yet this translation is the Grandaddy of bible translations. Coming right out of William Tyndale's 1534 revision of his New Testament and much of his OT it was combined with Miles Coverdale's work and made into a full bible. This is essentially the first English reformation bible (If you view Wycliffe as a precursor - a type of what was to come, rather than a part of it, although I think he was).

What you are about to see is images of a facsimile, to buy an authentic version would set you back around $150,000, now, I don't have that. So I went to Amazon and got one for much cheaper, this is a high quality facsimile, something I cherish. I got mine for about £51, its selling on Amazon UK for about the same now.

Tyndale is my top bible translator, I love some modern translations, they are definitely flawed in places, and often interpret for the reader, but they are certainly the best of modern biblical scholarship. Sadly they tend to leave behind the faith that was there in the past. I mean, would many of the Bible translators we have today be willing to live the life of William Tyndale, or John Rogers? or even the life of John Wycliffe? I think that those men, show in their lives, their honesty in translation. When I think that Tyndale was also a conditionalist - well that seals the deal for me, I have his 1526 NT and I honestly cannot find a better translation than a bible that is nearly 500 years old. Anyway lets get to the pictures.

 Forgive the flash,

It says: MATTHEW'S BIBLE
             WILLIAM TYNDALE
              MILES COVERDALE
                 JOHN ROGERS


Genuine Leather
Quite supple but most
definitely capable of withstanding the vast amounts of use that it gets from me. This is not thin leather, I will say its not the thickest leather I have used, but it definitely feels substantial in your hand. If you hold a corner it will bend,  and you can do bible yoga with it, but I don't do that very often, not on a £51 bible that I want to be using for the rest of my life. I'm not going to push it too much!

This is very thin card, some people call this paper but it's just slightly above that. I doubt this will last forever, but on the flipside - this isn't an Allan bible, its Hendrickson, who will likely have had to pay loads of money to make this facsimile, and I'm not going to really be bothering with endpapers anyway.


Title page. Not much to say about this, other than how nice it looks!

It looks very nice.

The contents, made for reference more than anything. I would not expect to be using a contents system in this bible.  You will be searching and searching until you find. Its not difficult really if you know where everything is. You may struggle on the apocrypha as I have, but you'll get there. This is a historical document not a Zondervan or a Nelson - or Cambridge or Oxford.

It is nice to know it is there one day if I ever figure it out!


This is one of the reasons that I bought this bible. Its simply the effort that has been made to make this facsimile as close to the original in quality as possible. Honestly, if you love the history of the English bible like I do, you wouldn't hesitate to buy this bible, and work hard to get past the obstruction of the gothic letters.

[The Bible, which is all the holy Scripture: In which are contained the Old and New Testament truly and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew.

Isaiah 1
Hearken ye heavens and thou Earth give ear: for the Lord speaketh.  1537

Set forth with the Kings most gracious license]



A nice calendar, but with Roman numerals I'm not sure how useful it will be. I may just need more time with it, I notice that every day I use it I get that little bit more fluent. I don't know. But the fact that this much dedication went into it just makes my heart want to burst in thanks to John Rogers. How kind and thoughtful :)

Remember that this was essentially an illegal bible until the King (Henry VIII) was convinced to license it by his bishop. There was no expectation by Rogers that he would allow it.


 The beautiful artwork on the the first page of Genesis.

When I first beheld it, I was aghast at how good the facsimile truly is. If it is any better in the real thing, I would be surprised.

The scene depicts Adam and Eve with all the animals in Eden.

Considering the year this was printed, Theres monkeys, rabbits, lions, even what looks like a bear.

Then we have the sun and the moon, and a cloud showing what may be an angel or God himself looking down from heaven.


As someone who has been reading the bible non stop for 2 years, I pretty much can read the first chapter of Genesis from rote. I think this helps in reading the old gothic lettering, you see familiar words and can kind of figure it out. Then like learning another language you get better and better reading the words, understanding the grammar etc.

Its alot easier being Tyndale's work, after all the KJV OT is about 75% Tyndale. It is different:

(KJV Genesis 1:2 says "and the earth was without form and void")

(MB "The earth was void and empty")

it may simply be language differences, but I think Tyndale went with the Latin Vulgate on this one.


 As you can see its double column.
It also has no verse numbers, as this is before Geneva introduced them in bible translations. Its more difficult to reference than with a modern bible, but its also a little easier to follow than say a versified 1800s bible where chunks of text are split. A KJV is more a reference bible (which is fantastic) when it's like that, but theres much to be said for a paragraphed bible made for reading too. in the 1530s bibles were simply made to be read not referenced - after all much of the time it had to be memorized as you had no idea whether your bible was going to end up on the pyre.

Man I love this bible.

I've tried to ensure that some of these explanatory notes get into the shot. This is Psalm 23, and we can see what is the genesis of the Psalm 23 we know and love.

I won't bother translating it for you, Everyone knows this psalm and I'm assuming you will be able to decipher it.

a hint is that 'u' is 'v' in some places (loving)

I love also love the interpretation here where it says

"Oh let they loving-kindess and mercy follow me all the days of my life THAT I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever"

This is an amazing interpretation: it is by God's mercy and loving kindness that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I don't know of another bible translation that actually says anything like that. the KJV says

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." (Psa 23:6 KJV)

I don't know about you, but I find the Matthew translation here - pretty impressive! It just seems to fit so well to me, it just shows how God sustains his people through the Holy Spirit, it also doesn't detract from the KJV either, both beautifully compliment one another, God's goodness is his loving kindness, God IS LOVE, and God IS GOOD.

 
Here we have the New Testament, John 3:16

This is the typical John 3:16 that we all know and love, giving the gospel in a sentence. I know that in todays language the HCSB (God loved the world this way) would be considered by some more "accurate". But in 1537 this is a truly accurate translation. It doesn't mean "so much", but its a "so doing" as in a demonstrative 'so' "This is how God loveth the world".

Hard to describe, but its all about understanding how the word 'so' used to be used, as opposed to the American 'SOOOOO much' kind of way it is used today.



Heres a nice introduction which gives the history of the translation. I have to say, I am a bit of a nitpicker when it comes to fonts, and I am actually glad this is a facsimile in Gothic font rather than made in this font. This sort of font is similar to something you get default in Open Office, if you sat there reading from a font like this you would really get a headache. At least gothic font is pure black, which doesn't hurt your eyes as much as a nice bold font.

The font nearly blends into the page, thats not good.

It does look better in reality however.








THE DEDICATION TO HENRY VIII, SERIOUSLY!!! HENRY VIII!!!! THATS HOW OLD THIS BIBLE IS!!



Okay, finally I wanted to just deal with one of the end notes.

This comes before the discovery of dinosaurs and anything of the sort.

But if you look in any bible today, at Job 40:15 you will see the title of a creature

"Behemoth", now if you look at the note here, it says

"The greatest beast in the earth that is the elephant. Other understand thereby any earthly beast that is great: but unto an elephant do all the properties here recited right well agree, wherefore it leaneth most agreeable to the truth that is the word be signified an elephant"

We then get the same for Leviathan. It says "Leviathan, as diverse learned men expound, signifieth the greatest fish that liveth in the sea, which is a whale".

So, we pretty much have what you would find in any modern bible. The difference being, that in 1537 no one had seen a dinosaur bone. It was written in ignorance by Rogers, but today, we can say that "all the properties here recited right well agree, wherefore it leaneth most agreeable to the truth that is the word be signified a sauropod dinosaur".

Today of course that cannot be the case, as it is well believed and propagandized that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. But had John Rogers known about dinosaurs, you can be sure he would have put the greatest beast in the earth, that is "the long necked great dragon" or something similar.

When it comes to Leviathan, what great sea fishes had he to choose from? The biggest he knew was a whale. But no whale I know spews fire from his mouth, today of course we know of creatures that spew explosive acid from their bottoms. We also can say that dragons are capable of spewing fire from their mouths, and we have good candidates for what Dragons actually were - dinosaurs. There is a possibility that some did spew fire - or at least something similar perhaps a gas that interacted with oxygen see here.

Of course I have gone off track.

Is the Matthew Bible usable today - yes, there is no law that says a bible has to have been printed after 1611 to be usable, there are people who use the Geneva Bible today, or Tyndale's facsimile. You could easily use this and no other translation if you wanted, in fact there is a possible Matthew Bible reprint on its way in the next few years if all goes to plan (which no matter what I will be buying).

So yes this is definitely a usable bible. Theres not much difference between it and KJV, but perhaps, with it being more for study than ceremonial church use, it would be easier to read in places. It has many similar renderings, in fact the KJV uses some of the same renderings. For instance, Tyndale refers to the gathering of believers (what we call going to church) as "congregation". When he refers to Pagan temples - he calls them churches. ("robbers of churches." Acts 19:37) The KJV also has this.

Tyndale used this term because he was a reformer, he saw just like Martin Luther and other reformers, that the Catholic church had blinded the eyes and minds of believers, and was not biblical. Tyndale used the term church in that way to SHOW the reader, just what the catholic church was. Whilst calling the biblical assembling of saints the congregation. However both terms can be used interchangeably, Tyndale simply clarifying the rendering, also denouncing the idea of a universal church - after all, when we go to church are we congregating with ALL BELIEVERS? No! Tyndale in 1525 still decimates catholic nonsense today!

Just thought that was something to show just where the KJV came from - this bible - and ultimately Tyndale!  

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