When the Pilgrims arrived in the New World in 1620, they brought along supplies, a consuming passion to advance the Kingdom of Christ, and the Word of God – of which their most precious cargo was the Geneva Bible. All but forgotten in our day, this version of the Holy Scriptures was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Geneva Bible was the product of the best Protestant scholars of that time, translated and compiled by exiled reformers in Geneva, Switzerland (1557-1560).
The Geneva Bible is unique among all other Bibles. It was the first Bible to use chapters, numbered verses, and extensive marginal notes, all in an easy-to-read Roman-style typeface. Commentaries written by Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, and others were included to explain and interpret the scriptures for the common people.
The Geneva Bible was also the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers and thinkers of that time. William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, and John Milton used the Geneva Bible in their writings. The Pilgrims heeded its insights as they wrote the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony, and William Bradford cited the Geneva Bible in his famous book Of Plymouth Plantation.
King James intended for his “politically correct” Authorized Version to replace the Geneva Bible. The King James Bible was introduced by the Church of England on May 2nd, 1611. Although it’s now regarded as a masterpiece of English literature due to its flowing language and rhythmic prose, the King James Version was not an overnight success. In fact, the Geneva Bible remained more popular for decades after the KJV’s original release!
There are two readily available versions of the historic Geneva Bible. One is the 1560 facsimile edition, published by Hendrickson. The other is the modernized 1599 version published by Tolle Lege Press. The main difference between the 1560 and 1599 versions is that the 1560 edition included the Apocrypha (albeit with a note stating that it was not canonical), while the 1599 edition was the first English Bible to not include the Apocrypha. Also, some study notes in Revelation were updated by different contributors in the 1599 Geneva Bible.
Read and experience the Bible that the Pilgrims brought to America on the Mayflower!
- The Geneva Bible – An Historical Report
- Modern Spelling Geneva Bible (PDF format; the chapters are available in two versions – with footnotes and without footnotes – and each chapter begins with an introductory summary.)
- 1599 Geneva Bible Online (Electronic edition linked to an Online Parallel Study Bible.)
- 1599 Geneva Bible Notes (from the Reformed Reader)
- 1599 Geneva Bible text (archived link to a PDF file)