The first study Bible was composed in 1560 and is known as the Geneva Bible.
The Origin of the Geneva Bible
When Mary I, also known as ‘Bloody Mary,’ became the queen of England, many Protestants fled due to persecution. Protestants were being persecuted because Queen Mary wanted to restore Roman Catholicism and end Protestantism, and she was okay with using violent measures to see this agenda accomplished.
Many of these fleeing English Protestants found safety in John Calvin’s city of Geneva, which was located in Switzerland.
Some of the English Protestants that fled to Geneva were Bible scholars and theologians. During their time in Geneva, Calvin suggested that they worked on a new English Bible translation.
In 1560, these exiled men produced the first study Bible in recorded history known as the Geneva Bible.
What Made the Geneva Bible Different?
The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to include verse break ups of the Biblical text.
In addition, the Geneva Bible was the first Bible to include study notes at the bottom of the pages. The first version of the Geneva Bible only had study notes at the bottom of the Gospel narratives, but over time the other books of the Bible began to include study notes as well.
The Geneva Bible was also one of the first Bibles to include maps to help trace where Biblical events took place.
Lastly, the Geneva Bible also became one of the first Bibles to include tables for cross-referencing popular names and theological topics throughout the Bible.
Who Read the Geneva Bible?
The Geneva Bible was the Bible that William Shakespeare read. It was also the Bible that John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress read. Additionally, it was the Bible that the Pilgrims and Puritans read and brought to North America with them.
The Geneva Bible came in a pocket size and was meant to be affordable and accessible to all persons. William Tyndale, speaking about the Geneva Bible, once said, “The boy that driveth the plough should know more of the scriptures than the educated man.”
Interestingly, according to Stephen Nichols, there was a national law implemented in Scotland in 1579 that required every household that had 300 silver coins in their possession to own a Geneva Bible.
Can I Read the Geneva Bible Today?
The Geneva Bible can still be purchased today! You can find it on Amazon for around fifty dollars.