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What is the Matthew Bible?

Matthew Bibleaudio
Question: "What is the Matthew Bible?"

The Matthew Bible, also known as Matthew’s Bible and Matthew’s Version, was an early compilation of English translations of the books of the Bible. It was first published in 1537 by an Englishman named John Rogers, who used the name Thomas Matthew in an attempt to protect his identity and conceal William Tyndale’s involvement in the project. At that time, it was illegal in England to translate the Bible into English.

The complete New Testament and much of the Old Testament of the Matthew Bible was from the Tyndale Bible, the translation work William Tyndale was able to complete before his martyrdom. The rest of the Old Testament and most of the Apocrypha were the work of Myles Coverdale. Thomas Matthew (John Rogers) himself translated the Prayer of Manasseh. Because the Matthew Bible relied so heavily on Tyndale’s version, the Matthew Bible is often called the Matthew-Tyndale Bible.

John Rogers added some study helps to the Matthew Bible to aid readers who, in those days, were largely unfamiliar with the Bible. One such aid was a “Table of Principal Matters,” a summary of basic Bible doctrines based upon a 1535 edition of the Bible in French produced by Reformer Pierre Olivétan. The Matthew Bible underwent a second printing in 1549. This second edition is sometimes called the Becke Edition, named after Edmund Becke, the man who supervised the printing; a final edition of the Matthew Bible was printed in 1551.

Published two years after the Coverdale Bible, the Matthew Bible was the second complete translation of the Bible to be printed in English. Other Bible versions that preceded the Matthew Bible were those by Wycliffe (handwritten), Tyndale (the New Testament only), Luther (in German), and Zwingli (in German). Thankfully, two years after the publication of the Matthew Bible, King Henry VIII authorized the translation of the Great Bible, which was very similar to the Matthew Bible. In fact, until the Great Bible was completed, King Henry VIII allowed the Matthew Bible to be used.

In 1553, Mary Tudor became the queen of England. She was a Catholic and determined to return England to Catholicism. Queen Mary had John Rogers arrested and imprisoned in Newgate Prison. On February 4, 1555, Rogers was led out of prison and past his wife and children (including their infant child whom Rogers had never seen) on his way to the stake. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Rogers recited Psalm 51 on his way to his death, “all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy; with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen’s household, Sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people, he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning.” Thus the compiler of the Matthew Bible became the first of many martyrs killed by Mary I, who later became known as “Bloody Mary.”

Recommended Resource: How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions by Gordon D. Fee & Mark L. Strauss

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