Miles Coverdale (1486-1568) translated the Great Bible chained in every church
Miles Coverdale was probably the foremost translator of the Scriptures into English. He was born in Yorkshire in 1486 and educated at Cambridge University; he then continues his studies for a doctorate in Tubingen, Germany. Early in Henry VIII`s reign he renounced his Catholic principles and became a zealous reformer. The turning point in Coverdale`s life seems to have been a meeting with Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell in 1527 when More urged him to apply himself to sacred learning. Coverdale turned to the Scriptures and perceived that the reformation of the church must be effected by the Word of God.
Henry VIII rejected the Pope’s authority and Coverdale was one of the first who publicly preached the protestant gospel. At Brunsted, Essex, in 1528, he declared against the mass worship of images, and spoken confession, which he considered altogether useless. Given that Henry had only rejected the popes position, the church itself was still essentially catholic, and Coverdale`s public utterances could hardly go unnoticed. His early success at conversions in Essex was soon followed by the pursuit by the church leaders seeking to send him to the fire,
In exile in Holland he met with William Tyndale translating the Scriptures, and in a powerful union of minds, a common objective was formed. In 1529 Tyndale had been taking his translation of the Pentateuch to Hamburg for printing but had lost both manuscript and all his possessions in a shipwreck. Meeting up with Coverdale in Hamburg they finished a fresh translation of the whole Bible in English and published it in 1535 (this is known as the Coverdale Bible).
With the encouragement of Cranmer and Cromwell, he then undertook a further revision, which became the Great Bible of 1539 – the one that was chained to the lectern in every church.
On the accession of Edward VI in1547 he, like many other religious exiles, returned to England where he was appointed to the diocese of Exeter. Cranmer himself performed his consecration at Lambeth Palace. In Exeter Coverdale won many friends by his good example and zeal, constantly preaching and turning his home into an open house cum church where all were welcome. The untimely and early death of Edward VI in 1553, however, gave place to the murderous actions of Mary Tudor. The catholic Mary was a great boost to the papists who now had Coverdale, and many others, cast into prison intending him to be burned at the stake. He was only saved by the intervention of the King of Denmark.
Released into exile Coverdale went via Denmark to Westphalia. During the reign of Mary (1553-8), the exiled Coverdale, and a group of other exiles worked on the "Geneva Bible" and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth in 1560.
When Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 (she reigned until 1603) Coverdale returned to England but not as bishop of Exeter. With age and relentless pursuit of the papists beginning to wear him out, Coverdale was given the benefice of St Magnus at Bridgefoot and had to seek charity when he was unable to pay the `first fruits` of over sixty pounds. His supplication was granted; but his stay lasted only two years before he was deemed not to be fully conforming to the `High Church` ritual that Elizabeth liked. He continued to preach where he could and people would enquire at his house on the Saturday to ascertain where he was to preach the next day. But even this drew attention to him and he had to decline such enquiries in case he was prevented from preaching altogether. The infirmities of old age eventually caught up with him and he died aged 81 years, on 20 January 1568. His funeral was attended by thousands when he was interred at St Bartholomew`s Church, London.
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