Was the King James Bible the
First English Bible?

Myth or Reality?

No. The Bible had been translated into English many times before the King James Bible. Manuscripts from the late 1300s and early 1400s, called Wycliffite Bibles after the reformer John Wyclif, are full-length translations of the Bible into Middle English, the same form of English used by Chaucer. (The very early example shown here, however, is incomplete. It famously ends on this page, midway through the book of Baruch.)

The first major translations of the Bible into modern English were produced by William Tyndale, a priest who emigrated to Europe to pursue his translation work when he could not get permission for it in England. By doing so, he was committing the legally punishable crime of heresy. Tyndale produced translations of the New Testament and several books of the Old Testament before he was arrested and put to death near Brussels in 1536.

Other English Bibles soon followed, especially after Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and mandated the use of English Bibles in church, instead of outlawing their existence. The King James Bible translators drew on many English Bibles, but they were especially influenced by Tyndale’s translations.
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Learn more about English Bibles before the King James Bible: Timeline: The Road to Hampton Court

Wycliffite Bible. Ca. 1380–90. MS. Bodl. 959. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Wycliffite Bible. Ca. 1380–90. MS. Bodl. 959. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.


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