The Text of the New Testament of Iesus Christ

Chrzanowski 1589bWilliam Fulke was a fierce anti-Catholic. His Fulke’s Confutation provided a side-by-side comparison of two versions of the New Testament: that from the Bishops’ Bible and the one that was produced, in the words of Fulke’s title, “by the Papists of the traitorous Seminarie at Rhemes.” He rabidly set out to demolish the work of the traitorous Papists.

The Queen and church leaders were unsettled by the Geneva Bible’s Calvinist marginal notes. Because the new Bible was an improvement in other respects, Archbishop Matthew Parker proposed in 1561 that a revised version of the official Great Bible be prepared for reading in churches. Responsibilities were assigned by section to bishops who were qualified for the work. Parker gave them specific instructions, acted as editor-in-chief, and shepherded the Bishops’ Bible through to publication in 1568. To the credit of Parker and the quality of the Geneva Bible, the archbishop extended the right to print the rival Bible because he saw it “good to have diversity of translations and readings.”

A version of the New Testament was published in Rheims in 1582 by English Catholic exiles. When Elizabeth came to power and restored the Church of England, William Allen fled the country and founded a seminary at Douai (in Flanders). The seminary’s mission was to educate priests who would venture back to England to keep the faith alive. A professor of Greek and Hebrew at the seminary, Gregory Martin translated the entire Bible using the Latin Vulgate as his source. When the New Testament was published, the seminary had temporarily moved to Rheims; it soon returned to Douai, where the Catholic New Testament in English (the Douay version) was printed in 1609-10.

Fulke’s Confutation backfired. The Rheims New Testament received a much wider circulation in England than the book otherwise would have had—to the benefit of both Catholics and English biblical scholarship. Some of the Rheims New Testament’s distinctive phrases and vocabulary would find their way into the King James Bible.

The present copy is a first edition of Fulke’s Confutation (1589), published the year that Fulke died. With the two New Testament versions in parallel columns together with arguments, marginal notes, and other annotations, the book required the use of thirteen different fonts in the main body of text, making it a typographical tour de force.

Chrzanowski 1589b *

STC 2888

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675