The Great Bible of 1539

The front page of 1539 Great Bible, the first official “Byble in Englyshe”.

The Roman Catholic Church insisted that the Bible could only be used in Latin. Following Martin Luther’s lead, King Henry the VIII and the Protestant Reformers in England believed the Bible should be available in the common language of its readers. In 1539, Henry’s chief aide, Thomas Cromwell commissioned the Bible to be officially translated into English.

The translation by scholar Miles Coverdale was based largely on the previous and studious work of William Tyndale, who was put death by King Henry for producing an illegal English version Bible in 1536.

The Great Bible, was so-named because each page was 11 inches (28 cm) wide by 16.5 inches (42 cm) long, and the book 14 inches (36 cm) thick! Pastors were required to place a Great Bible in a convenient place in every church building so the common man could read it for himself.

These Bibles became so popular, priests had to chain them to the church building walls!

Not only were people reading the Bible for themselves for the first time, they could even buy a copy for themselves! By 1541, more Bibles were being sold than any other book. The Bible was being read so much that the King issued a decree of 100 months in prison to individuals disrupting Sunday services by reading the Bible aloud for themselves!

For the first time in England’s history, priests knew what the Bible said about God and salvation, government officials could read of their God-given responsibilities, and the common man could keep himself, civil rulers, and religious leaders accountable to the Word of God.

Bible knowledge quickly grew among the people of Britain, and not surprisingly, as the people heard, read, and studied the Bible, godliness increased throughout society.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statues of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 19:7-8).

11 thoughts on “The Great Bible of 1539

    1. I’ve never been able to find the weight of the Great Bible, but have read that it took two men to carry it. That’s significant when you consider it was also known as the “Chained Bible.” People were so hungry to read the Word of God for themselves, these Bibles were being stolen from the church buildings. To prevent the theft of the Scriptures, pastors literally chained it to the walls of the buildings. Imagine such a spiritual hunger today!!!!

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