What Was the First Study Bible in English?
Aug 07, 2015 | Justin Taylor; BETWEEN TWO WORLDS
Given the release this month of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (edited by D. A. Carson), and because I worked on the ESV Study Bible (edited by Wayne Grudem), this short summary from Jane Dawson’s new biography of John Knox (Yale University Press, 2015) stood out to me:
The Geneva Bible’s revolutionary format created the first English study Bible with all the necessary apparatus and commentary lodged within one set of covers.
The division of chapters into numbered verses was adopted from the French translations that were being printed in Geneva, and this simple but dramatic change in layout transformed the reading and citation of the Bible and dictated how that book is understood today.
The Geneva translation provided a full critical apparatus with carefully structured additions placed to guide the reader at all stages. At the start of each biblical book was placed an ‘argument’ or summary of the contents, and each chapter had a short list of main points and key verses. Down the margins, side notes explained difficult ideas, alternative readings, linguistic points and cross-references. They also gave explanations and interpretations of the biblical messages. Maps and diagrams were inserted within the text, making the experience of the people of God real to the eye, with a diagram of a Jewish priest’s garments or maps of the places in the Gospels or the early churches, while tables and indices allowed the text to be searched.
As an immensely friendly book, the Geneva Bible became a bestseller and by far the most popular version for the people of Protestant Scotland, Elizabethan England and the early American colonies. Down the generations and across the seas, this Bible transmitted the specific vision of Knox’s exile congregation. (p. 153)