The Coverdale Translation and the Great Bible were both the work of Miles Coverdale. To the best of my knowledge Coverdale relied heavily on the works of other translators, especially William Tyndale.

This raises the question in my mind whether his translation of the Bible was actually done from original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts or if he relied on the works of previous translators as his source material.

This article seems to indicate the original languages were used:

The "Great Bible" Printed in 1539 AD: The First English Language Bible Authorized for Public Use (80 Books). It has the following disclaimer: The Bible in English, that is to say the content of all the holy scripture, both of the old and new testament, truly translated after the verity of the Hebrew and Greek texts.

However this seems unlikely given that the Catholic Church had banned translations except the Latin Vulgate for 1000 years. Is there actual evidence that Coverdale made his translation from original Hebrew and Greek scriptures or was the Latin Vulgate his source?

  • 1
    Given the telltale eccentricities of the Vulgate vs Hebrew/Greek manuscripts it shouldn't be too hard to reverse engineer how the translation was made. Indeed identifying the source path of most translations is usually easy enough to do as any intermediate language is going to leave its fingerprints.
    – Caleb
    Dec 28, 2013 at 8:47
  • @ Caleb I am sure that is true for one who has studied hermeneutics and knows how to look for the nuances. On the other hand for someone like me who has not it is a bit beyond my capabilities, which is my reason for asking.
    – BYE
    Dec 30, 2013 at 18:59
  • Hmmm I wasn't trying to criticize your question, sorry if that came over wrong. I migrated it here because I thought it deserved a look from this sites niche expertise! Even knowing quite a bit of Latin and using the Vulgate on a regular basis I may not be able to answer this myself, I can only say that this should be possible for the right expert to answer and confirm.
    – Caleb
    Dec 30, 2013 at 19:03
  • @ Caleb there was no indignation in my comment and if you perceived any I apologize that was not my intent.
    – BYE
    Dec 30, 2013 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


There is a brief but reliable account of the production of the Great Bible in S. L. Greenslade (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Bible: Volume 3, The West from the Reformation to the Present Day (Cambridge University Press, 1963), pp. 150-152. * Greenslade also wrote this chapter on English versions in the 16th C. (It's a very common work, and should be in most public and all university libraries.)

It appears that Coverdale (who did know his Hebrew and Greek) used the Matthew Bible as the basis for the Great Bible, revising it against "Münster's annotated Hebrew-Latin Bible of 1535 to correct the Old Testament and Erasmus for the New" (Greenslade, p. 152).

So, while not a "fresh" translation directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, it was a version based on such translations, and intended to satisfy the need for such a Bible. It was not, therefore, derived from the Vulgate.

* See also the older account, covering much the same ground, from F.G. Kenyon, "Versions, English", from A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings (T & T Clark, 1911), vol. 4, pp. 857-858, or in a more convenient form dealing just with the Great Bible.

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