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date: 23 July 2018

Reading the Bible in Tudor England

Abstract and Keywords

The vernacular Bible was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and the spread of Bibles in English was facilitated by the development of printing. This article summarizes the history of the English Bible and describes, as far as can be determined given the available evidence, how it was read by sixteenth-century men and women. They read a variety of translations, as well as supplementary guides to reading, commentaries, printed sermons, and biblical paraphrases and adaptations. The Bible was also experienced in church services, where passages were read aloud, biblical verses incorporated into the liturgy, and sermons provided interpretations for the congregation. In fact, the Bible was read and heard in a variety of locations in daily life. Interpretations of the Bible were readily available in multiple formats; whether these ultimately curtailed or encouraged individual interpretation is a matter for debate and further study. Bible reading practices, as well as biblical language and ideas, deeply influenced English writers.

Keywords: Bible, Protestant, Reformation, reading, Latin, English Bible, translation, printing, liturgy, Geneva Bible

As William Chillingworth famously stated, “The Bible, I say, the Bible only is the religion of Protestants.”1 Martin Luther translated the Bible into German in the 1520s, and reformers in other countries, such as the Englishman William Tyndale, quickly followed suit. For centuries—so went the popular story—the Roman Catholic Church had kept the Bible, for reformers the essential means to salvation, out of the hands of the people. Not only were physical copies of the Bible not available, but even those parts of the Bible read in church services were inaccessible to the laity, since they were read in Latin, which only the clergy and the educated elite could understand. This progressivist narrative is hardly accurate, however. In fact, the Bible was translated into many European vernaculars long before Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, and it is not clear that there was any concerted resistance to the vernacular Bible on the part of the Catholic Church. Some clerics were anxious at the prospect of uncontrolled lay Bible reading, but others were not. Even in Germany, eighteen editions of the Bible were printed in German before Luther’s 1522 New Testament, and several Catholic German Bibles were printed after Luther’s Bible.2

Bible translation as such was not usually the problem, but rather the heretical theological ideas sometimes associated with certain translations. Pope Innocent III banned unauthorized translations of the Bible in 1199 in response to Bible reading in French by the Cathars, but the Church seems to have been comfortable with a complete French Bible of 1260.3 Histories of the English Bible usually attribute hostility toward Bible translation to the 1409 Constitutions of Arundel. This was a response to the association of Bible translation and reading with the Lollards, followers of John Wyclif, who were perceived as theologically heretical and politically radical. The Constitutions did not actually ban translation outright, however, but required that any translation (or translator) be approved by the Church. Sir Thomas More made this point in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, his attack on Luther and Tyndale.4 More himself, at least at the beginning of his pamphlet war with Tyndale, acknowledged the potential value of a vernacular Bible, even if he took issue with what he perceived as the heretical implications of Tyndale’s own translation.5

Even if the story of the Protestant liberation of the Bible from the captivity of the Church was not as neat as some reformers themselves made out, the Reformation did bring about a proliferation of vernacular Bibles. Precise numbers are impossible to determine, but at least half a million English Bibles were printed by 1600 and as many as a million by 1640, for a country whose population was well under six million, the majority of whom may have been illiterate.6 Protestants do also seem to have been more Bible-centered than their Catholic contemporaries (or precursors), even if this distinction too requires some complication. The history of the Bible in English is well known. William Tyndale translated, and had printed, the New Testament and a good portion of the Old before his execution for heresy in 1536. Miles Coverdale supplemented Tyndale’s surviving translations with his own to produce the first complete printed English Bible, the “Coverdale” Bible of 1535. This work was revised by John Rogers as the “Matthew” Bible of 1537, which was then further revised by Coverdale to produce the “Great” Bible of 1539. (There was another revision of the Matthew Bible in 1539 by Richard Taverner, but it was not widely reprinted and had little impact.) The Great Bible, with Henry VIII famously on the titlepage, was the first English Bible to be authorized for use in all English churches. The Great Bible translation also provided the biblical texts incorporated into liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer, including the psalms that came to be printed with it. Although there was a hiatus in the printing of the English Bible during the reign of the Catholic Mary I, existing Bibles seem not to have been actively suppressed, and printing resumed with the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558.7

During Mary’s reign a group of exiled Protestant scholars in Geneva produced another English Bible, the first translated entirely from the original Hebrew and Greek (Coverdale worked from Latin and German translations). This “Geneva” Bible was printed in Geneva in 1560 and became the most popular Bible in England for the next century. The Geneva Bible had no official status in the English Church, however, and Elizabeth’s bishops produced their own translation, for use in English worship, in 1568. This “Bishops’” Bible was designed to replace the Great Bible, which was outdated and inferior in its scholarship, as well as to provide an alternative to the Geneva Bible, one that was more comfortable to the conservative Church establishment. Some of the editorial apparatus of the Geneva, especially its marginal notes, was perceived as uncomfortably radical.8 In 1582, English Catholics (mainly Gregory Martin) produced their own translation of the New Testament, printed by the English Catholic College at Rheims. The Old Testament was printed in 1609–10. Although this Bible generated considerable controversy among English Church authorities, it seems not to have been designed for widespread lay reading and was not printed in large numbers. The most famous English Bible, the King James Bible or Authorized Version, was printed in 1611. It was initially greeted with relative indifference, as just another of the ongoing revisions of the English Bible, but it did eventually supplant the Geneva Bible, especially after the Restoration of 1660.9 It remained by far the most popular English Bible, used in churches and in homes until at least the twentieth century.

It is also worth noting that those Englishmen (and they were mainly men) who knew Latin continued to read the Bible in that language too. Copies of the Latin Vulgate remained easily accessible, especially after it was canonized at the Council of Trent, and newer Latin translations were produced throughout the sixteenth century: Erasmus’s Novum Instrumentum (accompanying his newly edited Greek text) in 1516, Sante Pagninus’s Veteris et Novi Testamenti nova translatio in 1527, Theodore Beza’s New Testament in 1556, and the very popular Bible of Immanuel Tremellius and Francis Junius in 1579.

The history of translating and printing the English Bible is relatively straightforward and familiar, all the more so since the development of the field of the History of the Book and a scholarly turn to material culture. Sufficient Bibles survive and can be studied, and the printing history is available in standard reference works.10 What remains harder to determine is how these Bibles were actually read by men and women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Patrick Collinson noted in 1995 that significant strides were finally being made in the history of reading, as opposed to printing and publishing, and the field has continued to expand in recent decades.11 The difficulty remains, however, that most types of reading leave no trace. One can study the Bibles themselves, of course, to see how they are designed to be read, and what instructions they provide to the reader. Beyond this, the records are difficult to find: marginal notes or other markings in different copies; accounts of reading in diaries and journals; secondhand reports of reading histories, letters, polemics and other documents. Inevitably, these records are partial and probably unrepresentative. One might conclude, for instance, on the basis of journals that record reading experiences that such journals were commonplace, indicating a high degree of self-consciousness on the part of Bible readers. But of course there is no evidence of readers who did not keep journals, since they left no journals to be read. The practice of keeping journals or diaries also developed in England only in the seventeenth century, so of Tudor readers there is little record at all.12 A further body of evidence for how people read their Bibles, however, is available in the range of writing that interprets, comments on, or adapts biblical characters and episodes. Such material is inevitably somewhat anecdotal and idiosyncratic, not likely to yield much data from statistical analysis. But all these sources are at least valuable, nevertheless, as a record of how some men and women read and interpreted their Bibles.

Bible reading in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries took place in a variety of locations. The Royal Injunctions of 1538 required clergy of every church to purchase a copy of the Great Bible, in a large folio format (this was why it was called “great”), and have it “sett up in summe convenyent place within the said churche that ye have cure of, whereas your parishners may most commodiouslye resort to the same, and rede it.”13 Records indicate that parishioners did take advantage of these publicly accessible Bibles, either individually or in groups. William Maldon, for instance, recorded a group of “dyveres poore men” who “on Sundays dyd set redinge in lower ende of the churche, and many wolde flocke about them to hear them redinge.”14 This group from Chelmsford, near Essex, pooled their money to purchase their own English New Testament, but others used the Bibles provided by the church. One famous example was John Porter, whom John Bale, John Foxe, and others describe reading the English Bible available in St. Paul’s to gatherings of interested listeners. Foxe’s martyrology of Porter was biased, and Porter seems to have been seized and imprisoned not simply for Bible reading but for preaching controversial theology (during a time, after the execution of Thomas Cromwell, of Catholic retrenchment); that he and others did read from the public Bible in St. Paul’s is not disputed.15

Group reading, in which one person would read aloud to other gathered listeners, was especially important, since it demonstrates that even the illiterate might have had access to the English Bible. As Alec Ryrie notes, however, illiteracy was generally disapproved of and among the godly Protestants relatively rare.16 The need to read the Bible in fact strongly stimulated the growth of literacy, the principal purpose for which, for most people, was Bible reading. Some parishioners were also able to read the Bible in parish libraries, which were founded in an increasing number of parishes throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the seventeenth century, a number of towns also established public libraries in which readers could find Bibles and other religious books.17 Group reading was a common practice in homes as well as the church, especially on Sundays. In many households, the family and the servants would gather after church to discuss the sermon and to read together passages from Scripture.18 More pious households might hold such devotional gatherings at other times in the week too. Finally, many men and women also read their Bibles individually, whether in their studies and private chambers or in less obvious locations, like the workplace and the prison.19 The Geneva Bible was available in formats designed for this purpose, whether hefty quartos for the desk or small duodecimos that fit the hand, pocket, or bedside table.

Another context in which the Bible was read in the sixteenth century was the schoolroom. The grammar school curriculum was not uniform across the country, but in Protestant schools the Bible was featured in a variety of ways. Texts from the Latin New Testament (usually Beza’s translation rather than the Vulgate) were used for translation exercises in lower forms.20 When students progressed into the upper forms, they may have moved on to the New Testament in Greek, in the editions of Beza or Erasmus. Psalms were sung in English, at least from the 1560s, when Sternhold and Hopkins’s Whole Book of Psalms became widely available, and in many schools there were daily readings from the English Bible. In 1547, for instance, Thomas Cranmer insisted that teachers at Winchester should read the Bible in English rather than from the Vulgate. In some schools, students were further edified by sermons on these Bible readings. A good deal of the Bible was also experienced by students in the mediated forms presented in catechisms, primers, and simplified guides to the Bible.

If we know men and women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were reading their Bibles in many different places, what do we know about the order in which they read them? So large a volume was daunting to read cover-to-cover; if readers made selections, how did they do so? An indication of how students were encouraged to read the Bible is provided by books such as the extremely popular History of the Bible; briefly collected by way of question and answer, by Eusebius Pagit. Pagit, a Northhamptonshire clergyman, developed his questions and answers, by his own account, for the education of his children and servants “in the knowledge of the Historie of the Bible, after a Chapter read at our meales, at dinner out of the olde Testament, at supper out of the new.”21 But by all accounts it was used very widely in English schools.22 In a 1602 edition of the History, “read and corrected by the author,” Pagit claimed that an earlier edition had been printed without his authorization. He seems to be referring to Short Questions and answeares, conteyning the summe of Christian Religion, first printed in 1579 and revised in 1586; all told, there were thirty-odd editions well into the next century. The texts of Short Questions and the History are in fact quite different. The former follows the traditional catechism format, including various Bible verses upon which to meditate at different times, prayers, and then the questions, each with an answer and a supporting Bible verse. For instance, to “who redeemed you?” the answer is “Jesus Christ. John. 1.29.” There are questions regarding the Trinity, Ten Commandments, Twelve Articles of Faith, and various other matters of doctrine. The language is generally not itself biblical, but the catechumen seems to have been expected to know the biblical prooftexts for each answer.23 The revised edition of 1586 emphasized Bible quotations more pointedly. While the original asked what was the fourth commandment (“Remember that thou keepe holie the Sabboth day”) and what it means (God’s “creatures should have a time to rest and serve him in”), the revision follows up, “How is that proved by the Scriptures?” The required answer is, “Out of the 5. Chapter out of the Booke of Deuteronomie ver. 14 where it is said: that thy man servant and thy mayde may rest as well as thou.”24 Other questions follow the same format. In the 1602 History all the questions are specifically about the Bible, beginning with Genesis (“Who made the world?”), moving through the gospels (for example, “What would Pilate have done with Christ?”), and closing with Revelation (“Having thus described the afflictions of the Church militant in this world, what saith he of the glory of it?”). The volume thus became increasingly focused on biblical knowledge with each edition.

This was also one of a number of Bible-reading handbooks produced during the period. Others included Micronius Marten, A short and faythful instruction, gathered out of holy Scripture (London, 1556); Theodore Beza, A booke of Christian questions and answers Wherein are set foorth the cheef points of the Christian religion in maner of an abridgment, trans. Arthur Golding (London, 1572); Arthur Dent, A plaine exposition of the articles of our faith, by short questions and answeres for the understanding of the simple (London, 1589); William Burton, Certaine questions and answeres, concerning the knowledge of God whereunto are adjoyned some questions and answeres, concerning the right use of the law of God (London, 1591); and the anonymous The Doctrine of the Bible, or, Rules of discipline briefely gathered through the whole course of the Scripture, by way of questions and answers (London, from 1604) and The way to true happines leading to the gate of knowledge: Or, an entrance to faith: without which, it is unpossible to please God By questions and answers, opening briefly the meaning of every severall booke and chapter of the Bible, from the beginning of Genesis, to the end of the Revelation (London, from 1610). Most of these were best-sellers, and all of them fostered Bible learning, if of a relatively basic kind. Moreover, even the simple, early Catechism of Edmund Allen (1548) taught not just Bible texts but their interpretation. In answer to the question, “How hath God created thee?” the “scholar” replies, “even after his own image,” to which the “master” rejoins, “But how can the image of God be resembled in man?” The answer goes well beyond the Genesis text:

Forsooth thus: as God is everlasting and immortal, even so is the soul of man also. And

again, like as God is the lord of all creatures, so hath he ordained man to be lord over all

bodily creatures, and hath made them all to be subject unto him and to serve him.25

Creation in the “image” of God (Gen. 1:26-27) is interpreted in light of God’s granting man “dominion” (Tyndale’s term, which stuck) in the same passage.26 Arthur Dent offers a similarly Bible-based explanation of this passage, though the interpretation is entirely different. Man is created in God’s image because of “the gifts, and qualities of the body, and minde, wherein hee did resemble God.” The question is then posed, “which be those qualities, and gifts?” to which the expected reply is, “Righteousnes, and true holinesse, perfect knowledge of God, in perfect both understanding, and keeping of the law which was written in his heart.” The prooftexts follow: Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24.27 If one turns to these verses in the Geneva Bible, which Dent was surely using, the marginal note to the former directs the reader to Gen. 1:26, while the gloss on the latter reads, “which is according to the image of God.” The consensus on the proper interpretation of creation in God’s image obviously changed between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

If we expand our definition of “reading” to include hearing the Bible read by others, we should also acknowledge that many portions of the Bible were read aloud in worship services. Every service included longer readings, the proper psalms and lessons for morning and evening prayer and the Epistles and Gospels for Communion included in the Book of Common Prayer. Special services like baptism and matrimony included their own required Bible readings, and many briefer excerpts were sprinkled throughout the liturgy).28 One result of this liturgical experience of the Bible was that it must have encouraged the association of certain passages, even verses, with specific days in the church calendar, or with certain occasions in a person’s religious life. Any Bible reader would have recognized that the opening of the Gospel According to John—“In the beginning was the Word…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1)—was about the Incarnation, the birth of Christ, but this would have been reinforced when they heard it read on Christmas Day.29 More subtly, worshippers were encouraged to interpret the biblical Flood in terms of Christian baptism when the priest began the service of baptism by stating that God “diddest save Noe and his familie in the Arke, from perishing by water.”30 So the Flood was a kind of baptism of the world into new life, after falling into corruption, while baptism itself was a preservation of the life of the Christian, just as God preserved Noah and his family. At every marriage service, the congregation was reminded of all the passages from Paul’s Epistles relevant to matrimony and the proper reciprocal behavior of men and women: Ephesians 5 (“housbandes love your wives” and “Let the wife reverence the housbande”), and Colossians 3 (“Ye men, love your wives” and “Ye wyves submitte youre selves unto youre own housbandes”). Not only were husbands urged to love their wives; moreover, they were told that this was because “Christ loved the Churche,” while the authority of the husband over his wife was justified because “Christ is the head of the Churche.”31 In the burial service, mourners were given a lesson in biblical theology from 1 Corinthians 15, “For as by Adam al die, even so by Christ shal al be made alive.”32 Every death was a reminder of how to properly interpret the relationship between Adam and Christ and between Original Sin and redeeming sacrifice.33

Worshippers were listening to the Bible read aloud in church every week, and interpretive lessons were built into many of these readings, but more explicit and extended interpretations of the Bible were offered in sermons. The average English worshipper must have heard hundreds if not thousands of sermons over the course of his or her life. Sermons were a feature of weekly Sunday services, but there were also sermons on holidays, and open air sermons at locations like Paul’s Cross or St. Mary’s Hospital in London drew as many as several thousand eager listeners.34 John Foxe gave a Good Friday sermon at Paul’s Cross, for instance, on 2 Cor. 5:20–21. Richard Curteys, bishop of Chichester, preached to the Queen at Greenwich on Ecclesiastes 12:1–7 (“Remember thy maker in the days of thy youth”) on March 14, 1573. John Pinner preached on 1 Timothy 4:8 at the Chapel of Sir John Pompham in Littlecot on July 17, 1597. These three sermons were printed and read, as well as preached, but the vast majority of sermons heard around England left their mark only on the minds of their listeners, whose understanding of the Bible they attempted to shape.

When readers encountered the Bible independently, however, whether singly or in company, how did they read it? Not, it seems, according to the arrangements of passages in the lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, though apparently many did follow the Prayer Book’s “order howe the Psalter is appointed to be read,” dividing the Psalms into daily morning and evening readings over the course of one month.35 Daily reading of the rest of the Bible was a common practice, but readers could either decide on their own reading plan or follow one of the many available in print. Edward Vaughan’s A Method, or brief instruction; verie profitable and speedy for the reading and understanding of the old and new Testament was among the most popular. The first edition of 1590 was reprinted, sometimes expanded, and under several different titles (Nine observations, Ten introductions, A plaine and perfect method), in 1591, 1594, 1603, and 1617. Other similar guides to regular Bible reading included Andreas Hyperius’s Course of Christianitie: or, as touching the dayly reading and meditation of the holy Scriptures (translated by John Ludham, 1579), Nicholas Byfield’s Directions for the private reading of the scriptures (1617), John Waymouth’s A Plaine and easie table, whereby any man may bee directed how to reade over the whole Bible in a yeere (1613), and Randall Sanderson’s An explication of the following direction for the reading of the Bible over in a yeare (1647).36 Vaughan divides the Bible into four parts: legal, historical, sapiental, and prophetical, which he lists in a table, defines, and summarizes. He then takes the reader through the Bible from beginning to end, offering comments on what he sees as essential matters, including names, numbers, chronology, and correspondences between Old and New Testaments. Waymouth’s book, on the other hand, is no more than is advertised, a table of daily readings. Byfield also offers daily readings, but in addition he summarizes, book by book, the most important take-aways. In 1 Timothy, for instance, the contents are

He confuteth the erronious Doctors, ch. 1.

He exhorteth about prayer and apparrell, ch. 2.

He enformeth concerning the dutie of Byshops and Deacons, ch. 3.

He prophesieth of the last and euill times, ch. 4.

He ordereth Church Gouernours, ch. 5.

He taxeth seuerall abuses, ch. 6.37

Byfield also provides a list of “things to be observed in reading,” including “Hard places that I would faine be resolued for the meaning of them” and “Places that shew mee, how to cary my selfe in the family.”38 Not everyone read the Bible every day, but many clearly did; the number of printed guides testifies to a substantial demand. The journal of Robert Bulkeley, a Welsh country gentleman, records only a single evening of Bible reading over six years. The obsessive diarist Nehemiah Wallington, on the other hand, read a Bible chapter every morning and evening, and the surveyor Richard Norwood read at least twenty pages a day for seven months.39

However often they read their Bibles, and in whatever quantities, early modern men and women often read the Bible according to certain prescribed schemes. One of the best guides to Bible reading practice is itself the Bible most often read, the Geneva. (The Geneva Bible was popular with all English Protestants, not just with the more evangelical.) In a number of editions of the Geneva Bible from 1579, readers are advised by one T. Grashop “Howe to take profite in reading of the holy Scriptures.”40 In the 1579 edition, this is preceded by a list of biblical passages exhorting “the studie of the holie Scripture,” including Christ’s words in John 5, “Searche the Scriptures: For they are they that testifye of me.” Turning over the page, the reader finds detailed advice for such study, laid out in a Ramist diagram. Instructions include reading regularly, twice daily at appointed times, and keeping in mind “to what end and purpose the Scriptures serve.” More practically, Grashop tells us to “Marke and consider the (1.) Coherence of the text, howe it hangeth together, (2.) Course of times and ages, with such things as belong unto them, (3.) Manner of speech proper to the Scriptures, (4.) Agreement that one place of Scripture hath with an other: whereby that which semeth darke in one is made easie in an other.” He also advises the reader to “reade interpreters, if he be able,” “conferre with such as can open the Scriptures,” and “heare preaching, and to prove by the Scriptures that which is taught.” Hearing preaching was unavoidable, since church attendance was required by law, but many needed no encouragement; sermons, especially when delivered by the best preachers, were popular. Many Bible readers clearly also sought out interpreters, given the huge number of published sermons and commentaries available.

The marking and considering that Grashop recommends is more complicated. The “coherence of the text” is the principle of internal consistency, the understanding that the Bible does not contradict itself. It does, of course. In 2 Kings (24:8) Jehoiachin is said to begin his rule at the age of eighteen, but in 2 Chronicles (36:9) he begins at age eight.41 More critically for Protestant theology, James writes, “What availeth it, my brethren, though a man saith he hath faith, when he hath no works? can faith save him?” (2:14). Despite the very long marginal note in which the Geneva editors try to explain it away, this expressly contradicts Paul’s teaching on the supremacy of faith over works (as at Rom. 5:12). Such contradictions might prove confusing to the reader or even dangerous to faith, so coherence is stressed as a matter of fundamental belief. The consistency of the Bible also underlies the exhortation to compare one place of scripture with another. This will confirm for the reader the uniformity of the Bible’s teaching, but it will also help work out any difficult passage, which “semeth darke.” The Bible in this view is not only consistent, but also self-interpreting.

Even without Grashop’s guide, readers of the Geneva Bible were constantly directed to cross-reference and compare points of scripture by the thousands of marginal cross-references. For example, at Matthew 27:35, the soldiers “parted his garments, and did cast lottes,” and this was done “that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the Prophet, They devided my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast lottes.” Lest an inexpert reader wonder where this prophecy might be found, a cross-reference to Psalm 22:19 (presumably an error for v.18) is provided in the margin, along with a reference to the telling of the same episode in Mark’s narrative (15:24). At John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for his shepe.” Nothing in the text indicates that these are anything but Jesus’s own words, but the margin provides cross-references to Isa. 40:11 (“He shal fede his flocke like a shepherd; he shal gather the lambes with his arme”) and Ezek. 34:13 (“And I will bring them [God the shepherd, speaking of his sheep] out from the people … and fede them upon the mountaines of Israel”). There are many more cross-references in the margins of the New Testament books than the Old. Many of these are internal, such as those connecting words or episodes common to different Gospels. The reader is thus provided with the means to fashion a “harmony” of the Gospels. Such harmonies were also available separately in print, such as Calvin’s A harmonie upon the three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, translated by E. P. and printed in 1584 and 1610. But there are also cross-references in Old Testament verses to places where they are quoted in the New Testament. For instance, the obvious connection is made in the margins of Psalm 2:1 to Acts 4:25, where the same statement (“Why do the Gentiles rage, and the people imagine vaine things?”) is quoted as “by the mouth of thy servant David.”42 For God’s declaration in Psalm 2:7, “Thou art my Sonne: this day have I begotten thee,” the margin directs the reader to Acts 13:23 (clearly an error for v.33) and Heb. 1:5, where this exact sentence is quoted. The margins of Psalm 22 direct the reader to Matt. 27:43 (“He trusteth in God, let him deliver him,” repeating Ps. 22:9) and Heb. 2:12 (“I wil declare thy Name unto my brethren: in the middes of the Church wil I sing praises unto thee,” repeating Ps. 22:22). While there is no cross-reference to Matt. 27:35 at Ps. 22:18, corresponding to the one in the other direction at Matthew, the headnote to the Psalm points out that “here under his [David’s] owne persone he setteth forthe the figure of Christ, whom he did foresee by the figure of prophecie,” and many of the marginal notes demonstrate how this is so (the piercing of hands and feet in v.16, for instance, “was accomplished in Christ”).

The reader who followed the directions of the Geneva Bible’s marginal cross-references (and there were similar, though not identical, cross-references in Tyndale’s 1534 New Testament, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Great Bible, the Bishops’ Bible, and the King James Bible) could easily become lost in a kind of predigital hypertext. George Herbert’s “The H. Scriptures (II)” explains this reading process vividly and compactly:

  • Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,
  •     And the configurations of their glorie!
  •     Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
  • But all the constellations of the storie.
  • This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
  •     Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:
  •     Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,
  • These three make up some Christians destinie.43

Patrick Collinson argued that, while the Catholic liturgy fragmented the Bible, Protestant reading practices encouraged continuous reading. More recent scholars have contested this assertion, however, on the basis of the Book of Common Prayer’s own fragmentation of scripture, as well as the discontinuity created by marginal cross-references.44 Femke Molekamp usefully suggests that there were a variety of modes of reading practiced by readers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, some continuous (following the guides for daily reading) and some not.

One effect of the “constellated” reading that Herbert describes and the Geneva margins encourage is a tendency to think of individual Bible verses out of context. John Bunyan was constantly assaulted by Bible verses, as when one “fell with weight upon my spirit: Look at the generations of old, and see, did ever any trust in God and were confounded?”45 Bunyan doesn’t recognize the verse when it falls on him, but he later discovers it to be Ecclesiasticus 2:10. To cite “chapter and verse” became a commonplace,46 as when “I.T.” explains to the reader of his translation of Heinrich Bullinger’s A most excellent sermon of the Lordes Supper (1517), that so they “may the more easily find forth the same, I haue quoted in the Margent both chapter and verse.”47 One “B.P.” complains that masters do not sufficiently discuss religion with their servants, “unlesse perhaps once at the hundreds end hee vouchsafe to knowe the chapter and verse of the Text, which (betweene the Church-doore and home) even a Parrot wold be taught to pronounce.”48 Citing “chapter and verse” was possible in English only after the Geneva Bible, however, since it was the first English Bible to include verse divisions (following continental Greek and Latin Bibles of a few years earlier).49 Furthermore, as Julie Maxwell points out, the verb “cite,” in the sense used in preceding sentence, itself originated in the context of writing about the Bible (the O.E.D. “cites” George Joye, Robert Crowley, and Nicholas Udall, among others).50

That Bible verses were commonly quoted out of context was a practice exploited by poets and playwrights for intriguing purposes. Faustus, for instance, in Christopher Marlowe’s famous play, cites Latin Bible verses that convince him he is damned: “Stipendium peccati mors est” (Rom. 6:23) and “Si peccasse negamus, fallimur, et nulla est in nobis veritas” (1 John 1:8). Faustus translates these passages himself immediately afterward: “For the reward of sin is death,” and “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in us.”51 If Faustus had continued his quotations, however, he would have reached a different conclusion: the verse from Romans concludes, “but the gifte of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” and 1 John 1:9 reads, “But if we walke in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Sonne clenseth us from all sinne.” Redcrosse Knight in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene makes a similar error, when Despayre paraphrases the same verse that troubled Faustus, Romans 6:23:

  • Is not his lawe, Let every sinner die:
  • Die shall all flesh? what then must needs be donne,
  • Is it not better to doe willinglie,
  • Then linger, till the glas be all out ronne?
  • Death is the end of woes: die soone, O faeries sonne.

Redcrosse is on the verge of suicide, when his more righteous and biblically informed companion Una paraphrases the rest of St. Paul’s verse: “In heavenly mercies hast thou not a part?”52 Shakespeare’s Richard II is troubled by what he sees as a contradiction between two Bible verses, first “Come, little ones,” and second, “It is as hard to come as for a camel/ To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.”53 Richard is paraphrasing Luke 18:16, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” and Luke 18:25, “For it is easier for a Camel to goe thorow a needles eye, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdome of God.” Actually, Richard is playing verbal games, allegorizing his own thoughts as he sits in prison. Some are “thoughts of things divine,” who are themselves then troubled when they “set the word itself/ against the word.” Setting the word against the word seems to be the practice of citing decontextualized Bible verses against each other, as in this case, where Jesus’s claim about little children, that “unto such belongeth the kingdom of heaven,” is quite separate from that which describes the difficulty of the rich entering the same kingdom. Marlowe, Spenser, and Shakespeare were clearly sensitive to the potential pitfalls of citing chapter and verse.

The isolation of chapter and verse was further encouraged by the practice of commonplacing. Edward Vaughan, in his Ten introductions how to read … the holy Bible, for instance, urged his readers to keep a “writing booke of two quires” in which to digest the Bible by means of commonplaces, organizing important Bible verses under useful headings.54 Readers who wanted a shortcut could purchase printed biblical commonplace books, like Common places of Scripture ordrely and after a compendious forme of teaching by Erasmus Sarcerius (translated into English by Richard Taverner in 1538 and reprinted six times until 1577). Sarcerius’s categories included “God,” “love towardes the neyghbour,” “confession,” and “Of sklaunder [sic] or offence.” Thomas Paynell’s The piththy [sic] and moost notable sayinges of al scripture (from 1550) was also very popular. Commonplacing was a general practice by means of which early modern readers culled the most wholesome flowers from whatever they read, but when applied to the Bible it further encouraged reading passages out of their original contexts.

The effects of the principle of internal cross-referencing and the practice of commonplacing may also be visible in the use of biblical allusion in paraphrases and adaptations. William Hunnis wrote a greatly expanded metrical paraphrase of the Penitential Psalms, for instance, Seven Sobs of a sorrowfull soule for sinne. In the first of these psalms, Psalm 6, the psalmist begins in penitential self-examination, “O Lord when I my self behold, how wicked/ I have bin.” He compares himself, his situation, and the prospect of his punishment to the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, Corah, Dathan, and Abiron (Numbers 16), and David (oddly, since the voice of the psalmist is traditionally thought to be David’s own).55 Only then, in the fourteenth four-line stanza, does the psalm proper begin. Several stanzas further on, though, the psalmist interjects material from elsewhere in the Bible, anachronistically asking Christ to reach forth a hand to him, as he did to Peter, sinking on the Sea of Galilee, and to the leper, who was cleansed by his touch. In stanza 33, the psalmist expresses confidence in the language of Matthew 7:7 (“knocke, and it shalbe opened unto you”):

  • At least if I still knocke and call
  • upon thy holie name,
  • At length thou wilt heare my request
  • and grant to me the same.

Hunnis’s Seven Sobs continue to interpolate non-psalmic material from elsewhere in the Bible within the verses of his version of the Penitential Psalms themselves. In John Bale’s play, Johan Baptystes Preachynge, the characters regularly quote or allude to biblical passages beyond the story itself, taken from Matthew 3, Luke 3:1–22, John 1:15–42. Bale’s John speaks to the Pharisees and Saducees:

  • And as touchynge Abraham, the Lorde is able to rayse
  • Of stones in the waye such people as shall hym prayse.

This is a close paraphrase of Matt. 3:9, “for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (or Luke 3:8).56 But in Bale, John also says

  • Ye are Abrahams children lyke as was Ismael,
  • Onlye in the fleshe to whom no blessynge fell.57

John is ventriloquizing Paul here, from Paul’s strategic allegorizing of Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians, where he argues that Ishmael was “borne after the flesh” while Isaac was “borne by promes” (Gal. 4:23). Paul claims, counterintuitively, that Christians are “after the manner of Isaac, children of the promes,” while Jews (despite being the actual children of Isaac) are children of the flesh after Ishmael. John the Baptist could not possibly have known of the teachings of Paul, since he died before Paul’s conversion. Bale’s audience was no doubt comfortable with this interpolation, however, since they understood the Bible to be internally consistent and were used to understanding one passage by means of another, even if they were in different books.

A final and most important question about Bible reading is surely how readers interpreted what they read, but this is even more difficult to answer than the previous questions about reading practices. Once again, most interpretation, like most reading, leaves no trace. On the other hand, any rendering of the Bible into English involved interpretation; from the most “literal” translation to the broadest paraphrase, interpretive choices were made by the writers. Interpretations were also available in glosses, commentaries, and sermons. And allusions to the Bible in any number of literary works can also reveal how those alluding are interpreting the texts. One might also consider how the Bible is interpreted in other media: musical settings, for instance, or visual arts and crafts. Since the Bible permeated almost every nook and cranny of sixteenth-century culture, however, a massive amount of research would be necessary to reach even tentative generalizations. Still, it is probably safe to suggest that biblical interpretation was remarkably diverse. Kate Narveson makes the useful point that many, perhaps even most, early modern Bible readers were quite orthodox in their interpretation. This may, after all, have been the goal of the official interpreters, the Geneva Bible editors, commentators, and preachers who strove to guide their readers and listeners to a “correct” understanding of scripture and the theology based upon it. Narveson is no doubt right, too, that the instruction of children through catechisms, parental lessons, and preaching must have meant that orthodox interpretation was instilled in many minds before they even opened their Bibles.58 The Protestant myth of ploughboys and milkmaids in direct, individual engagement with their English Bibles belies the fact that this was a mediated relationship from the start. Tyndale put the Bible into the hands of common readers, but he provided them with introductions, prefaces, and marginal glosses to make sure they read aright.

At the same time, if the story of Protestant Bible reading as unmediated and individualistic is oversimple, that doesn’t mean that there was perfect homogeneity in interpretation. Readers were provided with interpretive aids, and sermons directed the congregation how to understand, but anyone was free to question a marginal gloss or disbelieve the preacher, and of course glosses and preachers sometimes disagreed. This is, after all, how the Reformation began, with Luther and others reading their Bibles carefully and questioning the received understanding of such fundamentals as the sacraments, the structure of the Church, and the nature of salvation. And different reformers came to different conclusions—Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli about the Eucharist, for instance—so it is hardly surprising that later Bible readers differed likewise. For Catholics, the fact that Jesus said of a piece of bread, “Take, eat: this is my bodie” (Matt. 26:26), meant that when Christians celebrated the Eucharist according to the manner instructed in the Gospels, the bread literally became Christ’s body. When pressed on this point of interpretation by her inquisitor, Master Feckenham, Lady Jane Grey replied with considerable wit, “I graunt he saith so, & so he saieth: I am the vine, I am the doore, but yet he is neuer the more, the vine nor dore.”59 Of course, neither Feckenham nor Grey likely based their interpretation on their own personal reading: Feckenham had centuries of Catholic teaching behind him, including authoritative pronouncements on transubstantiation by Aquinas and earlier church fathers; Grey was taught by John Aylmer, later a leading figure in the Elizabethan Church, and she corresponded with continental theologians like Heinrich Bullinger. This exchange is a useful lesson in the inadequacy of explaining Catholic and Protestant biblical interpretation in terms of the allegorical versus the literal sense, since it is Feckenham who stresses the literal, and Grey who argues for the metaphorical.60 Protestants like Luther rejected Catholic allegorizing in favor of the plain, literal sense of scripture, but that literal sense is often metaphorical (Christ as vine) or even allegorical (the standard interpretation of the Song of Solomon). Luther also himself seems to allegorize, as in his interpretation of God breathing life into Adam (Gen. 2:7): “And here by a very beautiful allegory, or rather by an anagoge, Moses wanted to intimate dimly that God was to become incarnate.”61 As Brian Cummings points out, moreover, Luther was hardly original in championing the literal, since this was the position of some Scholastics, including Nicholas of Lyra, one of Luther’s principal sources.62

What can be known about Bible reading in Tudor England is limited, given the lack of evidence, either because it hasn’t survived or because it never existed. We do know that an extraordinary number of Bibles were printed, sold, and circulated, in a number of translations into English and (still) Latin. We know that several of these English versions were read in churches, others at home or in other contexts. Indeed, we know that men and women were reading or hearing (or singing, as with the Psalms) the Bible in a variety of locations at different times of the day or week. The marginalia and other editorial apparatus of Bibles such as the Geneva, as well as separately printed guides to Bible reading and some surviving records of individual practice, tell us how readers tackled this massive book: the order in which they read books, the schedules they used for daily readings, the kinds of cross-referencing they practiced, their commonplacing, and their consultation of glosses and commentaries. We have some sense of how the Bible was used in schoolrooms and in the instruction of the young at home. Determining how the Bible was interpreted is difficult in any comprehensive sense, but we can gauge the possible range of interpretations by examining the glosses and commentaries as well as sermons and the wide variety of ways in which biblical texts were paraphrased, adapted, and alluded to in works of sacred or secular literature. Despite the rich body of scholarship on all of these topics, much more work remains to be done, especially as we move beyond the limiting binaries of Catholic and Protestant, Anglican and Puritan, to understand early modern Bible reading in its full complexity.

Further Reading

Cambers, Andrew. Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580–1720. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Cummings, Brian. The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Daniel, David. The Bible in English: Its History and Influence. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Hunt, Arnold. The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590–1640. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Molekamp, Femke. Women & the Bible in Early Modern England: Religious Reading and Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Narveson, Kate. Bible Readers and Lay Writers in Early Modern England. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012.Find this resource:

Ryrie, Alec. Being Protestant in Reformation Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Simpson, James. Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and Its Reformation Opponents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Walsham, Alexandra. “Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation Catholicism and the Vernacular Bible.” Journal of British Studies 42.2 (2003): 141–166.Find this resource:


(1) William Chillingworth, The religion of protestants a safe way to salvation (London, 1638), 375.

(2) Alexandra Walsham, “Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation Catholicism and the Vernacular Bible,” Journal of British Studies 42.2 (2003): 141–166; see also Sabrina Corbellini, Mart van Dujin, Suzan Folkerts, and Margriet Hoogvliet, “Challenging the Paradigm: Holy Writ and Lay Readers in Late Medieval Europe,” Church History and Religious Culture 93 (2013): 171–188.

(3) Mary Dove, The First English Bible: The Text and Context of the Wycliffite Versions (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 9.

(5) James Simpson, Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and Its Reformation Opponents (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 51–52.

(6) David Daniel, The Bible in English: Its History and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), xiii–xiv. For a discussion of population, see R. A. Houston, The Population History of Britain and Ireland, 1550–1750 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992). Determining literacy is exceptionally difficult and rates are highly contested, but it is clear that there were many who could not read, especially among women and the working classes. See David Cressy, Literacy & the Social Order: Reading & Writing in Tudor & Stuart England (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980); Heidi Brayman Hackel, Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

(7) In fact, Cardinal Reginald Pole, archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Queen Mary, seems to have been planning a Catholic English translation of the Bible in the late 1550s. See Walsham, “Unclasping the Book?” 150. Lucy Wooding notes contemporary evidence that Mary was herself a “champion of scripture.” See Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 116.

(8) Maurice S. Betteridge, “The Bitter Notes: The Geneva Bible and Its Annotations,” Sixteenth Century Journal 14.1 (1983): 41–62.

(9) For the history of the English Bible up to the King James Version as a series of revisions or drafts, see David Norton, The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

(10) A. H. Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible: 1525–1961; Revised and Expanded from the Edition of T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, 1903 (London: British & Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968). W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, and K. F. Pantzer, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640: First Compiled by A. W. Pollard & G. R. Redgrave, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–91).

(11) Patrick Collinson, “The Coherence of the Text: How It Hangeth Together: The Bible in Reformation England,” in The Bible, the Reformation, and the Church: Essays in Honour of James Atkinson, ed. W. Peter Stephens (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 84–108, 90.

(12) Alec Ryrie, Being Protestant in Reformation Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 11, 29, 298–301.

(13) Alfred W. Pollard, ed., Records of the English Bible (London: H. Frowde, Oxford University Press, 1911), 262, n.1. A similar injunction had been issued by Thomas Cromwell to churches to purchase the Coverdale Bible in 1536, but it seems to have been largely ignored. See David S. Katz, God’s Last Words: Reading the English Bible from the Reformation to Fundamentalism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 34.

(14) Andrew Cambers, Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580–1720 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 162–163.

(15) Ronald E. Shields and James H. Forse, “Creating the Image of a Martyr: John Porter, Bible Reader,” Sixteenth Century Journal 33.3 (2002): 725–734.

(18) Arnold Hunt, The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and Their Audiences, 1590–1640 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 60–116.

(19) Cambers proposes that Nehemiah Wallington must have read at work, and he cites another case of a cobbler reading the Bible as he worked, from a Catholic bulletin of 1624. A good deal of Bible reading went on among the incarcerated, as recorded by Foxe and others. See Godly Reading, 188–189, chap. 6.

(20) Ian Green, Humanism and Protestantism in Early Modern English Education (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009), 286–290.

(21) Eusebius Pagit, “To the Christian Reader,” History of the Bible; briefly collected by way of Question and answere (Cambridge, 1602).

(22) Green notes that extant comments by teachers and book sales indicate that Pagit’s was one of the most popular texts of its kind in English schools. Humanism and Protestantism, 288.

(23) There is some scholarly confusion about this earlier volume. The first edition was anonymous, but the 1586 edition (“Newly enlarged with the Testimonies of Scripture”) contains a new dedicatory epistle by Robert Openshaw, signed “from my study at Waymouth and Milcombe.” On the titlepage of one copy of the 1581 edition, an owner (perhaps a later one) has penned in Openshaw’s name under the title. Patrick Collinson has argued that Openshaw is simply a pseudonym of Pagit’s, while Richard Greaves claims Openshaw worked with Pagit to revise the latter’s original text. Neither offers supporting evidence. Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 233–234; Richard L. Greaves, “Pagit, Eusebius (1546/7–1617),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., January 2008 ( Accessed 19 March 2015.

(24) Short questions and answeares (London, 1579), sig. B2v; Short questions and answeares (London, 1586), sig. B5r.

(25) Edmund Allen, A catechisme, that is to saie, a familiar introduccion and trainyng of the simple in the commaundementes of God, and the principles of oure religion (London, 1548), sig. Biiiir.

(26) William Tyndale, trans. [The Pentateuch] (1530), sig. Biir. Interestingly, instead of “image,” Tyndale uses the word “similitude.”

(27) Arthur Dent, A plaine exposition of the articles of our faith (London, 1589), fol. 5r.

(28) The relationship between “hearing” and “reading” becomes all the more inextricable when taking account of the practice described by Arnold Hunt in which many in the congregation would follow along with the lessons and readings in their own Bibles. Hunt, The Art of Hearing, chap. 2. Hunt (70, fig. 4) includes a woodcut from Thomas Williamson’s The Sword of the Spirit (1613), showing a preacher with listeners around the pulpit, open Bibles in their laps. A similar image appears in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, depicting Hugh Latimer preaching before Edward VI, with a Bible-reading woman prominent in the foreground. Foxe, The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online or TAMO, 1563 edition (Sheffield, UK: HRI Online Pub., 2011), 1422. I owe this reference to Erin Wagner.

(29) The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662, ed. Brian Cummings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 275–276. Henceforth BCP.

(30) BCP, 142.

(31) BCP, 162–163.

(32) BCP, 172.

(33) As T. W. clarifies, in A concordance or table made after the order of the alphabet, conteyning the principall both wordes & matters, which are comprehended in the newe Testament (1579), “Christ [the “last Adam”] hath not taken away original sinne only, but also all other offences” (A8r-v). Cross-references are provided to John 1.29, Rom. 5.16, and 1 John 1.7.

(34) Mary Morrissey, Politics and the Paul’s Cross Sermon, 1558–1642 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(36) Kate Narveson, Bible Readers and Lay Writers in Early Modern England (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2012), 22–23; and, for the seventeenth century, Matthew Brown, “The Thick Style: Steady Sellers, Textual Aesthetics, and Early Modern Devotional Reading,” PMLA 121.1 (2006): 67–86.

(37) Nicholas Byfield, Directions for the private reading of the scriptures (London, 1617), 109.

(38) Byfield, Directions, [117–118].

(39) Ryrie, Being Protestant, 271–272. Bulkeley’s six years were 1630–1636.

(40) Widely commented on and reprinted. William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 73; Peter Stallybrass, “Books and Scrolls: Navigating the Bible,” in Books and Readers in Early Modern England: Material Studies, ed. Jennifer Andersen and Elizabeth Sauer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 42–79; and Collinson, “‘The Coherence of the Text,’” 84–108, 92.

(41) The Geneva editors try to explain the discrepancy by claiming that he ruled first for ten years while his father was still alive.

(42) The psalm verse is actually “Why do the heathen rage, and the people murmur in vaine?” Small differences like those evident here are usually due to the fact that the New Testament writers were working from a Greek Bible and also themselves writing in Greek.

(43) The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1941), 58.

(44) Femke Molekamp, Women & the Bible in Early Modern England: Religious Reading and Writing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 60–61. Molekamp also cites Stallybrass, “Books and Scrolls,” 49.

(45) Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in Grace Abounding with Other Spiritual Autobiographies, ed. John Stachniewski, with Anne Pacheco (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 20.

(46) The O.E.D. gives the first citation for “chapter and verse” as 1628, but it was clearly used much earlier.

(47) Bullinger, A most excellent sermon of the Lordes Supper (London, 1517), “Epistle Dedicatory,” sig. Aiiiiv.

(48) B. P., The prentises practise in Godlinesse (London, 1608), fol. 44r.

(49) Daniell, Bible in English, 274–275. Robert Estienne’s Greek New Testament (Geneva, 1551) included verse divisions, based on the versification in Sante Pagninus’s edition of the Vulgate (Lyon, 1527).

(50) Julie Maxwell, “Early Modern Religious Prose,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature, ed. Rebecca Lemon, Emma Mason, Jonathan Roberts, and Christopher Rowland (Chester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 184–196.

(51) Christopher Marlowe, Dr Faustus: Based on the A Text, ed. Roma Gill, New Mermaids (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968; 2d ed., 1989), sc.1.39-43.

(52) Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton, text ed. Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki (London: Longman, 2001), 1.9.47, lines 5–9 and 1.9.53, line 4.

(53) Shakespeare, Richard II, ed. Charles R. Forker, Arden Shakespeare (London: Thomson Learning, 2002), 5.5.11-17.

(55) Hunnis, Seven Sobs of a sorrowfull soule for sinne (London, 1583), 1–3. Seven Sobs was provided with music for singing, and it was reprinted frequently into the seventeenth century.

(56) Johan Baptystes Preachynge, in The Complete Plays of John Bale, Vol. 2, ed. Peter Happé (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1986), 44.

(57) Ibid.

(59) An epistle of the Ladye Jane, a righte vertuous woman, to a learned man of late falne from the truth of Gods most holy word, for fear of the worlde ([London?], 1554), sig. Biiiv-Biiiir.

(60) Scholars have begun to explore the ways in which the Protestant emphasis on the “literal” was more an anti-Catholic polemic than an accurate description of their practice. For two especially suggestive studies, Brian Cummings, The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) and Simpson, Burning to Read.

(61) Quoted in Brian Cummings, “Protestant Allegory,” in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, ed. Rita Copeland and Peter T. Struck (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 177–190, esp. 179. As noted above, Paul himself applies a conspicuously allegorical reading to Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians, and he calls it an “allegory” (Gal. 4:24), the only use of that word in the Bible.

(62) Cummings, “The Problem of Protestant Culture: Biblical Literalism and Literary Biblicism,” Reformation 17 (2012): 177–198, esp. 184.