We began with the prototypical igniter of the Reformation, Martin Luther. His Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans goes beyond his original task of translating the scriptures into the vernacular. Now he is providing guidance to the reader on how to interpret and understand what they are reading. This was surely particularly upsetting to church authorities, who now had lost not only the power over the scriptures, but would now have to begin battling against specific protestant interpretations that were being spread.
In 1547, at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer published The Book of Homilies. The book contained 12 homilies, and while not required for use, were provided to clergy in the Church of England. This was an important step in the reforms accomplished under Edward VI. The homilies began advancing theology of a more protestant flavor. It could be seen as a first step, to encourage others to begin their own reforms. The homilies are especially focused on the moral reform of the individual, and stressed the evidence of good works in the life of a true believer.
Though most people know the King James’ version of the bible, many have not heard of William Tyndale, who completed the first English New Testament. Due to a prohibition by the bishop of London, Tyndale completed his work outside of the bounds of England. The New Testament was actually first published in Germany in 1526. Tyndale’s preface shows his utter desire for a faithful translation of the original languages. Tyndale also attempts to provide his readers with a roadmap for the Christian life, stressing the elements of faith and obedience. Tyndale begins the now common tradition of providing a bible dictionary for key terms, and also foreshadows the now common headings of books by providing biographies for the four writers of the evangels.
The Great Bible became the official bible of all Church of England parishes in 1540, by an order of Henry VIII. It is mostly constructed of the bible translations completed by William Tyndale. It has a preface from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, which contains an early articulation of the reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Cranmer also attempts to draw parallels to some of the early church fathers, thereby bypassing what he saw as the more recent and corrupt history of the Roman Church. Cranmer also stresses the moral reform of the individual, and believed that correct reading of the scriptures would result in moral holiness.
The Geneva Bible was the product of English exiles living in Switzerland. It quickly became a standard for biblical study, going through 140 editions. This bible was the first to include the now standard chapter and verse numbers. The preface to the Geneva Bible deals with Queen Elizabeth, painting her as a modern reformer of the church, rebuilding God’s temple. Scripture is portrayed as her tool and foundation for this rebuilding effort. The preface places emphasis on justification by faith alone, and again stresses the reality of good deeds which follow a truly converted heart.
The 39 Articles and the Scots Confession of Faith were written and accepted almost contemporaneously in their respective countries of England and Scotland. The edition of the 39 articles that was passed in parliament in 1563 reflected more reformed theology, perhaps from the influence of Bucer, Melanchton, and Calvin upon Archbishop Matthew Parker. It was somewhat significant that the 39 articles reflected these tendencies, since