Johannes Gutenberg and the Moveable Type Printing Press

c. 1450 A.D.

In 1450, perhaps the most significant historical event since the death of Christ occurred – Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The Bible, specifically the Latin Vulgate, was the first book ever printed on a printing press.

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (c. 1398 – February 3, 1468) was a German goldsmith and printer who is credited with being the first European to use movable type printing, in around 1439, and the global inventor of the mechanical printing press. His major work, the Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible), has been acclaimed for its high aesthetic and technical quality.

Among the specific contributions to printing that are attributed to Gutenberg are the invention of a process for mass-producing movable type, the use of oil-based ink, and the use of a wooden printing press similar to the screw olive and wine presses of the period. His truly epochal invention was the combination of these elements into a practical system.

The use of movable type was a marked improvement on the handwritten manuscript, which was the existing method of book production in Europe, and upon woodblock printing, and revolutionized European book-making. Gutenberg’s printing technology spread rapidly throughout Europe and is considered a key factor in the European Renaissance. Gutenberg remains a towering figure in the popular image; in 1999, the A&E Network ranked Gutenberg #1 on their “People of the Millennium” countdown, and in 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg’s invention as the most important of the second millennium.


You can see a replica of the Gutenberg press at the Gadsden Cultural Arts Center as a part of the Ink & Blood Exhibit. There are daily demonstrations of the printing method and you will see (or even participate in) printing an actual replica page from a Bible of that time. The exhibit also includes pages from a Gutenberg Bible.


John Wycliffe and the First English Bible

John Wycliffe is known as the Morning Star of the Protestant Reformation.

Wycliffe is the first person to translate the Bible into English. The basis for his work was Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.

Wycliffe was born in 1324. He joined Oxford College at a very young age and eventually received a Doctorate and also became a Roman Catholic Priest. However, somewhere around 1375, Wycliffe led in a conflict between Oxford College and the Roman Catholic Church over the doctrine of transubstantiation (the turning of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus). Then he would become a leader in England’s fights against the Roman Catholic Church. The Church would bring him to ecclesiastical trial several times.

Wycliffe began translating the Bible in 1378 A.D. He completed the New Testament in 1380 A.D. and the complete Bible in 1382 A.D. Making a single copy of Wycliffe’s Bible took ten months and a month’s pay was needed to buy one.

Wycliffe died in 1384. The Roman Catholic Church had his bones dug up in 1428 and burned as a heretic because his teachings caused them such problems.

See this link for an audio presentation:

John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation


The Wicked Bible

Just for those Biblical history buffs here is another one in the history books.

Did you know that there was published in 1631 a KJV Bible that was called the “Wicked Bible”?

The “Wicked Bible” was published by Barker & Lucas. In the type setting a word was left out. Some words being accidentally left out make a big difference in the sentence.

The word left out was “not”. A missing “not” makes a huge difference, especially when it is in this verse.

Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. KJV

So the Bibles they printed said:

Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt commit adultery. KJV

Talk about getting in trouble! They were fined a huge sum and lost their printing license.

Although 1000 copies were printed, King Charles I declared that all should be destroyed. Nevertheless around eleven of the Bibles survived.

The “Wicked Bible” (“Adulterous Bible” or “Sinners Bible”) is very rarely seen.

There is one in the New York Public Library Collection, although not displayed. There is also one in the Bible Museum in Branson, Missouri.

Adding to the exciting and Bible packed summer we’ve had in Gadsden, Alabama, we will have a “Wicked Bible” on display from August 15th – September 6th as part of the Ink & Blood Display.

If you get a chance come to Gadsden, Alabama to see:

~ “The Wicked Bible” – August 15th – September 6th

~ Ink & Blood – until October 31, 2009

~ History of the English Bible – Monday, June 29, 2009 – Wednesday, August, 19, 2009 Listing of Bibles


John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation

Below is the talk that Dr. Ella gave on John Wycliffe during the Conference on the English Bible.

The below link is to a magazine, New Focus, that publishes much of Dr. Ella’s work and includes an article about John Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe (c. 1320-c. 1384)Star of the Reformation
by George M. Ella


Jerome and the Latin Vulgate

Jerome and the Latin Vulgate
c. 405 A.D.

Beginning in 382 A.D., a Roman Catholic scholar by the name of Jerome began translating the Bible into Latin at the request of Pope Damasus I.

Jerome’s work, known as the Latin Vulgate, was completed in 405 A.D. It remains practically unchanged and is still in use in the Roman Catholic Church today.

“Vulgate” is Latin for “vulgar”, because it was written in the common, or vulgar, Latin dialect.

The Vulgate was the standard version of the Bible for Roman Catholics for over one and a half millennia. Since Latin was only studied by priests and scholars, the vast majority of people could not read or understand the Vulgate, even though they would hear passages from it every time they went to church.

Until 1450, when Gutenberg printed the Vulgate, copies were also very rare and expensive. During the Protestant reformation in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Bible was finally translated into modern languages, against great resistance from the Church. Finally in the mid-20th Century, the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the use of Latin for liturgy. However, this remains one of the most historically important Latin texts.


The Greek Septuagint

The Greek Septuagint
c. 285 B.C.

The Septuagint, or simply “LXX”, is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. in Alexandria in Egypt.

It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The word “septuaginta” means “seventy” in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

The Septuagint includes some books not found in the Hebrew Bible. Many Protestant Bibles follow the Jewish canon and exclude the additional books. Roman Catholics, however, include some of these books in their canon while Eastern Orthodox Churches use all the books of the Septuagint. Anglican lectionaries also use all of the books except Psalm 151, and the full Authorized (King James) Version includes these additional books in a separate section labeled the “Apocrypha”.

The Septuagint was held in great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors. Of significance for all Christians and for Bible scholars, the LXX is quoted by the Christian New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers. While Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century A.D., recent scholarship has brought renewed interest in it in Judaic Studies. Some of the Dead Sea scrolls attest to Hebrew texts other than those on which the Masoretic Text was based; in many cases, these newly found texts accord with the LXX version. The oldest surviving codices of LXX (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus) date to the fourth century A.D.


What About Verses That Are in the KJV but not Other Translations?

There are a few verses that are found in the KJV of the Bible that may or may not be included in the newer English translations such as NIV, NASB, or ESV. However, today most Bible translations do include these passages either with a different text type such as italics or with footnotes showing the differences. Nevertheless very few differences contain anything that could possibly affect doctrine. Below are a few examples of passages that are not in all ancient manuscripts.

~ Mark 16:9-20

This passage is not included in several older texts. It is also sometimes included in old manuscripts but set apart by text markings such as our asterisks or parenthesis as being not equal or not included in the originals. There is at least one old text that has an additional paragraph in the middle of this passage. Most translations today include this passage and note that it is not in some manuscripts. The concern is with those who take a verse such as Mark 16:16 and say that Baptism is required for Salvation based solely on that text. They then have forgotten the thief on the cross passage. No single verse should ever be taken and interpreted without using the rest of Scripture to determine the meaning.

~ Comma Johannine

1 John 5:7-8
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

1 John 5:7-8
7 For there are three that testify:
8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree

The Johannine Comma has a good simple to understand explanation of the problems with this passage. But again some newer English translations have this passage but with notes of the questionable nature. I find the most compelling argument is that the early church fathers do not quote this passage even when arguing over the Trinity because apparently this passage did exist at that time but was a latter addition possibly as a textual note. As most protestant churches believe in the Trinity they would benefit by keeping the questionable passage but honesty to the ancient text dictates that no matter how helpful a passage may be if questionable it should be so noted.

~ The Woman Caught In Adultery

John 7:53 – John 8:11

This passage is a very well known passage of the woman caught in adultery and being brought before Jesus. The well known phrase from that passage is “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” While a compelling story and it fits in with the Scriptures, this passage was not included in many older manuscripts. The few that do include it often set it off with textual markings. But the most interesting fact is that those older manuscripts that include this passage do not always include it in the same place! Some have it in John, but in different locations, while some have it in Luke, but also in different locations.


It is important that we have a translation of the Bible that is accurate as possible by using all the information available. But it is equally important that we provide translations that the common man can read in his common language. While the KJV was written in a very beautiful and somewhat poetic prose, that is also the way that people wrote during those days. This is very obvious when you read old books from that same time period. However, today’s English speaking person doesn’t speak in the KJV style or even understand the KJV when reading it. Those of us that grew up in church with some understanding of church terms and the regular reading of the KJV don’t really understand how hard the KJV is for the new Christian from a pagan background. We might as well expect them to be reading Latin.

Even the translators of the KJV said

“Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) without a bucket or something to draw with . . . .”

Vulgar here means common so it is easily seen how even this one sentence can be mistranslated when read by a person unfamiliar with the KJV language. Otherwise, they might think it means coarse, profane, or cursing language.

We must be appreciative that we have a Bible to read in our own common language and must not learn a foreign language or sit with a dictionary at hand in order to read the Scriptures.

Many, many men and women died in order that you can have a Bible in your home, in your hand and in your language.

So don’t leave it sitting on a shelf but read it and treasure it.


Dr. George Ella speaking on John Gill

Dr. Ella will be speaking on John Gill Sunday night July 19th, 2009 at Fellowship Baptist Church in Cleveland, Alabama. The time will be 6:00 PM. The church’s website includes a map.

I have enjoyed hearing Dr. Ella speak several times since he arrived in Gadsden last week. He has a very through knowledge of the historical persons he speaks about. He also has striven when writing his books to clear up any misunderstandings of the subject or even misrepresentations.

Dr. Ella last night actually stated that Hollywood is NOT his source of information on history. This was specifically in relation to the movie A Man For All Seasons, about Sir Thomas More.


History of the Indestructible Book – Today and Tomorrow – July 17 & 18

History of the Indestructible Book
2009 Gadsden Conference on the English Bible

Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18, 2009.

There is no cost to attend this conference.
Registration is available at registration but it is not required.

Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
501 Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama 35901

Speakers are from Reformed Churches, Primitive Baptist Churches, Southern Baptist Churches and Presbyterian Churches.

Friday, July 17 Printable Brochure

12:00 PM Registration Opens
12:30 PM Welcome and Introduction / Historical Translation Challenges ~ Michael Rogers
1:30 PM Why the History of the Bible is Important ~ Matthew Carpenter
2:30 PM The English Bible before 1611 ~ Lyn Caudle
3:30 PM Break
4:00 PM The 1611 King James Bible ~ Anthony Copeland
5:00 PM Dinner Break (on your own)
7:00 PM John Wycliffe – Star of the Reformation ~ Dr. George Ella
8:00 PM Question and Answer Session
8:30 PM Dismiss

Saturday, July 18 Printable Brochure

8:00 AM Registration Opens
8:30 AM The English Bible after 1611 ~ Ricky Tillis
9:30 AM John Albert Bengel – Father of Modern Biblical Scholarship ~ Dr. George Ella
11:00 AM Museum Exhibit Grand Opening
12:00 PM Lunch Break (on your own)
1:00 PM Viewing of Exhibits / Ink and Blood
2:30 PM Special Session – Children and Youth with Dr. Ella ~ Dr. George Ella
3:00 PM Modern Translation Challenges: A Case Study ~ Bob Hamilton
4:00 PM Canonization of the Scriptures ~ Steve Cowan
5:30 PM Diner Break (on your own)
7:00 PM William Tyndale – Heir of God through Christ’s Deservings ~ Dr. George Ella
8:00 PM Question and Answer Session
8:30 PM Dismiss

This Conference is a joint effort by several church denominations, The City of Gadsden and Gadsden State Community College.


Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts
Gadsden Museum of Art
Gadsden State Community College
Gadsden Public Library
Ink and Blood – Dead Sea Scrolls to Gutenberg
Chattanooga Primitive Baptist Church
Dominion Baptist Church
Etowah Baptist Association
Fellowship Baptist Church (Cleveland, AL)
Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church (McDonough, GA)
Gadsden Primitive Baptist Church
Grace Fellowship Community Church
Harvest Fellowship Community Church
Heritage Primitive Baptist Church
Immanuel Baptist Church (no website link)