Forgotten Reformer: Myles Coverdale and the first 40 years of the English Reformation

Forgotten Reformer: Myles Coverdale and the first 40 years of the English Reformation
Crawford Gribben
Crawford Gribben Crawford Gribben is a cultural and literary historian whose work concentrates on the development and dissemination of religious ideas, especially in terms of apocalyptic and millennial thought.
22 April, 2022 2 min read

Author: G F MAIN
Publisher: Independently published
240 pages
Purchase from: Christian Bookshop (£10.00)

Geoffrey Main’s new biography of one of the most important English reformers is outstanding.

Myles Coverdale is, as the title of this book suggests, almost entirely forgotten, even among those Christians who think most about the recovery of the gospel in the 16th century. Main shows how little we know about the first 38 years of Coverdale’s life, and how his glad acceptance of the central ideas of the Protestant Reformation drove him from the Catholic church and into a life of exile, poverty, and frequent danger.

Coverdale worked with William Tyndale in his project to translate the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament into English. Coverdale completed this project when his work became the first complete English Bible to be printed. Returning from exile, he worked closely with Thomas Cromwell as Henry VIII’s reformation cautiously advanced.

When the king began to back off from the cause, Coverdale entered a second period of exile, this time working as a pastor in Germany, using his linguistic gifts to translate works by Luther and other Protestant writers into English.

Returning to England in the reign of Edward, Coverdale worked as Bishop of Exeter. This ministry was cut short when Mary acceded to the throne, beginning the horrific persecution that led to the execution of almost 300 Protestants during her short but bloody reign. Coverdale’s life was saved only when the King of Denmark made a personal appeal for his safety. Fleeing into a third period of exile, he travelled to Geneva, where he worked alongside John Knox in another Bible translation project.

Coverdale returned to England in 1559, the year that the first part of the Geneva Bible was published. In his latter years he became increasingly uneasy with the direction of the English church and increasingly in favour of what its critics would later describe as Puritanism.

Main’s superb new biography is self-published, and may not be widely available in bookshops. But all those committed to the principles of the Reformation should make every effort to obtain it. Forgotten Reformer may be one of the most important biographies to have appeared in the past year.

Crawford Gribben

Ballymena, N. Ireland

Forgotten Reformer can be purchased from Ossett Christian Bookshop

Crawford Gribben
Crawford Gribben is a cultural and literary historian whose work concentrates on the development and dissemination of religious ideas, especially in terms of apocalyptic and millennial thought.
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