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Miles Coverdale

Miles Coverdale

The English Puritan Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) was the first to translate the complete Bible into English.

Miles Coverdale was a Yorkshireman of whose early education nothing is known. He joined the Augustinian friars at their great Barnwell Priory at Cambridge and became a priest, probably in 1514. He was very much influenced by his prior, Robert Barnes, an early and very active Lutheran, who was ultimately put to death under Henry VIII for his heretical opinions. Coverdale's increasingly heretical views caused him first to abandon his religious profession and then to leave England. By 1529 he had settled at Hamburg, Germany, and was engaged in assisting William Tyndale with his English translation of various parts of the Holy Scriptures.

By 1534 Coverdale was in Antwerp, where a merchant commissioned him to render the whole Bible in English. The printing of Coverdale's translation was completed by October 1535. This Bible, although allowed to circulate in England, lacked official approval because of its heretical tendentiousness and its inadequacy as a translation. Accordingly, Thomas Cromwell engaged Coverdale to work in England on a new version, using a revised edition of Tyndale's work known as Matthew's Bible. Coverdale's renewed efforts resulted in the publication in 1539 of the widely accepted Great Bible.

Meanwhile, Coverdale had taken a Scottish wife and with her went to Strassburg in 1540, when Henry VIII's approval of various executions made a longer stay in England dangerous. He returned to England, however, after Henry's death in 1547; he won favor, especially as a preacher, from the Privy Council and was rewarded with the bishopric of Exeter in 1551. As bishop, he earned a good reputation both from the fine example of his life and from his pastoral solicitude. But Coverdale was deposed soon after Mary I's accession to the throne in 1553. He would probably have been executed for heresy had not the king of Denmark successfully pleaded with Mary to allow him to depart for Copenhagen in 1555.

During his 4-year sojourn on the Continent, Coverdale visited various cities and worked on the Puritan version of the Bible, which appeared at Geneva in 1560. Then he returned to England. He was never restored to Exeter, probably because of his Puritanism, but he continued to preach and was warmly esteemed by his Puritan associates. He died in London on Jan. 20, 1569. His second wife, whom he married after his first wife's death in 1565, administered his estate. Of the two children by his first marriage, nothing seems to be known.

Further Reading

The most recent study of Coverdale is James F. Mozley, Coverdale and His Bibles (1953), which outlines his life in the first chapter and has useful bibliographical appendices. An earlier study is Henry Guppy, Miles Coverdale and the English Bible, 1488-1568 (1935). □

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Coverdale, Miles

Miles Coverdale, 1488–1569, b. Yorkshire. English translator of the Bible, educated at Cambridge. Coverdale was ordained (1514) and entered the house of Augustinian friars at Cambridge. After developing an appreciation of Martin Luther he became an advocate of ecclesiastical reform. Forced (1528) to reside abroad for his preaching against confession and images, he worked with William Tyndale and later published (1535) the first English translation of the entire Bible, probably largely with the aid of the Vulgate, Tyndale's Pentateuch and New Testament, and German versions emanating from Luther and the translators at Zürich. He collaborated on the Great Bible (1539) and edited Cranmer's Bible (1540). With the passage of the anti-Reformation Six Articles, Coverdale again fled to the continent, returning in 1547 after the death of Henry VIII. He enjoyed high favor under Edward VI, serving as bishop of Exeter from 1551 to 1553. On Mary's accession he lost his bishopric and left England. He returned after Elizabeth's succession, and became widely known for his eloquent sermons and addresses. He was rector of St. Magnus, London Bridge, from 1563 to 1566, but resigned when Archbishop Parker sought to enforce the Act of Uniformity, with which Coverdale was dissatisfied.

See his writings and letters, ed. by G. Pearson (2 vol., 1844–46).

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Coverdale, Miles

Coverdale, Miles (1488–1568). Augustinian friar turned secular priest, popular preacher, and early reformer, Coverdale spent most of the time between 1528 and 1548 in exile, producing the first complete translation of the Bible into English, whilst abroad, in 1535. Prior to this, he may have worked with William Tyndale, upon whose New Testament translation he relied. Five years earlier, Henry VIII deemed an English translation unnecessary, but Thomas Cromwell obtained royal approval for publication of Coverdale's Bible in England, which encouraged John Rogers's Matthew Bible in 1537. Meanwhile, Cromwell initiated an official translation for use in every parish church, entrusting the revision to Coverdale. The ‘Great Bible’ was published in 1539. Coverdale was appointed bishop of Exeter in Edward VI's reign, deprived, but escaped persecution under Mary Tudor. Christian III of Denmark's intercession enabled him to go abroad again until the more favourable climate of Elizabeth's reign. But he was not restored to his diocese, presumably because his views were too radical.

Audrey MacDonald

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"Coverdale, Miles." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Coverdale, Miles

Coverdale, Miles (1488–1568). Translator of the Bible. The English Bible of 1539, known as the ‘Great Bible’, was his work, based mainly on earlier translations rather than on the Heb. and Gk. The Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer derive from this version.

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"Coverdale, Miles." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coverdale-miles

Coverdale, Miles

Coverdale, Miles (1488–1569) English cleric who issued the first printed English Bible (1535) and the ‘Great Bible’ (1539). Influenced by the Reformation, he helped William Tyndale on his Bible translation.

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