Exodus: English Protestants in exile

The landscape of the biblical past was etched on the imagination of early modern Protestants. No translation of the bible exerted more influence on the outlook of English Calvinists than the Geneva version first published in 1560. Notable for the annotations on difficult passages that peppered its margins, it also incorporated figures, tables and ‘certeyne maps of Cosmographie which necessarely serve for the perfect understanding and memorie of divers places and countreys’. Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, it urged her to bring to perfection the Reformation she had begun, imitating the ‘marvelous diligence and zeale’ of the Old Testament kings Jehosophat, Josiah and Hezekiah, who had been left as an example to modern rulers ‘lest the wrath of God fall upon them for the neglecting thereof’. The title-page image of the parting of the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the pursuing Egyptians must be read typologically. Surrounded by scriptural verses that warn of the troubles suffered by the righteous and promise that the Almighty will fight for them, it alludes to the persecutions that Protestants had suffered under the Catholic Queen Mary I, including their own exodus to safe havens overseas. It is a symbol of their conviction that, like the ancient Jews, they too were a chosen people, who had narrowly escaped from the clutches of Rome. AW

The Bible and Holy Scriptures Conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament. Translated according to the Ebrue and Greke, and conferred with the best translations in divers languages. With most profitable annotations upon all the hard places, and other things of great importance as may appeare in the Epistle to the Reader (Geneva: Rouland Hall, 1560), title-page.

CUL: Sel.3.21

Further Reading

Femke Molekamp, ‘Genevan Legacies: The Making of the English Genevan Bible’, in Kevin Killeen, Helen Smith, and Rachel Willie (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530–1700 (Oxford, 2015), pp. 38–53.

Joy Shakespeare, ‘Plague and Punishment’, in Maria Dowling and Peter Lake (eds), Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth-Century England (London, 1987), pp. 103–23.

Jonathan Wright, ‘Marian Exiles and the Legitimacy of Flight from Persecution’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 52 (2001), 220–43.

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