Before the Movement

After the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, the European nations quickly became the world’s religious leaders with France and England being chief among them. What is more, theologians began to use French as their language of choice. However, the unification of language in their writings did not immunize churches against the disease of interreligious strife. In 1562, a prolonged period of war and unrest began in France between the new Reformers and Catholics which would later be known as the French Wars of Religion. This conflict soon spread when protestants fled from the catholic-controlled country to the center of the continuing reformation movement. England. This, we may take notice, was also one of the early indications in the modern period of the enduring discord between the French and the English nations.

One of the reasons for the conflict between the two leading religious systems was the choice of translation of the Bible. The Latin Vulgate had been trusted and used for centuries by catholics, but there were some protestants who realized and resented the intense theological bias present in that rendering and the clergy’s interpretation thereof.

Previous to and simultaneous with the wars was the rise of renaissance humanism which, unlike its modern counterpart, suggested that Greek and Hebrew studies, philosophy, history, classical grammar, and rhetoric would allow scholars to produce a historical-critical exegesis of the scriptures and also a new and improved translation, thus allowing for a purification and renewal of biblical christianity. This, coupled with the amelioratory movement, gave rise to a new age of church scholarship.

Over the next century, new translations seemed to be produced almost yearly. The Geneva Bible, which was the first English version to include numbered verses, was printed in 1560. Seemingly in rebuttal, the Catholic church completed the Douay-Rheims Bible in 1609. Then, in 1611 the King James Version, including the Apocrypha, was prin