The Geneva Bible was the word of God in English before the KJV ever existed. The Geneva Bible was also “able-to-make-thee-wise-unto-salvation” Scripture (2 Tim. 3:15) and “profitable-for-doctrine” Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) before the KJV was ever printed. Many English speakers read the engrafted word which is able to save your souls (James 1:21) in the Geneva Bible. Believers could read, study, learn, memorize, preach, and live by the Geneva Bible, and they did. In their comments to the brethren of England, Scotland, Ireland, etc. in the 1560 edition, the Geneva Bible translators wrote: “Seeing the great opportunity and occasions, which God presented unto us in this church, by reason of so many godly and learned men and such diversities of translations in divers tongues, we undertook this great and wonderful work (with all reverence, as in the presence of God, as intreating the words of God, whereunto we think ourselves insufficient) which now God according to his divine providence and mercy hath directed to a most prosperous end. And this we may with good conscience protest, we have in every point and word, according to the measure of that knowledge which it pleased almighty God to give us, faithfully rendered the text, and in all hard places most sincerely expounded the same. For God is our witness that we have, by all means endeavored to set forth the purity of the word and right sense of the Holy Ghost for the edifying of the brethren in faith and charity.”
Along with indicating acceptance of its underlying text and its translating, KJV-only authors also acknowledge the popularity and wide use of the Geneva Bible. Robert Sargent and Laurence Vance both confirmed that the Geneva Bible “became the Bible of the people” (English Bible, p. 197; Brief History, p. 19). Phil Stringer referred to the Geneva as “the people’s Book“ and as “the Bible of the common man” (History, p. 13). William Bradley wrote: “The Geneva Bible was the Bible of the people, the Bible of the persecuted Christians and martyrs of the faith, the Bible of choice among English-speaking people for over one hundred years” (Purified Seven Times, p. 87). Bradley also commented: “The Geneva Bible was the most widespread English Bible for a period of about one hundred years, from the 1560’s to the 1660’s” (To All Generations, p. 64). David Cloud stated: “The Geneva quickly became the most popular English Bible and wielded a powerful influence for almost 100 years” (Rome and the Bible, p. 108).
Paine noted that “the household Bible of the English people was the one which was produced at Geneva” (Men Behind the KJV, p. 9). Price asserted that “the Geneva Bible immediately sprang into full-grown popularity” (Ancestory of our English Bible, p. 265). The Dictionary of National Biography pointed out that the Geneva Bible “was the Bible on which most Englishmen in Elizabethan England were brought up” (Vol. XXI, p. 152). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible indicated that the Geneva Bible “enjoyed great popularity among English Protestants for the rest of the century and to the end of the next” (p. 117). In an introductory essay in a reprint of the 1602 edition of the Geneva New Testament, Gerald Sheppard observed: “The Geneva Bible became the most popular Bible in England and America and remained so until about 1640″ (p. 1). Bray confirmed that “the Geneva Bible became and remained the popular text, read and studied by all classes of the population” (Documents, p. 355). John Brown wrote: “For nearly a hundred years the Genevan Bible was the favourite version of the common people” (History, p. 81). Samuel Newth noted that the Geneva Bible “was the form of the Bible most largely circulated in this country [Great Britain]“ “for nearly a century onward” (Lectures, p. 26). Anderson maintained that “the readers of the Geneva Bible, as a body, cannot be distinguished by any opprobrious party epithet of the day, for that version was to be found in all the families of England where the Scriptures were read at all” (Annals, II, p. 355). Condit asserted that the Geneva Bible “very soon became the Bible of the household, and for more than a century and a half it maintained its place as the Bible of the people” (History, p. 245). Condit also observed: “So universally was this Bible accepted, that it was read from the pulpit, quoted in sermons, cited by authors, and adopted in the family” (p. 250). Samuel Fisk acknowledged that “the influence of the Geneva Bible continued for a considerable time even after publication of the King James Version in 1611” (Calvinistic Paths, p. 74). Andrew Edgar noted that “long after 1611 the Geneva version continued to be the household Bible of a large portion of the English people” (Bibles of England, p. 326). After referring to the publication of the 1611, Richard Lovett pointed out that “for twenty-five years the Geneva Bible continued in use in many churches” (Printed English Bible, p. 150). Charles Boyce observed that “the Geneva Bible was so powerful a literary text that the Bishops’ Bible actually relied on it to some extent, as, later did the creators of the King James Version” (Shakespeare A to Z, p. 63).
In his introduction to his modern-spelling edition of Tyndale’s, David Daniell pointed out: “This, the Geneva Bible, was made for readers at all levels, and it was for nearly a century the Bible of the English people, used by all wings of the English church” (p. xi). MacCulloch indicated that a half a million copies of the Geneva Bible were printed and that the surviving copies indicate that they “have usually been read to bits” (Reformation, p. 569). David Norton cited where Thomas Ward in 1688 indicated that Bibles printed in 1562, 1577, and 1579 [editions of the Geneva Bible] were still “in many men’s hands” (History, p. 39). In a footnote, Norton pointed out that “sixteenth-century Geneva Bibles with eighteenth-century inscriptions are quite common” (p. 39, footnote 3). He gave the example of one Geneva Bible in a New Zealand library that “contains signatures, comments and records that date from 1696 to 1877.” Alec Gilmore observed that there is some evidence that a 1610 edition of the Geneva Bible “was still being used in Aberdeenshire as late as 1674” (Dictionary, p. 84). Brown noted that “as late as the close of the 18th century a Genevan Bible was still in use in the church of Crail in Fifeshire” (History, p. 84).
KJV-only reasoning may be borrowed and applied to the Geneva Bible in order to see if it is valid. If KJV-only advocates really believe that the Geneva Bible was the pure Word of God in English in 1560 and believe their own claims concerning the word of God, should they have been unwilling to have one word or even one syllable of it changed? Do Ruckman and other KJV-only advocates take the English translation “given by inspiration” at 2 Timothy 3:16 in the 1560 Geneva Bible “to be the truth” and to mean that the Geneva Bible was given by inspiration of God [for example, see Ruckman‘s Biblical Scholarship, p. 355]? Do KJV-only advocates maintain that the Geneva Bible, which was the translation accepted, believed, and used by English-speaking believers before 1611, was “given by inspiration” or “divinely inspired” by definition of Scripture or the Word of God? Should English-speaking believers in 1560 have accepted the Geneva Bible as their final authority? Were English-speaking believers in 1560 supposed to accept every word of the English Bible that God had provided them as pure, inspired, and perfect? Do KJV-only advocates imply that God revoked inspiration at some point in time and only reinstated it in 1611? Did God call English-speaking believers before 1611 to preach an inspired Bible on which they could not put their hands? According to the consistent application of some KJV-only reasoning, the KJV-only view in effect permits Church of England scholars in 1611 to sit in judgment on the Protestant Reformation Text and the Holy Bible in English [the Geneva Bible] and to alter and introduce changes in it. Were any of the changes that the KJV translators made in the Geneva Bible simply for the sake of variety? Were any of the changes that the KJV translators made in the Geneva Bible the result of doctrinal bias or the result of an effort to promote Episcopal church government? According to a consistent application of some KJV-only reasoning, did those Church of England scholars usurp the authority of the Book of the English-speaking believers in their day [the Geneva Bible] in order to assert their own authority [for example, see p. 34 in Ruckman‘s Biblical Scholarship]? Ruckman asserted that “our practice will match our profession” (p. 64). Does the profession of KJV-only advocates match their practice as applied to the 1560 Geneva Bible?