Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English delivered via Literature Online (LION, an Internet service, £210 for 4 simultaneous Bible users on one site, additional users £21 each, http://www.chadwyck.co.uk) or via CD-ROM (ISBN 0-85964-313-1, £1575 per Bible disk which may be networked to all users on one site)

Hardy Cook
Bowie State University

Cook, Hardy.  "Review of Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English Internet and CD-ROM databases." Interactive Early Modern Literary Studies (June, 2000) 1-10: <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/iemls/reviews/cooklion.htm>

  1. As a resource for the early modern scholar, Chadwyck-Healey's The Bible in English is indispensable but as a reference tool for those interested in studying the bible in English the database is wanting. The Bible in English database is available as standalone CD-ROM or as a service delivered over the Internet as part of Chadwyck-Healey's Literature Online (LION) product range which includes full-text databases of English and American poems, plays, and fiction. Although the Internet version is more easily accessible from a variety of locations--an institution which subscribes could have it available on every desktop--my preference is for the CD-ROM. Both delivery mechanisms allow the user to access full texts of the bible and to search them by combining criteria of Keyword (specifying a word which must appear in the text), Period (Old English, Middle English, Renaissance, 18th and 19th, or 20th centuries), Version (that is, which edition), Testament (Old, New, or Apocryphal), and Book. Keyword searches can be modified  by using the usual Boolean operations (AND, OR, AND NOT) and proximity operators (OR, AFTER, BEFORE) as well as wildcards (a question mark standing for any character, an asterisk standing for any string) and variant spelling selectors: "lo[uv]*" will find "loue," "love," "louing," or "loving," but exclude "louvre."

  2. For a user primarily interested in searching the texts the CD-ROM and Internet versions are virtually identical, but my work requires downloading large amounts of text and here the CD-ROM is superior. On my office Pentium II 350 MHz computer it took about half an hour over a T1 connection1 to retrieve the Geneva Bible as far as the gospels before I gave up, while with the CD-ROM on the same computer I had access to the entire Geneva Bible in a second or two. Furthermore, with the CD-ROM version one can have the full-text open in a window to the right of the screen with the Table of Contents open in a window to the left for ease of navigating. Other navigation features enable one to jump from book to book or from chapter to chapter within a version. In addition, with the CD-ROM, one can have several bibles open at the same time, viewing them individually either cascaded or tiled vertically or horizontally. One can also synchronize these views or use the Go To function to locate chapter and verse.

  3. The Internet version contains 20 texts of the bible:

    1. West Saxon I (Gospels), c.990
    2. West Saxon II (Gospels), c.1175
    3. John Wycliffe (Early), c.1384
    4. John Wycliffe (Late), c.1395
    5. William Tyndale (Pentateuch, Jonah & New Testament), 1530-1534
    6. Miles Coverdale, 1535
    7. Great Bible, 1540
    8. Thomas Matthew, 1549
    9. Bishops' Bible, 1568
    10. Rheims Douai, 1582-1610
    11. Geneva Bible, 1587
    12. King James Bible, 1611
    13. Daniel Mace (New Testament), 1729
    14. Richard Challoner, 1750-1752
    15. John Wesley (New Testament), 1755
    16. John Worsley (New Testament), 1770
    17. Noah Webster, 1833
    18. Leicester Ambrose Sawyer (New Testament), 1858
    19. Twentieth Century New Testament (New Testament), 1904
    20. New English Bible, 1970.

    The CD-ROM version includes an additional complete text, the 1976 Good News Bible. The statement of editorial policy reports that Gerald Hammond (University of Manchester) and Sylvia Adamson (University of Cambridge) chose the texts "with the aim of providing a balanced collection of editions covering the whole chronological period and appealing to scholars of a number of different disciplines." However, the editors freely acknowledge that "For scholars of English literature, particular attention has been given to the Renaissance period." I am a scholar of this period and appreciate the value of including "texts from the Protestant, Roman Catholic and non-conformist traditions," but the entire collection nonetheless has important omissions.

  4. I have forgotten most of the Old English I learned in graduate school, so the West Saxon Gospels are not of much interest to me. The texts of the West Saxon I Gospels (circa 990) and the West Saxon Gospels II (circa 1175) are derived from Cambridge University Press editions edited by the Reverend Walter W. Skeat between 1871 and 1887. Being even less familiar with these editions than I am with Old-English, I cannot comment on the differences between the earlier and later versions. The early (circa 1384) and late (circa 1395) John Wycliffe Middle English versions (or more accurately the work of his followers, including Nicholas of Hereford and John Purvey) are based on an 1850, four-volume Oxford University Press edition, edited by the Revered Josiah Forshall and Sir Frederic Madden.

  5. Of greatest interest to readers of Early Modern Literary Studies are those texts which the database identifies as the Renaissance editions. Having these versions together represents an important contribution to the tools of the early modern scholar. Unlike Wycliffe’s followers who used the Vulgate, Tyndale began translating the New Testament from the Greek, and after its completion he translated the Pentateuch and Jonah from the Hebrew. In 1535, Miles Coverdale produced the first complete English bible, " truly translated out of Douche [that is, German] and Latyn." John Rogers, a friend of Tyndale, is likely responsible for The Thomas Matthew’s bible, a combination of Tyndale and Coverdale, which first appeared in 1537 and which is represented in this database by a 1549 imprint. The Great Bible (1540) was the one that Henry 8 ordered to be placed in every English church. Represented in this collection by a 1587 imprint, the first complete Geneva Bible dates from 1560, the product of a group of Protestant exiles led by Coverdale and Knox and influenced by Calvin. The Bishops' Bible (1568) was indeed the work of many Anglican bishops, and was intended to replace The Great Bible and The Geneva Bible with a translation aimed more toward the laity than the pulpit. The Rheims Douai was created by Roman Catholic scholars in exile from England. Begun in Rheims by William Cardinal Allen and substantially completed by Gregory Martin of Douai, this work is translated out of Latin but "Diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greeke, and other Editions in diuers languages." The complete work was published in Douai in 1610 with Thomas Worthington serving as editor. The King James Version of 1611, the work of 47 scholars, was translated from Hebrew and Greek, but it relied heavily on the preceding versions, especially Tyndale’s New Testament. Considered by many the "noblest monument of English prose" this edition served as the Authorized Version for many English-speaking people, until at least the end of the 19th century.

  6. The editions in the 18th and 19th century section are of value more for their historical than their scholarly appeal and the Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English is badly let down by its selection of bibles in the 20th-century section. The Twentieth Century New Testament of 1904, New English Bible of 1970, and Good News Bible of 1976 simply do not do justice to the wealth of biblical scholarship that has occurred in the past 150 years, nor do they adequately reflect the richness of English translations both within and without the tradition of the Authorized Version. These choices do not measure up to the claimed inclusiveness nor the claimed balance across periods and disciplines.

  7. By the middle of the 19th century, the evolving discipline of biblical studies and the discovery of manuscripts more ancient than those upon which the King James Version (KJV) was based made it clear from a scholarly perspective that at least a revision, if not a new translation, was needed. The first revision, begun in 1870 by the Church of England, resulted in The English Revised Version of the Bible (ERV). Because of unauthorized tampering with the ERV it ought not to appear in an English bibles database, but its cousin the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 really should be represented. The ASV is most notable for its rendering of the Tetragrammaton (the Divine Name, YHWH, generally believed to be pronounced Yahweh) into Jehovah. In 1928, the International Council of Religious Education copyrighted the ASV and in 1937 authorized a new version that was to "embody the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of the Scriptures, and express this meaning in English diction which is designed for use in public and private worship and preserves those qualities which have given to the King James Version a supreme place in English literature." The result was the publication in 1952 of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which subsequently appeared in a second edition in 1971, profiting "from textual and linguistic studies published since The Revised Standard Version New Testament was first issued in 1946." To my thinking, any database of bibles in English should include the 1971 RSV and its revision, The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV) of 1989. The NRSV benefited from the discoveries since the late 1940s of Hebrew (including the Dead Sea Scrolls and fragments) and Greek texts older than their predecessors, and moreover it strove for gender inclusiveness where possible.

  8. The Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English database includes The New English Bible of 1970, but not its substantial revision, The Revised English Bible of 1989. These are significant new translations outside of the KJV tradition and both deserve to be represented. The CD-ROM version of The Bible in English contains The Good News Bible of 1976, a version popular in the evangelical tradition, but in neither format of the database does one receive the New International Version (NIV), the modern translation favoured by most evangelical users. Other omissions are notable. I would have liked the Jewish Publication Society of America’s TaNaKh (1985), and the Jerusalem Bible (1966) together with its revision The New Jerusalem Bible (1990), which is a Roman Catholic version translated from Hebrew and Greek into French and then English. This version is interesting for putting into verse many passages usually presented as prose and for using God for the Hebrew Elohim and Yahweh for the Tetragrammaton (represented in Hebrew by Adonai or "Lord" as it is rendered in English). These contribute to the Hebraic character of the translation.

  9. For most early modern scholars, having access to transcriptions of all the so-called Renaissance editions of the bible will be more than adequate, but others will miss what is left out. In the 19th and 20th centuries enormous strides were made in biblical scholarship, leading to important discoveries not adequately represented in this database. For example, the NRSV includes a passage after 1 Samuel 10.27 not found in the Masoretic text but from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls:

    But some worthless fellows said, "How can this man save us?" They despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

    Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-gilead.

    The addition--the second paragraph quoted--is notable because the same account is reported in Josephus’s Antiquites. The modern translations to whose absence I have referred can shed light on difficult passages in the early modern versions. Take Joseph’s famous "coat of many colours" (KJV). All Renaissance editions in the Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English identify Joseph’s coat as of "many, diuers, or party colours." The meaning of this phrase in Hebrew is uncertain. Since the mid-1950s, modern translations render the coat as having long sleeves or as being ornamental, signifying that Joseph was not to perform manual labor and thus providing a good reason for his brothers resentment of him.

  10. The database being heavily biased towards the early modern period is a mixed blessing if achieved at the cost of denying users the recent work which has done so much to illuminate these texts. The greatest strength of the Chadwyck-Healey The Bible in English is its collection of early modern translations, but to live up to the claims made for this database Chadwyck-Healey need to provide a number of modern versions which serve as essential supplements to the earlier ones.


1. A T1 connection is typical in linking an office or campus to the rest of the Internet for users who plug their computers into wall-mounted Ethernet sockets. Users who make a telephone call to receive an Internet connection are often limited to a much slower 56kbps modem connection, although digital telephone and cable services are increasingly common.

© 1998-, Lisa Hopkins(Editor, EMLS).