John Rogers

Article from the Encyclopedia Britannica
11th edition (1911)

ROGERS, JOHN (c. 1500-1555), English Protestant martyr, was born in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham, and was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1526. Six years later he was rector of Holy Trinity, Queenhithe, London, and in 1534 went to Antwerp as chaplain to the English merchants. Here he met William Tyndale, under whose influence he abandoned the Roman Catholic faith, and married an Antwerp lady. After Tyndale's death Rogers pushed on with his predecessor's English version of the Old Testament, which he used as far as 2 Chronicles, employing Coverdale's translation (1535) for the remainder and for the Apocrypha. Tyndale's New Testament had been published in 1526. The complete Bible was put out under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew in 1537; it was printed in Antwerp, and Richard Grafton published the sheets and got leave to sell the edition (1500 copies) in England. Rogers had little to do with the translation, but he contributed some valuable prefaces and marginal notes. His work was largely used by those who prepared the Great Bible (1539-40), out of which in turn came the Bishop's Bible (1568) and the Authorized Version of 1611. After taking charge of a Protestant congregation in Wittenberg for some years, Rogers returned to England in 1548, where he published a translation of Melanchthon's Considerations of the Augsburg Interim. In 1550 he was presented to the crown livings of St Margaret Moyses and St Sepulchre in London, and in 1551 was made a prebendary of St Paul's, where the dean and chapter soon appointed him divinity lecturer. He courageously denounced the greed shown by certain courtiers with reference to the property of the suppressed monasteries, and defended himself before the privy council. He also declined to wear the prescribed vestments, donning instead a simple round cap. On the accession of Mary he preached at Paul's Cross commending the "true doctrine taught in King Edward's days," and warning his hearers against "pestilent Popery, idolatry and superstition." Ten days after (16th August 1553), he was summoned before the council and bidden to keep within his own house. His emoluments were taken away and his prebend was filled in October. In January 1554 Bonner, the new bishop of London, sent him to Newgate, where he lay with John Hooper, Laurence Saunders, John Bradford and others for a year, their petitions, whether for less rigorous treatment or for opportunity of stating their case, being alike disregarded. In December 1554 parliament re-enacted the penal statutes against Lollards, and on January 22nd, 1555, two days after they took effect, Rogers with ten others came before the council at Gardiner's house in Southwark, and held his own in the examination that took place. On the 28th and 29th he came before the commission appointed by Cardinal Pole, and was sentenced to death by Gardiner for heretically denying the Christian character of the Church of Rome and the real presence in the sacrament. He awaited and met death (on the 4th of February 1555 at Smithfield) cheerfully, though denied even an interview with his wife. Noailles, the French ambassador, speaks of the support given to Rogers by the greatest part of the people: "even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding." He was the first Protestant martyr of Mary's reign, and his friend Bradford wrote that "he broke the ice valiantly."

The paragraph below is taken from the article "Bible, English"

The large sale of the New Testaments of Tyndale, and the success of Coverdale's Bible, showed the London booksellers that a new and profitable branch of business was opened out to them, and they soon began to avail themselves of its advantages. Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch were the first in the field, bringing out a fine and full-sized folio in 1537, "truely and purely translated into English by Thomas Matthew." Thomas Matthew, is, however, in all probability, an alias for John Rogers, a friend and fellow-worker of Tyndale, and the volume is in reality no new translation at all, but a compilation from the renderings of Tyndale and Coverdale. Thus the Pentateuch and the New Testament were reprinted from Tyndale's translations of 1530 and 1535 respectively, with very slight variations; the books from Joshua to the end of Chronicles are traditionally, and lately also by external evidence, (1) assigned to Tyndale and were probably left by him in the hands of Rogers. From Ezra to Malachi the translation is taken from Coverdale, as is also that of the Apocryphal books. John Roger's own work appears in a marginal commentary distributed through the Old and New Testaments and chiefly taken from Olivetan's French Bible of 1535. The volume was printed in black letter in double columns, and three copies are preserved in the British Museum. In 1538 a second edition in folio appeared; it was reprinted twice in 1549, and again in 1551. It is significant that this Bible, like Coverdale's second edition, was "set forth with the kinges most gracyous lycence," probably with the concurrence of Cranmer, since he, in a letter to Cromwell, begged him to "exhibit the book unto the king's highness, and to obtain of his grace ... a licence that the same may be sold and read of every person, without danger of any act, proclamation or ordinance, heretofore granted to the contrary." (2) And thus it came to pass, as Dr Westcott strikingly puts it, that "by Cranmer's petition, by Crumwell's influence, and by Henry's authority, without any formal ecclesiastical decision, the book was given to the English people, which is the foundation of the text of our present Bible. From Matthew's Bible--itself a combination of the labours of Tyndale and Coverdale--all later revisions have been successively formed."

1. Westcott, History of the English Bible (3rd ed.), revised by W. Aldis Wright (London, 1905), p. 172 note.

2. Cranmer's Works, letter 194 (Parker Soc.).