Anthony Gilby

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Anthony Gilby (c.1510–1585) was an English clergyman, known as a radical Puritan and translator of the Geneva Bible, the first English Bible available to the general public. He was born in Lincolnshire, and was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1535.[1][2][3]

Early life

In Gilby’s early life, he served as a preacher in Leicestershire under the rule of Edward VI. During this time, he was brought together with people who shared his similar opinions on the corruptions of the era. This pushed him to publish A Commentarye upon the Prophet Mycha (1551) and A Commentarye upon the Prophet Malaky (c. 1553), freely expressing through these texts his feelings about the persecution of his religion.[4]

He converted to Protestantism in his younger years, and this would prove to be an extremely prevalent in his life course. Gilby graduated with a Bachelor and Master of Arts from Cambridge University in 1531-2 and 1535 respectively. Throughout his education he was well known for “his skill in the biblical languages of Latin, Greek and Hebrew,” which proved as obvious assets to him in the translation of the Geneva Bible.[4] When Mary Tudor took the throne in 1553, life for the Protestants only became more turbulent. This led many to flee to religiously free states; including the Gilby Family in 1555.[4]

He became a minister in Leicestershire and Calvinist.[5] His Answer to the Devilish Detection of Stephen Gardiner was published in 1647 (as by AG), by John Day.[6]


Gilby was recorded to have married a woman named Elizabeth. They had two daughters and two sons; unfortunately one of the daughters didn’t survive leaving him with Ruth, Goddred, and Nathaniel Gilby. Gilby's translation work was extremely prevalent, not only throughout the country but also within his family life. This is supported by the fact that both his sons were translators of two prominent texts during their time: A Brief and Learned Treatise, Containing a True Description of the Antichrist by Georg Sohn and An Epistle to his Brother Quintus by Marcus Tullius Cicero. [4] Goddred Gilby the translator was the elder son; the younger, Nathaniel, of Christ's College and fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, was tutor to Joseph Hall, whose mother was one of Gilby's congregation.[2]

Marian Exile

When restoration of Catholicism started in England, they began to force the Protestants out of the country. Protestants left not only for their physical safety and right to practice their own forms of worship, but, also because it had given them a chance to keep, define, and conserve their national religion for their eventual return to England. European-Protestant artisans were given more courtesy than the colonies of foreign Protestant artisans. European Protestants were given notice to leave and warned of arrest, while foreign Protestants were ordered to dismiss quickly. They originally fled to the Protestant cities of Strabourg and Frankfurt, but later colonies were established at Emden, Zurich, Wesel, Worms, and Duisburg. In those colonies, particularly Frankfurt, many wanted to preserve the Edwardian English church, while radical others wanted a more demanding reformation. These differing opinions caused many arguments that resulted in the splitting of Frankfurt. Each colony had their own distinct nature, but there was significant contact among the groups of religious exiles. There was often lack of communication and unity on their most important issues.

The Marian Exiles wanted to encourage their coreligionists back home, so they produced many works using the Continental Press for the Protestant doctrine, and urging them to flight, martyrdom, or rebellion. However, not all of the Marian Exiles left their countries for religious reasons, a large amount of them left after failed attempts of secular concerns. After the war in 1557 broke out, many of these secular exiles put loyalty before religion and returned home to serve their country in whatever ways they could. When Queen Mary died in 1558, the Marian Exile ended, and the exiles returned home to mixed receptions. Many men, including Anthony Gilby, spent years living in communities they felt were more thoroughly reformed than England.[7]

Anthony Gilby was a part of this Marian exile, in Basel, in Frankfurt where he associated with John Foxe and lodged him in 1554,[2][8] and settled in Geneva in 1555. There he deputed for John Knox, with Christopher Goodman.[9] He also wrote An Admonition to England and Scotland (1558), contesting the royal supremacy in the Church of England as imposed by Henry VIII.[10] His work on the Geneva Bible, which was published in 1560, was as one of the main assistants to William Whittingham.[11]

The Geneva Bible

After the Marian Exiles, English Protestants came to Geneva. It was here that translators, including Gilby, worked on what would come to be known as the Geneva Bible.[12] Consequently, many of the exiles returned to England in 1558, but Gilby stayed in Geneva to complete the Geneva Bible, along with William Whittingham. Whittingham was the inspiration for this resourceful, yet prodigious task of translating the Bible because it was an extension of his New Testament of 1557. Gilby played an important role in Whittingham’s idea for the Bible. Whittingham himself gave witness to Gilby’s role in the translation of the Geneva Bible and recorded it in a piece entitled Livre des Anglais.[13] The Geneva Bible contained easy to read maps, indexes, and notes for any reader interested. This nature of writing style dated back to the writing of Tyndale, who also did English translations of the New Testament. The translators, including Anthony Gilby, created a piece of literature that was able to influence readers of all types during the sixteenth century, including Shakespeare and Milton. Many years later, the Geneva Bible was exchanged for a more politically accepted version.[12]

Once the Geneva Bible was finished, Gilby finally returned to England in May 1560 and his masterpiece was published only a few weeks later. Gilby is known to be accredited to the arrangement of the job and the writing of the annotations and reasoning these arguments. However, his weakness was textual criticism, since he relinquished this part of the process to the other translators- Thomas Sampson, Thomas Bentham, William Cole, and Whittingham. The key attributes of the Geneva Bible were its print-type and size, the separation into quartos and octavos, the sectioning into verses, and the use of italics to signify the addition of words. But to Gilby’s acclaim, the most meaningful of all the characteristics were the annotations. These explanatory notes presented the political content on the history of England. Gilby’s first attempt as a translator occurred in 1551, when he wrote a commentary on Micah. This text and the preface, both the work of Gilby, is highly significant because it correlated to the technique used by the translators to translate the Geneva Bible.[13]

Under Elizabeth

After Mary Tudor's death, Gilby and other Protestant writers constructed a letter to specific English Church congregations in Aarau and Frankfurt attempting to persuade them to support the restoration of Protestantism.[4]

On his return to England when Elizabeth I took the throne, he became involved in the vestments controversy, and remained a dissident and polemicist. Though not very close to the Presbyterians of the Church of England, he supported John Field and Thomas Wilcox in their First Admonition to Parliament (1572), which was Presbyterian advocacy.[14][15]

He found a powerful protector in Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, and was able to live out his life as a lecturer at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.[16] By assiduous networking, and the influence he had over education at the Ashby grammar school, Gilby became a Puritan leader. Huntingdon assured the continuation of the local evangelical tradition, after Gilby's death, by appointing Arthur Hildersham as rector at Ashby in 1587.[17]


Anthony Gilby’s writing experience can be placed into three categories, including letters and treaties, the translation of the Geneva Bible and other minor commentaries, and his theological interests before and during the exile.

In November 1555, Anthony Gilby and Christopher Goodman, also a Marian Exile, both became clergymen of the Word of God for the English citizens of Geneva. After this oath, Anthony Gilby’s accomplishments were mostly clerical, such as a letter written in 1558 to the English church encouraging uniformity to God after the disclosure of Elizabeth’s succession to the throne of England.[18]

During and before his exile, Gilby proceeded with the reform of religion throughout the Protestant Reformation. His religious interests, for instance, became one of his prominent efforts. His doctrine of predestination, in which he discussed the supremacy of God, is represented in the Geneva Bible’s explanatory notes. He also wrote a preface to The Appellation from the Sentence Pronounced by the Bishops and Clergy by John Knox called An Admonition to England and Scotland, to call them to Repentance, in 1558.[13]

Some of his additional works include:

  • Commentaries of the divine, John Calvin, upon the Prophet Daniel (1570)
  • The psalms of David truly opened and explained by Theodore Beza (1580)
  • A Pleasant Dialogue betweene a Souldior of Barwicke and an English Chaplaine


  1. Dan G. Danner, Anthony Gilby: Puritan in Exile: A Biographical Approach, Church History, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 1971), pp. 412-422.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2  Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1890). [ "Gilby, Anthony" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Dictionary of National Biography. 21. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Gilby, Anthony (GLBY531A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Cross, Claire "Gilby, Anthony." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004 ed. Vol 22. Print.
  5. Everett H. Emerson, English Puritanism from John Hooper to John Milton (1968), p. 93.
  6. Peter Marshall, Alec Ryrie, The Beginnings of English Protestantism (2002), p. 189.
  7. Fritze, Ronald H. Historical Dictionary of Tudor England, 1485-1603. New York: Greenwood, 1991. 53. Print.
  9. Roland H. Worth, Church, Monarch and Bible in Sixteenth Century England: The Political Context of Biblical Translation (2000), p. 122.
  10. A. N. McLaren, Political Culture in the Reign of Elizabeth I: Queen and Commonwealth, 1558-1585 (1999), p. 12.
  11. Donald K. McKim, David F. Wright, Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (1992), p. 150.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Head, Dominic. The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. 99-101. Print.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Danner, Dan G. "Anthony Gilby: Puritan in Exile: A Biographical Approach." American Society of Church History 40.4 (1971): 412-422. Web.
  15. Gordon Donaldson, The Scottish Reformation (1972), p. 189.
  16. Claire Cross, Church and People 1450-1660 (1976), p. 133.
  17. William Gibson, Robert G. Ingram, Religious identities in Britain, 1660-1832 (2005), p. 24.
  18. Danner, Dan G. "Anthony Gilby: Puritan in Exile: A Biographical Approach." American Society of Church History 40.4 (1971): 412-422. Web.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainStephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney, eds. (1890). [ "Gilby, Anthony" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Dictionary of National Biography. 21. London: Smith, Elder & Co.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>