John Bunyan's Bible

R.L. Vaughn

New member
Does anyone have any primary source (or reliable secondary source) information on what English translation of the Bible that the author of Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan, used? I have seen a couple of assertions stating he used the Geneva Bible, but just statements without citations. It would be great to find Bunyan actually saying, "I use the ... translation." Not expecting to find that, I hope maybe his writings might reveal something about this.

I found a copy of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners on Google Books.

I quickly checked a few random Bible verses mentioned and found they tend to follow the King James rather than Geneva. I say it that way, because sometimes they did not exactly match either one -- possibly suggesting Bunyan was writing them down from memory. However, this book is an Eighth Edition, printed in London by N. Ponder in 1693. That is a few years after Bunyan's death and could have the possibility of someone editing it after his death.

Anyway, I hope someone here might know something more about this topic.


Steven Avery

And I will plan on checking my notes later in the week, when back on my home puter. You might ask on one of the Facebook groups, especially Textus Receptus Academy.

R.L. Vaughn

New member

Is the Textus Receptus Academy an open group? (I got out of all the Facebook groups I was in, and basically only have an account to maintain our singing and church page. That is why I ask.)

R.L. Vaughn

New member
From my own research on this, last night and today:

From The Fear of God by John Bunyan (First printed AD 1679), London: The Religious Tract Society, 1839
  • Bunyan on page 2 quotes a portion of Hebrews 12:28 (mislabeled 12:23). This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 3 quotes a portion of Genesis 31:42. This matches both KJV and Geneva. (KJV "hadst" vs. Geneva "haddst" but I did not count that as a difference.)
  • Bunyan on page 3 quotes Nahum 1:5-6. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on pages 3-4 quotes a portion of Isaiah 8:13. This matches both KJV and Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 4 quotes Genesis 28:16-17. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 5 quotes a portion of Daniel 10:16-17. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 6 quotes a portion of Job 13:21-22. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 7 quotes a portion of Isaiah 6:5. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • Bunyan on page 7 quotes Jeremiah 5:22. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
In every case where there was a difference in the KJV and Geneva, the quote in the book matched the KJV. One issue that might be problematic is that this is an 1839 reprint with what looks like would be new typesetting, so at least in theory, the quotes could have been updated to match KJV.

I searched further on Google and found two books printed in the lifetime of Bunyan, and quickly checked a few pages.
Seasonable Counsel: Or, Advice to Sufferers, John Bunyan, London: Benjamin Alsop, 1684
  • The book starts (p. 1) with the text of 1 Peter 4:19. Bunyan quotes it from the Authorized Version (KJV).
  • On page 5 Bunyan quotes Psalm 17:13 and Psalm 40:13-14. These match the KJV rather than Geneva.
  • On page 6 Bunyan quotes Zechariah 11: 5. This matches the KJV rather than Geneva.
The Work of Jesus Christ, as an Advocate Clearly Explained, John Bunyan, London: Dorman Newman, 1688
  • On both the title page and page 1 is part of 1 John 2:1. There is only one word difference between KJV and Geneva (righteous vs. just), but the different word matches the KJV.
It is my tentative conclusion that Bunyan used the King James Version of the Bible. I will not say he never quoted the Geneva Bible on the basis of this brief survey, but I do think that much of what we have here is an internet problem. People read something on the World Wide Web that sounds plausible, and then they repeat it without verifying it. Soon the statement has been repeated so many times that surely it must be true.
Last edited:

R.L. Vaughn

New member
This morning I e-mailed six websites that have the undocumented claim that John Bunyan used the Geneva Bible -- asking them if they have a source for that information. I have already heard back from one who checked it out and replied that Bunyan’s use of the Geneva Bible seems to be a legend, that it apparently has just been assumed that he favored the Geneva Bible. In addition, the respondent provided a reference to Leland Ryken’s The Legacy of the King James Bible that states, “It might be expected that as a Puritan Bunyan (1628-1688) would have used the Geneva Bible, but the evidence points to the King James Bible instead. This is easy to establish from the occasional direct Bible quotations in The Pilgrim’s Progress...” (p. 188).

Though my interest was specifically Bunyan, this calls in question some of the claims about others. Probably the claims about Shakespeare are correct -- he lived from 1564 to 1616. But what about John Milton, for example? He lived from 1608 to 1674. Most of the pages that mention Bunyan using the Geneva Bible also mention Milton. However, for what it is worth, I ran across this on the website of the University of Canterbury
in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Geneva Bible remained the preferred text for many Protestants, particularly those who would come to be labelled Puritans. Yet even some committed Puritans, such as the mid-17th century poet John Milton (1608-74), drew on the King James text. Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667-74) retells the opening chapters of the book of Genesis: the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton takes a new approach to the story in casting the fallen angel Satan as the tragic hero.

Paradise Lost, comprising 10,000 lines of blank verse, is written in the form of an epic, and echoes the King James wording in its narrative. Milton's portrayal of the ‘sublime’ – vastness, magnificence, and religious awe – has inspired many writers and artists in the following centuries.