HBU Press Releases

Historic Geneva Bible Presented on Loan to Dunham Bible Museum

October 31, 2013

The descendants of a noted American colonist recently presented their 16th century family Bible to the Dunham Bible Museum. Puritan Christopher Avery brought the Bible from England when he immigrated to America with his 10-year-old son James. As an adult, James founded Groton, Connecticut, and served as a military commander and a legislator. 

The father and son sailed to the New World in 1630 on the Arbella, the flagship of the Great Migration to Massachusetts organized by John Winthrop. They were onboard when Winthrop delivered his famous sermon The Model of Christian Charity, which includes the lines, “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us,” as drawn from Matthew chapter five of the Bible. Those words have been interpreted by many, including presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, as a description of the beacon light to the world that America has been and ought to be.

The 1581 Avery family Bible is a Geneva translation, the first English Bible translated directly from the Greek and Hebrew. The Geneva Bible was designed for individual use and is considered the first English study Bible because it includes book introductions and explanatory notes and references. It is sometimes called the “Breeches Bible” because of its translation of Genesis 3:7; when Adam and Eve realized they were naked “they sewed fig tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.”  The early Jamestown settlers, the pilgrims, the Puritans, and William Shakespeare all used the Geneva translation.

Nancy Avery Pressler, Cameron Avery, and Richard Avery inherited the cherished heirloom from their mother, Mrs. William H. Avery (Jean Petrequin Avery), and have given it on loan to the Dunham Museum for the public’s enjoyment. “We chose to give the Bible to the museum at Houston Baptist University because their commitment to the authority of the Bible, to Christ, and to the Christian faith matches the faith of the Avery’s who brought the Bible to America,” said Nancy Avery Pressler.

Museum director Diana Severance said she was delighted to receive the Avery family Bible because of its importance in telling the story of the biblical heritage of America.  The Bible requires repairs to the spine and corners before it is ready for display.

The Dunham Bible Museum, with its large collection of rare Bibles, is dedicated to telling the story of the history and influence of the Bible, the most influential book in individual lives and in the culture of Western civilization. The Museum is located in the Morris Cultural Arts Center of Houston Baptist University and is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., except days when the University is closed. There is no entrance fee to the Museum, but donations are welcomed. For more information or to schedule a group tour or presentation, contact Dr. Diana Severance at (281) 649-3287 or dseverance@hbu.edu.
 
About Houston Baptist University
Houston Baptist University is an independent, private Christian liberal arts institution with a diverse student body. The University is dedicated to the development of the intellect, the moral character and the spiritual lives of its students. It has access to all the cultural advantages of one of the largest metropolitan centers in the country. For more information about the University, please visit www.hbu.edu.