The Eliot Indian Bible
First Complete Bible Printed in America
(Published In The Algonquin Language)
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
John Eliot was born the third of seven children at Nashing, Essex County, England on
July 31st, 1604. From 1618 to 1622 he studied for the ministry Cambridge University in
England. Because he aligned himself with the Puritan, Nonconformists, he was precluded
from preaching in England and instead took a teaching position in the small school of
Nonconformist clergyman Thomas Hooker (later the founder of Connecticut) in the village of
I believe it is during this brief period, while Eliot lived with Thomas and Susanna
Hooker, that he came to know Christ as his personal Savior for he later wrote, "Here
the Lord said to my dead soul, Live! Live! And through the grace of God I do live and
shall live forever! When I came to this blessed family I then saw as never before, the
power of godliness in its lovely vigor and efficacy."
When the Anglican Church redoubled the persecution of the Nonconformist, Hooker fled to
Holland in 1630. He would later sail to Massachusetts. At that point Eliot saw that to
stay in England would mean only a jail cell, and not an opportunity to minister the
Gospel. So on November 3, 1631 he boarded the ship, Lyon, with about sixty other people
(among them the wife and children of Governor Winthrop) and sailed to Boston. Things were
much different in Boston. Upon their arrival they were warmly welcomed, and "every
thing which kindness could suggest, was done to give them a pleasant reception."
Mr. Eliot was now twenty-seven years of age, in the full vigor of youthful health and
strength. Within a short time after landing in Boston, God opened a door of ministry to
him. He became the interim pastor of the First Church in Boston. However, in 1632 a number
of his family and Nonconformist friends came from England and settled two miles away in
Roxbury. He had promised them that if they came to the colonies he would be their
preacher. He moved to Rox bury and nn November 5th of 1632 organized the First Church of
Roxbury. For the next fifty-eight years Eliot faithfully pastored that church until he
went home to be with the Lord on May 21st, 1690.
But how did he get involved with the Indians? It was about two years after becoming the
pastor of the Roxbury church, that he began his ministry to the Indians. His long and
dedicated efforts to reach them for Christ earned him the title "The Apostle to the
Indians." He worked hard to learn their language so he could preach the Gospel of
Christ to them. Many came to know Christ and in fact Eliot helped them establish villages
where more than 1,000 "Praying Indians," lived and learned about the Lord. Eliot
also issued a series of pamphlets known as "Eliot's Indian Tracts," to help the
Indians grow in the Faith. But he knew what they needed most was the Bible in their own
language. It took Eliot eight years to translate the Bible into Algonquin. Further,
publishing a Bible had never been done in the colonies before and it was an expensive
undertaking. This led to the formation, in England, of the Society for the Propagation of
the Gospel in 1649. The society financed the printing of Eliot's Algonquin Bible and sent
a new press, new type, and a young printer named Marmaduke Johnson to assist in the work.
The first New Testament printed in America was published in September of 1661. Two years
later, 1663, the complete Eliot Indian Bible was printed. Samuel Green did the printing,
assisted by Marmacuke Johnson at Cambridge, Massachusetts. In his history of early
printing in America, Isaiah Thomas said that the book "was a work of so much
consequence as to arrest the attention of the nobility and gentry of England, as well as
that of King Charles, to whom it was dedicated. The press of Harvard College, in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, was, for a time, as celebrated as the presses of the
universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in England."
This Bible is very rare and single pages have sold for as much as $1500.