A well-known televangelist starts most (maybe all) of his sermons with something funny. And, since A Visual History of the English Bible: The Tumultuous Tale of the World’s Bestselling Book has some humorous facts, I decided to modify the minister’s approach and highlight printing errors that drastically altered a verse’s meaning.
First some errors — as compiled by the author — that changed the name of a particular Bible:
- Breeches Bible (1560). The Geneva Bible was known by this nickname due to its reading of Genesis 3:7: “They sewed fig tre leaves together and made themselves breeches (KJV says aprons).”
- Bugge Bible (1535). Psalms 91:5: “Thou shalt not need to be afrayde for any bugges by nyghte.” This is found in the Coverdale, Taverner’s Bible and Matthew’s Bible.
- Wife Beaters Bible (1549). A note in 1 Peter 3:2, in both the Daye’s and Seres’s printings of the Matthew Bible reads: “And yf she be not obedient and helpful unto hym, endeavoreth to beate the feare of God into her heade.”
These errors are from various printings of the Kings James Version.
- Wicked Bible. In the 1631 Barker’s printing one of the 10 commandments reads: Thou shalt commit adultery. Barker was fined for the error and it severely damaged his reputation. Some historians believe that his former-partner-turned-nemesis Bonham Norton may have broke into Barker’s office and sabotaged the 1631 printing. Barker did not recover from the mistake. He died in 1643 with a ruined reputation — and broke.
- Unrighteous Bible. In the 1653 John Field’s small pocket version I Corinthian 6:9 reads: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?
- Wife-hater’s Bible. The 1810 Oxford University Press printing renders Luke 14:26, If any man hate not his father…and his own wife (should read life).
The book also mentions the theory that parts of the Bible, including Psalms 46, was written by William Shakespeare. Apparently if you count 46 words from the beginning of Psalms 46 you’ll come to the word: shake. If you count backwards 46 words from the end of the psalm, you come to the word: spear. For some, this ‘proves’ Shakespeare’s involvement with this particular passage. The author also highlights a couple of other Bible passages that are very similar to words and phrases used by Shakespeare.
Although I chose to zero in on the less ‘heavy’ aspects of this book — that does not diminish from the book’s validity as a important resource for those interested in the history of the Bible. Written by a former pastor, Donald L. Brake PhD., the book is filled with detailed photographs of vintage English Bibles — many from the author’s own collection.
The book is written in an engaging manner and, as the title suggests, brings to light some of the controversy and conflicts that arose throughout the history of the King James and numerous other English Bibles. Besides images from the author’s collection of vintage Bibles, the book also includes the interesting vignettes of how the author secured his various collectible Bibles.
End With Something Funny
One of the recent funny stories used by minister Joel Osteen goes like this:
Three Christians died and went to heaven. One was a Baptist, another a Catholic and the last one was a Pentecostal. When they got to heaven they were greeted by Peter who said,
“This is embarrassing, but your rooms aren’t quite ready. Let me call Satan and see if he can take you in for a little while until your rooms are ready.”
The phone call was made and Satan gladly agreed, but within 10 minutes, Satan phoned Peter and said,
“You’ve got to take these three right now. The Baptist is converting everybody. The Catholic is forgiving everyone and the Pentecostal, well, he has already collected enough money to air condition half this place.”