Mark Twain famously said that one must be very careful of reading health books because you could die of a misprint.
If that’s true of health books, it’s even more true of the Bible. Proverbs tells us that “He who keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises the word will die.” (Pr 19:16) And Jesus definitely said don’t fear the books that can destroy the body, rather fear those that can destroy the body and soul… or you know, something like that.
So, in the interests of public safety, here are eight historical misprints in the Scriptures that you should know about.
8. The Fool’s Bible
Misprints tend to be foolish mistakes… sometimes literally. One 1763 bible reads “The fool hath said in his heart, there is a God.” The verse in Psalm 14:1, of course, says that the fool says “there is no God.” The printer was fined £3,000 — a huge amount in 18th Century England and I can’t imagine he ever lived that down.
7. The Sinner’s Bible
‘No’ is such a small word, it’s easy to muddle it up right? Another bible from the 18th Century has Christ telling the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin on more” rather than “sin no more.” (Jn 8:11) It’s not known whether the woman or any readers took Christ at His word…
6. The Adulterer’s Bible
Perhaps the printers were simply following one of the Adulterer’s Bible. In this 1631 edition, a “not” is missing from one of the Ten Commandments and the faithful reader was accidentally commanded, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” (Ex 20:14)
5. The Placemakers Bible
Well before Monty Python got there with ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’, bibles were misprinting the Sermon on the Mount. A 1562 Geneva Bible reads “Blessed are the placemakers for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Mt 5:9)
4. The Paying Bible
Not all misprints are so ancient. The first edition of the Jerusalem Bible in 1966 accidentally printed Psalm 122:6 as “pay for the peace of Jerusalem”, rather than “pray for peace.” Then again, maybe that wasn’t a misprint but a secret political subtext… Or not.
3. The Wife-Beater’s Bible
Neither are all “misprints” are actually misprints, although we might wish they were. In a 1549 bible, there is a footnote to 1 Peter 3:7. The verse itself tells husbands to be considerate of and honour their wives. The footnote, however, reads “And if she be not obediente and healpwful unto hym; endevoureth to beate the fere of God into her header, that thereby she may be compelled to learne her dutye and do it.” Oh yeah, so considerate! Just go ahead and beat the fear of God into her head…er.
2. The Owl Bible
Thankfully, other bibles translate this apparently troublesome passage from 1 Peter quite differently. One recent KJV edition instructs wives to be “in subjection to their owl husbands.” (1 Pe 3:5) This, I think, is a much better idea — who (hoo!) wouldn’t want an owl husband? After all, owls are wise, adorable and they mate for life. That is what we call a good hootsband. (Too many owl puns? Owl right, I’ll stop.)
1. The Printer’s Bible
The prize for Best Misprint, however, has to go to the Printer’s Bible. One 17th bible misprinted the word “princes” in Psalm 119:161, a psalm that happens to be about treasuring the word of God. Instead, they printed it as “Printers have persecute me without a cause”
Given the indignities the Scriptures have been subjected to at the hands and typefaces of printers, we can only offer a hearty AMEN.