Even the Professionals do it!

THE KING JAMES BIBLE, first published in 1611, did much to standardize the varying biblical texts that had gone before. However, the 1631 version, printed in London by the previously reputable publishers Barker and Lucas, was less favourably viewed. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable reveals that the word “not” is omitted in the seventh commandment, making the commandment read, ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ In A History of the Bible in English, F. F. Bruce points out that, not surprisingly, Barker and Lucas paid dearly for what became known as the ‘Wicked Bible’, and were fined £300 by Archbishop Laud, which was a fortune in the seventeenth century.

Nor was the 1631 Wicked Bible an isolated case. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable also describes a Bible of 1653 printed in Cambridge that was also missing a vital ‘not’, rendering the offending passage as ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?’

In a similar vein, the same source quotes J. H. Blunt, writing in The Anointed Book of Common Prayer about a correction which, in his opinion, did not need correcting. Blunt complains that the Marriage Service words ‘till death us depart’ (which was perfectly sound English for ‘divide’) was needlessly altered to ‘till death us do part’ in 1661 by the Puritans, ‘who knew as little of the history of their national language as they did of that of their national church’.

The ‘Treacle Bible’ of 1568 enquires: ‘Is there no tryacle in Gilead?’ In fact, the correct word should have been ‘balm’ instead of ‘tryacle’. James A. Duke, author of Handbook of Nuts, explains that the ‘balm’ of the biblical verse was thought to be an oily gum made from the Balanites fruit. He also reveals that The Douai Bible of 1609 translates the passage as “Is there no rosin in Gilead?” presumably, when translating the word for the oily gum substance, treacle was felt to be a more accurate Western equivalent than the more traditional choice of balm: a case of biblical translators being a little too pedantic, perhaps.

A not-so-good book known as The Irish Bible of 1716 advises the devout to ‘sin on more’ (rather than the preferred version of ‘sin no more’). The Geneva Bible of 1562 reads, ‘Blessed are the placemakers [peacemakers]’, and according to F. F. Bruce, the so-called ‘Murderers’ Bible' of 1795 has the line: ‘Let the children first be killed [filled].’

According to The Christian Writer's Manual of Style (edited by Robert Hudson) a ‘1611 King James version [Bible] has Judas rather than Jesus initiating the Last Supper.’ Finally, in a 1702 Bible, King David laments that ‘Printers [Princes] have persecuted me without cause.’ They obviously made a habit of it.

Taken from The Pedant’s Return by Andrea Barham

Next time you see any of my errors - Please point them out so that we all can have a laugh. Who spotted the one last month about slavery? The editor.