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Bad words in the Good Book
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I have a great admiration for those who translate and publish the Bible. They are on the front lines in God’s Army.

However, they can make mistakes, just like the rest of us. The difference is, that when they make a mistake with the Word of God... well, it becomes God-sized.

For example, in 1632 the British publisher Barker and Lucas printed an edition of the King James Bible that accidentally omitted the little word "not" from the Seventh Commandment, so that Exodus 20:14 read, "Thou shalt commit adultery." You may laugh, but Barker and Lucas didn’t laugh when they were fined 300 pounds for this blunder, which put them out of business.

In 1716, a similar thing happened when a printer published a Bible that had Jesus telling the woman caught in adultery "sin on more" instead of "sin no more" (John 8:11).

As recently as 1923, a Bible printer carelessly misprinted Deuteronomy 22:30. Instead of saying, "A man may not marry his father’s wife," this edition read, "A man may not marry his grandmother’s wife." I’m still trying to figure out how he could do that.

Sometimes the weird words are not the printer’s fault. Sometimes, the translators themselves choose an awkward way of wording the Word. In James 2:3, the King James Version describes a rich man as "him that weareth the gay clothing." That meant something completely different in 1611 that what it means to people today. Which is why we have more contemporary translations of the Bible.

However, some of the contemporary translations have stumbled with the scripture, as well. The New English Bible, a British translation published in 1961, said in Joshua 15:18 that the daughter of Caleb "broke wind" when she got off her donkey. (American translations say she "dismounted," but those Brits have a funny way with words.) In another place, the same translation warned against "loose livers," which sounds more like a medical problem than a moral problem.

Despite these Bible bloopers, the scripture has been preserved and passed on from generation to generation with amazing faithfulness. When one considers that the Bible survived every attempt to destroy it from King Jehoiakim in the Old Testament to the barbarians and Muslims in the Dark Ages to Communist dictators in modern times, and when one considers that the Bible was copied by hand and translated from language to language through the centuries, then we must admit that it is truly a miracle that there have not been even more awkward wordings of the Word than these. Maybe God allowed just enough slip-ups to remind us that we are human, but plenty enough preservation to remind us that God is still in control and faithful to His Word.


(Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers. Email: Read this column each Friday in the Herald. Visit my blog at