Episode 115 - A Famous Frenchman's Nasal Condoms (Printing Week)
I’m talking about Bible Errata/misprints in versions of the Bible.
I’d like to start this episode with an honourable mention that isn’t really a misprint as such, but a sort of 21st century typographical oversight. It’s rather recent history, but it’s so incredibly funny that I wish to share it again with everyone. The year is 2012, November in fact, and Susan Boyle is releasing an album; ‘Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage’. It eventually reached number 7 in the British album charts, number 12 in the USA and number 1 in New Zealand and of course, Scotland. But it won’t be remembered for Susan Boyle’s beautiful duets with Michael Crawford and Donny Osmond, no, it will be remembered for an event that I’m sure both Michael Crawford and Donny Osmond were VIP guests to, it was Su’s Anal Bum Party. Unfortunately Su’s Anal Bum Party never took place; it was cancelled before it even got going. You see it was an unfortunate PR team blunder, or perhaps a stroke a genius. Susan Boyle’s Twitter team put out a promotional tweet about her new album with the hashtag ‘susan-album-party’. Unfortunately this reads far more naturally as ‘su’s-anal-bum-party.’
Anyway, on to some proper history: as mentioned, I’m talking about printing errors in versions of the Bible. I might touch on some less than funny ones, but I’m going to focus more on the silly ones.
The most famous is undoubtedly the Wicked Bible, also known as the Sinners’ Bible and the Adulterous Bible. It was published in London in 1631 as reprint of the King James Bible. The King James Bible was completed in 1611. King James had appointed 54 scholars to work on the translation for 7 years. It became the preeminent version of the Bible used by English-speaking Protestants for 270 years. It was revised in the 1880s.
So only 20 years after this version was created, publishers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, royal printers no less, produced a copy of the Bible that had two significant errors.
In the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:14, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ was mistakenly replaced by ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ This mistranslation led to a spate of adulterous behaviour. Right across the English speaking world husbands and wives ran off to have sex with other people. More often than not, they didn’t even want the sex, they just wanted to a have a quiet night listening to Radio 4’s recent production of a Shakespeare play on the wireless, or perhaps they just wanted to sit quietly on their Lazyboy smoking a new batch of potato imported from the New World. Instead, this Bible was telling them to get busy bonking thy neighbour. It was a stressful time.
To make things worse, there was another mistake in Deuteronomy 5; instead of; ‘Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatnesse’, it read, ‘Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his great-asse." Again, across the English speaking world people were quick to adjust their behaviours to ensure they were acting correctly in the eyes of God. Sculptures of Jesus were turned around so that people could admire his backside more. Plaster of Paris sold out in cities across the world as desperate clergymen sought to enhance the buttocks of Jesus when they realised that his arse was a tad saggy as he hung there on the crucifix. How are churchgoers supposed to behold his great ass if it doesn’t look very pert? During Sunday services all the parishioners will be staring at Betty’s bottom instead as she plays the organ – it’s far nice than Jesus’s. Oh Lord! What are we to do! Am I supposed to have a nice bum too? Is this was God wants? I noticed that the chemist in town was selling ‘sag be gone’; a tonic to be rubbed liberally into saggy buttocks. My neighbour has been using it alongside ‘perky bum’ cream. I think I should also start doing some of those glute workouts that they advertise on Instapamphlet – hashtag ‘almighty-anal-bum-party’.
Anyway, back to some history, when these two mistakes were discovered, the printers, Barker and Lucas, were fined £300 (equivalent to around £50-60,000 in today’s money) and had their royal licenses revoked. The Wicked Bibles were almost all destroyed. There are only 14 remaining copies, 7 in the UK, 6 in the US and 1 in Australia. When they sell, they usually go for tens of thousands of pounds.
The Place-Makers Bible of 1562.
This is a version of the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was written by a group of exiled English Protestants and published in 1560 (Old and New Testament). Queen Mary was obviously a Catholic and very hostile to Protestants. She reigned from 1553 to 1558 and stopped all printing of Bibles, stopped them from being read and didn’t allow them in churches. I think the basic premise behind this was the tight control on information. Different translations of the Bible stressed different aspects of the Bible; every translation was imbued with the translator’s biases. Mary probably just wanted to stop people reading the Bible for themselves and certainly not unauthorised versions from the continent. The Geneva Bible was imported into England until 1576 when it began to be printed in England and became very popular. It was a key influence on the aforementioned King James Bible.
In Matthew it reads; ‘Blessed are the placemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ It should read ‘peacemakers’.
I’m not really sure what a place maker is to be honest. Someone who makes a place? It must refer to builders. So let’s re-read that line with corrections: ‘Blessed are the builders: for they shall be called the children of God.’ There’s a generational regression there isn’t there? God made the universe and everything within it in 6 days, his children are builders. I suspect God was spending too much time on his own vanity projects and not enough time ensuring his children did their homework.
In Luke, it also reads; ‘Christ condemneth the poor widow’. It should say ‘commendeth’. Either way, it’s a bit weird:
“You’re a widow are you? Oh well done!”
“Hello, I’m Jesus, tell me about yourself…”
“Well I’m a poor leper lady with no hands or feet…”
“Jolly good! Just sit down there will you and I’ll cure you in just a moment. Is your husband around by any chance? Does he also have leprosy?”
“Oh no my Lord, he died a horrible death of plague last year, he was known as Bubous Barry in his final few days. Covered in them he was.”
“So you’re a widow women are you? I condemn you, you hag! Get out of my sight before I beat you black and blue. Stinky cunt face of a women!”
Back to the King James Bible; various versions have what is called the ‘Blasphemous Comma’ in Luke where it reads with reference to Jesus’s crucifixion, ‘And there were also two other malefactors’; thus implying that Jesus was a malefactor or criminal. It should have read "And there were also two others, malefactors." As we all know, the only crime Jesus committed was a crime against fashion; those sandals? Eurgh!
Printers Bible from 1612
In some copies the following is written in Psalms; ‘Printers have persecuted me without a cause’. It is supposed to read ‘princes’ not ‘printers’. I think all of us have been at some point persecuted by their printer without cause, usually when there’s a pressing deadline and you just want to print something off. Or you have the audacity to use copycat printer cartridges because they are shit loads cheaper.
Unrighteous Bible from 1653
In Corinthians it reads ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?’ That must have come as a bit of a shock to the diligently pious members of the congregation. I reckon the guy who coveted his neighbour’s ass earlier that day was also very pleased to hear about it.
In a similar vein, here’s the Fools Bible from 1763
In Psalms it reads ‘the fool hath said in his heart there is a God’. Whoops, missed out an important ‘not’ there.
Lions Bible from 1804
In Kings it reads ‘thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions’. ‘Lions’ is supposed to be ‘loins’. This edition of the Bible led to innumerable unfortunate and rather violent incidents when pretentious middle class parents insisted that they have a lion present as they give birth in a pool of lavender scented tonic water whilst Enya’s Orinoco Flow plays on repeat.
Discharge Bible from 1806
In Timothy it read ‘I discharge thee before God’. It should have read ‘charge’. It’s rather a nasty thing to do really isn’t it? It’s a bit like making someone fart as they accept a Knighthood from the Queen, or making someone piss themselves in front of someone they fancy.
Affinity Bible from 1927
Contains the following line: ‘A man may not marry his grandmother's wife’. Thank, I wasn’t planning to anyway.
Owl Bible from 1944
In Peter it reads, ‘For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their owl husbands.’ Twit-terwoo! Should be ‘own’.