I recently watched a BBC documentary on the history of the King James Bible. I found it quite intriguing. It did a good job suggesting the relevancy of the 400+ year old translation to our modern times. It also captured the mysterious nature of the King James Bible. How did it come about that a committee of a politically appointed scholars, under specific kingly regulations and propaganda, in the midst of national religious tension, produce an English translation more true to the original Greek and Hebrew than previous translations? And so poetic too.
Perhaps one of the more memorable moments of the documentary is the mention of the “Wicked Bible.” The King James Bible was first published in 1611. In 1631, during a reprint, a certain printer omitted a few words in error. Perhaps it would have gone unnoticed if the clerical error involved a lesser known scripture and a less absolute word. Exodus 20:14, according to Wicked Bible, read “thou shall commit adultery.”
There are a few copies of the Wicked Bible in existence today. One was appraised for just south of $100k a few years ago. That brings a new interruption to the notion of a costly error.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, was greatly displeased with the Wicked Bible, rolling his eyes at the lack of discipline in the printer community. But I have to wonder if Moses himself didn’t have a good laugh over the blunder from his grave on the outskirts of the Promise Land.