“This Bible is a favorite of many of the librarians and faculty here,” Mitch Fraas, curator at the university’s Kislak Center for Rare Books, Manuscripts & Special Collections, said in an e-mail.
Typos, even pretty egregious ones, aren’t that uncommon in old printed versions of the Bible; it’s a long book, each letter was set by hand, and humans aren’t perfect.
But Zachary Lesser, an associate professor of English who teaches a course with Fraas on bibliography at Penn, noted that the printers seemingly put an unusual amount of effort into correcting the error, once it was discovered. And, in case there was ever any doubt, discovering that your Bible edition has “Judas” instead of “Jesus” in one line is a Holy-You-Know-What stop-the-presses-immediately sort of situation.
The type appears to have been changed part of the way through the printing, so some copies of the same edition have “Jesus” in its rightful place. For those copies with the error, the printers had to correct by hand.
“Because this error was considered grave, no doubt because of its theological content,” Lesser wrote in an e-mail to The Post, “someone seems to have gone back to some of the old sheets, carefully inked over ‘Judas’ (it’s almost completely blotted over in our copy) and written in ‘Jesus.'”
He added: “This is an unusual level of effort to correct a misprint in a book of this time period — when it was simply impossible to print a book of any length without a bunch of typos — which really shows how much importance this particular misprint carried in the culture.”
Still, a few uncorrected copies slipped through. The University of Illinois libraries has one of those, Fraas noted.
Lesser suspects that the correction was added by the printer, although it’s possible that the text was amended by a (presumably horrified) reader.
As it turns out, this isn’t the only time a printer has mixed up Judas and Jesus in a line of the Gospels.
The Folger Shakespeare Library has a King James Bible with the same error in Matthew 26:36. In that case, the printers covered the mistake by pasting a little piece of paper over “Judas.” This edition, with this mistake, is often called the “Judas Bible.”
“We have two different editions of the Bible, in two different translations, in two different years, but from the same print shop (Robert Barker, the King’s Printer), making the same mistake apparently totally independently,” Lesser noted. “Unless some compositor in Barker’s shop had a particularly blasphemous sense of humor!”
What other Bible typos are out there? We are so glad you asked.
There are quite a few, most of which we found in a great essay by Bruce Metzger. And, it should be noted, our list is just a sampling. Readers of the novel “The Poisonwood Bible” might be familiar with a few of these.
There’s the “Wicked Bible,” a 1631 London King James printing in which Exodus 20:14 reads: “Thou Shalt commit Adultery.” (There’s a pretty crucial “not” missing there.) “In that case the printers were fined and ordered to destroy the copies!” according to Fraas. Some copies survived, thankfully.
A 1612 edition of the King James, fittingly, reads: “Printers have persecuted me without cause.” That line, from Psalm 119:161, should say “princes,” not “printers.”
There’s a 1682 edition of the King James that was just an unholy mess. In Deuteronomy 24:3, it said “if the latter husband ate her” instead of “hate.” It read “kings” instead of “keepers” in Esther 6:2. And Jeremiah 13:27 reads “adversaries” instead of “adulteries.”
There’s more: Jeremiah 16:6 substitutes “glad” for “bald,” so the line reads: “Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves glad for them.”
Jeremiah 18:21 reads “swine” instead of “famine,” and — because why not at this point? — Ezekiel 18:25 says “is equal” instead of “is not equal.” Oh well.
A 1795 London-issued Bible reads “Let the children first be killed” (instead of “first be filled”) in Mark 7.27.
The “Murderers Bible” (1801) has “murderers” instead of “murmurs” (Jude 10).
And the “Wife-Hater Bible” of 1810 replaces “life” with “wife” in Luke 14:26 and reads: “If any…hate not his own wife also.”
Although errors are less common in modern Bibles, the newer editions are hardly immune. A 1950 Old Testament printed by the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine claims that the skunk, and not the skink (a type of lizard), is an animal that swarms upon the ground in Leviticus 11:30.
And a 1966 Jerusalem Bible says “Pay for peace” instead of “pray for peace.”