Named Versions of the Bible

Some of these versions have names that refer to where, when, or by whom they were published. Others (the majority) have achieved notoriety by virtue of errors that they contain – either mistranslations or misprints.

The Matthew Bible, also known as Matthew's Version, is a vital link in the main sequence of English Bible translations. First published in 1537, by John Rogers under the pseudonym Thomas Matthew, it combined William Tyndale's New Testament and as much of the Old Testament as Tyndale had been able to translate before being captured and put to death. The Old Testament and apocrypha were completed by Myles Coverdale's translations, chiefly from German and Latin sources, except for the Prayer of Manasseh (a short work of 15 verses, sometimes included in the Greek Septuagint, or Old Testament), which was by Rogers.

Taverner's Bible is a minor revision of Matthew's Bible, edited by Richard Taverner and published in 1539.

The September Bible is an alternative name for the translation of the New Testament into German, published in September 1522 by Martin Luther.

The Geneva Bible was the primary Bible of 16th–century English Protestantism. Published in 1560 – 51 years before the King James version – it was used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Donne, and John Bunyan. It was also one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower.

The Treacle Bible (also known as Beck's Bible) is the 1549 edition of the Great Bible (the first authorised version in English – authorised by Henry VIII). In it, Jeremiah 8:22 was translated "Is there no tryacle [treacle] in Gilead?" Modern translations usually render the Hebrew word tsorî as 'balm' or 'medicine' instead. In Early Modern English, 'treacle' could mean 'a cure–all' as well as 'molasses.'

The Wife–beater's Bible was published in 1549 by the theologian Edmund Becke. In a notorious footnote to 1 Peter 3:6 (dealing with the relationship between husbands and their wives), Becke advises men to beat their wives if they will not "do their duty."

In the Wife–hater Bible, which dates from 1810, the word 'life' is printed as 'wife', in Luke 14:26, which should read "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

The Vinegar Bible is a version of the King James Bible, printed in 1717 by John Baskett who had attained the title of 'printer to the King's most excellent majesty' in 1709. In it, the chapter heading for Luke 20 reads "The Parable of the Vinegar" instead of "The Parable of the Vineyard." This particular edition contained so many typographical errors that one reviewer called it "a Baskett full of errors". According to the Intriguing History website, this is the origin of the phrase 'basket case' to refer to "something being full of errors and faults, not fit for purpose".

A copy of the Vinegar Bible was sold in 2008 for $5,000.

The Wicked Bible – sometimes called the Adulterous Bible or the Sinners' Bible – is a reprint of the King James Bible, published in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London. In the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:14, the word "not" was omitted from the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

The Breeches Bible was published in 1579. In Genesis 3:7 it reads "and they sowed figge–tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches." A more conventional translation of the Hebrew word hagorot would be 'aprons', or simply 'coverings'.

The Bug Bible is a nickname for Myles Coverdale's 1535 version, in which verse 5 of Psalm 91 includes the words "Thou shall not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night". The King James version has "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night".

The Place–makers' Bible is the second edition of the Geneva Bible. Published in 1562, it has "placemakers" instead of "peacemakers" in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:9). I have seen this version referred to as the Whig Bible, for reasons that I cannot fathom.

Wikipedia lists about 30 examples of "Bible errata". They include two instances from the Book of Kells, which is in Latin and so its misprints are less obvious to most of us. It was also, of course, written by hand and not printed.

Wikipedia also gives four examples where the well–known theme of Bible misprints is taken up by writers of fiction. One is Barbara Kingsolver's best–selling 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible, whose title refers to a mistake by the character Nathan Price, a missionary in the 1950s Belgian Congo. He creates his own "misprint" by saying (in the local language) "Jesus is poisonwood" instead of "Jesus is most precious".

Wikipedia's other three "Fictional Bible errata" are in Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the BBC television sitcom Red Dwarf, and The Hundred–Year–Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – a comic novel by the Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, first published in 2009.

© Haydn Thompson 2021