One of the ironic facts about the KJV is that it is impossible to honestly speak about the first printing, because there never really was a first printing! “The revision and correction process began immediately in 1611, … even before the first printed edition was completed and put together. The pages of these two editions [the actual first edition and the corrected second edition]… seem to have been accidentally mixed before either was assembled and bound.”14Categories: KJV, NET Bible, Bible humor
Thus, the first edition of the KJV is actually more of a first-and-second-edition hybrid. But there are ways to tell whether one possesses a ‘first-second’ edition or a completely second edition. I won’t go into those details here. I have seen what is probably the finest example of the so-called ‘first’ edition of the KJV surviving today. It is part of a private collection in Texas.
Besides these two editions, the Authorized Version went through at least two more in the first year alone. In the first three years, it actually went through fourteen minor editions due to the frequent mistakes in the process of translating, revising, and printing. But these are not really revisions by today’s standard. Two larger overhauls were completed in 1629 and 1638. Within fifty (50) years “the need was presented and an effort was made to officially revise [it once] again”—this time more thoroughly than the previous two revisions. But Parliament decided not to act on this impulse when Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. The shifts of the political winds thus stymied the third revision of the KJV. It would not undergo a major revision again for 100 years. In 1762 and 1769, the KJV was revised for a third and fourth time.
Altogether, nearly 100,000 changes have been made to the 1611 KJV. The vast bulk of these are rather minor (mostly spelling and punctuation changes), but in the least this fact shows how impossible it is today for any church or any Christian to claim, “We read only the original 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible”!
With all the revisions made to this translation over the centuries, printer’s errors were bound to creep in. Even though the goal was to eradicate all mistakes, every printing of the KJV added more!
For example, in 1611 the so-called ‘Judas Bible’ was printed: In Matt 26.36, the KJV says that Judas came with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane—even though Judas had already hanged himself in the previous chapter!
The very first edition of the Authorized Version is the ‘Basketball Bible’ because it speaks of ‘hoopes’ instead of ‘hookes’ used in the construction of the Tabernacle.
A 1716 edition has Jesus say in John 5.14 “sin on more” instead of “sin no more”!
The next year, the famous ‘Vinegar Bible’ appeared; this name was attached to this printing because the chapter title to Luke 20 was “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of the “Parable of the Vineyard.”
In 1792, Philip, rather than Peter, denied his Lord three times in Luke 22.34.
Three years later the ‘Murderer’s Bible’ was printed: It was called this because in Mark 7.27 Jesus reportedly told the Syro-Phoenician woman, “Let the children first be killed” instead of “Let the children first be filled”!
In 1807 an Oxford edition has Heb 9.14 say, “Purge your conscience from good works” instead of “Purge your conscience from dead works.”
A printing of the KJV in 1964 said that women were to “adorn themselves in modern apparel” instead of “modest apparel” in 1 Tim 2.9.
But none of these printing mistakes can equal the Bibles of 1653 or 1631. These are the two ‘Evil Bibles’ of the King James history, for they both left out the word ‘not’ at key junctures. The 1653 edition—known as the ‘Unrighteous Bible’—said “the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God” in 1 Cor 6.9. And the 1631 edition, the infamous ‘Wicked Bible,’ wrote the seventh of the ten commandments as “Thou shalt commit adultery”!
The Wicked Bible was such an embarrassment to the Anglican Church that the archbishop ordered the Bibles to be burned, and he fined the printer, Robert Barker, 300 pounds—no small sum in those days. Barker, who had been the king’s printer since the Authorized Version came out, died fourteen years later in debtor’s prison.
Not only have there been these occasional but bizarre printing mistakes, but several errors in the 1611 edition have never been changed. For example, in both Acts 7.45 and Heb 4.8 the name “Jesus” appears when Joshua is actually meant! Hebrews 4.8 in the Authorized Version says, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” The passage is saying that although Joshua brought his people into the promised land, he could not give them the eternal rest that they needed. But by having “Jesus” here, the KJV is thus saying that Jesus was inadequate, that he was not able to save his people from their sins. In Greek, both ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’ are written the same way— jIhsou'". The issue is not one of textual variant, but of inattention to the details of the interpretation of the text.
Or consider Matt 23.24 the Authorized Version reads, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” The Greek text here means to “strain out a gnat”—not “at a gnat.” Jesus’ point is the same as what he says in Luke 6.41— “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” The religious leaders focused on the tiny problems of others without taking care of the big issues in their own lives.15
Now, please understand: I am not listing these errors to make fun of the KJB! But I also don’t want anyone to have the illusion that it is a perfect translation. No translation is perfect—not the KJV, not the RSV, not the NIV, not the NET Bible.
In fact, just to play fair, allow me to mention an error that made its way into the second printing of the NET Bible, New Testament, in 1998. This translation has more notes in it than any other Bible in history. There are half a million words of notes for the New Testament alone! And at one of them, the typist accidentally hit a second ‘s’ when he wrote the conjunction ‘as.’ I won’t spell it out for you, but you can well imagine the name this edition of the NET Bible would be called! Not only this, but as the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible, I have to take full responsibility for this note. Besides, I was the one who actually typed in this word!Footnote 14: Minton, Making, 330. He adds some other fascinating information as well!