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Kevin Salwen

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When Bibles Have Typos, Let There Be Blight

Posted: 06/30/11 04:31 PM ET

The email I received this week from Amazon started innocently enough:
"Hello, we're writing about your past Kindle purchase of The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) by Crossway Bibles. The version you received had typos that have been corrected."

The email went on to offer a free Kindle download of the corrected version, if I would simply put the word Yes in my email back to Amazon. Through the magic of e-book technology, I'd get a new free Bible delivered by Whispernet. (Try that in your local pew, why don't you?)

This all seemed simple enough, technically. But it got me wondering... Typos in The Holy Bible? What could they be? Were they serious enough to trigger a holy war, a Christian or Hebrew jihad, as it were? Had Amazon, with their miracle technology, scanned original texts to glean new meanings? Were some of the outside, extrabiblical books coming back in? Was Dan Brown's fiction taking over the nonfiction section?

History, of course, is filled with alterations to The Bible. Four months ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a series of changes to The New American Bible that the church had determined would help clean up certain passages.

The bishops in particular focused on clarifying meanings because of the shifting usage of American slang, with an eye toward words like booty (replaced with spoils), grass, gay and holocaust (which pre-Hitler meant a single being or item destroyed beyond recognition).

And publishing is not without its blunders as well. Forget the pure fictions that authors craft to make their narratives more sexy (Exhibit A: Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea). I'm referring more specifically to the little slip-ups that all of us recognize after our darned tomes fly off the presses into permanence -- the misspelled names or the slight misfire on the job description.

For pure shock value, my favorite typo occurred last year -- and just so happened to have its own holy book reference in the title. Penguin published The Pasta Bible in Australia (a holier-than-thou moniker in its own right), with what I can only assume was a fabulous recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

Spell check couldn't overcome this amazing typo: "Salt and freshly ground black people." More than 7,000 copies (and maybe a few careers) were destroyed.

But back to my Bible. When I first downloaded the book, I figured everyone needed a copy of The Bible as an important reference material. The price was right (free). I would refer to it from time to time, and if there were typos in there, I never noticed. The Song of Solomon remained sexy, Jesus's miracles were still miraculous and Revelation was still a head-scratcher.

On my first Kindle, I used The Bible to test the text-to-speech feature that Amazon had promoted. The results were hilarious. Because the chapters are filled with verse numbers, the computerized voice simply read it all aloud. So it sounded something like this: "Three and God said Let there be light, and there was light Four And God saw that the light was good." It was like a preacher with mathematical Tourette's.

Even though I couldn't see any typos myself, I clicked on Reply and wrote Yes into the email. Sure enough, an hour or so later, Amazon dropped the cleansed (or should I say baptized) English Standard Version into my Kindle account.

Truth be told, it kinda looked the same to me. Genesis still came first, Revelation at the end. Scanning the books in between, I couldn't tell where the typos had been.

But then I had an idea. What would be the worst typo a publisher could drop into a Bible anyway, I wondered? So, I turned to Facebook. Hey friends, whaddya think?

"Thank the Lard," my nephew Alex quickly typed back.

"Honor they mother and thy lather," my sister Val offered.

Oh, the typos were rolling now. My friend Erik volunteered that "the Sikh shall inherit the Earth." His father went more British and scatological, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not wank."

"And on the 9th day, God rested," volunteered another friend. "And Dog created Heaven and Earth," came another.

So, come on, dear reader. Throw us your best. And remember to always keep the Sabbath holey.

 
 
 

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