The Misplaced Comma
Dr. Jim Denison
Have you heard of the Wicked Bible? This was an edition of the King James Version published in London in 1631. The word “not” was accidentally left out of the seventh commandment. As a result, Exodus 20:14 commanded, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” For this, the translation was appropriately called the “Wicked” Bible. William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered the printers to pay a fine of 300 pounds.
In 1716, thousands of copies of another Bible edition were printed before someone noticed that the command of John 8, “Go and sin no more” had been printed, “Go and sin on more.” And a mix-up in gender in a 1923 version produced this command: “A man may not marry his grandmother’s wife,” a difficult task anyway.
Some translation mistakes are humorous and harmless enough. However, there is another mistake in a biblical translation which is not so funny today. For centuries it has had a devastating effect on the church, and still hurts us. It’s not a sentence or even a word, but a comma. Just one little comma. But it’s been disastrous.