Is There a Typo in Your Bible?
“There’s a Bible verse missing.”
There are few sentences that strike more fear in a Bible publisher’s heart than that one. First, there’s the theological reason: Doesn’t God’s Word deserve to be printed perfectly? Second, there’s the personal reason: How did this mistake get past me? And third, there’s the business reason: What will we do with thousands of printed Bibles that contain a glaring and distracting typo?
Real reasons like this motivate our Bible proofreading team to find mistakes, dropped words, and missing verses in every Bible we work on. While the world’s best and biggest Bible publishers produce dozens of Bibles a year, we often see that even the most experienced staff make small mistakes that can prove costly if they are not caught.
How common is this? We find errors in page layouts every day in Bibles before they go to print.
The Importance of Bible Proofreading
Wise King Solomon famously wrote, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable” (Proverbs 10:19 NASB95). He was referring to the spoken word—suggesting the more we run our mouths, the more likely we are to say something wrong.
But here’s what every publisher and editor and proofreader knows: Solomon’s keen observation applies equally to written words.
Consider: If it’s possible for one short word to contain a typo, how many mistakes can creep in when you tackle the 1,189 chapters, 31,012 verses, and 785,000+ words of a new Bible project?
Add to that new project thousands of study notes and dozens of other explanatory features, and every new study or devotional Bible becomes the perfect storm for slipups. Five misspellings here, seven typos there. Omitted words. Extra words. Wrong punctuation marks—or none at all. The potential errors are limitless.
It’s a big deal. Why? Because each mistake has the potential to distract readers from God’s message. Instead of encountering God, they’re fixated on an error. Truly, getting a Bible project right is a high and holy spiritual duty. Here are the three reasons every Bible publisher desperately needs world-class Bible proofreading.
- Mistakes are inevitable.
People—even those “perfectionists” among us—are less than perfect. That’s not a judgment; it’s a fact. The mind can focus intensely only for so long before it begins to wander. And when the eyes begin to tire, they can’t possibly notice every inaccuracy. This is when oversights occur. And it’s when a few seconds of careless can ruin months and months of careful.
What’s more, because humans are mistake-prone, the systems and software we devise to catch errors aren’t always foolproof either. Alas, our creations bear our image. To be sure, spellcheck and grammar programs get better all the time. Nevertheless we inhabit a world where glitches—mental, mechanical, and digital—are commonplace.
History’s most infamous example? Here’s a vote for a Bible publishing project in 1631. Robert Barker and Martin Lucas decided to print and sell a thousand copies of the Good Book. But because of a typesetting blunder (some suspect sabotage at the hands of a rival printer), Barker and Lucas ended up producing the notorious Wicked Bible instead. Imagine how horrified these men were when they realized their fancy new Bible commanded, “Thou shalt commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)!
- Mistakes are costly.
The omission of the word “not” in the seventh of the Ten Commandments cost Barker and Lucas dearly. All but a handful of their hot-off-the-press “Wicked” Bibles were burned. The men were hauled into court, fined by King Charles I, and forced to surrender their printing licenses. Poor Barker (literally poor) eventually died in a debtors’ prison.
Today we don’t have to fear a stint in a debtors’ prison for committing such a mistake. Nevertheless a serious editorial gaffe can result in costly consequences: Lost respect. Lost time. Lost revenue. Potentially lost jobs. And if the error is severe enough, it might mean having to pull an entire printing off store shelves.
And worst of all? Readers who open their Bibles to hear from God are distracted. They miss a divine message because of human error.
Bibles are too important to allow that.
- Mistakes are catchable.
Okay, so mistakes are bound to happen. And some of those errors can prove to be costly. But here’s the third reality—an encouraging fact: Mistakes are catchable. What’s more, they’re correctable in the early stages of Bible production, before they do a lot of damage.
Our team has spent over thirty years studying pages, building checklists, and enforcing style guides to ensure accuracy in each Bible we proofread. We know that every Bible publishing project has to get at least 300,000 details exactly right. Therefore, we check every one of those details. Because of our long history of working with typesetters, copyright holders, translators, and editors and authors of study and devotional material published within Bibles, we know what to look for when proofreading a Bible project for accuracy. That means we can tell immediately when something isn’t right. Matthew 14:7 is missing? Don’t worry. We’ll catch it. That’s what we do every day. And we do it not just because we’re natural perfectionists but because we care deeply about making sure God’s Word gets published free of any and all distracting errors.
If you have a Bible project coming up, we’d like to hear from you.
Oh, and on a historical footnote: In 2018, one of the only remaining Wicked Bibles sold at auction for over $50,000.
Just an opinion, but we think 387 years is too long to wait for your Bible publishing project to pay off.
How can we help you print your next Bible free of distracting errors? Contact us.