The Wicked Bible and the Wicked War
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
"Thou shalt not commit adultery." ~ The Holy Bible
"Thou shalt commit adultery." ~ The Wicked Bible
Does the Bible condone adultery? At one time that depended on which Bible you read.
The introduction of the computer has certainly made it easier for printers to set type. Although occasionally a typesetting error still gets by the proofreaders, it is rare to see a blatant typo in a book produced since the advent of computers. Since printers in the seventeenth century didn't have that luxury, it is a wonder that books published back then don't contain more errors than they do.
Misprints in the Bible have always been of particular concern. An edition in 1631, nicknamed the "Wicked Bible," omitted the word not from Exodus 20:14, changing the prohibition against adultery into the command: "Thou shalt commit adultery." A contemporary historian recorded that
His Majesties Printers, at or about this time, had committed a scandalous mistake in our English Bibles, by leaving out the word Not in the Seventh Commandment. His Majesty being made acquainted with it by the Bishop of London, Order was given for calling the Printers into the High-Commission, where upon Evidence of the Fact, the whole Impression was called in, and the Printers deeply fined, as they justly merited. With some part of this Fine Laud [Archbishop William Laud] caused a fair Greek Character to be provided, for publishing such Manuscripts as Time and Industry should make ready for the Publick view.
Okay, the misprint was fixed, and most people are against adultery, so what is my point?
My point is simply this: Bush apologists, Republican loyalists, Christian warmongers, and other assorted defenders of the war in Iraq are doing just what the king's printer did back in 1631, but only worse since they are doing it deliberately. By justifying U.S. troops killing for the state in Iraq they are effectively removing the word not from another commandment: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).
This is done in a number of ways: the commandment never applies to killing in war, the commandment obviously doesn't mean "the taking of any life," so it cannot be applied to killing in war, the commandment doesn't apply if you are just following orders, the commandment doesn't mean what it says, the commandment is different now because of September 11th, the commandment doesn't apply to Muslim infidels, the commandment is not being violated if you kill for the state, the commandment doesn't apply if you're in the military.
Because the U.S. military does very little to actually defend this country, but instead is used to invade, occupy, bomb, or defend other countries, military recruiters, pastors, and parents who encourage young men and women to join the military are in effect saying "Thou shalt kill." They may call it defending our freedoms, regime change, fighting the war on terror, liberating Iraq, or spreading democracy, but it is still a wicked endeavor in a wicked war.
March 13, 2006
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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